News Archives - Luke O'Malley & Co

September housing commencements up 28% on last year

The number of new homes which have commenced construction in September was 28% higher than in the same period last year.
 
Figures published by the Department of Housing show that 26,106 Commencement Notices were recorded in September.

The figure for the three Dublin local authorities was 8,714 (up 23%), while the Mid-East Region comprising counties Meath, Wicklow, Kildare and Louth was 6,594 (up 23%).

The number of Commencement Notices in the rest of the country was 10,798 (up 35%). 

Commencement Notices are issued to local authorities by builders in advance of construction getting underway. 

Other figures published today showed that 31,804 planning permissions were granted in the second quarter of 2019. This was 21% up on the same period last year. 

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Rent inflation slows to lowest level in six years

The rate of rental inflation dropped to its lowest level in six years in the third quarter of this year, the latest  report from property website Daft.ie shows.  

Daft said that the average rent across the country rose by 5.2% – the smallest increase since the second quarter of 2013. 

However the average monthly rent in the country in the third quarter of this year hit €1,403 – the 14th consecutive quarter of record rents. 

Daft said the average listed rent is now €373 per month higher than the previous peak in 2008 and almost €660 higher than the low seen in late 2011.

It noted that the increase in rents in Dublin in the year to September was 3.9%, the 33rd consecutive quarter where rents have risen but the slowest increase since the middle of 2012.  

Inflation has also slowed in Leinster, with rents 4.3% higher than a year ago, down from inflation of 10% or more between 2014 and 2018. 

Meanwhile, rents in Cork city were up 5.5% to €1,372, while they increased by 5.9% to €1,299 in Galway. Rents in Limerick grew by 5.9% to €1,219 while they rose by 5.5% to €1,007 in Waterford city. 

But elsewhere in the country, rents continued to rise at faster rates and Daft reported increases of 10.1% in Munster and 8.2% in Connacht-Ulster in the year to September.

The property website also said that the number of homes available to rent nationwide rose by 10% on the same date a year ago. 

This marks the eleventh time in twelve months that rental availability nationally has improved, though this is from record lows. 

It added that despite the increase there is just 3,500 rental homes available for the whole country. 

Ronan Lyons, economist at Trinity College Dublin and author of today’s report, said that over the last decade, Ireland’s rental market has experienced a persistent and worsening shortage. 

Mr Lyons said that only in recent months have signs emerged of any improvement in this situation, with both improved availability and lower inflation. 

“Nonetheless, rents continue to climb and from a base where they are already high compared to wages.” he said. 

“As has been the case throughout the last ten years, there is no quick-fix regulatory solution for the sector. Rather, fixing it will involve the construction of tens of thousands of new rental homes every year for the foreseeable future,” he added.

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AA research shows big jump in the cost of running a home

The annual cost of owning and maintaining a family home has risen by over €1,000 a year, with the average homeowner now spending over €17,000 on their home. 

This is according to the latest “Cost of Running a Home” analysis from AA Home Insurance.

Research from the insurance intermediary has found that the cost of running a home in Ireland this year came to €17,393.25, up from last year’s figure of €16,374.45. 

The AA’s study looks at the total cost of owning and running a house one in Ireland and it said this year’s increase follows a rise in the national average price of a second-hand home in Ireland. 

Values increased from €243,000 during the third quarter of last year to €269,000 in the third quarter of this year.

The hike in the cost of buying a home has caused a significant increase in mortgage repayment costs, the main driver behind the increase in home ownership costs.

Maintenance, repair and contingency funds is the second single most expensive bill for Irish householders and has increased by 0.7% on 2017, according to the AA. 

The group estimated that the average homeowner is likely to spend or set aside €1,264.35 each year to keep up with wear and tear.

The AA said its latest findings means that the cost of owning and maintaining a home equates to about 43.4% of the current average Irish national wage.

Conor Faughnan, AA Director of Consumer Affairs, said that while we are still significantly off the peaks seen during the Celtic Tiger, house prices have continued to surge in the past 12 months.

“In fact, the increase in monthly mortgage repayments almost single-handedly accounts for the over €1,000 increase in home running costs that we have seen this year,” Mr Faughnan said.

“The good news is that many of the other increases seen in home running costs are offset by drops in the cost of electricity and broadband/tv charges, meaning if you were fortunate enough to purchase your home when prices were lower, your financial situation is largely unchanged,” he added.

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Construction activity declines at fastest pace since 2013

Activity in the construction sector fell at the sharpest rate since June 2013, according to the latest Ulster Bank Purchasing Managers Index.

Activity in the construction sector fell at the sharpest rate since June 2013, according to the latest Ulster Bank Purchasing Managers Index.

