We're no longer playing catch-up with rest of eurozone
THINGS, it seems, can only get better. Figures released on Wednesday by the Central Statistics Office showed Ireland's economy has now exited its second recession since 2008, driven by a jump in exports coupled with a pick-up in personal consumption.
Exports increased by €1.5bn between the start of April and the end of June, while personal spending jumped 0.7pc on the previous quarter. The country's construction industry is finally beginning to show signs of growth too, expanding by 4.2pc in the same period.
We've now caught up on the eurozone as a whole, which officially pulled out of an 18-month recession at the end of June.
In fact, Irish growth actually exceeded the eurozone average in the most recent quarter.
Yesterday, the European Commission said investor confidence in the single currency trading bloc had reached a two-year high in September.
The eurozone's recovery, however, remains fragile. While Ireland has finally found itself in growth mode, other countries are still mired in recession – two consecutive quarters of economic contraction – and those conditions persist in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Slovenia. That list could be longer; not all countries, including Greece, report quarterly GDP figures.
In some of these countries, a return to growth looks unlikely to happen any time soon.
Italy cut its growth forecasts yesterday and will probably need further austerity measures to bring its budget deficit to below the European Union's 3pc threshold, as promised this year.
But even though we can't be sure of its quarterly GDP performance, the news still looks more positive for embattled Greece.
Unofficial estimates released this week said the country's battered economy expanded from April to June on a quarterly basis, for the first time since its crisis erupted four years ago.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday that the economy was inching towards recovery, as unemployment registered its first quarterly fall in almost four years. "Signs of a recovery are now evident," he said.
These greenshoots of hope could provide a boost to government revenues that would help Athens avoid further, painful austerity measures to meet the fiscal targets under its international bailout. Encouraged by the figures, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras urged lenders not demand any more cuts to jobs, wages and pensions.
The troika begins an inspection tomorrow that will assess the country's compliance with reforms and establish any further financing Athens needs before it regains market access.