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Ibec backs introduction of carbon tax, short-term carbon budgets

Ibec backs introduction of carbon tax, short-term carbon budgets

The largest organisation representing businesses here is backing the introduction of a rising carbon tax, as well as short-term carbon budgets that would restrict greenhouse gas emissions in particular sectors.

Ibec has also called for changes to the planning system to facilitate a transition to a low-carbon economy and wants supports and incentives to be provided by the Government to meet the €40 billion bill.

The proposals are contained in a new report by the organisation, which outlines its vision for a smart low-carbon economy by 2050.

“Climate change is the single greatest challenge faced by humankind today,” said Ibec Chief Executive, Danny McCoy.

“As part of a wider global response, Ireland needs to play its part by taking decisive action to decouple emissions from population and economic growth, and to transition to a competitive low carbon economy.”

“For Irish business, such a transition presents a ‘no regrets’ opportunity to build a better Ireland,” he added.

According to the report, Irish business fully supports the transition to a low-carbon economy and the Government’s long-term climate ambition.

However, it says achieving this by 2050 will require reductions in emissions in the electricity and transport systems of up to 92%, in the built environment of up to 99%, and an increase of up to 64% in forest cover.

The body wants the carbon tax to be set at €30 per tonne in 2020 and would like to see it rise by a further €5 per tonne every year until it reaches €80 in 2030.
It says the revenue from the tax should be ring-fenced to support low-carbon investment, with a portion used to support poor households and vulnerable business sectors with no practical alternatives to fossil fuels.

Continually reducing short-term carbon budgets also must be introduced for sectors that are outside of the Emissions Trading System, the report says.

This would have the effect of giving better predictability to Ireland’s emission targets and obligations it claims, as well as more certainty to investors.

A “Just Transition” taskforce should also be established, it suggests, and a national social dialogue on climate action should take place.

Building on the work conducted by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action in 2019, this would bring together industry, trade unions, environmental groups, local representative and political parties to build a national consensus it proposes.

The planning system also needs to be amended, the document says, to take account of climate action, as set out in the National Planning Framework, it claims.

Changes would need to include better support for the roll-out of strategic energy infrastructure, public transport, afforestation and carbon sequestration, it says.

Supports and incentives also need to be offered by the Government, it says, to help businesses and households with the high upfront costs of moving to low carbon lives.

This shift, the report claims, will require more than €40bn of new capital investment by 2030, with the bulk of that coming through private investment.

In order to ensure a smooth changeover to a lower carbon economy, the decarbonisation process should happen on a phased basis, it recommends.

The security of supply out to 2035 should be studied by the Government as part of the process.

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said that Irish businesses are committed to going down the low carbon route as their consumers are demanding the change in direction.

Mr McCoy also said that businesses require certainty around their production base and it is clear that in the future fossil fuels are going to be much more expensive and so they need to make the change to a low carbon environment. “It makes sense, it is a ‘no regrets’ strategy,” he stated.

Ibec wants the carbon tax to be set at €30 per tonne in 2020 and would like to see it rise by a further €5 per tonne every year until it reaches €80 in 2030.

Danny McCoy said that depending on the nature of the relationship between a business and their customers, some of this extra cost will be passed on to the consumer.

“The imposition may be on one sector but who ultimately bears the incidence is really important. That is why in our report we talk about a “just transition”, including a dialogue across our society to ensure there is a just transition to see who is going to be impacted,” he said.

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Average weekly earnings up by 3.4% in Q1 – CSO

Average weekly earnings up by 3.4% in Q1 – CSO

New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that average weekly earnings stood at €769.98 in the first quarter of the year.

This marked an increase of 3.4% from the figure of €744.76 the same time last year, preliminary estimates from the CSO’s Earnings and Labour Costs Quarterly release show.

The CSO said the highest average weekly earnings of €1,257.47 were recorded in the Information and Communication sector, followed by the Financial, insurance and real estate activities sector at €1,230.21.

The lowest average weekly earnings of €353.67 were seen in the Accommodation and food service activities sector and €511.94 in the Arts, entertainment, recreation and other service activities sector.

The CSO also noted that in the five years to 2019, average weekly earnings rose by 10% from €699.67 in the first quarter of 2014 to €769.98 in the first quarter of this year.

All sectors recorded increases in the past five years, ranging from between 21.2% in the Information and Communication sector and 4.6% in the Public administration and defence sector.

Today’s CSO figures also show that average hourly earnings increased by 2.3% between the first quarter of 2018 and and the first quarter of 2019 – rising from €23.40 to €23.93.