The index, which tracks changes in total construction activity, fell to 46.2 in October from 48.3 in September. A figure under 50 signals contraction in the sector. 

Ulster Bank said that for the second month in a row, housing was the only monitored category to record an increase in activity during October. 

The rate of reduction of commercial activity quickened from September and was the fastest since June 2013. 

Meanwhile, civil engineering activity declined for the fourteenth consecutive month and at a sharper pace than in September, Ulster Bank noted. 

The index shows that new business among construction firms decreased in October for the first time since June 2013 with companies saying that Brexit uncertainty had contributed to this reduction.

Despite the decreases in activity and new orders, construction firms added to their headcounts in October. 

But Ulster Bank noted that the rate of job creation was marginal and matched the almost six-year low recorded in September. 

Simon Barry, chief economist at Ulster Bank, said today’s survey showed a further loss of momentum in construction activity in October with the index falling for the second month in a row.

He said the detail behind the headline reading also painted a disappointing picture, with weaker activity patterns reported across all three main sub-sectors. 

“Commercial activity decreased for a second month running in October and, similarly to the headline index, the pace of contraction quickened to its fastest since June 2013,” the economist said. 

“More encouragingly, housing activity continues to grow, with its PMI reading of 51.3 still above the expansion threshold of 50. Housing remained the strongest sub-sector for a 10th month in a row, though the pace of residential activity growth has also softened materially in recent months and currently stands at a four and a half year low,” he added. 

Simon Barry said the survey highlights the concerns about Brexit as its continues to weigh on activity and sentiment regarding the sector’s prospects for the coming year.  

“In this context, the recent easing of concerns regarding Brexit crashout risk may offer some support for construction confidence and activity in the months ahead,” he stated.

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Reduced oil demand pulled energy costs down in October

Energy costs here fell by 4% in October, driven by weaker oil prices the latest Bord Gáis Energy Index has found.

Oil fell by 3% over the period because of lower demand caused by the weakening global economy and despite the attack on Saudi oil infrastructure in the middle of September.

Because oil makes up the largest part of the index, this had the effect of dragging the overall measurement down, despite a 6% strengthening of gas prices.

This rise was driven by the sterling recovery that was propelled by the Brexit agreement between the EU and UK that took a no-deal threat off the table.

The researchers predict that while gas prices remain low because of a well-supplied system, they are under significant pressure heading into the winter months, with weak Asian demand and increasing LNG capacity weighing on market sentiment.

Electricity fell 7% during the month as wind generation rose, while coal prices registered the strongest reduction, of 9%, as demand softened.

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130,000 PAYE taxpayers due refunds from Revenue

Revenue is writing to 130,000 PAYE taxpayers who have paid tax but have not claimed any additional tax credits or reliefs in the last five years, to remind them that there is a four-year time limit for claiming a refund of tax.

Revenue has issued letters over the last few years to assist taxpayers in claiming their due entitlements and ensuring they only pay the correct amount of tax. Analysis of a previous campaign suggests that the letters have a significant positive effect on taxpayer engagement with Revenue.

Pat Murphy, National PAYE Manager in Revenue’s Personal Division, has timely advice for taxpayers. “You can claim a refund of tax paid if there are entitlements you are due but have yet to claim. However, there is a four-year time limit for claiming tax refunds and the deadline for 2015 claims is December 31, 2019, so now is a good time to check that you have claimed all of your entitlements.”

For taxpayers who want to make a claim, the quickest, easiest and most convenient way to do so is online using PAYE Services, which is available in Revenue’s myAccount portal. The services in myAccount are accessible on all mobile devices.

Mr Murphy said, “Even if you did not get a letter from Revenue, you can review and update your tax record online at any time, using PAYE Services in myAccount. When you submit a claim, it is processed and verified by Revenue and most online refund claims are paid within five working days.  So, there is still plenty of time to submit your claim and have your refund paid into your bank account before Christmas.”

In summary:

  • There is a four-year time limit for claiming tax refunds, so if you have a claim for 2015 you will need to submit it by December 31, 2019.
  • The quickest, easiest and most convenient way to submit your claim for tax back is online using PAYE Services in myAccount, which is accessible on all mobile devices.
  • If you are not already registered for myAccount, you can register quickly and easily on the Revenue website at revenue.ie.
  • If you add your bank account details to your myAccount profile, any refund due can be paid directly into your bank account, usually within 5 working days.

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Business failures fall further in third quarter

Corporate insolvencies fell by a fifth between July and the end of September when compared to the same period last year.

Corporate insolvencies fell by a fifth between July and the end of September when compared to the same period last year.

