Consumer confidence up for first time in four months, index shows

Consumer confidence has shown signs of a pick-up for the first time in four months, according to an index monitoring people's financial behaviour.

The rise in confidence is the first seen since September, according to the index from MoneySuperMarket, which tracks how people are interacting with the comparison website to get an overall indication of consumer confidence.

The increase was driven by two factors - the proportion of car insurance quotes being offered where people would prefer to pay annually rather than monthly increased, and the proportion of loan enquiries searching for loans to cover existing debts decreased.

More searches for annual car insurance payments rather than monthly ones are thought to be a sign of increased confidence as more people signal they can afford to pay their premiums in one go up front.

Kevin Pratt, a consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: "If fewer people are taking out a loan to cover their other debts, that has to be a positive sign.

"That said, there is no room for complacency as we settle into 2017."

Bank of England figures released on Wednesday showed that consumers ramped up their non-mortgage borrowing at the fastest rate in over 11 years in the run-up to Christmas.

The Bank recorded a £1.9 billion increase in consumer credit in November, the biggest increase seen since March 2005.

Experts warned some people who are managing their debts now may find they run into financial problems further down the line amid expectations that economic conditions will get tougher for consumers in 2017.