Syndicated News Archives - Page 5 of 292 - P F Power & Co. Accountants

Euro zone inflation slowed to one-year low in May, Eurostat confirms

Euro zone inflation slowed to one-year low in May, Eurostat confirms

Inflation in the euro zone slowed to 1.2% in May, the lowest rate in more than a year, as price growth in the energy and services sectors slackened.

This is according to the European Union statistics agency, Eurostat, as it confirmed its earlier estimates.

The final data is bad news for the European Central Bank, which targets a rate below but close to 2% and has promised further action if inflation does not pick up.

Eurostat said prices in the 19-country currency bloc went up by 1.2% on the year, slowing from 1.7% in April.

It was the lowest growth rate since April 2018 when inflation was also recorded at 1.2%.

On the month, prices were nearly stable, posting a 0.1% increase that was below market forecasts of a 0.2% rise, new data released today by Eurostat showed.

Prices slowed despite a record increase in euro zone wage costs in the first quarter of the year.

The apparent inconsistency could partly be explained by the fact that higher wage costs for firms do not always translate into more cash for consumers as payroll taxes remain high in the bloc.

The ECB will need to ease policy again, possibly through new rate cuts or asset purchases, if inflation does not head back to its target, ECB President Mario Draghi said earlier today.

Eurostat confirmed that the core inflation measure the ECB looks at in policy decisions, which excludes the volatile components of food and energy, stood at 1% in May compared to 1.4% in April.

A narrower indicator, which also excludes alcohol and tobacco prices, slowed to 0.8% in May from 1.3% in the previous month, confirming earlier estimates.

Inflation was mostly dragged down by energy prices which increased 3.8% in May, after a 5.3% rise in April.

Inflation in the services sector, the largest in the euro zone economy, nearly halved to 1% from 1.9% in April, today’s figures show.

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Oil prices fall 1% as economic worries outweigh tanker tensions

Oil prices fall 1% as economic worries outweigh tanker tensions

Oil prices slipped more than 1% today as signs of an economic slowdown amid international trade disputes began to outweigh supply fears stoked by attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week.

Brent futures were down 68 cents, or 1.1%, to $61.33 a barrel today, having gained 1.1% on Friday.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 58 cents, or 1.1%, at $51.93, having firmed by 0.4% in the previous session.

“China’s industrial output growth (is) falling to the lowest level in 17 years amid trade tensions with the US. Today, oil markets will have to digest more demand concerns as India implemented retaliatory tariffs on a number of U.S. goods yesterday,” consultancy JBC Energy said in a note.

Also sapping prices was the dim outlook for oil demand growth in 2019 projected by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Friday, citing worsening prospects for global trade.

Market expectations of a price rise had been shrinking in the period leading up to the tanker attacks.

Though danger of an immediate confrontation over last week’s tanker attacks – which the US blamed on Iran but Tehran denied – appeared to recede, tensions over the strategic route remain high.

A fifth of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday said that Washington does not want to go to war with Iran but will take every action necessary, including diplomacy, to guarantee safe navigation in the Middle East.

Prices received no boost from comments by Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih today reiterating that OPEC was moving was towards a consensus on extending a production cut agreement in a meeting he predicted would convene in the first week of July.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russia and other producers, have a deal to cut output by 1.2 million bpd from January 1.

The pact ends this month and the group meets in the coming weeks to decide its next move.

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Extra security steps coming to online shopping and banking

Extra security steps coming to online shopping and banking

Consumers are being encouraged to familiarise themselves with upcoming changes to their online shopping and banking.

New European Union regulations come into full force on 14 September, which will see additional security measures required for electronic transactions.

That could, for example, involve an additional step for a customer logging in to their bank account online. It may also see additional verification, such as a code sent via text, being required in order to complete an online purchase.

The Banking and Payments Federation is today rolling out a public awareness campaign around the changes, which are part of the EU’s second Payment Services Directive (PSD2).

It says that the new security measures may differ from one bank to another, but they are all ultimately being introduced to protect customers.

Banks will soon begin to contact account holders with more information on the changes, which customers are being encouraged to read carefully.

In addition to enhanced security measures, PSD2 will also allow third parties to offer services to customers through their bank accounts.

