Morning business news - March 31

Monday 31 March 2014 10.32
Morning business news with Conor Brophy
Morning business news with Conor Brophy

If you have ever fancied yourself as a budding Warren Buffet or Dermot Desmond and thought you could play the stock market and win a new book may cause you to think again. The new book is called "Flash Boys" and it is written by Michael Lewis. Speaking to CBS correspondent Steve Kroft for last night's episode of 60 Minutes, Michael Lewis said that the iconic New York Stock Exchange is rigged by a combination of the stock exchanges, the big Wall Street banks and the high frequency traders. He says the victims are anyone who has an investment in the stock market.

Peter Brown, managing director of the Irish Institute of Financial Trading, states that the markets are not a level playing field for everyone. He says there are inefficiencies in the markets, which are changing dramatically with technology. He explains that "high frequency traders" are robots - computer programmes which can deal in milliseconds and can take inefficienciesout of the market. Explaining how they work, he says that if one brokerage house was offering IBM shares for $100 and another brokerage house for paying for IBM shares for $100.01, no human being can exploit that one cent, but these robots can. They are making $10-20 billion a year pure profit, he adds.  He says that people are now looking for computer programmers to work on Wall Street as they turn away from the traditional traders. 

But Mr Brown says that the markets have always been set up against the investor, adding that people have to understand that the financial markets' primary purpose has always been to make money from the investor and not to make money for the investor. He says the high frequency traders are trying to exploit what no human being is fast enough to compete for and they are sucking $10-20 billion in profits out of the market that would have been there for the investor. Mr Brown says that the Irish Institute of Financial Trading is trying to educate people against the old traditional ways of investing - buy your stock, sit there, pray that it will go up. The technology that is available to people now allows them to deploy risk management which takes the risk way down. He says it is key that the modern investor understands the technology in the markets and risk management, adding that the big investment banks have always had the edge and will continue to do so in the future.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Irish hotels are coming on the market in greater numbers with double the number of deals over the first quarter of the year than we saw in the opening three months of 2013. Estate agents Savills calculate that 13 hotels have been sold so far this year. The total value of the deals was €85m. That compares to six hotel sales for €34m in 2013. Two weeks ago the Irish hotel operator Dalata raised €265m through a listing of its shares on the Irish Stock Exchange. It said the bulk of the proceeds of that flotation will be used to acquire up to 25 hotels here.

*** Eight companies have emerged from examinership since January, retaining 410 jobs between them. The examinership index, compiled by accounting firm Hughes/Blake, said seven of those eight companies were small and medium enterprises. The eighth was the construction firm SIAC. It accounts for 219 of the 410 jobs at the companies which have emerged from examinership - which offers court protection to debt-laden firms from their creditors for a limited period of time provided it can be shown that the underlying business is viable if debt is written down and new investment secured.

*** Fast-food giant McDonalds is warning of the perils of what it calls the "workforce cliff". Its senior human resources manager in Europe, David Fairhurst, says McDonalds is feeling the pinch in trying to hire new staff because there are not enough young people coming into the labour market and too many older people are leaving it. That is despite high unemployment, especially among the under 30s across the EU where the youth unemployment rate averages over 20%. In an interview with the Financial Times he said employers, including his own, need to do more to encourage participation in the workforce by offering more work placements, mentoring and site visits for school and college students.