2016 has been quite a year for Ireland's exporting community. Last January, Irish exporters were getting around 73 pence to the euro for goods they were exporting into the UK market. That went above 90 pence to the euro in the months following the shock victory for the leave side in the Brexit referendum.

Simon McKeever, CEO of the Exporters' Association, said Brexit did not necessarily come out of the blue, but it took many by surprise and it has been quite a rollercoaster year. "It's been very up and down with sterling, but the rate now - at 84p - is back at the average rate for the last nine to ten years". 
"When we surveyed exporters about their point of pain, the pound is now slap bang in the middle of where they say they have trouble with their margins, between 80 and 85p and just above that rate," he explained.

Mr McKeever said there was a need to help small businesses deal with risks and how to build it into the business. "It's about understanding the risks involved in selling in a foreign country and getting paid in a foreign currency. Generally, the smaller a business is, the less they are aware of identifying and mitigating risks."

He said there was a real possibility that sterling weakness might have peaked for the time being and the situation must be viewed in a wider context. "You need to look at this in the context of what's happening in Europe right now. There is a quantum of risk that's known in the UK from a political point of view. That's not known in Europe right now with elections coming up in several countries," he pointed out. 

Simon McKeever called on Government to look at competitiveness issues in the next year and to develop trade links with further flung markets. However, he said, regardless of the development of any new trade links, the UK trading relationship had to be secured.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Ratings agency Moody's has downgraded its outlook for the Italian banking sector from stable to negative. It said it made the move because of concerns over weakening confidence and increasing capital needs. Moody's believes losses will depress the sector's profitability and erode its capital over the next year.  Yesterday, Italy's biggest bank UniCredit announced plans to raise €13 billion and cut 14,000 jobs. The third-largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, is making efforts to avoid a government bailout.

*** The post election rally on Wall Street has not run out of steam yet, it appears. Last night, all of the main indices - the Dow, the S&P500 and the Nasdaq - closed at new record highs, despite a widely expected interest rate hike in the US today. Stocks - particularly the more traditional sectors like construction and banking - have performed strongly since Donald Trump's victory. The president-elect's economic policies and plans to cut corporate tax are deemed beneficial for corporate America.

*** Investors will be keeping a close ear on what Janet Yellen has to say tonight after the Fed winds up its policy meeting. Although market watchers see it as a virtual certainty that the Fed will raise rates, Ms Yellen may want to assert the Fed's independence. The Fed came in for strong criticism from Donald Trump in the election campaign and they may want to wait until he is in the White House before making any moves. If they do hike rates, it would only be the second increase in a decade. They lifted rates from an upper limit of 0.25% to 0.5% last December - increasing the cap to 0.75% is seen as the most likely manoeuvre.

*** Restrictions have been imposed on the US bank Wells Fargo after it failed a test on its bankruptcy plan for the second time. Big banks in the US are required to have what's called a 'living will' in which they will set out how they can wind up without recourse to the taxpayer. Authorities barred the bank from opening overseas branches and buying non-bank companies until it satisfies these regulatory requirements.