The optimum level for mortgage lending in Ireland should be about €10 billion a year, according to the Association of Expert Mortgage Advisors or AEMA. But this year, it estimates, the size of the mortgage market will be far short of that at between €3-4 billion.

Ken Murray, a director of the Association of Expert Mortgage Advisors, says the general consensus amongst industry experts is that the volumes at the peak of the market in 2006 and 2007 were way too high. Mr Murray says the stricter lending guidelines now in place are a good thing and says that being approved for a mortgage is not impossible. He says that people should prepare in good time to get mortgage approval.

Mr Murray says the €10 billion figure is based on a number of factors including demographics, which have changed considerably in recent years, and loan sizes. He also says that new lenders have applied to the Central Bank to get into the mortgage market, which will boost competition in the sector. He says that cash buyers are still a very prominent sector in the market for both single unit and blocks of units.

MORNING BRIEFS - Activity in the services sector is at its highest level since 2007. The services purchasing managers index, which measures that level of activity, has now indicated expansion in each of the last 17 months. The PMI, produced each month by Investec Ireland, measures output and sentiment in a range of businesses including hotels and restaurants, transport and storage and telecommunications. The December PMI shows particularly strong growth in employment and new export orders.

*** It is reported this morning that the European Commission is set to water down reforms which would have forced EU banks to split their deposit-gathering operations from risk-taking trading divisions. The division between retail banking and riskier trading operations was a cornerstone of post depression reform dating from the 1930s. Relaxation of those rules has been cited in many quarters as a key contributory factor to the financial crisis which blew up in 2008. Draft European Commission plans seen by this morning's Financial Times, say the bank split reforms will no longer be mandatory and will be less restrictive than originally envisaged. Instead the new proposals would see regulators in individual member states have the final say on whether specific trading activity potentially poses a "systemic risk" and should be separated from a bank's core operations.

***'s latest house price report paints a similar picture to last week's property barometer. Asking prices in Dublin rose by 10.6% in 2013, it says. Excluding Dublin, asking prices across the rest of the country fell by 6%.