Irish consumer sentiment hit its highest level in nearly seven years in January in a further indication the economy is picking up steam after leaving its EU/IMF bailout in December. <p>

The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 84.6 in January from 79.8 in December to reach its highest point since May 2007, the year before a property bubble began to burst and a deep economic crisis took hold. <p>

Irish consumers have begun 2014 in a more positive mood as it seems they expect the economy to improve and unemployment to fall further in the coming year. With the jobless rate heading down towards 12%, from a peak just above 15% in February 2012, the two sub-indices of the survey reflected consumers’ growing confidence, despite the full introduction of a property tax this year and the imposition of water charges from the start of 2015. <p>

The sub-index measuring consumer expectations of their future financial situation and employment rose to 75.8, from 72.7 in December, and its counterpart for current economic conditions jumped to 97.6 from 90.3. <p>

<b>The hope now is that rising consumer confidence will be reflected in increased personal spending this year.
<p><h5>Alan McQuaid</h5>



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