They also reveal that average weekly paid hours increased by 1.3% from 31.8 to 32.2.

The CSO also said that average weekly earnings increased by 1.2% across the public sector and by 4.2% across the private sector in the year to the end of March.

Meanwhile, the job vacancy rate at the end of March this year stood at 1%, unchanged from 1% the same time last year.

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Residential property values rise by €84m per day – report

The value of residential property in Ireland rose by more than €84 million every day over the past year, according to new data.

In total, the value of homes here is now €510 billion, an increase of €31bn or 6% on a year earlier, the report said.

“While the bulk of that comes from changes in property values, a growing share of the change in Ireland’s property wealth is coming from new construction,” said the author of the study Ronan Lyons, an economist at Trinity College Dublin.

“On average last year, Ireland’s stock of homes grew in value by €84m per day with €15m of that coming from new construction.”

The figures are contained in a Wealth Report produced by property website,, which analyses 54 different markets around the country, including 25 different parts of Dublin, the four other cities and the 25 other counties over the past six months.

Not surprisingly the most expensive markets are in Dublin, with properties in Dublin 6 costing an average of €635,950 and in south county Dublin, €608,549, the report finds.

Mount Merrion in south Dublin tops the list of the most expensive of 389 micro markets in the country analysed by the report, with an average asking price of at €854,000.

This is followed by Dalkey where a house will cost the buyer €842,000 on average, the data shows.

Enniskerry in Co Wicklow was the most expensive town or region outside of the capital, with average values reaching €638,000 and Wicklow was the most expensive county or city.

Kinvara in Co Galway was the most expensive town or region in Connacht-Ulster where a property cost €326,000 on average, while Kinsale in Co Cork topped the list in Munster, with prices there averaging €395,000.

This compares to €261,000 on average nationwide and €97,000 in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon which had the cheapest average sale prices.

The cheapest five markets in the country remain concentrated in the north-west and in all five, property values are on average below €150,000.

These range from Leitrim, where property is €137,000 on average, to Donegal, where it is €146,000, the report says.

Eleven properties a week worth over €1m were sold over the last year, creating even more property millionaires.

The area with the largest number of homes that have sold for more than €1m is Dalkey, where 936 properties have changed hands for this amount or more, the report claims.

Dublin 10 was the area where house prices have risen the most over the past decade, climbing from 40th on the list in 2009 to 30th this year.

The most expensive street in the 2019 list is Coliemore in Dalkey, where four properties have changed hands for at least €2m in recent months, with an average price point of €5.5m.

Away from Dublin, Scilly Hill in Kinsale is the most expensive street, with an average house sale price of €2.5m.

The most expensive residential property to hit the market so far in 2019 was Seafield House in Donabate, with a price tag of €10m.

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Euro zone May business growth weaker than expected – PMI

Euro zone May business growth weaker than expected – PMI

Euro zone business growth accelerated a touch this month but not as much as expected, bogged down by a deepening contraction in the bloc’s manufacturing industry which is increasingly affecting service firms.

Last month, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi raised the prospect of more support for the struggling euro zone economy if its slowdown persists.

Today’s survey is likely to add to the concerns of policymakers.

IHS Markit’s Flash Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which is considered a good guide to economic health, only nudged up to 51.6 this month from a final April reading of 51.5.

This was below the median expectation in a Reuters poll for 51.7.

“We can put paid to any hopes of stronger growth in the second quarter. The economy is in a very soft patch,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

Williamson said the data pointed to GDP growth of 0.2% this quarter, weaker than the 0.3% predicted in a Reuters poll last month.

Partly due to factories completing old orders, the small increase in the key composite number was because an index measuring factory output, which feeds into the composite PMI, rose to 49 from 48.

But the flash manufacturing PMI spent its fourth month below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction, falling to 47.7 from 47.9 despite expectations for a rise to 48.1.

Suggesting factory managers are growing increasingly pessimistic, they cut staffing levels for the first time since August 2014. The employment index dropped to 49 from 50.7.

The manufacturing PMI means the sector would have a 0.1-0.2 percentage point drag on an economy currently being supported by a struggling services industry, Williamson said.

Growth in the bloc’s dominant services sector slowed and its flash PMI fell to 52.5 from 52.8, confounding expectations in a Reuters poll which predicted a modest rise to 53.

New export business – which also includes trade between member countries in the bloc – among services firms was hurt by weaker global growth, trade tensions and Brexit.

The sub index fell to 48.1 from 48.7, one of the weakest readings since IHS Markit began collecting the data in late 2014.

