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Property prices

House prices fell by a staggering 8 per cent in the final three months of 2011 -- possibly the fastest quarterly drop since the Viking raids of 795 AD.

Over the entire year, prices dropped 18 per cent, according to Daft.ie, making 2011 a rotten year for home owners. House prices are down over 50 per cent from the madness of 2007 -- but they could fall another 15-20 per cent based on the theory that a home is worth 15 times what somebody would pay for it in rent over a year. As well as kicking the bejaysus out of personal wealth and bank balance sheets, falling house prices hit confidence and associated spending smack in the goolies.

The euro has begun 2012 by falling through the $1.30 floor to $1.28. This is a quantitative measure of how people and businesses are losing patience with the single currency and its intrinsic problems. However, Irish exporters are delighted! They haven't had to increase their prices -- and yet, the dollars and sterling they receive are worth more to their top and bottom lines.

Sales of lattes, cappucinos and flat whites jumped in the last two weeks of 2011, according to new sales data from Insomnia, which showed a year-on- year increase of 16 per cent compared to the same two weeks of 2010. Mind you, we weren't buried under 20 feet of snow this Christmas. Hazlenut Hot Chocolate was a big, big seller as consumers took the padlock off wallets for a little bit of discretionary spending.

The latest NCB Purchasing Managers Index -- which essentially measures the health and activity in Ireland's manufacturing sector -- looked rather unwell for the second month in a row. Without going into all the mumbo jumbo, a monthly score of below 50 is bad (it means less machines were clanking away making stuff like sofas or widgets to sell abroad). Last month's score was 48.6. Ouch. It was marginally better than November's number of 48.5 -- but things are contracting.

New statistics released by InsolvencyJournal.ie show that corporate insolvencies for 2011 hit 1,638. This was a 7 per cent increase on 2010, when 1,525 businesses went splat. Interestingly enough the number of construction firms going wallop fell by 11 per cent compared with 2010.

The number of Irish websites (those with the '.ie' bit at the end) rose by a hefty 12.9 per cent last year to reach 173,145 according to the latest report from The IE Domain Registry (IEDR). This is a hugely positive sign, as Irish firms embrace the internet and helps boost exports. The IEDR found that two-thirds of Irish businesses had websites, of which only 21 per cent could handle online payments.

Around 13,000 new jobs were created by IDA clients in Ireland last year which was an increase of 20 per cent on the year before. In addition, the amount of job losses from those companies was 25 per cent lower than last year. Ireland's increased competitiveness and the crucial 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate are key to this continuing. Mind you, the shower running Europe could help a bit more too.

Sunday Indo Business