Top o' the morning to ye! To be sure, to be sure. Diddleye, diddleye. St Patrick's Day is the tentpole event for the country's tourism industry – and a binge-drinking occasion for everybody else. Spending by tourists on knick-knacks or in the struggling hotel and pub sector will help fill the national coffers. Sales of Leprechaun outfits on eBay.ie rose by 24 per cent last month.
Last week's Government bond auction was a mega-result for Ireland. Investors were willing to lend us €5bn for 10 years at an interest rate of 4.15 per cent, which is a huge improvement on the last time we issued a new bond (in January 2010 when we had to pay 5.091 per cent). Our yield is now at a level which is better than that before our EU/IMF agreement in November 2010. Technically we could leave the bailout programme now... but it would be a bit silly, as the Troika lends us money at around three per cent as against the four per cent plus offered by the bond markets.
While Ireland's competitiveness has improved by 10 per cent since the start of 2008 (according to the latest Investec Ireland Export Analysis Report), things have started to creak. The Investec Report captures export demand, export competitiveness and the pace of GDP growth in Ireland's 15 major trading partners. However, the last quarter saw a 0.1 per cent drop in our competitiveness, due to both the contracting Eurozone economy and also a drop in UK output. While the overall trend has been really positive, the latest numbers are not cheery.
Cheap, affordable treats such as Wispas or Moros tend to do well in a weak economy, as people don't have the readies to splash out on pricier types of instant happiness. New Euromonitor numbers show that the amount of chocolate and sweeties gobbled per capita dropped last year. In 2008, we each hoovered down 9.7kg of chocolate. Last year the amount had dropped to 9.2kg. This means that we are either too poor to feed ourselves, or that things might just be improving.
Household net worth
For the first time since the start of 2008, household net worth actually increased in the third quarter of 2012 – rising by 2.5 per cent. While this is a significant and positive development, it's important to note that this also incorporates the appreciation of assets that may not affect their liquidity (ie, cash in their pocket) and hence their spending or overall level of financial comfort may not change for some time yet.
Monthly services index
The purpose of the Monthly Services Index is to measure any changes in current price output in the non-financial traded services sector – and the latest reading of 107.9 in January last marks a 4.3 per cent increase on the year before. This points to the above- average inflation in the industry, but also incorporates the export boost – and hence, currency impact on the figure. Higher prices lead to higher revenue, tax take and overall economic growth.
Private sector deposits
Irish private sector deposits began to nudge upwards again since August 2012 and specifically grew by 0.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2012. This metric illustrates the tentative confidence that Irish people have in the survival and safety of the banking system, which will no longer have a blanket guarantee by the end of the month.