Booming consumer spending, housing as an economic threat, and overheating fears

Business Today: the best news, analysis and comment from The Irish Times business desk

Stronger-than-expected spending by consumers over Christmas combined with higher prices due to inflation in the pre-Christmas period generated nearly €3.7 billion in VAT receipts for the Government in January, according to the latest exchequer returns. Eoin Burke-Kennedy has more.

Eoin also takes a deep dive into the housing issue, parsing concerns that business groups have reported about the impact of housing shortages on wider economic performance. Is housing really now the biggest threat to the State’s wellbeing, he asks.

The European Central Bank (ECB) raised its interest rates for the fifth time in a row on Thursday and signalled more of the same to come. Joe Brennan reports on the impact on mortgage-holders, with AIB first out of the blocks in raising its variable rates. Cliff Taylor asks meanwhile what the effect of the rate hikes will be on the domestic economy.

And still in economics, John FitzGerald looks behind all the latest data on the economy, wondering if it might be headed for overheating.


Three tech giants posted numbers after US markets closed on Thursday and all disappointed. Apple’s sales growth streak was broken, Amazon had a sluggish cloud performance and Alphabet’s advertising sales missed expectations.

Barry Connolly has been named Business Person of the Year at the fifth annual Irish Times Business Awards, held in association with Bank of Ireland, held at the Mansion House in Dublin. The former majority shareholder in nutrition bar company Fulfil sold the business last April for a reported €160 million to family-owned confectionery giant Ferrero.

At the same ceremony, hotelier John Fitzpatrick was chosen as the recipient of the Distinguished Leader in Business and listed building materials giant CRH won Company of the Year. Cavan-based ATA was named Local Enterprise of the Year and Cork-based fintech Global Shares took the award for Deal of the Year.

Ciara O’Brien reports that Mayo-based Ovagen has raised €1.1 million in funding and expects to add 65 jobs in the next five years as it further develops its germ-free eggs. The latest round brings to more than €19 million the total raised to date by the company, which mostly sells into the pharmaceutical industry.

In our Work section, Olive Keogh considers employee wellbeing and asks if some of the funding put into programmes in this area might be better spent elsewhere while companies focus instead on simply making work more enjoyable.

And finally, this week’s Wild Goose began his love affair with Japan by watching Bruce Lee movies as a child in Belfast. Holding a degree in graphic design, he ended up in the Asian country after periods in London and South Africa and now runs a thriving advertising business. He tells Joanne Hunt the Japanese have an “almost spiritual common sense”.

Stay up to date with all our business news: sign up to our Business Today daily email news digest.