Irish companies selling products abroad are facing a bleak few months according to the Irish Exporters Association.

The euro hit a record high above $1.37 this afternoon, increasing competitive pressure on firms in Ireland.

While it is good news for shoppers planning a US trip, the Irish Exporters Association has warned the sharp shift in currencies will make Irish exports more expensive in the US.

Meanwhile, a meeting of EU finance ministers has given Cyprus and Malta the final go-ahead to adopt the euro as their currency.

The ministers, meeting in Brussels, agreed that the two Mediterranean islands should adopt the currency as expected on 1 January.

Their participation will bring the number of countries in the currency club to 15.

The ministers set definitive conversion rates, under which €1 will be worth 0.585274 Cyprus pounds and 0.4293 Maltese lire.

After Cyprus and Malta join, Slovakia is the next in line for eurozone membership in 2009.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all hope to join the eurozone quickly, but they have had to scale back their ambitions because inflation in their booming economies has been running too high.