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U.K. Consumer Confidence Index Falls as Economic View Plunges

U.K. consumer confidence fell in December from an 18-month high as optimism about the outlook for the economy plunged, GfK NOP Ltd. said.

A sentiment index fell to minus 29 from minus 22 in November, which was the strongest reading since May 2011, the London-based research group said in an e-mailed report today. Economists had forecast a drop to minus 25, according to the median of 21 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

Consumers are under pressure from inflation that’s outpacing wage growth and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s fiscal squeeze. Measures of retail sales published this week shows shoppers are holding back on holiday shopping while the recovery struggles to gain traction.

“Consumer sentiment is still fragile despite the fact that Christmas is less than a week away,” said Nick Moon, managing director of social research at GfK.

A measure of Britons’ outlook for the economy over the next 12 months fell 16 points to minus 31, the lowest in six months, while the outlook for their personal finances was unchanged at minus 7. The climate for making major purchases dropped 1 point to minus 27.

A gauge of consumers’ view of the economy over the past 12 months fell 11 points to minus 55. GfK interviewed 2,002 people from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9.

Retail sales were unchanged in November after dropping 0.7 percent the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday. A day earlier, the Confederation of British Industry said its gauge of annual sales growth fell to 19 in December from 33 in November.

Data later today will probably confirm the U.K. exited recession in the third quarter with growth of 1 percent. Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has said Britons should be braced for a “zig-zag” pattern of recovery amid headwinds from the crisis in Europe and strains in credit markets.

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