Pent up demand for nice knickers and bras erupted last year. This is splendid news... probably even better than the "prom note" deal, which mightn't be as good as people thought in the first place. Buying expensive lingerie boosts the economy and potentially the national birth rate. Both of which are positives. Latest numbers from eBay.ie show sales of lingerie bought online has risen 12.4 per cent in the last year.
Energy consumption in Ireland fell by a staggering 12 per cent between 2008 to 2011. While jolly good news for the old polar bears on shrinking ice floes, this drop in energy usage probably isn't down to us using those funny light bulbs or remembering to turn off the telly properly at night. Energy consumption is a real barometer of economic activity in a country. Ireland's energy consumption fell by the same percentage as Greece and at more than double the EU rate. Belgium was the only major country to record a rise in energy use.
The recent drama of the Anglo liquidation and the complex restructuring of the "prom note" has been given the thumbs up by investors. Ireland's eight-year note now is just offering 3.63 per cent for those who would be willing to lend to the Government. We are in a very strong position currently to borrow independently – assuming we could lock in these rates – and this metric of confidence lends itself to the view that the international markets have a growing faith in our ability to make good on our sovereign debt.
Doing stuff, rather than making stuff
The Services Purchasing Managers Index – which measures activities in things like hotels, financial services and telecoms businesses – grew to a value of 56.8 in January, which is its highest level since August 2007. Any score above 50 means that the sector is expanding. This is a good sign as it illustrates that those in a position to buy services are expanding their order books. While it takes a while for this to filter into the bottom line and create employment, green shoots at source are a noteworthy and positive sign.
Length of working week
The average working week decreased by 0.9 per cent to 31.6 hours in the year to September 2012. This is illustrative of the reduction of paid working hours available to many employees. This negative reading means there is less money being paid to people commensurately – and hence, less commercial activity is taking place which has a knock-on effect in employment, income tax, economic growth and confidence. Or maybe we're just skiving off early.
Ugh. After all the good news in recent weeks, it's rather disconcerting that exports – the engine of our recovery – have nosedived. Last week saw the release of frankly dismal trade data, indicating a 13.3 per cent fall in volumes in December. This is due to crappy eurozone economies needing less Irish goods and the "patent cliff" where cheap medicines take the place of expensive Irish drugs when their patent protection ends.