Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland still has UK's lowest disposable income

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Image caption The report says rising oil prices, higher inflation and a weakened pound have slowed spending power growth

Disposable incomes in Northern Ireland are nearly half the UK average, new figures suggest.

They have remained flat due to rising inflation and fuel prices, according to Asda's Income Tracker.

It says NI families have £105 a week discretionary income, the lowest of any UK region and well below the UK average of £202 a week.

Sterling has weakened since the EU referendum, pushing inflation to 1.6%, the highest level since July 2014.

'£7 better off'

The report says rising oil prices, higher inflation and a weakened pound have slowed spending power growth.

Families are £7 a week better off than this time last year, despite rising prices at the pumps.

The price of fuel is 10% higher than this time last year, NI households spend £28.90 a week on petrol compared to the UK average of £19.90 a week.

Food prices in December were 0.8% higher than in November, but cheaper than this time last year.

December also saw an increase in the cost of restaurants and hotels.

But electricity and gas prices helped keep household bills down.

Low interest rates mean mortgage interest payments were 6% cheaper year on year.

An Asda spokesperson said: "As we begin 2017, it is clear to see that prices are at the top of customers' minds, across a range of different categories."

Kay Neufeld, an economist with the Centre for Economics and Business research, said: "The question in 2017 will be whether wage growth can keep up with rising inflation.

"Early indicators suggest that the over the coming months - an increase in unemployment and lower wage growth are on the cards potentially putting a dent in households' spending power," she added.

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