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Govt publishes strategy for future needs of business

The Government is publishing details of a new approach to the future needs of businesses and workers.

Called Future Jobs Ireland, the aim is to prepare people and companies for coming technological changes and the move to a low-carbon economy.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation says the policy is needed to ensure there is no complacency or repeat of past mistakes when it comes to dealing with major shifts in the way the economy is structured, such as artificial intelligence and the digital economy.

Billed as a whole of Government approach, the Future Jobs programme also addresses issues such as work-life balance and social infrastructure such as childcare, as well as raising skill levels for workers and managers and increasing productivity, particularly in SMEs and the construction sector.

The long-term policy is based around five key themes or pillars: Innovation and technology change; improving SME productivity; boosting skills and attracting talent; increasing workforce participation and the move to a low-carbon economy.

An immediate aim is to double the “lifelong learning” rate to 18% in six years time.

Raising participation in the workforce – a growing issue as the economy moves closer to full employment – is to be done through several initiatives, including a public service to assist people returning to work, particularly mothers; incentivising employers to provide early learning and childcare facilities, and reviewing income tax arrangements for second earners to incentivise return to work.

It will also urge employers to hire more people from under-represented groups such as older people and people with disabilities.

To ensure business takes the most advantage from new technologies seen as vital in improving productivity the policy will experiment with the establishment of what it calls “Top Teams” groups of experts from the private and public sector to exploit opportunities for the economy.

The three initial “Teams” will concentrate on Renewable Energy, Artificial Intelligence and GovTech (marketable technology solutions for delivering Government services).

The document also calls for the development of national digital, AI and advanced manufacturing (Industry 4.0) policies.

There is a particular emphasis on improving the SME sector, such as establishing “clusters” of similar or linked industries around the Institutes of Technology around the country, and developing investment funding to scale up Irish owned businesses.

Leadership and management skill development will be a particular feature.

Delivering the Deliverables:
The Future Jobs programme is a set of policy initiatives, grouped under five main headings or “pillars”.

Within each pillar are sets of “ambitions” or targets, and these are to be reached by annual “deliverables” – effectively check lists of things to be done each year.

Progress on implementing the checklists – or “delivering the deliverables” – will be monitored quarterly by a group of senior officials, with a report going to cabinet twice a year. This will also be published.

Key deliverables for 2019 under each pillar include:

Pillar 1: Embracing innovation and technological change
Deliver important policy initiatives including an Industry 4.0 Strategy, a National Digital Strategy, and a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
Form Top Teams to progress areas of opportunity for Ireland beginning with Artificial Intelligence, GovTech and Offshore Renewables.
Develop Ireland as a centre for developing and testing new technologies by, for example: extending the EI/IDA Irish Manufacturing Research Additive Manufacturing technology centre to include Collaborative Robotics (cobotics) and Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality,progressing the Advanced Manufacturing Centre,expanding the Tyndall National Institute,commencing the development of a National Centre of Excellence on High Performance and Nearly Zero Energy Buildings,commencing the development of a National Design Centre.
With NESC, develop a strategy for Transition Teams to help the transition of vulnerable enterprises and workers.

Pillar 2: Improving SME productivity
Deliver a new female entrepreneurship strategy.
Develop a new investment funding facility to assist indigenous Irish companies in scaling their businesses.
Encourage the growth of clusters where enterprises can grow and help each other and deepen linkages between foreign and Irish owned businesses.
Increase the impact of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and increase SME take-up of Enterprise Ireland (EI) and LEO productivity supports.
Drive productivity growth in the construction and retail sectors.

Pillar 3: Enhancing skills and developing and attracting talent
Offer career advice to workers through the Public Employment Service.
Engrain lifelong learning and offer career enhancing opportunities to workers.
Ensure our economic migration system is responsive to our labour market needs.
Promote flexible training options.
Provide training in emerging technologies.

Pillar 4: Increasing participation in the labour force
Conduct a national consultation on extending flexible working options.
Develop guidelines for employers on flexible working options.
Develop a return to work service (e.g. for women returning to the workplace) as part of the Public Employment Service.
Improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
Provide incentives for people who wish to work longer.

