'SMART MONEY' STILL MOVING INTO GOLD - Gold prices recorded a 5% increase in euro terms and a 7% increase in US dollars in the last year. 2012 was the 12th successive year of gains in the commodity price and it also marked one of the longest bull runs ever for a commodity.

Mark O'Byrne, executive director of Goldcore, said there were variations in price throughout the year with sharp gains being recorded in January followed by a sideways correction and then slight increases towards the end of the year, as traders positioned themselves for the start of the new year. "The smart money in the world is continuing to diversify into gold," Mark O'Byrne says. "Currencies are being devalued competitively throughout the world. Nobody wants a strong currency that will affect exports and jobs. In that environment, gold becomes an important commodity diversification." Mr O'Byrne said that central Banks are projected to remain net buyers in the coming years, particularly in Asia. "Asian banks have large currency reserves and are becoming increasingly concerned about the debt crisis in major industrial economies and are diversifying into gold," he said. "The People's Bank of China have 2 trillion in US dollars reserves - a huge amount,' he added.


MORNING BRIEFS - Building materials group CRH said today that it spent almost €630m on acquisition and investment moves during 2012. The company agreed 18 such initiatives in the second half of the year. The acquisitions were mainly focused on the Americas and Europe. Shares in CRH were up 3.5% in Dublin yesterday to €15.85.

*** Al Jazeera has announced that it will buy Current TV - a US-based cable channel founded by former vice president Al Gore and business partner Joel Hyatt eight years ago. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed but it is believed to be worth in the region of 0.5 billion. Current is distributed in over 50 million homes in the US with cable or satellite service. The deal will significantly boost the Qatar-based broadcaster's footprint in the US, where it is currently broadcast to under 5 million American homes.

*** US President Barack Obama signed the "fiscal cliff" legislation in Hawaii overnight. That will raises tax rates for top earners and extends tax cuts for the middle class. Republicans in the House of Representatives open a new Congress today - ahead of them are tough negotiations on spending cuts, which were merely postponed, as well as talks on raising the debt ceiling.