As a pure economic indicator, cocaine use gives an insight to the strength of discretionary spending for the middle classes -- the primary users of the drug. The latest report from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs on drug use, shows that the number of people who had snorted cocaine in the previous 12 months had fallen from 1.7 per cent of the adult population in 2006/07 to 1.5 per cent last year. Stripping out all the legal and moral stuff, weak consumer confidence and discretionary spending weighs heavily on any domestic recovery.
The number of students from outside Ireland studying in our third-level institutions in 2011 increased by 1,456 to 14,851. This brings increased spending on stuff like baked beans, jumpers and rollies as well as extra revenues for the creaking education system.
Maybe if we all hold hands and wish really hard it'll go away. Europe's powerbrokers are still hoping that this cack-handed strategy will bear fruit but in the meantime last week's move to allow the bailout funds to directly buy sovereign bonds had a minimal impact. Memo to Europe: It's not the answer! But Ireland continues to tip-toe away from the crisis epicentre with bond yields falling slightly to 7.12 per cent.
Used car sales
It's probably the second biggest purchase after a home and it represents a real barometer of the health of consumer spending. Buying a secondhand car involves a fair bit of confidence in the future. Last week, sales of used cars rose 2.8 per cent on Carsireland.ie, with average prices dropping 3.1 per cent as increasing numbers of company lease motors end up in the courts and other companies exit the lease market.
The plan for economic recovery is simple enough. Pay everyone way less, so that Ireland becomes a really cheap place to do business. Then lots of foreign companies will set up operations here giving all the unemployed people jobs. The plan seems to be going a bit askew, with new numbers showing that average weekly earnings actually rose by 0.7 per cent for the last 12 months in the first quarter of the year. Er....does anyone have another plan?
Last year, the Irish Music Rights Organisation saw licence revenue drop 4.2 per cent on weak economic activity, as fewer pubs, clubs or restaurants are blaring out music. Live music and broadcast income remained fairly stable.
Number of properties available for sale
According to daft.ie, there has been a significant fall in the number of properties available for sale from 55,112 to 52,902 in the past six months. We were not surprised at all to see a small turn in property prices some months ago as we have watched the volumes on the market fall since the beginning of this column. There is still the overhang of bloated numbers, but at least the trend is moving in the right direction.
Furry animal prices
The latest CSO Agricultural Output price index is not anything that people should read lightly. However, it does show that the price for furry and fluffy animals has risen sharply, with calves up 39.2 per cent in the 12 months to April 2012, chicken and poultry rose 20.6 per cent with pigs up 7.5 per cent. This is a spot of good news for the old farmers, who haven't been complaining much as they zip around in shiny new Massey Fergusons. Higher prices for export goods mean more money sloshing around the system here.
Sunday Indo Business