Pillar 5: Transitioning to a low-carbon economy
Position Ireland as a centre in research, development and innovation, for smart grids, buildings and renewable technologies.
Review the regional dimension of the economic and employment implications of the transition to a low carbon economy.
Promote electric vehicles and achieve over 10,000 electric vehicles on the road by the end of the year.
Deliver a national deep retrofit programme for existing housing stock.
Develop and implement green procurement policy.

Over the past decade we have become used to a whole string of international organisations – notably the IMF, OECD and European Commission – publishing country reports that point out weaknesses in the way the economy is set up. They usually say that not addressing these issues will result in slower growth over time, and possibly far worse – missing the boat on the coming big technology shifts and all the social problems that would come along with such a failure to adapt: rising unemployment that becomes harder to deal with as the labour force would lack the skills needed for the newly emerging situation, notably digital skills and management skills.

The Future Jobs policy is an attempt to fill in those holes in the system, and try and get ahead of the issues before they start to become entrenched problems.

Many of the issues listed for action are well known and long-running – the problem of management weakness, particularly in the SME sector, has long cried out for action. So too has a more thorough approach to lifelong learning and reskilling of workers. Such is the pace of technological change that this is really not an option anymore. And the war for talent is global, so going abroad to hire is becoming less of an option all the time (and that’s before we get to the problem of where to house people, be they locals or incomers). Local talent has to be nurtured, skilled and reskilled as needed. Incentivising firms to do what is in their own best interest may smack of corporate welfare but it may be justified in the big economic picture, of an Ireland that keeps moving ahead by being nimble and moving ahead.

That means trying to solve the long-running weakness of the Irish “boss class” – their preference for investing the profits of their SMEs in villas in Portugal rather than back into their own businesses. And encouraging them to merge several small firms to make one medium firm, that might even grow into a large firm. This is long term, complex stuff, and it will take lots of policy tweaks to encourage it, from the classic “incentives” , perhaps aided in their design by behavioural economics insights, not just the usual interest group lobbying, to direct funding arrangements perhaps, as others have suggested, doing things like paying direct grants to firms for research and development, rather than encouraging this vital activity through tax breaks.

Raising the amount of resources devoted to R&D from 1.5% of 2.5% of GDP is essential if Ireland is to ease its dependence on the multinational sector for growing the high value, high skill jobs we want and need. Its also going to be needed to deal with some of the unstoppable megatrends that are happening now: Artificial Intelligence will rock your world, whether you want it to or not. And decarbonising the economy or failing to decarbonise will have a profound impact on the way work and leisure is organised on this island, and pretty much everywhere else on the planet too.

Over the last decade, all the focus has rightly been on recovering the jobs lost in the great recession. We have now reached an all time high in the number of people in work in the State. But keeping them in work and adding to their number will require a new policy emphasis. And it has to be one that challenges both businesses and individuals to think ahead, and look out for the coming waves of change.

Above all the document warns about complacency something that was a notable feature of Ireland during its pseudo-Celtic Tiger era in the first decade of this century. Then the Irish economy was famous for blowing its own trumpet for its leveraged property market and buying the most Playstations per capita in the whole world passed off as a workforce with digital skills.

Now the emphasis is on real work, albeit of the “work smarter” variety. Raising productivity, particularly in Irish owned firms, is key. Hence all the talk of digital skills, advanced manufacturing and becoming known as technology leader is certain fields by setting up demonstrator centres and pioneering new ways of doing things. One of the ideas is to position Ireland as a leader in the testing of autonomous (self driving) vehicles on roads.

Again, post crash we have been hearing about the need to build resilience in the financial industry and the Government finances. But there is also a need to build resilience in employment and that means having firms and workers that can withstand the shifts and shocks that are coming, and be in a position to profit from them.

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Workers priced out of housing market by cash-rich investors

First-time buyers are facing stiff competition from housing associations, investment firms and State bodies when trying to buy homes, a new report says.

Known as non-household buyers, they now make up 22pc of purchases for newly built homes, up from 7pc in 2010.

The latest housing monitor from the Irish Banking and Payments Federation says the rise in purchases by the institutional and State buyers comes as the figures show a decline in the number of cash buyers.

Cash buyers include people with spare funds who purchase a buy-to-let with their savings.

Back in 2010, non-household buyers represented only 4pc of all purchases of residential properties, both newly built and second-hand ones.

But this had climbed to 17pc by last year, according to the banks.

