Consumer confidence rose in March but businesses sentiment fell, according to the latest Economic Pulse from Bank of Ireland.

The survey, which combines readings of confidence in both the consumer and business sectors, showed a reading of 91.1 for March, down five points on the same time last year. 

Bank of Ireland said that consumers had a more upbeat outlook in March as households upgraded their assessment of both the economy and their own personal finances. 

The Consumer Pulse moved up 2.8 points to stand at 92.6 during the month on the back of another fall in the unemployment rate and as more consumers thought it a good time to buy big ticket items such as furniture and electrical goods. 

But the unsettled external environment - including Brexit and Trump-related uncertainty - remained a source of worry for companies, which resulted in a fall in the business element of the survey. 

The Business Pulse fell 2.5 points to stand at 90.8 in March. Bank of Ireland noted that the Industry and Services Pulses were lower, while Retailers' sentiment was broadly unchanged. 

It also noted that sentiment improved in companies involved in the construction sector, though this could be down to seasonal factors.

"Sentiment was mixed in March across the sectors, with a large drop for the Industry Pulse on the back of softer order books and hiring intentions, and a solid increase for the Construction Pulse," commented Bank of Ireland's group chief economist Loretta O'Sullivan.


 

Bank of Ireland also looks at the housing market in the survey and the March survey shows the second highest reading for the sector in the history of the series. 

Three in four respondents expect house prices to rise over the next year, with seven in ten predicting rents will also increase.

"The mismatch between supply and demand is continuing to impact the market and is also fuelling expectations for further price and rent growth," Dr O'Sullivan stated.