This might allow customers to more easily manage their finances across multiple bank accounts, or securely share statements as part of a loan application.

Customers will get to decide which third parties they use and can revoke access at any time. BPFI also notes that these companies will be regulated in a similar way to banks themselves.

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Residential property price growth slows to 3.1% in April

Residential property price growth slows to 3.1% in April

New figures show that Dublin residential property prices grew again at a slower pace in April than the rest of the country.

The latest residential property price figures from the Central Statistics Office show that prices nationwide rose by 3.1% in April compared to the same month last year.

This is the lowest rate of price growth since the recovery in prices began in 2013 and compares with an increase of 13.3% the same time last year.

Dublin residential property prices rose by 0.5% in the year to April, with no change in house prices and apartments rising by 2.2%.

The CSO noted that the highest house price growth in the city was in South Dublin at 4%, while Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown saw the greatest decline in house prices with a fall of 1.5%.

Residential property prices in the rest of the country rose by 5.6% higher in the year to April, with house prices up by 5.8% and apartments by 5.9%.

The region outside of Dublin that saw the largest rise in property prices was the Border with growth of 11.4%, while the smallest rise was recorded in the Mid-East at 1.5%.

The CSO has calculated that property prices nationally have increased by 81.9% from their trough in early 2013.

Dublin residential property prices have risen 91.9% from their February 2012 low, while residential property prices in the rest of Ireland are 79.9% higher than at their trough in May 2013.

Today’s CSO figures show that households paid a median price of €250,000 for a home in the 12 months to April 2019.

The Dublin region had the highest median price of €366,000l. Within the Dublin region, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown had the highest median price at €537,000, while Fingal had the lowest at €331,887.

The CSO noted that the highest median prices outside Dublin were in Wicklow at €315,000 and Kildare (€295,000). Tthe lowest was €100,000 in Longford and Leitrim.

The CSO also said that a total of 44,598 household dwelling purchases were filed with Revenue in the year to April.

Of these, 30.7% were purchases by first-time buyer owner-occupiers, while former owner-occupiers purchased 52.2%. The balance of 17.1% were acquired by buy-to-let purchasers.

Revenue data shows that there were 1,005 first-time buyer purchases in April, an increase of 5.7% on the 951 the same time last year.

These purchases were composed of 310 new homes and 695 existing homes.

Commenting on today’s figures, Goodbody economist Dermot O’Leary said that while the house price data may somewhat lag market developments, it is clear affordability, binding mortgage rules and a higher stock for sale continues to weigh on price growth.

“In contrast, rapid employment growth, rising earnings and a pick-up in mortgage approvals should provide support,” he added.

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Ireland has spent €86.8m on carbon credits to meet emissions targets

Ireland has spent €86.8m on carbon credits to meet emissions targets

Ireland’s approach to reducing carbon emissions is a “charade” that is costing millions annually as it is buying carbon credits from other countries to “pretend we are coming in under target”, according to the chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee.

Seán Fleming said it was “horrific” that €86.8m of Irish taxpayers’ money had been spent purchasing carbon credits from other countries and labelled it “gross hypocrisy”.

A spokesman for the Government said that the €86m was spent on carbon credits in 2008 and 2009.

It has also emerged that Ireland could have to pay €60m to “buy our way out of pretending” we are meeting renewable energy targets.

Additionally, the Department of the Environment estimates that Irish taxpayers face paying between €6m and €13m to buy more unused carbon credits so Ireland can meet its EU 2020 climate targets.

The details are contained in a letter, dated 10 June, from Mark Griffin, Secretary General of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, to the PAC.

Mr Fleming explained that the committee asked the department for an information note on the costs the State will face for not meeting the 2020 Climate Action targets and when these costs will be due.

He said: “The State’s response, all of our response at Oireachtas and Government level, is entirely hypocritical when you read this letter.”

The letter said that “the EU requires member states to meet their targets using unused emission credits from earlier years or to purchase credits from other member states via international markets”.

Mr Fleming said: “In simple English, if we don’t meet our targets we can buy our way out of the problem by buying unused emissions from somewhere else. It’s the biggest act of gross hypocrisy when it comes to the environment.

