Irish consumers are feeling more positive about their savings, according to the latest savings index compiled by Nationwide UK and the ESRI. The index, a measure of sentiment and underlying changes to attitudes about savings, jumped from 105 in February to 112 in March. The main drivers of the improved sentiment appear to be better employment prospects and signs of economic recovery leading, in some cases at least, to higher levels of disposable income.

Nationwide UK Ireland's chief executive Brendan Synnott says that people now have a choice to save or spend their extra disposal income. He said the saving desire of the Irish people is still very strong with 25% of Irish people's wealth now on deposit, which is about double the level in the UK. He said this is a startling statistic when we have a Government who wants to see a return of a proper spend-save balance to the economy. If people chose not to spend their money it is very difficult for the economy to recover overall.  Mr Synnott says the country does not have a good environment in which to save on the back of historically low interest rates - with negative rates on wholesale money markets - but the desire to save is still strong here. Describing inflation as benign, Mr Synnott says that with exchange rates moving the way they have inflation will start to rise again.  

The regular saver had disappeared from the market about 18-24 months ago, the banker says, but from the start of last year, the amount of people putting aside money every month started to increase again. The amount of people who save on a regular basis will continue to increase, he adds. After the Central Bank changed its mortgage lending criteria, Mr Synnott says that people now realise that you have to save if you want to borrow money from a bank for a mortgage. He says that while this is a good thing for the overall economy, it can be very difficult for people to get the level of savings required to borrow a sufficient amount to buy property, especially in cities like Dublin.

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MORNING BRIEFS -  Permanent TSB has announced plans to offer shares to the public through an initial offering ahead of a listing on the main markets of the Dublin and London stock exchanges. The IPO will see PTSB raise €400m through a share sale. A further €125m will be raised through new borrowing. The Government has already confirmed the state will not participate in the offering and the bank made it clear that the state is also likely to sell down some of its 99.2% stake. €400m of the €525m proceeds of this capital raising exercise will be used by PTSB to buy back €400m in what are called convertible contingent capital notes from the state. That is a loan which carries an interest rate of 10% a year and is, in any event, due to be repaid in full next year. The state pumped a total of €4 billion into PTSB to rescue the bank. €1.3 billion of that was recouped with the sale of Irish Life.

*** French fashion heir Arlette Ricci has been sentenced to three years in jail in France for tax fraud. It is the first high-profile conviction arising from leaked information detailing massive tax evasion by clients of the Swiss banking arm of HSBC. Ms Ricci, the heir to the Nina Ricci fortune, hid $22m from tax authorities in France using off shore accounts operated by HSBC.