Corner turned of the Week
This week, the Irish Banking Federation issued its monthly mortgage approvals statistics which showed a slight improvement over February and January 2013, but on an annual basis both the monthly and year to date approvals are down from the abysmal figures in 2012. The closure of the window in December 2012 for First Time Buyer mortgage interest relief has been widely blamed for the slow-down and Property Industry Ireland warned the Government and asked for some cushioning of the withdrawal and all they got was the property tax relief which is worth on average less than €100 in 2013.
However, returning to the IBF, Japlandic noted that what the IBF is reporting each month is approvals rather than actual draw-downs which are reported quarterly. There is a distinct difference between draw-downs and approvals as the graphs above show, and despite the ever-Pollyannaish claims by the IBF, mortgage lending remains moribund.
(Graphic above produced by Japlandic.com, contact here)
Old media having difficulty with new media of the Week
Sean Dunne’s statement of affairs was filed late last night in Connecticut and it was first reported on here, but throughout the night the RTE US correspondent Richard Downes was tweeting his heart out. Trouble was, he was getting some of his facts muddled, claiming Mountbrook USA was paying Sean USD 22,000 a month, it’s actually USD 8,333. Heads were also scratched, wondering where Richard got his claim that Sean had paid his bankruptcy lawyers USD 30,612 but the betting on here is that he took the actual payment of USD 15,000 and the bankruptcy filing fee of USD 306 and doubled it! The Tweet claims were partially reported by RTE this morning together with an observation that Sean had omitted any of the US properties developed and sold by Sean’s wife, Gayle. And why would they have been included? Gayle is not Sean, nor is she bankrupt. Maybe, it was just a late night for Richard.
Skibbereen Eagle of the Week
In 1897, the now defunct pipsqueak Skibbereen Eagle warned the Tsar of Russia “the Skibbereen Eagle was keeping its eye on the Czar of Russia” as rumours spread of a planned invasion of China by Russia. Earlier this year, the Oireachtas joint committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade threatened to copy the United States and create a so-called “Magnitsky List” – a list of Russian nationals suspected of involvement in the arrest, mistreatment and death of a Russian accountant, Sergei Magnitsky who was arrested after he started to investigate state-level fraud in tax matters of the US company Hermitage Capital Management. On 11th March, 2013, the Russian ambassador to Ireland warned that if Ireland did follow the US and progress with sanctions, then Russia would cut off the baby pipeline, and not allow adoptions of Russian children by Irish residents. On Thursday this week, the spineless Oireachtas committee issued a statement merely calling for investigation into Sergei’s horrible death; sanctions are no longer on the menu so the baby pipeline remains open. The Russians are sensitive about the incident and President Vladimir Putin has told foreign countries to keep their noses out of internal Russian affairs.
Money fact of the Week
Seems everything costs so much money these days. Even money. We learned this week how much it costs to make specie or coins to you and me. A week ago, we learned that in Ireland, it costs 1.65 cents to create a 1 cent piece. Proposals are being examined which might lead to the withdrawal of 1c and 2c pieces from circulation, so prices would be rounded up, or rounded down (yeah, right!) to the nearest 5c.
1 Euro 9.75c
2 Euro 14.25c
Quote of the Week
“The children who are here today are growing up in a continent of peace, they belong to the euro generation, they have only known one currency, we are happy for them to be with us on this occasion to mark the launch of the next generation of euro banknotes” ECB president Mario Draghi launching the new €5 banknote in Bratislava, Slovakia on Thursday.
