FIRST SET OF 2013'S EXCHEQUER FIGURES FAIRLY POSITIVE - The Exchequer Returns for January 2013 - released yesterday - contained a number of anomalies, but on the whole, they were fairly positive. Peter Vale, tax partner with Grant Thornton, says the numbers came on the back of positive results for late 2012, especially in income tax receipts.

"The numbers show evidence of stability in the labour market both in terms of the numbers working and incomes'', he says. But he adds one note of caution - that the improvement has not translated into extra spending, which was reflected in the slightly disappointing VAT returns.

On the huge drop in capital gains tax receipts, Peter Vale says it was based on one month's figures and so it is hard to read into it too much. However, he says it was often the case that when the rate goes up, it can lead to an increase in non-declaration of gains. "It's the flipside of what happened when the rate was decreased over a decade ago. The tax take doubled," he points out.

On the recorded surplus of €704m in January, Peter Vale points to the anomaly owing to the sale of Bank of Ireland contingent capital notes which were held by the Government. "When that's stripped out though, it's still a fairly positive month but it's early days. The property tax will kick in July which will take more money out of the economy and that will impact on VAT receipts later in the year," he concludes.


MORNING BRIEFS - The US government has launched a civil lawsuit against Standard & Poor's and its parent company over mortgage bond ratings. It is the first time federal enforcement action has been taken against a credit rating agency over alleged illegal behaviour tied to the recent financial crisis. The government said it was seeking penalties from S&P and McGraw Hill and cites several factors which it said improperly influenced S&P's rating criteria and models.

*** NCB has its PMI for the services industry out this morning. At 56.8, it shows that the Irish services sector is expanding at its fastest pace since August 2007. Anything over 50 signals growth on the scale.

*** A close eye will be kept on the cost of borrowing for Spain and Italy today following recent controversies that have seen some of the turmoil of the recent past return to the euro zone. The cost of 10 year borrowing for both countries soared to near 5.5% yesterday and their stock markets nosedived. Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy is embroiled in a controversy over secret donations to his party which he has denied any involvement in. In Italy, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is gaining on his opponents in the upcoming elections mainly due to a banking scandal over derivatives trading.

*** Britain is facing lower growth that previously thought this year but should stave off a triple dip recession.That is according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. The institute is pencilling in growth of 0.7% for 2013 - down from a previous prediction of 1.1%. The British government is looking at growth of 1.2%.

*** Boeing has asked the US Federal Aviation Administration for permission to conduct test flights of its 787 Dreamliner - the plane that was grounded last month following battery problems. This latest move suggests that they are making progress in finding a solution to the problem. But passenger flights are still months away.