With forward-looking indicators painting a disappointing picture – overall new orders were flat, hiring slowed and backlogs of work run down – optimism was at its lowest since October 2014.

The composite future output index fell to 58.8 from April’s 60.4.

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Oil prices set for 2019’s biggest weekly loss

Oil prices set for 2019’s biggest weekly loss

Oil rose towards $69 a barrel today after two sessions of losses, but remained on track for its biggest weekly drop this year due to rising inventories and concerns about an economic slowdown.

US crude inventories rose to hit the highest since July 2017, suggesting ample supplies in the world’s top consumer.

Meanwhile, worries that the US-China trade is developing into a more entrenched dispute have also hit prices.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 98 cents to $68.74 a barrel but remained on course for a decline of nearly 5% this week. US West Texas Intermediate crude added 75 cents to stand at $58.66.

Even so, supply cuts – both voluntary and those resulting from US sanctions, kept a floor under prices and some analysts expect the market to recover.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, an alliance known as OPEC+, have been cutting supply since January to tighten the market and prop up prices.

US sanctions on the oil industries of Iran and Venezuela, both OPEC members, have curbed their crude exports, reducing supplies further than the OPEC+ deal aimed to.

Brent’s price structure remains in “backwardation”, in which prices for prompt delivery are higher than those for later dispatch, suggesting a tight balance between supply and demand.

UBS kept a forecast for Brent to again reach $75 – the year’s high – this month, citing tighter supplies.

“Compliance of OPEC and its allies to the production cut deal remains high, while production from Iran and Venezuela is likely to again trend lower this month,” the bank said.

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More than €8 of every €10 spent by shoppers on cards is still instore

More than €8 of every €10 spent by shoppers on cards is still instore

An analysis of €9 billion of retail credit and debit card transactions by AIB Bank found that 86 per cent of the purchases were made instore last year. The remaining 14 per cent occurred online, just a single percentage point increase over 2017 and two percentage points over 2016.

The statistic was contained within a presentation on Wednesday morning by AIB’s chief analytics officer, Jonathan Duggan, who was speaking at the annual expo of industry lobby group Retail Excellence, at the Citywest convention centre in Dublin.

About 2,000 delegates are attending the two-day conference and exhibition, which kicked off on Tuesday.

Mr Duggan’s presentation drew on data accrued from hundreds of million of card transactions, stripping out purchases such as flights and other non-retail items to provide a snapshot of activity purely in the retailing industry.

Of the instore transactions that made up the bulk of card sales, 44 per cent of the €7.6 billion was spent on groceries and non-alcoholic beverages, AIB estimated. About 17 per cent was spent on clothing and footwear.

Grocery sales
When it came to online sales, the proportion spent on groceries fell to 8 per cent, while the proportion spent on clothing almost doubled to 33 per cent.

The data was also parsed to ascertain the effects on grocery sales during the major weather events of 2018, including the Beast from the East snowstorm early in the year and the major summer heatwave. Grocery sales on some days of the snowstorm were down up to 85 per cent compared to usual, while they rose as much as 15 per cent on certain heatwave days, underlining the dominance of instore sales in the sector.

Mr Duggan also mapped the data against screenings of the television series, the Great British Bake Off, showing that bakery sales spiked when the programme was aired.

In terms of retail spending by foreign visitors, using cards from foreign banks, AIB estimated that UK visitors accounted for 34 per cent of these sales, with 27 per cent from the US. French, German and Australian visitors each accounted for less than 5 per cent of retail sales to foreign visitors.

Spending by UK visitors peaked in summer and again in December, while US visitor spending was heaviest during summer months.

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Personal injury costs threaten retail viability

Personal injury costs threaten retail viability

Retailers have hit out at the slow pace of insurance reform.

Rising personal injury awards are threatening the viability of the sector, according to Ibec’s Retail Ireland division.

Large numbers of retailers will be unable to meet the rising cost of insurance premiums unless urgent reform to the compensation system is put in place.

Retail Ireland director Thomas Burke said that it is vital for retailers that proposed amendments to the Judicial Council Bill 2017 are now agreed by Government and brought into law before the summer recess.

The group said employer and public liability insurance costs are adding an unnecessary burden and limiting the sector’s ability to grow, create jobs and deliver value and choice to consumers.

Retailers estimate that on average, for every €1 allocated to an insurance claim, a business must make €100 in sales to recoup this outlay.

Mr Burke said: “Rising insurance premiums, fraudulent and exaggerated claims and general inefficiencies in our insurance market have become a major competitiveness issue for retailers in recent years.”

He said retailers report average insurance premium rises of between 5pc and 10pc a year.