In a week when EuroZone unemployment hit 12.1%, the highest level on records dating back to 1995 and with some countries reporting youth unemployment in excess of 50%, this was also the week when ECB president Mario Draghi launched the new €5 bank note – looks like this – and also the week that he oversaw the ECB trimming its main interest rate from 0.75% to a record low of 0.5%. The ECB’s primary objective is price stability – or in layman’s terms, keeping inflation at under but close to 2% – and it doesn’t see inflationary pressure in the short term, which is not surprising as most economies are limping along, most teetering on, or actual in, recession. On the latter point, this was the week when RTE was heard on here uttering the R-word for the first time since the CSO produced figures on 21st March 2013 which showed the last two quarters had contracting GDP, the most widely acknowledged criterion for recession, when on Drive Time, Sean Whelan was heard to say the economy “may or may not have tipped back into a technical recession before Christmas”. The reduction in interest rates to a record low was an acknowledgment that the short term outlook for Europe, on which we depend for buying our exports, is not good.
Tracker heaven and hell of the Week
The ECB lowered its main interest rate this week from 0.75% to a record low of 0.5%. In (the Republic of) Ireland, 400,000 of the near-800,000 principal residence mortgages are believed to be tracker mortgages. So great news for them – with a €200,000 mortgage, a 0.25% reduction is €500 a year or €40 a month before tax effects. In Northern Ireland however, 550 mortgage holders got a shock when our own Bank of Ireland raised the margin on its trackers from 0.85% to 2.49% meaning that, with a Bank of England base rate of a record low of 0.5%, 550 Northern Ireland mortgage borrowers saw their monthly repayment more than double from 1.35% to 2.99%. Bank of Ireland was seemingly relying on a term in the small print of its mortgage contracts which allowed it to vary the margin premium added to the base rate, if its costs increased. Seems to have taken many by surprise, and it affects 13,500 throughout the UK.
Diary of the Week
For some unknown reason, this week, the Secretary General at the Department of Finance decided to release his diary for January 2013. John Moran’s days are truly riveting though he seems to have a penchant for meeting with (non-Irish) banks. One meeting which might be of interest on here is from 18th January 2013 when John meet with Eastdil, the “real estate investment banking company”, which days later was revealed to be company managing the sale of the €810m Project Aspen, the portfolio of loans relating to Dublin property owned by developer, David Courtney. What a coincidence, or is the Department of Finance getting its hands dirtier than might be generally believed.
How much do you earn of the Week
We austerity taking its toll on most people’s lives, and with the State sticking its nose into every enterprise, we might have lost sight of the capitalist dream of mega-bucks at the top. In the US this week, Bloomberg published its summary pay levels in 250 companies in the S&P 500, showing the pay of the CEO compared to the median salary company. JC Penny department store – nothing whatsoever to do with our own Penny’s – came out on top with its CEO earning a whopping 1,791 times its median salary. The average across all 250 companies was a multiple of 204 which is 20% greater than 2009. I wonder will we ever see such an analysis in the Irish media?
Crime of the Week
This week, the Central Statistics Office published its statistics on Irish crime for 2007-11. The statistics show relatively high detection rates for serious crimes, but burglary, the bugbear of Middle Ireland shows just 25% detection rates, and the rates haven’t changed much in the past five years.
Chart of the Week
This was the week when the Central Bank of Ireland unveiled its report and accounts for 2012. There’s a wealth of information contained in the report, which confirms the amount of surplus to be returned to the Exchequer in respect of the 2012 profit, during the next month will be €1,148m, up from €958m in 2011. It sounds impressive but the surplus is mostly interest paid by state-owned banks for accessing loans so the banks pay the interest to the Central Bank, who pays the surplus to the State which has capitalized the banks, and if you accept what the Governor of the Central Bank, Patrick Honohan, said this week, those banks will need more capital.
Putdown of the Week
“The Garda Commissioner has heard the allegations made in the public media this morning 30th April 2013, by the Garda Representative Association President Garda John Parker. The Commissioner has no information or evidence of the allegations being spoken about. Accordingly the Garda Commissioner is now calling on Garda Parker to clarify his position and provide any information or evidence he has concerning this matter.” Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan on 30th April, 2013 delivering a slap-down to “Garda Parker” who claimed that crime statistics were being massaged.
