Brexit vote uncertainty erodes UK consumer, business confidence
LONDON – Uncertainty about the outcome of Britain’s European Union referendum gnawed at consumers and businesses in April, two surveys showed on Friday.
Market research company GfK said its main gauge of consumer confidence fell to its weakest reading since December 2014 at -3, down from zero in March and below a median forecast for -1 in a Reuters poll of economists.
Optimism about the economy in the year ahead slipped to its lowest level since June 2013, around the time Britain’s economic recovery started in earnest, GfK said.
A separate survey of businesses by Lloyds Bank reinforced the gloomy tone, as companies turned more pessimistic.
“Mixed messages about a post-Brexit world and the ongoing euro zone crisis are casting a cloud over our economy,” Joe Staton, head of market dynamics at GfK, said.
Britons will vote on June 23 in a referendum that has divided public opinion.
“Against this backdrop, even faith in our personal economic fortunes has taken a battering contributing to the overall fall in the numbers,” Staton said.
The Bank of England has said business investment is slowing because of the referendum uncertainty. It has also said it could cut interest rates or provide stimulus in other ways for the economy, should it be needed in the event of an “Out” vote.
Lloyds’ gauge of business confidence showed the share of firms that were pessimistic about the economy almost doubled to 22 percent from 12 percent in March. But overall business confidence remained above the survey’s long-run average. -Reuters