LONDON: Consumer confidence levels improved in the UK in September this year, with knock-on benefits in terms of shoppers' intentions to make major purchases in the near future, Nationwide's latest monthly survey has found.

Based on a poll conducted in August and September by TNS, the research firm, among 1000 respondents, Nationwide reported that its confidence index rose by six points, to 71, last month.

The proportion of the sample who believed the current economic situation was "bad" also fell by 3%, to 69%, compared with the high of 86% recorded in February this year.

However, the Present Situation Index "remains close to historically low levels", the company said, and currently stands at just 19 points.

Some 39% of the panel argued the financial climate would improve in the next six months, up by 22% on the total who agreed with this statement at the start of this year.

Nationwide's spending index, which reflects sentiment about possible future expenditure on household goods and major purchases, also ticked upwards by three points in September, to a total of 102 points.

The number of people who believe now is a good time to make a major purchase grew by 6%, to 39%, while the share of contributors saying the same for household goods improved by 3%, to 42%.

Mark Saddleton, head of economic and market analysis at Nationwide, said "the substantial rise in positive sentiment seen ... reflects widespread reports from various industry commentators recently suggesting that the worst of the recession is over."

Despite this, "consumers' assessment of the present situation is still fairly downbeat and, while they do appear to be optimistic for the future, it is likely that any recovery will continue to be sluggish as consumers adapt to the economic environment," he added.

Data sourced from Nationwide; additional content by Warc staff