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Business sentiment slightly down at end of 2014

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Pat Costello, Chartered Accountants Ireland CEO

Pat Costello, Chartered Accountants Ireland CEO

Pat Costello, Chartered Accountants Ireland CEO

Irish business sentiment edged slightly downward in the last quarter of 2014, as increased activity and employment levels were offset by growing concerns about the economic climate.

The KBC Bank Ireland/Chartered Accountants Ireland index slipped to 124.3 from the figure of 124.8 posted in the third quarter, but the report says the slip signals no material change in business sentiment as a whole.

But Chartered Accountants Ireland chief executive Pat Costello said that while a solid recovery has begun, "it is not simply a case of onwards and upwards for all businesses".

KBC Bank Ireland chief economist Austin Hughes said the rate of economic growth may be easing after spectacular numbers were posted in the first half of 2014.

"This year may see improvements across a broader range but possibly at a more modest pace than last year," he said.

He added that at the end of the year an economic pick-up was particularly noticeable in companies focused on Irish consumers.

The report indicates that two thirds of Irish firms are to increase pay in 2015, but at modest levels.

Just 2pc of firms envisage pay increases greater than 5pc.

"Intense competition in a disinflationary global environment, continuing uncertainty and a caution born of the recent crisis are all acting to constrain average pay growth," Mr Hughes said.

The report says around half of Irish companies expect to boost capacity, with one in ten planning cutbacks.

Mr Costello sai d the fact that some firms are planning cuts shows the recovery is uneven,

"Some assistance is expected from lower oil prices with almost half of firms envisaging a modest positive impact on their businesses but these results also imply little expectation that falling oil prices will lead to markedly stronger spending," he added.

The report said the strongest improvement in jobs conditions was in the construction sector, largely as a result of a sharp drop in layoffs.

"The same factor drove an improvement in both manufacturing employment and food companies," it said.

Irish Independent