Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Friday 15th May 2015

Ireland’s export values for March 2015 hit their highest level since 2002

    

Export-led sectors (such as technology, software, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and green technology) continue to show growth

The value of exports hit their highest levels since 2002 in March, new figures from the Central Statistics Office show.

A rebound in medical and pharmaceutical exports has helped largely drive the positive figures, along with the weaker euro.

Preliminary data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that Ireland’s crucial exports were valued at €9.1bn in March. The last time it broke through the €9bn barrier was in May 2002.

Analysts also hailed the fact that exports have surged since the start of the year, thanks in part to improved competitiveness gains from the weaker euro.

Davy Stockbrokers said good exports are up 17.4% in the first three months of this year compared with 2014, thanks to a rebound in pharmaceuticals, which are up 21% on the year.

“Nonetheless, excluding this sector, Irish goods exports are up 9.1% year-to-date,” said Davy economist Conall Mac Coille.

“This suggests that Irish export performance is benefitting from stronger demand and from the competitiveness gains, vis-à-vis the UK, from the weak euro.”

The CSO data shows that while exports decreased 2% in March and imports rose 4%, the trade surplus narrowed by 10% to €3.43bn.

The value of exports for March was €9. 1bn representing an increase of €1.6bn, or 21%, when compared with March of last year.

The last time the value of exports was above €9bn was in May 2002 when it reached €9.1bn.

The CSO said the main driver behind the increase was a 58% surge in exports of medical and pharmaceutical products.

“The underlying narrative is one of broad based growth in exports, propelled by favourable currency moves and the improved economic performance of a number of Ireland’s key trading partners,” said Philip O’Sullivan, economist with specialist bank Investec.

“Elsewhere, the upturn in investment and personal consumption here has led to an increased appetite for imports. We expect to see more of the same in the months

€10m Irish Government funding announced for start-ups

    

The Jobs Minister said a €10 million initiative to support more start-up businesses will be led by people in local and regional areas.

The initiative comprises of two funds, with the closing date in mid July.

A €5 million fund will be open to groups of Local Enterprise Offices, and another €5 million Community Enterprise Initiatives fund will be open to groups and organisations in every county who come together with ideas for projects to create employment.

Minister Richard Bruton said this new initiative will be driven from the bottom-up.

“They are aimed at the local enterprise offices, which are now embedded in the local authorities … there are many ways in which groups could collaborate within the regions to develop initiatives,” he said.

“This is about bottom-up growth – you can’t expect someone in government buildings at Merrion Street or Kildare Street to know the environment in Kerry, and get the best ideas and people to drive them forward.”

NTMA sells €750m of seven-year bonds

   

In February of this year, the NTMA raised €500m through the auction of a 15-year bond.

The National Treasury Management Agency has sold €750 million of seven year government bonds at a yield of 0.81%.

The total bids received amounted to €1.99bn, which was 2.7 times the amount on offer. The NTMA has raised €10.25bn in the bond markets so far this year.

In February, the NTMA raised €500m through the auction of a 15-year bond.

Some €4bn was raised by the NTMA the previous week with the issuing of the first 30-year bond. The NTMA is looking to raise €12bn-€15bn in long-term bonds this year.

Meanwhile, there was much movement on the currency front yesterday, with sterling regaining its losses in the week heading into the British general election, while the US currency has slid to its lowest levels in almost four months a day after stagnant retail sales became the latest data to undermine prospects for Federal Reserve interest-rate increase.

The greenback climbed nine straight months through March on speculation the first hike in almost a decade was looming.

The dollar’s decline brought it to the lowest level in almost three months against the Euro.

And yet across the Atlantic, not even a reduction in the Bank of England’s quarterly growth forecasts was enough to derail sterling’s rebound.

People don’t realise severe obesity is as dangerous as smoking

  •  The new study also said that 20% of people who describe themselves as healthy are in fact overweight.

 

An expert group that looks into how obesity impacts on health has said that “widespread misconceptions” about its danger persist.

The European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), has released a new study entitled ‘Obesity: an underestimated threat’.

In it the group shows that obesity can reduce life expectancy at a comparable level to smoking tobacco.

What are the main points of the report?

Speaking about the report, Chair of the Association for the Study of Obesity on the Island of Ireland (ASOI), Dr Grace O’Malley, highlights seven key findings within the report.

These include the fact that less than 50% of the population realise that it is a disease; that many people are unaware of the link between obesity and serious illness; that over 60% do not think obesity surgery should be paid for by the national health system; and that over 80% of individuals underestimate the importance of an overall approach to maintaining a healthy weight.

