When ratings agency Moody’s recently delivered its annual update on the credit worthiness of euro area governments, Ireland was the only nation on review for an upgrade in its credit standing, currently Baa1. Ireland looks likely to be rewarded for taking the pain of spending cuts and dealing with its banks.
No matter how you look at it, the latest economic growth rate for Ireland is fascinating. In the final three months of 2015, the latest data show the economy grew by 9.2% compared to the same period the previous year.
The rate of growth is the fastest since first quarter 2001, when the economy grew by 9.9% and is quite the turnaround from fourth quarter of 2008, when the economy contracted by 8%.
For the whole of 2015, Ireland’s economy grew by 7.8% compared to 2014. Ireland now ranks as the fastest growing economy in the world ahead of India [7.3%]; China [6.8%] and the Philippines [6.3%].
This growth is being driven by a surge in activity and exports among Ireland’s foreign direct investment sector — especially information technology and pharmaceuticals. Manufacturing recorded 14.2% growth in 2015, while building and construction grew 8.8%. Personal consumption, which accounts for 55% of domestic demand, rose by 3.5%.
The strong growth far exceeds the Central Bank of Ireland’s estimates which had expected the economy to grow by 6.6% in 2015. The rebound comes two years after Ireland emerged from a €67 billion bailout from a troika of international creditors led by the International Monetary Fund.
In line with a return to strong economic growth and with total growth of over 200% since 2012, Ireland’s stock market has been one of the best performing over the past year, beating the major stock indices of the UK, Europe and the US.
The outlook for further growth looks good also, based on the purchasing manager’s index for Ireland which is compiled by Investec and Markit Economics. The index rose in March to 54.9, from 52.9 in February. A reading above 50 signals expansion and this is the highest rate of growth since last July.