Girls Aloud merchandise
Boo-hoo. Blub. Girls Aloud are no more. The poptastic quintet of Cheryl, Nadine, Sarah, Kimberley and the odd looking one are splitting up. This has sparked a surge of entrepreneurial zeal, with eBay.ie reporting a 20 per cent spike in the amount of Girls Aloud merchandise being put up for sale. It's economic activity and any increase gets a thumbs-up.
As the clobbering we took in the budget affects our spending, the volume of retail sales now appears to be weakening after a strong performance in the second half of last year. If we include the really volatile motor sales numbers, retail sales volumes fell by 0.2 per cent during February – the second monthly decline.
The technocrats running Europe couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery. It would be hard to find a less impressive bunch of people, especially after completely cocking up the Cyprus bailout, terrifying depositors and investors across the continent. There's little doubt that the Cyprus situation and European dithering has affected Ireland and our chances of exiting the bailout. Yields on Irish bonds rose slightly.
Despite all the carnage in Cyprus, we Irish are not reefing all of our money out of the banks. During February, both household and non-financial corporate deposits were flat. On an annual basis, private sector household deposits are actually up 1.1 per cent year-on-year, while non-financial corporate deposits were up by 5.1 per cent year-on-year in February. Given the recent uncertainty in the euro area, this data will take on a greater significance over the coming months.
There's a two-speed property market developing in Ireland. Prices in Dublin have risen close to 3 per cent, while prices around the country have dropped by almost 6 per cent. This may represent the start of an urban property market inflation cycle – which invites buyers (who have been holding back due to deflation fears) to return to the market, generating a self-fulfiling prophecy which could spread eventually to the more rural areas.
Rather predictably, the euro has been on a downward trajectory since a "tax" on deposits in Cyprus came up for discussion. In the past week, it has gone through a 2 per cent peak to the trough, which is a welcome boost for Irish businesses exporting outside the eurozone. However, it's important that the officials overseeing the management and perception of consequences tread carefully, as we don't want trading partners deciding to take their business elsewhere due to this unprecedented move.
Bank loans to households
Across both lending verticals of mortgages and unsecured loans, the total loan book extended to the Irish household declined by 3.4 per cent in the year to December 2012. While this does illustrate a (painfully achieved) decreasing household debt positive, it also highlights a lack of new borrowing from the Irish private sector, leading to a continuously cash-starved retail economy and consequently, fewer opportunities for banks to rebuild their balance sheets with performing loans.