IRISH shares closed at their highest level in more than four years last night as the markets cheered a raft of positive news from home and abroad.
The country got its fourth boost from positive economic data in as many days after it emerged that the services sector grew for the fifth month in a row in December.
The strong growth followed better-than-expected Exchequer returns on Thursday, while on Wednesday data showed the manufacturing sector continued to expand last month.
Live register figures, meanwhile, fell to their lowest seasonally adjusted level in three years.
It also came a day after Enterprise Ireland said its client companies had created nearly 4,000 more jobs than they lost last year – the first significant growth since 2006.
The NCB services purchasing managers index (PMI) collates data from the sector into a single figure. Anything above 50 indicates the sector is growing, under 50 means it is contracting.
In December the index came in at 55.8. While slightly down on November's reading, it is the fifth month in a row that the industry has grown. The index is now close to its highest point in five years.
NCB's chief economist Philip O'Loughlin said he expected services to continue to expand in the year ahead. "Encouragingly, both 'new business' and 'new export business' point to continued momentum in the sector going into the New Year," he said.
"Growth of total new orders has been helped by the launch of new products and also higher new business from overseas markets, with the Middle East and UK cited as areas of particular strength in this regard.
"The New Export Business indicator has been in positive territory for 17 months now, with December's reading the highest recorded since September 2006."
Employment levels in services continued to increase last month. The growth is "reasonably broad-based", said Mr O'Loughlin.
The improvement in employment came as the latest live register figures showed continued improvement. The number of people on the register fell by 1,400 in December, and on a seasonally adjusted basis there are now 430,900 signing on – the lowest in three years. The overall unemployment rate, however, remains unchanged at 14.6pc.
Even so, many entrepreneurs are still starting businesses.
One man who is giving it a shot is 34-year-old supply chain manager Patrick O'Brien. The Galway native has developed a range of smoothies which will go on sale in supermarkets in Swords, Co Dublin, later this month.
"This is a great time to start a business. There is so much support now from the likes of Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia among others that the advice and help new firms need is readily available," he told the Irish Independent last night.
Davy Stockbrokers' David McNamara said budget cuts worth 2.1pc of GDP would "dent" the recovery in 2013, but added that he expected this year to be the first year of positive employment growth since 2007.