March Trade & Investment Report
Brian Cotter - Public Affairs Director
March, and the coming of St Patrick's Day, allows Irish politicians and business leaders an unrivalled global platform to celebrate connections with Ireland. Nowhere is this truer, or more important, than in the United States. The Irish Government is sending eight cabinet members to the US, including An Taoiseach, and this is a strong sign of commitment to the Irish-US economic relationship. That relationship has been a crucial factor in Ireland's continuing economic recovery and the Chamber recently highlighted this in a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Department is conducting a review of Ireland's foreign policy and external relations and the Chamber signalled to that review the central importance of the Irish-US economic relationship as a key pillar of that policy. Pushing for a successful Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal must be a near term priority, while further development and expansion of Irish networks in the US should help to build on existing ties. You can read the submission here (pdf).
Key Economic Indicators
Arrow Direction indicates direction of trend;arrow colour indicates whether trends are perceived as positive (Green) or negative (red).
(f) = forecast
All Irish figures sourced from Central Bank of Ireland Quarterly Bulletin
Manufacturing and Services growth continues
The Investec Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for February recorded a nineteenth straight month of expansion at 57.5, albeit down from January's reading of 61.5. The sub-index for new export business fell from 64.9 to 60.6; however this still represented the 31st straight month of growth. In addition, the CSO's seasonally adjusted Monthly Services Value Index increased by 2.5% in January 2014 when compared with December 2013. There was an annual increase of 3.5% in the Index.
Meanwhile, Ireland's manufacturing sector grew in February for the ninth month in a row. The Investec Manufacturing PMI registered 52.9 for the month, up from 52.8 in January, and well above the expansion level. The rate of growth in production eased in February, however new orders increased at a faster pace, and employment rates increased in response. This was the ninth month of job creation in a row.
Sources: The Irish Times, CSO
US asset managers rank Ireland as top domicile for funds in Europe
A new survey from Matheson, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, has found Ireland to be the leading European domicile for investment funds according to global asset managers. The survey, Choosing a European Fund Domicile: The Views of Global Asset Managers, places Ireland far ahead of its nearest rivals and indicates that we are poised to attract a growing share of investment from the thriving global funds industry. Overall, 71% of the 200 global asset managers surveyed and 76% of the US-based respondents said that they would now choose Ireland as one of their top-3 European fund domiciles, if starting over. You can read the full results here (pdf).
Action Plan for Jobs 2014 launched
The publication of the Government's Action Plan for Jobs 2014 and, in particular, the proposed actions in relation to competitiveness, FDI, and continuing support for innovation and R&D is a welcome statement of priorities. The new system of quarterly reporting to a Cabinet Committee on competitiveness issues is a very welcome development. While Ireland's international competitiveness has improved over the past three years we are still a long way off the position we enjoyed at the end of the 1990s. We still have a lot of ground to make up in that regard.
The focus on foreign direct investment in the new Plan and the commitment of additional staff and resources to IDA Ireland will help attract new investments and build on the base of companies already here. In addition, proposals in terms of disruptive reforms will also assist our members when it comes to winning new mandates for Ireland. By developing our skills base in areas like ICT, Big Data, and the health sciences we can enhance this country's competitiveness and attractiveness when it comes to new investments. You can read the report here (pdf).
Consumer confidence continues to grow
The overall KBC Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index increased to 85.5 in February, from 84.6 in January and 59.4 in February last year. The 3-month moving average advanced to 83.3 in February from 78.5 in January. Irish consumer sentiment has jumped to its highest level in nearly seven years. Austin Hughes of KBC Ireland said: "We think the February reading should be seen as consolidating recent gains in the sentiment index. It suggests that consumers are increasingly confident that the Irish economy and the outlook for jobs are improving and, at the margin, pressure on household finances may be easing slightly. However, consumers are likely to need clearer evidence that things will get notably better for their households before they are willing to scale up their spending."
Ireland's recovery attracts international kudos
The spotlight continues to be shone on Ireland's on-going economic recovery. In a speech to UCC on receipt of an honorary doctorate, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso paid tribute to Ireland's track record and resilience. He said "Over the past forty years, membership of the EU has opened markets for Irish business and created jobs for Irish citizens. Ireland has been influential in shaping European policies - from the single market, to trade, from enlargement to employment. And today Ireland's experience and expertise can directly benefit other European countries who are still working through their programmes. They are interested in the way you helped bring about an effective turn around. The OECD is increasingly citing best practice examples drawn from the Irish economy." You can read the full speech here.
In addition, The Economist recently featured an article highlighting the vital importance to that recovery of US companies, the attractiveness of Ireland's international offering, the credibility of a predictable regime, particularly regarding tax, and the work of the IDA in attracting investment. The availability of skills, a key selling point for Ireland, is acknowledged as a crucial factor in attracting firms to invest. You can read the article here.
Sources: The European Commission, The Economist
capSpire, a global consulting and solutions company which serves the energy industry, is to open its first international office in Ireland. Headquartered in Dublin, the site will allow the company to better target existing European clients and will lead to the creation of 20 new jobs in business consultancy and software development.
NeoMed Inc., a manufacturer of enteral nutrition delivery devices for neonatal and paediatric patients, has announced plans to establish an International Headquarters in Dublin. The office will be responsible for all sales outside of the US and will lead to the creation of 22 positions. Recruitment for the new roles will begin later this year.
New Relic, a software analytics company, is opening an office in Dublin. It will be the company's first international office and represents New Relic's commitment to the EMEA region and customers around the world. The firm plans to hire approximately 50 people, particularly in sales and customer advocate positions, and has plans to increase staff in line with growth expectations.
SEKO MedTec Solutions
SEKO MedTec Solutions, an operating company of Sutherland Global Logistics, a global logistics industry leader, has announced plans to establish a European Control Centre in Ireland. The centre, to be situated in Galway, will lead to the creation of 30 jobs. The positions will support several functions including Sales, Information Technology, Finance and Supply Chain Management.
VCE has announced plans to create up to 150 new R&D positions at its international headquarters in Cork. The company intends to create new employment opportunities for software engineers and developers, QA engineers and other R&D support roles over the next two years. Recruitment is already underway for a number of positions. These new R&D roles will significantly expand VCE's existing operations in Ireland, which include professional and customer services, manufacturing, sales operations and general support functions.