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UK consumers defy Brexit blues, but companies fret - surveys

UK consumers defy Brexit blues, but companies fret - surveys
FILE PHOTO: A man holds an anti-Brexit banner on Westminster Bridge, in central London, Britain, July 13, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo   -   Copyright  Yves Herman(Reuters)
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By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – British consumers appear little fazed by the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, but businesses have turned more worried, surveys showed on Friday.

Britain’s headline gauge of consumer confidence, compiled by market research firm GfK for the European Commission, rose to -7 in August from -10 in July, matching 2018 highs struck in March and May.

Economists who took part in a Reuters poll had mostly expected the reading to remain at -10.

“We are just months away from the Brexit crunch but there is no sign — yet — of any crash in consumer confidence,” Joe Staton, GfK’s client strategy director, said.

“The core index continues to muddle along in negative territory, but Armageddon seems a distant prospect,” he said.

Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to win fellow EU leaders round to her plan for Britain to keep free trade for goods — something the European Commission opposes — less than seven months before the country leaves the bloc.

In July, two of her key ministers resigned in protest at the plan, raising questions about her ability to secure a deal.

A separate survey showed a different picture among companies.

Lloyds Bank said its measure of business confidence in August fell six points to its lowest this year at 23 percent, dented by concerns about trading prospects for the year ahead and less economic optimism.

That compared with levels of around 40-50 percent before the Brexit referendum.

Confidence held steady only among manufacturers, many of whom have seen orders rise this year with the global economy growing more strongly.

“Business confidence was resilient in the first half of the year, but has eased back recently,” Hann-Ju Ho, a Lloyds economist, said.

“This reflects changes in perceptions of Brexit risks, which underscores the importance of current EU-UK negotiations.”

The Lloyds survey found a weakening in hiring intentions by companies and softer expectations for pay growth.

(Editing by David Milliken)

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