“We are saying that if we don’t meet our targets we will buy unused emission credits from somebody else and pay the price so that when we come to the end of the 2020 target, we are below our target because we have unused credits in the system.”

The National Treasury Management Association purchases these on behalf of the State.

“And on behalf of the State the NTMA has already spent €86.8m of Irish taxpayers’ money purchasing these credits which is horrific. And that is to avoid a fine,” Mr Fleming said.

The PAC also asked the department about Ireland’s prospects of meeting its Climate 2020 targets.

The letter states: “The department currently estimates that the additional costs of this requirement to be in the region of €6-€13m between now and then if we don’t meet the additional costs.”

On renewable energy targets, the department said: “We have a target of 16% renewable energy by 2020. We have increased a lot from 2005 when we were at just 3%.”

They are expecting to reach somewhere in the order of 13% by 2020.

The letter went on to say that “some years ago the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland estimated that we could buy our way out of that problem at a cost of anywhere between €65m and €130m.

“However in 2017, trade between Luxembourg, Lithuania and Estonia suggested the costs of the order of €22.5m per percentage point below our 16% target.

“So if we are 3% below our target, it could cost us, based on those prices, another €60m to buy our way out of pretending we are meeting environmental targets.”

Mr Fleming concluded: “I want everyone who has an interest in the environment to know that it is a charade what we are doing in this country. We are buying unused credit emissions from other countries to balance our books and pretend we are coming in under target. We are doing nothing of the sort.”

He said that the State should not have to spend taxpayers’ money to buy our way out of these problems. “We should be doing the right thing in the first place,” he said.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton had previously said that it was likely to cost the State up to €150m to pay for carbon credits ahead of the 2020 deadline.

Director of Friends of the Earth Ireland, Oisín Coghlan, said the revelations show “that the cost of inaction will always be greater than the cost of action”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, he said the Government “has a chance to put things right” in its forthcoming climate action plan to “show how we try to make up some ground between now and 2020 and much more ground from 2030” or face fines or costs of between €2bn-€6bn if it does not meet our 2030 targets.

Mr Coghlan called for the plan to include four key measures: the target adopted to reduce carbon emissions is placed in law, the introduction of five-year carbon budgets that are adopted by the Dáil, a strong Climate Change Council to monitor the Government, and a strong parliamentary committee for carbon emissions.

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Rate of inflation falls to 1% in May – CSO

Rate of inflation falls to 1% in May – CSO

The annual rate of inflation eased to 1% in May from the seven year high of 1.7% hit in April, new figures show today.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office figures show that consumer prices fell by 0.1% on a monthly basis in May.

The CSO said that May saw higher rents and mortgage interest repayments as well as an increase in the price of electricity and gas.

Prices in restaurants and hotels rose on the back of higher prices for alcoholic drinks and food, while education costs increased due to higher third level education expenses.

But May also saw small falls in the price of motor insurance premiums and a cut in prices for appliances, articles and products for personal care and other personal effects.

Tthe cost of non-durable household goods, furniture and furnishings and household textiles were also lower last month.

Consumer prices have been broadly flat here since 2012 despite Ireland being the European Union’s best performing economy for the last four years.

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Bill to ban employers from using tips for workers’ pay

Bill to ban employers from using tips for workers’ pay

The Government is preparing legislation that would ban employers in the service industry from using tips to help pay workers’ wages and require businesses to display their policies on tipping.

It follows criticism of some businesses that were not allowing staff to take home the full amount of tips they had received during a shift.

Minister for Employment and Social Protection Regina Doherty said Ireland has a problem with ownership of tips that must be addressed.

She said: “The vast majority of employers are very good and recognise that a tip is a gift between the patron of the restaurant or hotel and the person that is giving them the service.

“But there are a small number of employers who seem to think that it’s okay to take those tips and use them as part of wages for the employees or keep them for themselves.

“There has been a clear message sent out by every member of the Dáil and Seanad today is that is not on.”

James Larkin from Mullingar says he worked in three different restaurants and his tips were deducted in different ways.

He said: “A common occurrence was for 10% of your tips to be taken through breakages and that was whether you broke anything or not. Another way was that when you were in training none of your tips went to you.

