ENTERPRISE IRELAND UPBEAT ON START-UP COMPANIES - It was a very strong year for start-up companies, according to Enterprise Ireland. Despite challenging conditions there was a very high level of interest in its programmes and the group noted a big increase in the number of spin outs - 14 this year, up 50% on last year.

John O'Dea, who is in charge of the High Potential Start Up unit at Enterprise Ireland, says his job is a very energising one as he meets with lots of ambitious, talented and energetic people. Mr O'Dea says his office deals with about 900 ''serious'' enquires every year and Enterprise Ireland's first job is to point people where they can get the right supports for their business and to get them investment ready and into the exports markets.

He says that Enterprise Ireland's ''New Frontiers'' programme has lots in incubation places in Institutes of Technology around the country and over 150 businesses secured a place in these programme last month. Among the big emerging sectors is the consumer web and games sector, which has seen a dramatic jump in the number of new projects being funded, including some international teams relocating to Dublin. He also says that there was a tremendous response from female entrepreneurs to the female specific initiatives last year, while it was also a great year for spin-outs from universities.


MORNING BRIEFS - Last year's leap year means Aer Lingus flew fewer passengers in February this year. Total flown passenger numbers were down 1.5% to 648,000 in the month. Short haul passenger numbers fell by 3.9%.

*** The Dow Jones closed up almost 1% at a record high yesterday of 14,254 - beating its previous all-time high reached in October 2007. The recent rally on Wall Street means the main US indexes have erased the losses brought on by the global financial crisis, and comes as investors are encouraged by signs of recovery in the US housing market in recent months, and data showing growth in the services sector. They are also boosted by the stimulus programmes being conducted by the US, Europe and Japan.

*** London's FTSE 100 also closed at a five-year high yesterday. This morning Asian stocks have continued the global rally, the main indexes in Japan and Australia hit their highest levels since September 2008.