It also mentions that more than half of people asked think that obesity is less dangerous than smoking. On this Dr O’Malley, said:

Studies have shown that moderate and severe obesity (BMI 30-35 kg/m2 and >40 kg/m2 respectively) can reduce life expectancy by between 5 and 20 years which is comparable to the impact of tobacco smoking (10 years). Despite this, less than 50% recognised obesity as being as dangerous as smoking.

Interestingly, it was also found that many people who consider themselves healthy are in fact overweight.

Dr O’Malley, said, “in this study 20% of those describing themselves as a healthy weight were technically overweight and 30% of those who described themselves as overweight were technically obese.”

One positive take away from the study was that most participants thought that diet and exercise were almost always the best way to treat obesity. Dr O’Malley does make the point however, that “in certain cases – particularly for people with severe obesity – additional treatments are needed.”

A growing problem in today’s society

Recent statistics have shown that obesity is a ‘growing threat’ – with a 2014 model estimating that 89% of of Irish men could be overweight by 2030, with 48% of these being obese.

The study released today carried out by the group looked at 14,000 people in seven European countries and aimed to build a better understanding of how the public perceives obesity.

Christopher an Irish student just got an asteroid named after him

  

This Irish student above just got an asteroid named after him

Of all the things that could happen in life, getting an asteroid named after you has to be one of the coolest.

Lucky sixth-year student Christopher Carragher from Our Lady’s Secondary School in Castleblaney can say just that, after winning a major $1,500 prize in the US.

The Co Monaghan student had an asteroid named after him after he came second in the world award in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics category at ISEF 2015 which was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this week.

Carragher got to Pennsylvania after winning the SciFest 2014 national final last November. His project was about aiding people with memory loss.

Around 1,700 students from over 75 countries compete at Intel ISEF for a prize fund totaling $4million.

After becoming concerned about the signs of short-term memory loss in a family member, he decided to design an automated system called Memory Buddy.

Memory Buddy

Memory Buddy uses Google Calendar to alert the person about appointments and medication via flashing lights, sound and also via the TV.

It also includes a remotely controlled medicine drawer to give the appropriate medicine at a specific time – there’s even a feedback facility to notify a carer when medicine has or has not been taken.

An organiser for care rotas and appointments also comes with Memory Buddy.

Carragher said the whole experience has been “amazing”

I met students from all over the world, and heard speeches from famous scientists like Nobel laureates Sir Harold W Kroto and Martin Chalfie. It’s been great to see all the projects that other students from around the world have been working on and it has been brilliant to spend a week together sharing our ideas.

Sheila Porter of CEO of SciFest said that Christopher Carragher’s project “demonstrates that great science is characterised not by rote-learning and memorisation but by creativity and investigation”.

Christopher was representing Ireland at ISEF and come second in the world in his category is an impressive achievement not only for him, his teacher and school but for Ireland too, and it is testament to the very high quality of science education in Ireland. To continue producing the highest calibre of science students in Ireland, we need to celebrate their achievements more, to promote inquiry based learning and encourage students to take their learning beyond the classroom.

Music is being used to help sick children, who sometimes can’t speak, to express themselves

Huge ice shelf in Antarctica to collapse by year 2020

   

The last remaining section of Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf, which partially collapsed in 2002, is quickly weakening and likely to disintegrate completely by 2020, said a new study out today.

Ice shelves are permanent floating sheets of ice that connect to a landmass, such as Antarctica, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

When it goes, the ice shelf will shatter into hundreds of icebergs. Since it’s already floating ice, the collapse of the ice shelf will not directly contribute to global sea-level rise.

However, ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean, according to NASA. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise.

The remaining section of the Larsen B ice shelf is roughly the size of 27 Manhattan islands.

“These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating,” said study lead author Ala Khazendar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement.

“Although it’s fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it’s bad news for our planet,” he said. “This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone.”

The Larsen B Ice Shelf is on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, the part that looks like an arm reaching out toward South America. The peninsula has warmed 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950, making it one of the fastest-warming places on Earth.

Scientists think that the recent ice shelf collapses in both the Arctic and Antarctica are related to climate change.

Ice shelves are different from ice sheets. An ice sheet, which covers more than 97% of Antarctica, has built up over thousands of years as snow falls but never melts. As ice piles up, it slides slowly toward the continent’s edge to form ice shelves attached to the ice sheet, but are floating in the ocean.

“This is certainly a warning,” said Khazendar.

The study appeared in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and was written by researchers from NASA and the University of California at Irvine.

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