Mortgage arrears was the focus of media attention at last week's Finance Committee hearings, when the banks were called in to answer questions from politicians.

However one area that largely slipped beneath the radar was the question of lending to the small and medium enterprise sector.

ISME CEO Mark Fielding said its latest credit watch indicated that the rate of credit refusals had increased to 57% from a rate of 44% earlier in the year.

He described the increase in the refusal rate as disappointing and said it pointed to the banks reverting to 'their negative ways.'

"This is not just companies looking for refinancing. This is new projects being refused credit," he says.

There was also a fall in demand, which Mark Fielding says was partly due to seasonal factors.

However, he says the banks' methods of completing applications also contributed.

"When banks trot out the 8 of 10 applications granted, they're talking about fully completed applications. When applicants are told not to come in, that to the business is a refusal. To the bank, it's an incomplete application," he explains.

Mark Fielding also questioned the claim by the Central Bank that half of all loans to SMEs were non-performing.

"That includes €37 billion in property related loans out of a total of €57 billion in loans to small and medium businesses. When the property loans are stripped out, it's €25 billion, and the rate of performance is not as bad as that."

He said an increase in the threshold at which the Credit Review Office could appeal funding rejections from the current rate of half a million euro would be helpful to the review process.


The Irish construction sector moved closer to stabilisation last month.

New business continued to show signs of growth, up for the second successive month, according to Ulster Bank's Construction PMIs.

Employment and purchasing activity continued to fall but the rates of decline eased in each sector.

Business optimism improved to the strongest level since January 2007.

The overall index came in just below the break-even 50 mark, which indicates a still contracting sector, but at 49.7, it is within reach of stabilisation for the first time in many years.


Energy prices here rose 4% in the last month as oil supply concerns put pressure on Brent crude prices.

They rose to a six month high, according to the latest energy Index from Bord Gáis.

The concerns arose mainly as a result of falling oil production in Libya and Iraq but also by events in Syria and the potential of a military intervention which could disrupt regional supplies.

Gas prices were up marginally as were electricity prices, but coal was largely unchanged.


The Restaurant Association is calling on the government to maintain the 9% VAT rate on the tourism and restaurant sector in the upcoming Budget.

It says 9,000 jobs were created since the reduced rate was introduced two years ago and it believes there's further potential for jobs growth if the rate is maintained.


Japan has revised upwards its second quarter GDP to an annualised 3.8% from the preliminary reading of 2.6%.

It's the fourth straight quarter of good growth and will strengthen further the case of prime minister Shinzo Abe that his controversial stimulus programme dubbed Abenomics is working.

The uptick was largely driven by robust capital spending and will likely strengthen the case for a sales tax hike in the coming months.