That’s according to new data from Deloitte, which says the steady trend of decline in recent years is continuing.

439 businesses became insolvent during the three-month period, down 118 on a year earlier.

That figure for the third quarter of 2018 was in turn 18% down on the same period in 2017.

Three quarters of the firms that were recorded as insolvent between July and September were set up over five years ago.

As a result, Deloitte says it seems most of the failed businesses during the period were not start-ups, with just over a fifth trading for under five years.

Of those over five years in operation, 112 were 10-20 years old, with 100 in existence for 5-10 years.

“The statistics continue to suggest a significant tendency to liquidate companies in difficulty and in some cases to take the risk of attempting to trade out of insolvency,” said David Van Dessel, Partner, Financial Advisory at Deloitte

“Where a company ultimately fails and enters an insolvent liquidation process, the consequences for the Directors of adopting the latter approach can be serious, including the possibility of a restriction or disqualification order, or the possible imposition of personal liability for corporate debt in certain circumstances.”

Some 280 of the total entered insolvency via creditors’ voluntary liquidation, down slightly on the same period in 2018.

50 firms went into liquidation as a result of a court process, up from 39 a year ago.

The appointment of receivers over companies and their assets accounted for 84 of the total, down slightly on the 106 in 2018.

While just 25 insolvencies as a result of examinership were recorded.

Nearly two thirds of the businesses that entered insolvency were in Leinster, down slightly on 2018, followed by Munster, Connacht and Ulster.

Two out of every five of the firms was in the services sector, with financial services companies most impacted, followed by real estate and professional services businesses.

The sector with the next highest rate was construction which accounted for 72 insolvencies.

“Whilst demand for construction services had been relatively constant over the course of 2018, it is worth noting that the latest Ulster Bank Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) published in September has recorded the first contraction in the sector in over six years which is largely driven by a fall in commercial activity whilst growth in housing construction activity has continued,” Mr Van Dessel said.

“While current market conditions show margins for contractors to be extremely challenging, competition for quality contractors is anticipated to be high and together with a softening in land values should lead to a potential improvement in margins.”

He added that the indications are that the final quarter of 2019 will remain steady towards the end of the year.

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Banking union will make lenders safer – ECB’s Enria

The man responsible for leading the supervision of banks across Europe has said success in making lenders safer and sounder hinges on completing the banking union, particularly a European wide deposit protection scheme. 

The man responsible for leading the supervision of banks across Europe has said success in making lenders safer and sounder hinges on completing the banking union, particularly a European wide deposit protection scheme. 

Andrea Enria, who is Chair of the Supervisory Board of the European Central Bank, said the organisation hopes to see signs that there is “a bit more openness” to move ahead in this project.  

“Depositors must be sure that their money is well protected, no matter whether it is deposited with a bank in France, Italy, Greece or Germany,” Mr Enria said. 

“And only a European deposit insurance scheme can decouple this protection from the financial firepower of national schemes,” he said. 

“At the same time, it would instantly justify the removal of the remaining obstacles that still hinder full integration of banking business across the entire banking union,” he added. 

Banking union was proposed in the wake of the financial crisis in an effort to make the system stronger and more resilient. 

The first two pillars – a single supervision regime and a single resolution mechanism for dealing with failed banks – are largely in place. 

However, the third pillar – a deposit insurance scheme – has proven difficult to deliver, due to political opposition among some member states, including Germany and the Netherlands.  

They are concerned that taxpayers may be left on the hook for the failure of banks in other states. 

But this position has led to growing frustration among ECB and EU bosses who feel the three-pronged plan must be completed. 

Some hope of a breakthrough emerged this morning, with the German finance minister outlining proposals to break the logjam. 

Writing in the Financial Times, Olaf Scholz said the need to deepen and complete European banking union is undeniable and after years of discussion, the deadlock has to end. 

Although he did not address Mr Scholz’s comments directly, Mr Enria told an ECB Forum on Banking Supervision in Frankfurt this morning that the ring-fencing of national banking systems during the crash had led to a burdensome legacy of segmentation in the European banking market. 

He said as a result, banks cannot yet consider the banking union as their domestic market, as a truly single jurisdiction. 

“I am well aware that a political agreement could be difficult to achieve and take time to be practically implemented,” he told the audience. 

“But we cannot accept that the current segmentation of the market remains unaddressed. Hence, even without European deposit insurance, we have a duty to pursue the goal of a more integrated market with all the tools that we have at our disposal,” he added. 

Mr Scholz’s proposals were welcomed by the Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate on Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, Olivier Guersent. 