And the number of housing units being bought by the likes of institutional investors such as US fund Kennedy Wilson and housing charities is set to rise, according to the housing report.

Beverly Hills-based Kennedy Wilson has told its shareholders “billions” of dollars are poised to be invested in apartment projects in this country.

“Given the growing importance of involvement from institutional investors and higher social housing output in the short term, it is likely that a higher portion of the new housing units in the coming years will be accounted for by these segments,” said Banking and Payments Federation economist Dr Ali Uğur.

He added that institutional investor transactions should not be confused with pure cash sales.

“Institutional investor or non-household sector transactions should not be confused with cash transactions as these require financing to a certain extent, as opposed to pure cash sales or sales not financed with a mortgage,” he said.

He added that the statistics show the percentage of pure cash sales has fallen from 33pc in 2017 to 28pc last year.

The banks also revealed there was a fall in the number of buyers approved for a mortgage in January.

Some 3,037 people were approved to borrow to buy a home in the first month of the year, down 3.4pc on the same month last year.

Just shy of 49pc of the approvals were for first-time buyers. An approval does not always turn into a mortgage draw-down, especially if the potential buyers are outbid or cannot afford properties in the area they want to buy in.

The value of approvals over the past three months was flat. This is the slowest growth rate since April 2016.

Figures from the banks show the typical deposit a first-time buyer has is now €37,000, up 1.4pc from last year. For movers, a typical deposit is €95,000.

In Dublin, the median deposit is close to €54,000 for first-time buyers and €140,000 for movers.

The approvals figures are at variance with results from stock-market listed homebuilder Glenveagh Properties, which reported strong demand and forward sales.

Economists said potential buyers were being restricted by the Central Bank-imposed rules that people who do not get an exemption can borrow only three-and-a-half times their income.

Conall Mac Coille, an analyst at Davy Stockbrokers, said the fall in approvals could also be a sign that Brexit uncertainties were weighing on transactional activity.

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Bolder than expected: ECB pushes out rate hike and showers banks with yet more cash

The European Central Bank pushed out the timing of its first post-crisis rate hike until 2020 at the earliest and offered banks new rounds of multi-year loans in a bid to revive the currency bloc’s slowing economy, it said on Thursday.

The bolder-than-expected move showed ECB was having to revisit plans to dial back its unprecedented stimulus measures as a global trade war, Brexit uncertainty and simmering debt concerns in Italy take their toll on a fragile euro zone.

While investors had long stopped pricing in an ECB rate hike this year, few were expecting the bank to change its policy message, causing yields on government bonds and the euro to fall after the announcement.

“The Governing Council now expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present levels at least through the end of 2019, and in any case for as long as necessary,” the ECB said in a statement.”

It had previously said rates would remain at their record low levels through the summer.

In addition, the ECB launched a third Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operation (TLTRO III) consisting of two-year loans partly aimed at helping banks roll over €720bn in existing TLTRO and avoid a credit squeeze that could exacerbate the current economic slowdown.

Commercial banks have indeed already started restricting credit in the face of falling industrial output and exports, threatening to reinforce the slowdown.

As reported by Reuters, the new loans will carry a floating rate tied to the ECB’s main refinancing operation, currently set at zero.

“Like the outstanding TLTRO programme, TLTRO-III will feature built-in incentives for credit conditions to remain favourable,” the ECB said.


Thursday’s announcement comes four years to the month since the ECB launched an unprecedented asset purchase program known as quantitative easing (QE) to prevent sub-zero inflation from further hitting an economy still reeling from the euro zone debt crisis.

In total it spent some €2.6 trillion buying up mostly government but also corporate debt, asset-backed securities and covered bonds — at a pace of €1.3m a minute.

The ECB’s move to extend the horizon for steady rates was likely to be perceived as a policy reversal for the central bank that only ended its bond-buying programme in December and has signalled an interest rate hike for later this year.

“A sign of panic or an attempt to get ahead of the curve?,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski wrote in a note to clients. “The European Central Bank surprised almost everyone.”

At his post-meeting news conference, ECB President Mario Draghi will read out new economic projections for the next three years, which are expected to show inflation holding well short of the ECB’s target of almost 2pc, implying further stimulus may be needed.

Central banks around the world are reversing course, led by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has signalled a pause in rate hikes and said it will stop shrinking its balance sheet.

