IEA WARNS ON LOSING MARKET SHARE IN KEY BRICS MARKETS - Exports increased by €9 billion in 2012 bringing the total for the year to €183 billion, according to the latest figures from the Irish Exporters Association. That was a 5% increase in the year, double the rate of world trade growth. The IEA said that services exports were the main driver of growth last year, with an 11% increase. They now account for 49% of the country's total exports and are expected to increase to over 50% in the next year.

John Whelan, the chief executive of the Irish Exporters Association, said the figures represented a strong return to competitiveness in many businesses. "Ireland is seen as the prime location in Europe for high-tech mobile, internet and social media technologies. If our competitiveness in these areas can be maintained, it will ensure significant long term jobs growth." 

John Whelan said the lack of growth in the traditionally strong pharmaceutical sector last year was concerning but there were signs of a return to growth in future years. "The lack of growth here was anticipated because a large number of drugs hit their end of patent protection period. We lost substantial sales back to the US but we gained in Europe. 29 drugs were approved by the US FDA recently, the highest in 16 years. That will follow through and underpin growth in future years."

Mr Whelan warned of the importance of enhancing trade links with the emerging BRICS countries. "90% of trade growth will come from outside of Europe in the next decade so these markets will be critical to our long term success. We're only getting about 4% of these markets which is worrying, but most of the major European exporters are getting 20% of these markets. We have to direct the resources to enhancing trade with these countries," he concluded.


MORNING BRIEFS - Stocks in Asia were mostly down overnight following a sizeable jump in Chinese inflation. Consumer prices in the world's second biggest economy rose 2.5% in December - a seven month high. Those figures came on the back of very strong export figures for China at year end - they were up 14% in December giving a trade surplus of over $30 billion for the month.

*** Tullow Oil has a trading statement out this morning ahead of its full year results next month. Increased production at its Jubilee oil field in Ghana and a strengthened balance sheet as well exploration successes in Kenya it says provides the company with strong base for its continued exploration-led growth strategy.

*** US President Barack Obama has nominated his chief of Staff Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary. His immediate task will be to negotiate an increase in the US debt ceiling to offset default and credit ratings downgrades. He will also have to steer through those spending cuts that were postponed in the fiscal cliff negotiations before the New Year. There has been some criticism of the choice on the grounds that Lew lacks experience in crucial areas of financial markets, regulation and international economics. Barack Obama admitted that he had thought twice about appointing Lew because of his unusual, illegible signature which has been widely commented on. The Treasury secretary's signature appears on US currency.