Covid-19: Business confidence drops as restrictions bite

This evening’s main points for business

By Philip Connolly Editor, Fora
IN THIS TURBULENT time, Fora is going to bring you updates every morning and evening on the most relevant issues for Irish business dealing with the outbreak of Covid-19. Here are the main points this evening, March 30 at 5:30 pm. We want to know how your business is dealing with the outbreak, drop us a line at news@fora.ie

Businesses across Ireland wokeup to the first full week under the government’s latest round of measures aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19.

Building sites have gone quiet following the removal of the sector from the ‘essential services’ list. Analysts at Davy said this downtime will have an impact on volumes and the magnitude of this will ultimately depend on the length of downtime.

Our colleagues over at TheJournal.ie have the latest updates as the number of  Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland reached 46 after a further ten people were confirmed to have lost their lives as a result of the illness last night.  

The Bank of Ireland Economic Pulse came in at 70.4 in March 2020, the lowest reading since it started to track sentiment just over four years ago. The index, which combines the results of the Consumer and Business Pulses, was down 16.0 on last month and 19.0 lower than a year ago.

Dropping confidence

With the pandemic weighing on the global economy, upending financial markets and disrupting travel and tourism, consumer and business confidence has taken quite the knock this month.

The Bank of Ireland Economic Pulse came in at 70.4 in March, the lowest reading since it started to track sentiment just over four years ago. As the March surveys were largely conducted before the Government announced the closure of schools and other restrictions impacting normal every-day and economic activities, both will likely be dealt another blow next month.

“The March survey findings give an initial feel for how the COVID-19 pandemic is playing out in economic terms. Overall they paint a bleak picture, with the Economic Pulse plunging to a new low and registering a larger monthly drop than after the Brexit referendum result,”  Loretta O’Sullivan, the group chief economist at Bank of Ireland, said. 

“The Business Pulse also posted a series low in March with the services sector leading the charge downward, while on the consumer front, worries about the economic outlook were to the fore. Looking ahead, the school closures and other restrictions that have been put in place to contain the spread of the virus mean that this month’s weak prints are likely only the tip of the iceberg,” she added.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said all employers whose businesses have been, or have the potential to be, affected by the crisis should examine what is on offer and reconsider making staff redundant at this time.

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“By securing as many links between the employer and the employee as we can, Ireland will be ready to spring back when the time comes, getting our people back to work and the economy back up and running again,” Donohoe said.

Markets get off to a volatile start

US and European stock markets moved higher despite the prospect of much of the world remaining in confinement for weeks to come. 

  • Ireland’s Iseq closed up slightly by 0.55%
  • London’s FTSE 100 was up by 1%;
  • German Dax was up by 1.9% while in Paris the CAC closed up by 0.6%;
  • Milan was up by 0.3% and Madrid closed up by 1.7%.

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Note: This piece will be updated with additional information during the day. With reporting from AFP