Mr Guersent told the forum he thinks the suggestions are a very good starting basis but under ambitious vis-a-vis what the European Commission think is necessary, as what it proposes is a reinsurance system and that’s it.  

“It has a number of downsides, but certainly it is a bold move, it is very welcome,” he said. 

“There are a number of ideas that are worth discussing and exploring,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Enria also called for further harmonisation of the European banking regulation rule book.

“From fit and proper rules for new bank managers to insolvency laws…we often have to deal with 19 different legal frameworks,” he said. 

“This makes European banking supervision less effective and more costly. So, we do need to harmonise regulation further, and sooner rather than later,” he added. 

However, Mr Enria also praised the success of the single supervisory regime to date, saying it had greatly helped to speed up the post-crisis repair of banks’ balance sheets. 

ECB pressure has led to non-performing loans being reduced from about €1 trillion five years ago to less than €600 billion at the end of last year.  

“In other words, we are approaching a steady state – we are not there yet but we are approaching it – and our actions now have to become more and more predictable,” he claimed. 

“In practice, we can only be predictable when we are transparent. Because only then will banks, markets and the public be able to understand our principles and policies; only then will they be able to anticipate our actions,” he stated.

“This is crucial. After all, banking supervision should be a source of stability, not of surprises,” he added.

Mr Enria also noted a lack of restructuring in the European banking sector, with consolidation not taking place to the extent expected in order to absorb the excess capacity that had built up before the crisis. 

As a result, he said, the system remains highly fragmented, with low interest rates putting pressure on banks’ margins and most managers struggling to reduce costs. 

This has led to a drag on the rollout of new technologies and as a result European banks lag their competitors, he claimed. 

The supervision boss also defended the level of regulation that has been put in place and the increased capital requirements. 

“The markets seem to feel that European banks have to deal with steadily increasing capital requirements,” he said.

“I strongly dispute this idea and believe there is plenty of evidence in support of my disagreement. Still, we have to address this perception and go the extra mile to provide clear targets and rules of engagement”.

Mr Enria also said other factors rather than tighter regulation and stricter supervision are to blame for lower bank profits. 

Many of these are related to how well, or how poorly, the banks are managed, he said. 

“So weakening regulation simply to give banks a helping hand would not solve the problem,” he concluded.

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Euro zone retail sales pick up in September

Euro zone retail sales accelerated more than expected year-on-year in September, data from the European Union’s statistics office showed today, pointing to sustained domestic demand in Europe. 

Eurostst said retail sales in the 19 countries sharing the euro rose 0.1% month-on-month for a 3.1% year-on-year gain, up from 2.7% in August. 

Economists polled by Reuters had expected the same monthly increase but forecast only a 2.5% annual rise. 

Retail sales are a proxy for domestic demand, which has been supported by unemployment at 11-year lows and gradual wage growth. 

The statistics office said that month-on-month retail sales of food, drinks and tobacco fell 0.4%, but rose 0.1% for non-food products. 

In annual terms, which are less prone to swings, sales of food rose 1.3% and of non-food products by 4.6%, accelerating from 4.2% the previous month.

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Brexit impacting trade flows but not tariffs

The UK’s importance as a trading partner for Ireland has declined significantly, according to research carried out by HSBC Bank.

As part of its Navigator survey, the bank spoke to 9,000 companies in 35 countries. 

Just under half of Irish businesses considered the UK an important trading partner, down from 75% last year.

Alan Duffy, CEO of HSBC Bank Ireland, said it was part of an ongoing trend over the last decade that had been given renewed impetus by Brexit.

“Irish companies are adept at re-pivoting and changing their focus. The UK has always been an important market but there has been an acceleration in diversifying away to other destinations,” Mr Duffy said.

In terms of alternative markets, companies were looking increasingly at France and Germany, but also further afield to North America, Latin America and Asian markets outside of mainland China.

In terms of alternative markets, companies were looking increasingly at France and Germany, but also further afield to North America, Latin America and Asian markets outside of mainland China.

The imposition of tariffs by the US on a range of European imports has become a consideration for companies here, but Alan Duffy said companies were finding their way around that.

“Tariffs will not stop trade. Companies will engineer a way around tariffs. They will reduce margins, acquire companies in the jurisdictions where the tariffs apply or they’ll become more adept at using digital channels to deliver product,” he explained.

The report also pointed to a Mercosur bounce for Irish companies trading with Latin America.

Sustainability has emerged as an increasingly important consideration for companies operating across diverse markets.

“Regulators, society at large and companies are looking at the implications of climate change that can’t be ignored. If you’re supplying a large multinational, you’ll be incentivised for being more sustainable and environmentally friendly so there is an economic incentive there,” he concluded.

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