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Shoppers lift gloom

Consumers here are increasingly optimistic about their available spending income, boosting hopes of a revival in the battered retail industry.

The latest index to outline attitudes, the AIB/Amarach Recovery Indicator, jumped from 18.3 in December to 27.1 in January.

The survey found that 33pc of all Irish adults agreed that "the economic situation is bad but has stabilised" while more than 60pc are "optimistic" in spite of the current economic situation. This is 10 percentage points up on the December figure.

It's hoped that this research is an indication of a "seasonal boost" for retailers and service suppliers.

The figures also signalled a possible return to growth for the property market, with 66pc of those surveyed now believing it is a good time to buy a house.

The optimism is in stark contrast to other recent reports which clearly showed that sales in the last quarter of the year fell dramatically.

However, despite the upbeat mood, most respondents said that their main financial priority was paying off debts, while a quarter reported that they were saving more since the recession had begun.

Separate research from the European Commission's Economic Sentiment Indicator said that EU countries were similarly returning to a positive outlook. This indicator rose 2.1 points to 97.1 in January.