The U2 theory of economic trends suggests that better Irish bands appear when the economy is at its weakest, as a lack of beer money inspires energy and passion in musicians. Pull the other one. Mind you, the reverse might be true. Economic booms have coincided with hit songs by Richie Kavanagh, Westlife and quite a lot of people from X Factor. A booming global economy also produced Nickelback and the Las Ketchup song. Latest figures from eBay.ie show that sales of DJ decks are up 88 per cent and microphones are up 63 per cent.
Sales of fridges
Fridges and electrical stuff, such as blenders or coffee makers, are about the only things selling on the high street at the moment. But this is largely due to prices being slashed. The volume of electrical goods being sold rose 16.7 per cent last month, but the value of stuff sold rose only 9.8 per cent. Marginally less horrible weather last month saw an improvement in retail sales (which rose 1.1 per cent in July) excluding cars. The June figures had been truly sodden, plummeting 1.7 per cent as the country was largely under water. Used-car sales on carsireland.ie also fell by 6.1 per cent last week.
Latest tourist visitor numbers were a bit grim -- down 2.2 per cent for the months of May, June and July. However, there were a few positive notes. Not many, but a few. Tourist numbers from emerging markets such as China and India, where the economies are still functioning, are up 5.7 per cent.
Consumer confidence hit a five-year high this month. We haven't been quite so cheery about the future since October 2007. This jump in confidence is fuelled by the potential of wangling a deal out of the technocrats in Europe on our monster bank debts. Improved and sustained consumer confidence is key to any recovery, as it will lead to increase consumer spending. However, at this stage it is incredibly fragile, so anything stupid could puncture positivity. Anything stupid... such as the looming catastrophe known as Big Phil's household charge.
Factories being rented
There's been a noticeable uptick in activity for industrial property, such as factories in Dublin, this year. Figures from Savills show that in the first half of the year 91,000 sq ft of factory space was rented out, compared with a total of 148,000 in the whole of 2011. That means 60 per cent of the 2011 total has already been done in the first six months of this year. There was miles more activity in the April/May/June period than in the first three months of the year. Factories and industrial buildings being rented out is a real signal of increased activity in the economy.
While house prices rose 0.2 per cent on average last month, the figures have a bit of a health warning, as there's so little activity -- thanks banks. Repossessions will have to rise, which (when put into the mixer with a weak economy and weenchy amounts of mortgage lending) indicates that prices still have some way to fall. Bummer. Even so, last month's increase, even if it is just a short-term blip, remains a morale booster.
Yields on Irish nine-year bonds continued to fall -- hitting 5.93 per cent. We're now perceived by overseas investors to be five times as dodgy as the Germans. Believe it or not, this represents a major improvement. A deal on the bank debt just before the Budget would go down well.
Sunday Indo Business