That leaves the ECB with the familiar role of having to prop up sentiment in the 19-country euro zone, where growth is sub-par and export-driven and there is little room for government spending.

But much of the slowdown is imported and thus outside the ECB’s control. It also has a limited policy arsenal given years of stimulus and rates still deep in negative territory.

“While the ECB still has some ammunition left, its arsenal lacks ‘easy’, cost-free options,” BNP Paribas said in a note to clients earlier this week.

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More women holding top roles in Ireland – but gender balance action ‘must not be rushed’

More women are holding senior management roles in Ireland but, while gender balance at the top level is still a way off, the strategy to address the issue must not be rushed according to the head of Grant Thornton in Ireland.

Grant Thornton International’s latest Women in Business report ranks Ireland eighth out of 35 countries globally in terms of the percentage of woman in these leadership roles.

The new research, published ahead of International Women’s Day, found the number of global businesses with at least one woman in senior management increased in the last year to 87pc from 75pc.

The proportion of businesses with women involved in senior management is at its highest level in the 15 years since Grant Thornton started tracking data.

“Would I like to get this done quicker? Yes. But everyone needs to feel that they are on this journey together and it needs not be rushed which would create a different sort of issue,” said Grant Thornton’s Mick McAteer.

“It takes time to fix something that has been this way for centuries.”

Specifically to Ireland, businesses said that 23.32pc of the overall employee count participate in the management of the organisation, with around one-third (34.88pc) of those women.

Meanwhile, 22pc of firms here said that they have no women in senior management. However, there have been significant changes over the last two years as this compares with 39pc in 2017 and 41pc in 2016.

Francesca Lagerberg, global leader at Grant Thornton International, said that the latest “encouraging” figures have been driven by external factors including increasing organisational transparency, gender pay gap reporting and highly visible public dialogue like the #MeToo movement.

“Despite the strong business case in favour of gender diversity, change at the top has been slow until now,” she said.

“Hopefully, the sharp increase in the representation of women in senior leadership we’re seeing this year is not purely a knee-jerk reaction to the current social climate and we’ll see similar progress in the coming years.”

Grant Thornton Ireland’s head of diversity, tax partner Sasha Kerins, agrees that the deliberate action of leaders within an organisation will be critical in order to continue this upwards trend of female representation in senior positions. “It’s not enough to just sit on the wall; in order for real change you need to work with human resources (HR) and look at policies – work flexibility, recruitment and training bias, career development – and determine the key things that must be focused on to drive that change,” she said.

“And when you’re adopting a new initiative, it can’t be simply a nice-to-have, it needs to be impactful, something that you can track and measure.”

The detail of the roles held by women were also analysed in the new report, which found that, of those holding senior management positions in Irish businesses, more than half (56pc) filled the human resources slot while almost a quarter (22pc) take the helm as CEO or managing director.

Most companies researched said that they are creating an inclusive culture in the workplace but 30pc said that they are taking no action to improve gender balance at all.

Similar to the overall global response, time constraints – for both men and women – has been cited as the biggest barrier to reaching senior management level.

In terms of the analysis of the statistics, Mr McAteer said it was important to dig deeper into the data as often the “full picture” might not be easily transparent.

He said that he would hope that legislation for Gender Pay Gap Information, which is currently before Dáil Éireann, would offer the transparency that the pay-parity analysis requires.

“If your senior management is mostly male and a pay-parity analysis is done across all levels, this analysis is going to be skewed.

“Bad decisions can be made based on headline numbers,” he said.

“It’s a complex area and peers need to be likened with peers; quite often the headline pay does not reflect the reality of the situation.

“For example, working mothers on a three-day week compared with men on a five-day week. They may be on the same salary but the initial numbers might not reflect that.”

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Modest pick up in mortgage approvals in January

The number of mortgages approved by banks here fell by 3.4% in the year to the end of January, new figures show.

The drop came despite a modest monthly increase in the volume of home loans given the green light during the first month of the year.

In total, the Banking and Payment Federation Ireland figures show that 3,307 mortgages were approved during the month, with 1,479 mortgages of those going to first time buyers.

The overall value of loans for home purchases that were approved in January was €672 million, with first time buyers receiving €327 million or nearly 49% of that.

