Inflation returns as food costs rise

The eurozone returned to inflation in May with a higher- than-expected increase in consumer prices after five months of falls and stagnation, due to rising food costs and the waning impact of cheap energy.

The European Union’s statistics office Eurostat said yesterday that consumer prices in the 19 countries sharing the euro rose 0.3% year-on-year last month after a flat reading in April, beating market expectations of a 0.2% increase.

Economist calls for new method of evaluating growth

Despite all indicators pointing towards an improving economy over the past year, there is no simple way of measuring that progress due to the distortive effects of a number of large industries and definitional changes.

One of the country’s most respected economists and ESRI research affiliate, John Fitzgerald, is due to make the claim as part of a wider report released next week.

CSO data will give clearer picture of Irish economic recovery

We have seen a number of upgrades to forecasts on the economy in recent times, with most now concluding that it will increase around 4% this year and next, writes Oliver Mangan.

However, a recent ESRI paper by Niall Conroy noted the high levels of volatility and often large revisions to data that make economic forecasting particularly challenging in Ireland.

These factors make it difficult for forecasters to present a …

IBEC survey finds 39% of firms cannot afford pay rises

Nearly four in 10 (39%) Irish companies will not be able to award a pay increase this year, according to a survey from IBEC.

The survey says the figure is similar to a previous study at the end of last year, despite recent positive economic news.

The business group is highlighting the situation as it responds to the new deal on public sector pay.

€8.5m show of faith in Ireland Energy Efficiency Fund

The Ireland Energy Efficiency Fund (IEEF) has landed an €8.5m investment as it moves further towards being fully invested by the end of 2016.

The Representative Church Body (RCB), the investment manager and trustee of the Church of Ireland Pension Fund, is the latest to invest in the fund designed to help companies improve energy efficiency.

Irish retail sales enjoy surge

Retail sales surged in April at their fastest rate for over 14 years, the first very strong evidence that confidence is returning to the Main Street.

Economists said they may upgrade their forecasts for economic growth this year on the back of the figures.

Excluding motor sales, the volume of retail sales rose by 3.1% in April from March, the fastest monthly increase since January 2001, and climbed by 7.8% …

Nama sales ‘no longer’ benefit State’s funding cost

The rapid sell-off by Nama of its property loans and redemption of its debt is providing a huge profitability kick for Irish banks, but is probably no longer benefiting the State’s funding costs, a leading economist has said.

Philip O’Sullivan, chief economist at Investec Ireland, said the redemption by Nama of the debt held by banks is proving a significant uplift to the lenders.

On Tuesday, Nama said it was …

Regulatory restrictions ‘stifle’ credit union growth

The credit union sector is overburdened with regulatory restrictions and limitations, which is stifling its growth potential.

That is according to Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath, who was commenting on new figures showing that there are 189 credit unions operating with lending restrictions with fewer than 10%, or only 18, allowed to lend €40,000 and more.

“The sector can only thrive if it is able to issue new loans. …

Nama holdings in Cork, Limerick and Galway revealed

New figures suggest Nama is less exposed to rural property developments outside of the big cities than once thought.

The asset management agency yesterday produced details of its portfolio investments across Ireland.

Its 2014 annual report says that the “urban-centric” assets it holds in counties Cork, Galway, and Limerick are just the sort of properties that are sought by investors.

Nama sticks to Government plan to close its doors by 2020

Nama is sticking to the Government’s plan to have ended most of its operations by 2018, and to shut its doors by 2020.

Chief executive Brendan McDonagh, chairman Frank Daly, and Michael Noonan, the finance minister, said there would be no slowdown in the pace of asset sales, nor any slippage in the schedule by which the agency plans to have paid down all its senior and junior debt over …