HIRING UP AND LAYOFFS DOWN, LATEST BUSINESS SENTIMENT SURVEY SHOWS - An increase in the number of firms saying that their business volumes had grown was noted in the three months from April to June. Companies said that hiring was up and layoffs were down, in the latest KBC Bank Ireland/Chartered Accountants business sentiment study. But it also found that one in every four firms thinks emigration is damaging their ability to recruit the right staff.

KBC Bank Ireland economist Austin Hughes says today's survey shows evidence that the jobs market is starting to turn, with some companies reporting that it has become more difficult to get the skilled workers they require. Mr Hughes says this is not confined to the ICT sectors, but also reaches into areas like construction where a lot of skilled builders have completely left the industry - and the country. While he cautions that this does not mean an end to unemployment, the economist says that it does give some hope that some unemployed people may see new demand for their skills. Mr Hughes says that while the employment picture is gradually improving, firms remain very cautious about taking on new workers and are only doing so when capacity - rather than forward looking plans - requires it.

On the economy, Mr Hughes says today's business sentiment survey is further building on an improvement in the first quarter. He says while this contrasts with recent official ''disappointing'' GDP data from the CSO, he points out that the survey examines conditions across all sectors of the economy. He says the survey results show that 42% of firms saw an improvement in their business conditions, while 19% saw a deterioration.


MORNING BRIEFS - International buildings materials group CRH said today that its development spend for the first half of the year amounted to about €470m.

*** The director and deputy director of the Vatican bank have resigned after the arrest of a senior Italian cleric over corruption and fraud allegations. Paolo Cipriani and Massimo Tulli have offered to step down "in the best interest of the institute and the Holy See'', the Vatican said. It comes three days after the arrest of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano. The 61-year-old and two others - an Italian secret service agent, and a financial broker - are suspected of trying to move €20m illegally. Last week, Pope Francis set up a commission of inquiry to look into the bank, which has been beset by allegations of money laundering for decades.

*** The SME examinership index from Hughes Blake for the first half of the year showed that the examinership process was successful in saving 75% of firms which went through the process.

*** Pre-tax profits at the O2 fell by 18% to €5.8m last year, but it is the world's fourth best-attended music arena. According to music industry publication Pollstar, over 620,000 people attended the 14,500-capacity venue last year. Pollstar said 87 O2 shows last year grossed more than $41m (€31.3m), with receipts shared between venue, promoter and artist. Average attendance fell last year to 83% from 89% capacity in 2011.

*** The Banker's Top 1000 World Banks - which ranks banks - is out today. It shows that a Chinese bank topped the ranking for the first time ever. ICBC moved from third to first place on the back of a 15% increase in capital. Last year's first placed, Bank of America, fell back to third, while JP Morgan stayed second. The UK's only bank in the top 10 is fourth-placed HSBC, which makes a lot of money in Asia. In terms of losses, AIB was in fifth place in the top ten global bank losses in 2012, with losses of some €3.8 billion. AIB came after Spain's Bankia, and Royal Bank of Scotland, which ranked fourth with losses of $8.3 billion. Bank of Ireland also made it in there in terms of losses at number 12.