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Consumer sentiment in many European Union countries is improving for the first time since the financial and economic crisis, despite the uncertainty created by discussions around the Greek rescue package. This is one of the key findings of the GfK Consumer Climate Europe survey which provides an overview of the development of economic, price and income expectations and willingness to buy among consumers in Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK. These 11 countries account for around 80% of the total population of the 27 EU member states.
The recession in Europe appears to have bottomed out, and the economy in most European countries is beginning to recover from the worst downturn since the second world war. In many countries, the economic data have for the first time returned to a slight upward trend since the first quarter of this year. However, the consequences of the financial and economic crisis have by no means been overcome yet. Many consumers are still unsettled and unconvinced that the upswing in their respective countries will be sustained. Some countries are still faced with difficulties following the financial crisis and its effects – most notably Greece. Uncertainty about how the situation will progress there, as well as in Ireland and Portugal, is affecting consumer confidence in the economic development of their respective countries.
The second major issue for Europeans is inflation. Bulgaria, for example, is expecting a general price increase of between 5% and 6% by the end of this year. In particular, rising food and fuel costs are worrying European consumers.