STRONG DEMAND REPORTED IN ALL SECTORS OF COMMERCIAL PROPERTY MARKET - New Central Statistics Office figures yesterday showed that residential property prices fell nationally last year by 3.3%. But new figures this morning point to strong demand in the commercial property sector.

Marie Hunt, head of research for Ireland at CBRE - the world's biggest commercial real estate company - reports increased volumes of deals nationwide. While a lot of Dublin's new and old office space still looks vacant, Ms Hunt says this due to the type of office, ie Georgian houses, and the fact that it is in the wrong place. She says that there is an improvement in demand at the prime end of the market and for brand new office buildings in the main business districts. She says that international investors are encouraged by the fact that Ireland, after five years of austerity, is seeing light at the end of the tunnel.


MORNING BRIEFS - Lloyds Banking Group has narrowed its losses for 2012 to £570m sterling, from £3.5 billion the year before. Lloyds is the parent company of what used to be Bank of Scotland (Ireland). It said it set aside £1.2 billion to cover loan losses in Ireland last year. That is down from the £3.2 billion loan impairment charge it had in 2011. The group said its losses were mainly down to making provisions for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI), for which it set aside £1.5 billion at the end of last year.

*** A new report from China suggests there are 1,453 billionaires (in US dollars) worldwide. But the publishers of the Hurun Report admit this is probably an underestimate. These billionaires have a combined fortune of $5.5 trillion. The average age is 63, while one in ten is female. The "ten-zero-club" - individuals with $10 billion or more - now totals 108 billionaires. Topping the list is the same trio that tops the other billionaire lists: Mexican telecoms man Carlos Slim, followed by famous investor Warren Buffett, then Spanish fashion magnate Amancio Ortega, Bill Gates and LVMH chief Bernard Arnault. The wealth of the top 10 grew $250m a day in 2012. The US has 408 billionaires and China ranks second with 317.

*** Spain's largest companies suffered the worst drop in quarterly earnings since the country's crisis began as new data showed the Spanish economy was shrinking at a faster rate than expected. Bankia - the nationalised lender - reported a net loss of €19.2 billion yesterday, the biggest loss in Spanish corporate history. Meanwhile, losses and restructuring costs at airline Iberia saw International Airlines Group report nearly €1 billion in losses from a profit the year before.