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Consumers upbeat despite rate hikes

British consumer confidence is at its highest in nearly two years, a market research organisation claims.Research carried out by GfK Nop on behalf of the European Commission places its consumer confidence index at minus two, its highest score since July 2005.Declining pessimism about the general economic situation in the next 12 months has improved dramatically, while assessments of personal financial health are also up.Carol Bernasconi, divisional director at GfK Nop, commented: "This month the UK consumer has certainly seen some changes: interest rates have increased again to 5.5 per cent, [prime minister] Tony Blair announced his resignation date and local elections have been held."With all these changes one would have expected there to be a more gloomy index score but these changes seem to have been taken onboard and more positive opinions about personal finances and the general economy are being reported."The latest assessment from GfK Nop comes as a surprise given ongoing expectations of a further rise in the Bank of England's base rate in the next few months.Today's index of improving confidence reflects that delivered by the Nationwide index, which up to April had risen for four consecutive months.

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