The construction industry expanded last month at the fastest pace since January 2006. New orders, job creation and industry sentiment all improved during the month, according to the latest Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers' Index.

Both residential and commercial building activity rose. Housing activity continued to rise sharply in March with last month representing the ninth month in a row of expansion linked to residential projects.

Commercial activity also expanded, while the pace of decline in civil engineering eased for the second month running.

And employment in the construction industry rose for the seventh month in a row.

According to Ulster Bank's Simon Barry, the growth is coming on the back of rising activity in both residential and commercial property markets.

“This is a recovery that’s beginning to take hold in a stronger way,” he said.

“We’re seeing growth levels that we haven’t seen since 2006... but it’s important to note that these PMIs are capturing growth; activity and employment levels are still very low.”

Mr Barry said the rise in new orders should lead to a growth in employment in the months ahead, while growth in activity will also give construction firms the confidence to expand employment to meet demand.


Facebook is looking for regulatory approval from the Irish Central Bank to provide financial services, and is reported to be weeks away from approval for services that will let users store money on Facebook, and to pay and exchange money with others.

Authorisation would let Facebook issue units of stored monetary value that represent a claim against the company. This e-money would be valid throughout Europe.

Facebook is already authorised for some forms of money transfer in the US, allowing it to process payments for developers who charge users for in-app purchases.


European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has signalled that the ECB is getting ready to unleash a new unconventional monetary policy in a bid to fight low inflation.

Speaking after the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund in Washington at the weekend, the ECB president indicated the strengthening of the euro "requires further monetary stimulus".

The comment suggests that the ECB's next move could see it cutting one of its key interest rates below zero.