This represented a total increase in value of 2.4% month-on-month, but a drop of 2.5%year-on-year.

“Based on our conversations with industry participants at the start of the year, we would have expected some pick-up in January due to potential pent-up demand as a result of the volatility caused by banks’ attempts to manage exemptions around macro prudential rules in 2018,” said Goodbody economist, Dermot O’Leary.

“It is too early in the year to make conclusions on this. We still expect that higher levels of new housing supply to be a driver of growth in the mortgage market in 2019.”

Davy’s chief economist Conall MacCoille said the figures were disappointing. “Brexit uncertainties could be weighing on activity,” he said.

“However, given volatility in the residential transactions data, it is too early to discern clear trends,” he added.

Overall 45,548 mortgage approvals were processed by lenders in the 12 months to the end of January, with a total value of €10.109 billion.

The BPFI also published its Housing Market Monitor, which showed that there has been a reduction in cash sales and increased competition for home purchase from the non-household sector, particularly when it comes to new builds.

“In terms of transactions in the newly built housing units, non-households accounted for around 22% of all transactions in this category in 2018 compared to 7% in 2010,” said Dr Ali Uğur, BPFI’s Chief Economist.

“Given the growing importance of involvement from institutional investors and higher social housing output in the short term, it is likely that a higher portion of the new housing units in the coming years will be accounted for by these segments.”

Dr Uğur also said cash sales have fallen to 27.8% of sales in the last three months of the year from 32.2% one year earlier.

Brokers Ireland said the data point to a growing lost generation and reinforce the growing view that major behavioural change is being forced upon what should be the normal house buying public, particularly aspiring first-time buyers on average salaries.

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Group warns of impact of Brexit legislation on duty free sales

An organisation representing those involved in sales of duty free here has warned Government changes to draft laws designed to prepare the country for a no-deal Brexit will prevent the sale of such products at Irish airports.

Expressing its concern about the amendments to the bill, the Irish Duty Free Alliance (IDFA) said the changes are out of step with the approach adopted by other European states.

Current European legislation states duty free sales can occur on routes where passengers are travelling to a “third-country”.

But the IDFA said the proposed legislation as it is currently drafted would take away that right at Irish airports, while at the same time not stopping such sales on board planes travelling to the UK or on ferries travelling across the Irish Sea.

It said European Commission advice last November stated duty free sales for passengers travelling to the UK must be allowed in the event of a hard-Brexit.

If left as it stands, the proposed laws would put airports here at a distinct competitive disadvantage, the organisation said in a statement.

As a result, the IDFA has called on the Government to reassess its position.

“A hard Brexit scenario will be hugely detrimental to IDFA members and will require substantial investment to prepare for and mitigate against risks,” said Frank O’Connell, chairman of the IDFA.

“Duty free shopping for UK passengers represents perhaps the only silver lining in what is otherwise a very challenging outlook for our members, particularly regional airports who have a high proportion of UK routes.”

The IDFA represents all the major airports, ferry companies, retailers and suppliers involved in the duty free and travel retail sector here.

The trade body said a report it commissioned found that if duty free rights were restored to passengers here, it could boost the Irish economy by around €45 million and lead to the creation of 450 jobs.

It said it does not believe that there is any scope for duty free sales between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland because it is banned under EU legislation that prohibits duty free operating on land borders.

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Central bankers’ bank warns of danger of bonds to markets

A SURGE in the supply of corporate debt in the riskiest investment-grade category may leave markets vulnerable to a rout if economic weakness triggers bouts of rating downgrades, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

The BIS is the central bankers’ central bank and provides policy advice as well as acting as a forum for them.

Investment-grade bonds classed BBB by ratings firms – one step above junk status – have proved popular with funds bound by their own rules to hold only low-risk securities.

While central banks pursued low interest rates and quantitative easing that pumped trillions of dollars into markets after the financial crisis, such bonds offered tempting yields while still falling into the low-risk category that made them eligible holdings.

In 2018, BBB-rated bonds accounted for about 45pc of US and European mutual fund portfolios, up from 20pc in 2010, according to the BIS.

But many investors may have to sell those bonds if they fall out of the investment-grade scale.

If an economic downturn prompts credit-rating cuts, this could trigger a market crash as investors dump the newly ineligible debt from their portfolios, according to the BIS.

