IBEC BUSINESS SENTIMENT INDEX POINTS TO REBALANCING IN DOMESTIC ECONOMY - Employers' group IBEC has published its business sentiment report for the first three months and it shows surprising levels of optimism among business leaders. The majority of indicators are at their highest levels since the survey started four years ago, including job creation.

IBEC chief economist Fergal O'Brien said there were signs of a rebalancing in the domestic economy. "It was comforting to see the economy growing by about 1% in 2012. But we were losing momentum in the second half of the year, particularly in exports. It's positive to see export sentiment higher again. We are seeing further evidence of the rebalancing of the economy," Fergal O'Brien says.

The survey also saw improved sentiment in the employment sector. "One in four of our chief executives plan to hire new staff in the coming months. There were 8,000 net new jobs in the private sector last year. We'd expect to see further improvement this year. However, it's still a tough trading environment. Most of the net job creation is still confined to the exporting sector," Mr O'Brien says. He also notes that the fundamentals were stabilising in consumer spending. When car sales are stripped out, overall core sales were up for five months in a row.

Fergal O'Brien welcomes the deal reached on Cyprus overnight. "It's very positive that a deal has been reached. We won't have a member leaving the euro zone. No bailout is painless but it's an overall positive for the euro zone," Fergal O'Brien concludes.


MORNING BRIEFS - New research on gender diversity on boards shows the situation is improving with more women being appointed to boards. The report by the Institute of Directors, however, calls for greater transparency in the appointments process. Over half of the participants in the study said they believed women did not have equal access to information about directorship positions.

*** After making billions in social networking, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is reported to be considering venturing into the political arena. He is reported to be forming a political campaign group that is expected to focus initially on liberalising the US immigration and visa system. The venture will see him reuniting with Harvard room mate Joe Green, who also went on to be a successful technology entrepreneur.