Consumers here are generally optimistic about their prospects but remain cautious, according to the broad conclusion of a study of consumer shopping habits carried out by Retail Ireland. 

Stephen Lynam, Director of Retail Ireland, said the survey showed that just over half of shoppers are more optimistic about their own financial status.

"Four in ten delayed the purchase of a big ticket item such as a car or a piece of furniture, but a quarter of those intend to make that purchase in the next twelve months," he said. Figures from the CSO indicate that car buyers are back in the market place, but Stephen Lynam pointed out the increase in new car sales is coming from a low base. "The recovery is still in its infancy and is patchy. Some sectors like food and fuel have seen growth figures that are less impressive. Some sectors in the retail industry have yet to see any recovery at all," he said.

Mr Lynam said there was a detectable change in consumer shopping habits which he believes will be there for the long term. "More people are buying goods on special offer. Half use loyalty cards more. Two thirds buy own-brand goods. The recession has changed shopping habits completely for many and they won't be going back."  Ahead of the Budget next month, Stephen Lynam said that there was now near-universal approval of tax reforms. "We're looking forward to seeing consumers being given more back in their pockets so they can spend it in the economy and get it moving again," he stated.

MORNING BRIEFS - Dutch brewer Heineken looks like it could subject to more takeover bids after it rejected the advances of London-based brewer SAB Miller. There Is growing speculation that Anheuser-Busch In-Bev, the company that makes Budweiser, is also preparing a bid. Heineken said it had "consulted with its majority shareholder", the Heineken family, before rejecting the approach from SAB. The founding Heineken family owns just over 50% of the brewer via Heineken Holding. A further 12% is owned by Mexico's FEMSA.

*** Social Justice Ireland has said the Government should not prioritise tax cuts in the Budget but should instead focus on improving social services, reducing poverty and creating jobs. However, in a study on the effects of tax changes, the group says if the Government is minded to change tax structures, it should focus on the Universal Social Charge rather than altering the tax bands. It says taking a percentage point off the 2% USC, for example, would benefit every worker earning over €10,000 to the tune of just over €100 in the year. The most unfair option would be to decrease the 41% tax rate as this would benefit only those paying tax at that rate.

*** Any hope that the European Central Bank might buy up some of our troubled mortgages as part of its asset backed securities purchase programme have been dealt a blow. ECB vice president Vitor Constancio said at the weekend that the bank would need state guarantees in order to buy lower-ranking debt. France and Germany are known to be against providing state guarantees for such mortgage debt.