LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - British consumer sentiment rose to its highest since the start of the COVID pandemic this month as the economy reopened partially, a closely watched survey showed on Friday, but the increase was smaller than economists had expected.
The GfK Consumer Confidence Index increased to -15 in April from -16 in March, its highest since a survey conducted in early March last year, before the country went into lockdown.
In the year before the pandemic, the index averaged -11 and it sank to an 11-year low of -36 during the depths of last year's lockdown.
Since early 2021 the index has rebounded as Britain rolled out COVID vaccines rapidly and set out a path for reopening the economy. However, April's rise was smaller than in February and March and below all forecasts in a Reuters poll.
"The pandemic has hit household finances hard and, on the road ahead, we will still see concerns over new variants, rising inflation and the debt overhang," Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, said.
People surveyed were upbeat about the prospects for their personal finances over the coming year, though no more so than in March, and are slightly less keen to make big purchases.
Non-essential shops in England and Wales reopened on April 12 for the first time in more than three months, and initial figures showed on Thursday a rebound in spending on items such as clothing and furniture to close to pre-pandemic levels. [
GfK conducted its survey of 2,002 people between April 1 and April 13.
(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)
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