“Other things would happen like tips would be taken if the till didn’t balance at the end of the day which is a very common experience and at the end of it all you end up with little or none of your tips.”

Meanwhile, a Sinn Féin Bill, which aims to give restaurant workers a legal right to their tips, was passed in the Seanad today.

However, the Government opposes this bill on the basis that a report earlier this year by the Low Pay Commission advised against primary legislation in this area.

The LPC said that such a change could have unintended consequences, and end up in workers receiving even lower take home pay.

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan told the Seanad today that the Government’s proposals do not go far enough.

He said: “The bill that you say you are going to produce, a bill which nobody had heard of until yesterday after eight years in Government, but you say there is a bill now in the offing, but it doesn’t tackle the key legal issue to give hospitality workers a legal right to their tips and that’s what we need.”

Mr Gavan said there was a wrong being done to workers in the sector and he said the Sinn Féin bill would address this.

He said: “This bill gives hospitality workers a right to their tips. That’s at the heart of this bill and we know from research that one in three workers do not get their tips. The bill also requires restaurants to display their tipping policy.

“We believe that all workers who deliver a service and where a service charge is paid should get that fee.”

Yesterday, the chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland said the organisation supports the minister’s plan.

Adrian Cummins said it was a workable solution for business owners that provides certainty for staff and transparency for customers.

Earlier this year, the RAI advised its members to display their policy on tips and gratuities.

The issue was also raised in the Dáil earlier this year when the tips policy at a restaurant in Dublin city centre was highlighted.

At the time, Tánaiste Simon Coveney warned that it was illegal to calculate workers’ salaries by including customer tips in that figure.

The Government said it expects to bring a memo to Cabinet on its proposals next week.

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Major Irish firms claim significant progress on carbon reduction target

Major Irish firms claim significant progress on carbon reduction target

A new report claims that 47 major Irish firms have already made significant progress in meeting a carbon reduction target initially set for 2030.

The pledge was made as part of the Business in the Community Ireland group – and sees the likes of Diageo, Musgraves and Ornua aim to cut their carbon intensity by 50% by 2030.

According to a report by PwC published this morning, the average cut achieved in the first year was 36%.

Carbon intensity takes a company’s size and activity into account and is not a straight measurement of pollution levels.

However Tomás Sercovich, CEO of Business in the Community Ireland, says it helps capture the progress of firms that may be enjoying rapid growth – and is a good first step for measuring their environmental impact.

“The challenge that we have ahead of us in terms of climate resilience is about decoupling economic growth from emissions,” he said. “What we really wanted to get across here was a starting point; a level of ambition, and then look at how we can reduce this going forward.”

However the report does also try to estimate the amount of actual Co2 removed from the economy by the signatories, which it says fell by 42% or around 6.6 metric tonnes.

This was done largely through a reduction in what are called Scope 1 emissions, which relate to a firm’s direct output through things like manufacturing and transportation.

“I know it’s a hard to grasp content in terms of what that means, but they are actual reductions, and at the end of the day it’s about a starting point and looking at where we go for further reductions,” Mr Sercovich said.

One issue with that data is the fact that around one third of firms did not get their figures independently verified – meaning that it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Mr Sercovich said this shows how under-developed the practice is in Ireland, and highlights the need for improved auditing as firms strive to improve their record.

“It is something that we need to put more rigour and discipline around what companies are doing in this space,” he said. “What we have done is used internationally validated sources for the information to be processed… we have checked the data ourselves and obviously in some cases asked if it was verified.

“We would like to see more verification externally, of course.”

Should the figures prove to be accurate, however, it would represent a significant step towards the 2030 target in the space of a year.

Mr Sercovich said this will prompt them to be more ambitious than before – though he also notes that the next reduction in Co2 may not come as easily.

“36% out of 50% sounds like ‘almost there’ but the real challenge will be sustaining those intensity reductions, in terms of the investments that need to be done, in terms of the transformation of business models that are needed,” he said. “The last mile will be the most challenging one.

“What we need to do is keep on raising the level of ambition – this is like the Paris agreement – we are going to be working on how we can achieve the 50% reduction earlier, or how we can go even deeper, or look at other sources of emissions.”

