Exports remain steady but business confidence weakens


EXPORTERS’ ORDER books remain resilient in the face of turmoil in the euro zone and slowing overseas economies, according to the Republic’s leading business lobby group.

A survey published today by the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (Ibec) shows that business confidence weakened in the Republic over the last three months.

However, the study also shows that exporters are in a better position than businesses that only trade in the domestic economy.

According to the organisation’s economist, Fergal O’Brien, business will remain challenging in the opening months of 2012.

“The ongoing turmoil in the euro zone has clearly taken its toll on Irish business over the past three months, but the outlook for exports remains fairly strong as order books of this sector are particularly resilient,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Overall, business confidence levels have fallen sharply since the autumn, however, with the majority of businesses now having a negative outlook for both the wider economy and their own business situation.”

The survey shows that all major exporting sectors, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, information technology and food and drink, are positive about the next quarter.

Both the food and drink and information technology industries expect export sales to increase over the next three months, the survey shows.

Medical devices, information technology and pharmaceutical businesses were also more likely to be planning to hire new staff in the coming quarter.

Overall, 24 per cent of the 400 businesses surveyed expected to increase their work forces over the next three months. However, overall business confidence in the Republic remains weak.

The survey shows that confidence fell to minus 28 this quarter from minus 13 in the previous three-month period. Business people are even more downbeat about the next quarter, with confidence reading at minus 29.

A minus figure in the survey indicates that Ibec received more negative than positive answers to each issue raised in the survey. The greater the number, the more negative responses it received.

The results are based on responses from 400 Ibec members.