“If, on the heels of economic weakness, enough issuers were abruptly downgraded from BBB to junk status, mutual funds and, more broadly, other market participants with investment grade mandates could be forced to offload large amounts of bonds quickly,” wrote analysts at the Basel-based institution in its quarterly report.

“While attractive to investors that seek a targeted risk exposure, rating-based investment mandates can lead to fire sales.”

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EU budget contributions rise hits Exchequer surplus

The Exchequer surplus for February came in lower than expected at €139m, according to Department of Finance data issued yesterday.

That compares with €217m a year ago and a forecast of a rise in the surplus to €325m by Cantor Fitzgerald.

The Department of Finance said that there was an increase in non-voted current spending, excluding debt service costs of €138m from a year earlier that was caused by a rise in European Union budget contributions.

The outcome for 2019 however will depend on whether Britain leaves the European Union with a deal, or crashes out on March 29 without one.

If there is no deal, the Central Bank of Ireland estimates that economic growth could be 4 percentage points below forecasts, which would cause the budget deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product to widen by 2 percentage points.

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Unemployment rate falls to 5.6% in February – CSO

New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that the rate of unemployment fell to 5.6% in February, from the revised rate of 5.7% in January.

Unemployment had stood at 5.8% in February 2018.

The CSO said the seasonally adjusted number of people who were unemployed stood at 135,100 in February, down from 136,800 in January.

Today’s figures reveal that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for men was 5.6%, unchanged from January and down from 5.9% in February 2018.

Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for women was 5.6%, down 0.1% from January and down from 5.7% the same time last year.

The CSO also said the seasonally adjusted youth unemployment rate eased to 13.8% in February, from 13.9% the month before.

It recently revised the January jobless rate up to 5.7% from an initial estimate of 5.3%. Monthly unemployment rates have been subject to this kind of revisions in recent quarters.

Unemployment has fallen steadily since peaking at 16% in 2012 when the country was in the middle of a three-year international bailout.

The jobless rate here is also just over two percentage points below the current euro zone average of 7.8%.

Employment increased in 10 of the 14 economic sectors over the year in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The largest rates of increase were recorded in the administration and support service activities with growth of 12.6%, while construction sector jobs rose by 7.9%.

Commenting on today’s figures, Merrion economist Alan McQuaid said that the rise in employment appears far from over.

He said there was an average net jobs rise of 63,400 in 2018, while a net jobs gain of 50,000 is forecast for 2019.

“Meanwhile, the average jobless rate was 5.8% in 2018, down from 6.7% in 2017. A further fall, to 5.5%, is envisaged for this year,” he added.

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ECB interest rate-setters seek to reassure markets

The European Central Bank (ECB) will hold an interest rate-setting meeting on Thursday when it will likely seek to reassure financial markets while not adding to panic setting in around Europe’s sluggish economic performance.

Germany, France and Italy are now all flatlining economically, creating concerns that the eurozone economy may be headed for recession and a potential trigger for the ECB to push rates even deeper into negative territory.

On Thursday, the ECB will issue new economic forecasts and will likely cut its December forecast for growth this year of 1.7pc. “With increased economic uncertainty, changing forward guidance to ‘interest rate to remain at their current levels at least until the end of the year’ would be a no-brainer,” said Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING Germany. “However, this won’t necessarily happen at next week’s meeting but rather at some point in the future,” he said.

With the ECB looking set to keep interest rates on hold for longer than expected, mortgage rates here also look set to remain low, although Bank of Ireland warned this week that rates for consumers would start to rise from here.

While the economy here has been growing at breakneck speed, elsewhere in Europe, the story has not been so good.

The European Commission recently slashed its growth forecasts for this year to just 1.3pc with the largest downgrades in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.

Twenty years of the euro has for most of the 19 countries produced sub-par growth. Now the bloc faces the prospect of heading into the next recession in the budgetary straitjacket of the Stability and Growth Pact and with the ECB unable to cut interest rates.

While the economy here has boomed and record numbers now have jobs, we are vulnerable to any downturn in global growth as exports are such a large part of the economy, and foreign firms pay a large chunk of tax revenues.

There is also a potential hit from a hard Brexit which the Central Bank of Ireland has warned could lop 4pc points off growth this year, as well as a smouldering trade war between the US and the EU.

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