This is despite a falling number of incidents in stores due to increased investment in staff training and store layout.

“Retailers are disappointed at the pace of reform and continue to pay for that delay every day in terms of rising premiums and overly inflated claims awards.”

They want a dedicated funding stream to provide resources to allow the Gardaí to tackle what Retail Ireland said was a growing prevalence of fraudulent and exaggerated claims.

“Unless urgent reform is forthcoming, many retailers will simply be unable to meet growing insurance premiums into the future,” Mr Burke said.

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Consumers spent €1.7 billion online in March

Consumers spent €1.7 billion online in March

New figures from the Central Bank show that there are more payment cards than people in this country, with just over six million active credit or debit cards in circulation.

In the first three months of the year, Irish people spent just over €1.7 billion using those cards – that is equivalent to the Government’s health budget for the whole year.

The Central Bank figures show that for every €10 we spent using a costly credit card, we spent €53 with a debit card.

In that three month period, Irish consumers conducted 244 million point of sale transactions using debit cards – that does not include taking cash out of ATMs .

The average spend using a debit card was just over €40.

Using credit cards, consumers here made 34 million transactions, with an average spend of €80 – suggesting that consumers use credit cards for more expensive things.

Debit card spending grew by 19% year on year in March, while credit card spending grew by 10%.

The Central Bank figures also reveal that Irish consumers are spending more on online shopping as well.

Consumers bought €1.7 billion worth of stuff on the internet in March alone – that is the cost of the National Children’s Hospital spent in just one month.

Online shopping now accounts for half of all credit card spending and a quarter of all debit card spending.

According to the Central Bank, we are also spending more on overseas trips.

On average €0.5 billion a month went through credit and debit cards physically used outside of Ireland, including ATM withdrawals.

That amounts to a total of €1.6 billion spent abroad in the first three months of the year, 7% more than the same time last year.

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Google complying with EU order in shopping case, says Vestager

Google complying with EU order in shopping case, says Vestager

Google is complying with an EU order to boost competition in online shopping, Europe’s competition chief said today, brushing aside complaints from rivals demanding more regulatory action.

Google was hit with a €2.4 billion fine two years ago for unfairly promoting its own comparison shopping service.

But it has since offered to allow competitors to bid for advertising space at the top of a search page, giving them the chance to compete on equal terms.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the measure appeared to be working.

“Now we are in a situation where in 75% of queries there would be at least one rival to Google in the shopping box and 40% of clicks would go to a merchant hosted by one of the rivals,” Vestager told reporters on the sidelines of a Centre for European Reform event.

“This means we do not have a non-compliance case but at the same time also means that we keep monitoring monthly developments,” she added.

Open Internet Project, a Google critic, however argues that the situation has not improved.

“By putting these Google-powered Shopping Units at the top of every relevant results page, above more relevant comparison services, Google continues to reserve the important market for comparison shopping services to itself,” Open Internet Project said in a statement last week.

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UK inflation rises less than Bank of England expected in April

UK inflation rises less than Bank of England expected in April

British inflation rose last month by less than investors and the Bank of England had expected but still hit its highest level this year, pushed up by a rise in energy bills.

UK consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 2.1% in April after a 1.9% increase in March, the Office for National Statistics said today.

A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a rate of 2.2%, the same as the Bank of England’s forecast.

A recent weakening of inflation, combined with the lowest unemployment rate in 44 years and rising wages, has taken the edge off the uncertainty about Brexit for many households whose spending drives Britain’s economy.

But starting in April Britain’s energy regulator increased a price cap on energy providers by 10% and all big six suppliers raised their standard prices by the same amount.

The Bank of England had said the move would push inflation above target briefly.

Electricity and gas prices were the biggest driver of inflation last month, the ONS said. Computer game and package holiday prices helped to offset the impact of the higher bills.

Britain’s modest rate of underlying inflation is helping the Bank of England to hold off on fresh interest rate hikes while it waits for the outcome of Britain’s Brexit impasse.

The ONS figures also suggested less short-term pressure in the pipeline for consumer prices than expected.

Among manufacturers, the cost of raw materials – many of them imported – was 3.8% higher than in April 2018, much less than the 4.5% rise predicted by the Reuters poll.

UK manufacturers increased the prices they charged by 2.1% last month compared with 2.2% in March, slightly less than forecast.

The ONS said house prices in March rose by an annual 1.4% across the UK as a whole compared with 1% in February, marking the first increase in house price inflation since September.

Prices in London alone fell by 1.9% a smaller drop than in February, it added.

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