BERLIN, April 28 (Reuters) - German consumer morale deteriorated unexpectedly heading into May as rising COVID-19 infections led to a re-tightening of restrictions on shopping, travel and public life in many areas of Europe's largest economy, a survey showed on Wednesday. The GfK research institute said its consumer sentiment index, based on a survey of around 2,000 Germans, fell to -8.8 points from a revised -6.1 in April. Consumers' views on the economic outlook and personal income expectations decreased significantly whereas their propensity to buy increased moderately, the survey showed. "Hopes for further easing of restrictions and a revival of consumption have been noticeably dampened," GfK consumer expert Rolf Buerkl said, adding that the recovery of the economy would continue to lag due to the third COVID-19 wave. Germany is struggling to contain an aggressive third wave of coronavirus infections as efforts have been complicated by the more contagious B117 variant, first discovered in Britain, and a relatively slow introduction of vaccines against the pandemic. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier have both cautioned in the past days that they don't expect any substantial easing of curbs before the end of May. If coronavirus cases fall and restrictions can be lifted in the course of the summer, the government expects household spending to fuel a consumer-led recovery and support its upwardly revised growth forecast of 3.6% this year. MAY 2021 APRIL MAY 2020 2021 Consumer climate -8.8 -6.1 -23.1 Consumer climate components APRIL MARCH APRIL 2021 2021 2020 - willingness to buy 17.3 12.3 -4.6 - income expectations 9.3 22.3 -19.3 - business cycle expectations 7.3 17.7 -21.4 NOTE - The survey period was from April 1 to 12, 2021. The consumer climate indicator forecasts the development of real private consumption in the following month. An indicator reading above zero signals year-on-year growth in private consumption. A value below zero indicates a drop compared with the same period a year ago. According to GfK, a one-point change in the indicator corresponds to a year-on-year change of 0.1% in private consumption. The "willingness to buy" indicator represents the balance between positive and negative responses to the question: "Do you think now is a good time to buy major items?" The income expectations sub-index reflects expectations about the development of household finances in the coming 12 months. The additional business cycle expectations index reflects the assessment of those questioned of the general economic situation in the next 12 months. (Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Kirsti Knolle)
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