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Ireland will be worst-hit by US tariffs, says IMF

Ireland will be worst-hit by US tariffs, says IMF

The Irish economy will be hit three times harder than Germany and worse than any other developed nation if the US imposes a blanket trade tariff, the IMF has warned.

A new study from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put Ireland top of a list of countries that will be worst hit by US tariffs.

The study models the impact of a potential 5pc tariff imposed across the board by the US. It was released yesterday amid a series of trade disputes that have pitted the United States against China and against some of Washington’s closest allies, including the EU.

Ireland’s goods exports, it calculates, would fall by more than 0.6pc.

That’s more than three times the drop experienced by Germany, which is the target of Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs “until no Mercedes models rolled on Fifth Avenue in New York” as part of his bid to get more of the products sold in the US built there by American workers.

Based on last year’s exports from here to the US that figure is equal to lost exports of €234m.

In May, a report by the Commerce Department stated that imports of foreign-made cars were “weakening our internal economy” in a way that was damaging the economic security of the United States, highlighting a drop in the share of the car market held by US owned companies to just 22pc now from 67pc in 1985.

President Trump has delayed bringing in the tariffs on car imports for six months in order to give the EU, Japan and other major exporters a chance to negotiate on the issue.

The EU is the most export-exposed bloc of any of the world’s major economies and Brussels has said it will respond to any US tariffs with levies on imports of US goods.

“About 70pc of European exports are linked to supply chains. Therefore, shocks affecting existing trade flows between the major trade hubs – the United States, China, and Germany – could affect European economies through those supply chains,” the IMF report said.

Ireland’s exposure to the car industry is tiny but the State’s exports to the US are huge. The Irish Whiskey Association, for example, has already warned of the potential for damage to the industry here from tariff escalations. Ireland is a key part of the global supply chains that now criss-cross the world, with manufacturers here shipping goods globally, such as semiconductors or pharmaceuticals.

Some 28pc of the €140bn of goods exported each year go the US, but medical and pharmaceuticals, whose output is dominated by US companies, accounted for a third of all exports.

As well as accounting for a huge chunk of exports, multinational firms accounted for 77pc of the €10.4bn in company taxes paid last year.

Washington has already signalled its displeasure with Ireland over trade, adding it to a list of countries that are on a currency manipulation watch – which means they believe that the country has deliberately engineered a weak currency against the dollar so as to win market share.

Germany and Italy were also on the list among countries that use the euro. Most economists agree that the exchange rate at which Germany joined the euro was too low and say that it has given German exporters a huge advantage.

The apparent peace between Washington and Brussels on trade just now is down to a truce struck last year by Jean-Claude Juncker in a meeting with Mr Trump.

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3.3% rise in goods handled – in and out – of Irish ports

3.3% rise in goods handled – in and out – of Irish ports

New figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal that Irish ports handled 55.1 million tonnes of goods last year, an increase of 3.3% on the previous year.

Total goods forwarded from Irish ports amounted to 18 million tonnes, a slight increase of 0.8% when compared with the previous year.

A total of 37.1 million tonnes of goods were received in 2018, an annual increase of 4.5%.

The CSO noted that Dublin port accounted for 59.3% of all vessel arrivals in Irish ports and 47.8% of the total tonnage of goods handled in 2018.

The routes between Dublin and three UK ports – Holyhead, Liverpool and Milford Haven were the busiest routes for inward movement of goods last year.

The Dublin-Holyhead and Dublin-Liverpool routes were also the busiest routes in terms of goods forwarded, the CSO said.

It also said the number of vessels arriving in Irish ports increased by 3.4% to 13,264 in 2018, while the gross tonnage of these vessels rose by 8.8% to 264.4 million tonnes.

Today’s data is compiled from returns made by harbour authorities, state companies and a number of other harbours.

These ports include Drogheda, Dublin, Dundalk, Dun Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross, Cork, Waterford, Shannon Foynes and Wicklow – which are all state companies.

Also included are harbour authorities at Arklow, Bantry Bay, Kilrush, Kinsale, Sligo, Tralee and Fenit and Youghal. Ports at Castletownbere, Greenore, Killybegs and Rosslare Europort also feature in the CSO figures.

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