CENTRAL BANK SILENT OVER PLANS FOR IRISH GOLD IN UK - Ireland's Central Bank has refused to say if it plans to move almost €200m worth of gold bars from the vaults of the Bank of England as a result of Brexit, insisting that any such move would be "commercially sensitive". 

The gold reserves have been held by its UK counterpart for a number of years, and the Central Bank has traditionally been coy on the precise details of the reserves, and the terms of the arrangement it has with the Bank of England. It refused to be drawn yesterday on whether the reserves would be removed from the Bank of England either before or after the Brexit deadline of next March. "It is for the Central Bank to determine how Ireland's gold reserves ought to be managed," a spokeswoman told the Irish Independent. "The Central Bank's portfolio is managed in line with approved parameters, which are kept under regular review and we report on key activities and developments in our annual report," she added. "The Central Bank's transactions in gold are commercially sensitive and no further comment can be made at this time," she said. The latest Central Bank annual report shows that it had €209.3m worth of gold and gold receivables on its books at the end of 2017. It's believed that included €193.5m worth of fine gold held as gold bars with the Bank of England, and an additional amount of gold coins held at the Central Bank. Ireland's gold reserves are among the lowest in Europe.

***

BREXIT VAT CHANGE THREATENS COMPANIES HERE - A post-Brexit VAT change threatens to close thousands of companies by squeezing their cash flows, the Republic's biggest employers' group fears. 

The UK's exit from the EU in March will put the country outside the bloc's current VAT regime, which allows businesses to immediately reclaim the charge on goods bought from Britain and Northern Ireland. However, once the UK leaves the EU in March, businesses in the Republic face the prospect of paying the VAT on goods imported from the UK at the point of entry while waiting up two months to reclaim the money, writes the Irish Times. Business body Ibec says that this will pressurise companies’ cash flows and could be particularly damaging for smaller businesses, many of which have not encountered the problem before. Gerard Brady, senior economist with Ibec, pointed out yesterday that 40% of consumers goods bought in the Republic come via the UK, leaving large numbers of businesses vulnerable. "Most small and medium-sized enterprises have not dealt with this before and do not have the cash flows to cope," he said. "You could be looking at closures." Mr Brady explained that businesses now get immediate credit for VAT on goods from the UK and do not have to wait up to two months to get the money back. He noted that the charge could be up to 2% of turnover for businesses that import just 10% of what they sell from the UK and warned this would create difficulties for those operating on narrow margins.

***
€35m FLOATING DATA CENTRE TO CREATE 124 JOBS - A revolutionary €35m floating data centre is set to be moored on the banks of the River Shannon, in a move which could create 124 jobs. 

Limerick Docks beat a number of locations across Europe to the multi-million euro investment, with minister of state Patrick O'Donovan hailing it as "yet another element of the city and county’s rejuvenation". With centres providing information technology power for businesses being very sought after, the Shannon Foynes Port Company has teamed up with Californian firm Nautilus which plans to moor a floating vessel providing commercial data storage at Ted Russell Dock, just outside Limerick city centre, says the Irish Examiner. A new concept, Nautilus Data Technology employs water cooling technology in its data centres, meaning they operate more efficiently and less expensively than traditional land-based facilities. The data centre, it is anticipated, will be able to service a number of companies, or a single firm, with Nautilus president and chief executive Jim Connaughton saying: "We will be able to serve a small company, to one of the larger social media operations - and everything in between."

***

TRADERS SHY AWAY FROM 'IMPOSSIBLE' POUND AS COST OF UNCERTAINTY SOARS - Nervous investors are shying away from making big bets on the pound because of uncertainty around Brexit, sending the cost of insuring against future price swings in the currency soaring to its highest levels since the UK voted to leave the EU. 

The pound has been the main market bellwether since the 2016 referendum, rising and falling in line with each twist as London and Brussels duel over the terms of departure. But as time ticks away and the political stakes rise, the currency is becoming less volatile, not more. Sterling has been rangebound in the last few weeks, hovering at about $1.27 since the summer. Even positioning in the currency, which indicates the direction investors expect the exchange rate to head, has shifted in recent weeks, says the Financial Times. Investors reduced their bets on a falling pound last week, according to BNP Paribas' estimate of market positioning. The pound is "purely impossible to trade at this point" because of the multiple permutations of Brexit, said Stephen Gallo, head of forex strategy at Bank of Montreal. "The market anticipates a significant sterling move at some point and you can see this in the way that three-month implied volatility is going ballistic. But spot forex investors are not going to pile into the directional trade until the Brexit path is completely clear," he said.