Nervous markets but consumer confidence hits a 17-year high

Business Today: the best news, analysis and comment from ‘The Irish Times’ business desk

As rattled investors await a key US inflation report due on Wednesday, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said she was "reasonably optimistic" about the strength of the global economy. However, she said financial reforms are needed to avoid the next big crisis, though the recent sharp swings on the markets are not in themselves a cause for alarm.

Given that international markets are so jittery, the fact consumer confidence in the Republic has hit its highest point in 17 years has been greeted with words of caution. KBC Bank Ireland chief economist Austin Hughes is at pains to point out that it doesn't signal a return to the economic boom.

In a similar vein, the latest Ulster Bank purchasing managers' index (PMI) for the Irish construction industry show it got off to a "strong start" to the year, posting faster increases in activity, new orders and employment.

The news was less positive north of the Border, however, as the number of shoppers declined, with shopping centres noting a 4.4 per cent dip in January.


Ciara O'Brien reports how Facebook is exploring ways to help cut down on abuse of its service, with the possibility of bringing in artificial intelligence to pinpoint harmful behaviour in its groups.

Tillage farmers have been told to start sowing as the rapid growth in the Irish whiskey market is leading to a critical need for a sustainable future supply of barley and malt. The head of the Irish Whiskey Association has said the rising tide for its members will need the support of its suppliers.

There is good news for Nualtra, a nutritional drinks company backed by Digicel directors Leslie Buckley and Sean Corkery, after the Health Service Executive (HSE) named its products on guidelines issued to GPs for prescribing supplements to malnourished patients.

Derek Scally meets the Berlin lawyer facing down the giants of theGerman motor industry in the pursuit of cleaner air. On February 22nd Germany's federal administrative court in Leipzig will be asked to decide whether inner-city bans on diesel vehicles, as demanded by Prof Remo Klinger and his environmental lobby clients, are a legal, appropriate and proportionate remedy for inner-city air pollution.

Chris Johns laments Ireland's unfortunate position: stuck between Trump's kleptocracy and Britain's Brexit idiocracy. "The view in London is that the EU is going to throw Ireland under a bus."

In her column this week, Pilita Clark explains why it is a great truth of modern life that punctuality is an underrated virtue and why lateness at meetings must be banished.

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times