Parts of the art market aren't doing badly at all, despite a weak economy. Former oil explorer Bill Griffin will have a packed house at his 'Song For Deirdre' exhibition in the Cork Vision Centre, North Main Street, on May 30. There'll even be a government minister thrown in. Top-notch exhibitions like this show there's life in the domestic arts sector, despite austerity. Latest figures from eBay.ie show that sales of paintings and art in Ireland have risen by 13.2 per cent.
In the last month, the 10-year Irish government bond has fallen from 3.849 per cent to 3.49 per cent, which is a 10 per cent decrease in the cost demanded from the international markets to hold our debt. We have seen this persistent trend since July 2011 with the cost of borrowing dwindling to pre-crisis levels. This is a quantitative sign of confidence in our ability to drive forward, helped by the fact that many investors "have run out of yield" and ours is an attractive prospect.
The number of people jailed for not having a TV licence has absolutely rocketed over the last few years, indicating tighter household budgets, a growing swell of opinion that "enough is enough", rising civil disobedience and the fact that repeats of Friends are still being screened. In 2012, there was a near 50 per cent rise in the numbers of people jailed, an increase of 89 to 272. What kind of silly country do we live in, where people go to jail for not paying €160 to watch Jennifer Aniston?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the property tax assessments falling through the letter box had a nasty effect on consumer confidence and spending. April and May have been quiet in the restaurant and beauty sector in Ireland. The latest Smurfit Consumer Market Monitor shows that consumer confidence dipped at the end of the first quarter.
The return of the second Ice Age coupled with monsoon weather has added to the problems of big DIY retailers. As well as being broke, we're less likely to plant a few shrubs or paint a fence if the weather is horrible. Listed retailer Grafton Group, which runs Woodies, revealed that like-for-like sales in Ireland were down 8.7 per cent on the same period last year.
Last week's bus strike proved industrial unrest hasn't gone away. There are still plenty of bearded anoraks nursing their pent-up anger. In the first quarter of the year, there were double the number of days lost to unrest as the same period last year, with 107 working days lost to two disputes, in comparison to the same period the year before. This creates a loss of salary, discontent, interrupted productivity and opportunity costs.
DEBT SECURITIES STOCK OUTSTANDING
At the end of the first quarter of 2013, there was an outstanding stock of €997.4bn of debt securities issued by Irish financial firms, non-financial firms and the government sector. This figure is a 2 per cent reduction on the value recorded in the first quarter of last year. Effectively, this means that all the organisations borrowing money on the listed markets have brought down their debt levels by 2 per cent. This means they have less capital to generate growth and bondholders (lenders) have fewer interest-generating opportunities.