The Garda Representative Association which represents the rank-and-file below-sargeant-and-inspector-level met in Sligo this week and it made a strange accusation against itself. It accused itself of massaging the crime figures reported by the Central Statistics Office. The two accusations at the heart of the matter were that certain crimes were being misclassified to less serious crimes, eg an attempted burglary where there was a broken lock or window was classified as criminal damage and secondly, that crimes were not being recorded at all unless a written statement was made by the victim. The GRA criticized the decision to close police stations. If you were of a cynical nature, you might suspect that the GRA was antsy because its members still face cuts to their pay and conditions in Croke Park 2.1 and because the Gardai can’t strike, being belligerent in the hope of concessions might be the most forceful it can be. Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was upset again, and called on Garda Parker – reminding him who was boss – to justify his claims that crime figures were massaged. Garda Parker had to put up or shut up, and he chose the latter. Elsewhere, the Garda Commissioner rejected the calls for more high powered cars with the GRA claiming their fleet were no better than lawn-mowers in chasing down mobile burglary gangs. Perhaps Commissioner Callinan was concerned the roads around Tourmakeady would turn into this
Healthy statistic of the Week
This was the week when an Irish organization Tobacco Free Research Institute claimed that 3,700 of us are still walking this earth as a result of the workplace smoking ban in 2004. Seems mundane now, but back in 2004 the ban in Ireland was path-finding. It was Micheal Martin, now leader of Fianna Fail, who as Minister for Health was responsible for the ban. The research which underpinned the reporting in the old media doesn’t appear to be available online but some recent research from the group claims:
“Approximately 1 million people or 29% [of adults] currently smoke in the Republic of Ireland. 56% of women among the age group 18-26 from the lowest social class in Ireland smoke. One in five pregnant women still smokes in Ireland. Almost 10% of Irish school children currently smoke. 45% of Irish children are exposed to SHS inside households. One in seven Irish school children is also exposed to SHS while travelling in private vehicles, mainly cars.”
Are times a-changing of the Week
With the national debate dominated by them forthcoming abortion legislation, this was the week the Catholic bishops of Ireland issued a statement in response to the long-awaited publication by the Government of the heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013. The statement drew support and provoked strong feelings, which illustrates the division in Irish society on any form of abortion.The full statement from the bishops doesn’t appear to be on their website but was published verbatim by the Irish Times here.
“The Catholic bishops of Ireland stress once again the importance of continuing to provide a health care service in Ireland which ensures complete respect for the sacredness of the life both of the mother and her unborn baby. The bishops express their appreciation of the work carried out day by day in this ethos by doctors, nurses, midwives and other health personnel. Through Cura, the Church’s crisis pregnancy agency, help is available to any woman facing a crisis pregnancy.
The Heads of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 published by the Government on Wednesday would, if approved, make the direct and intentional killing of unborn children lawful in Ireland. The Bill as outlined represents a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law and is unnecessary to ensure that women receive the life-saving treatment they need during pregnancy.
The Gospel of Life is at the heart of the message of Jesus; the deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of life is always morally wrong. We uphold the right to life as the foundation of every other human right. We encourage a deeper understanding of the inviolability of the right to life of both a mother and her unborn child, in all circumstances. Accordingly, at this crucial time, it is essential that all who share these beliefs make them clear to their legislators.
The Bill also appears to impose a duty on Catholic hospitals to provide abortions. This would be totally unacceptable and has serious implications for the existing legal and Constitutional arrangements that respect the legitimate autonomy and religious ethos of faith-based institutions. It would also pose serious difficulties for the conscientious beliefs of many citizens.
Abortion, in the sense of directly killing the unborn child, is never a remedy for suicidal ideation and therefore should never be cited as a justification for the direct killing of an innocent human being. It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person.
We invite all who cherish human life to support the Vigil for Life which is taking place in Knock tomorrow – see below. We encourage everyone who can attend the Vigil to do so or to join in prayer with us. Cherish both mother and baby! Choose life!”