Opening Bell: Ireland's online shopping spree, TK Whitaker dies, Boris Johnson on US-UK trade deal

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Irish consumers went on an online shopping spree before Christmas, according to new figures.

The Visa Irish Consumer Spending Index shows web-based purchases in December were up by 15% on the same month in 2015.

So-called face-to-face spending was down slightly for a third month in a row.

The report says the sterling exchange rate is leading shoppers to purchase from UK online retailers.

Visa's Philip Konopik from Visa says Irish shopping habits are changing:

"Consumers will go and browse and shop on the high street but a lot of the actual decisions tend to happen online more and more, particularly for bigger purchases. Consumers are becoming increasingly more confident in purchasing goods and more expensive items." 

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Consumer sentiment is at its lowest level since 2015, according to a new report.

KBC's end-of-year study shows that the majority of Irish consumers believe the economic recovery was over promised and under delivered in 2016.

The bank has said we're now extremely cautious about spending and are worried about the negative impact of Brexit and Trump for the year ahead.

KBC economist Austin Hughes said:

"I think the key finding in the report is that the average Irish household feels they didn't benefit from the very strong economic conditions that they were hearing about constantly through the year. So the sentiment survey is saying that people feel they've missed out on the recovery and they're more nervous that the recovery may be threatened by Brexit and Trump in the year ahead."

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The public servant and economist TK Whitaker has died at the age of 100.

He was best known for his groundbreaking work as head of the Department of Finance, paving the way for Ireland’s economic expansion in the 1960s.

Whitaker was at the forefront of making the nation truly competitive, while his famous 'Grey Book' was Ireland's first programme for economic development. Its policies were enthusiastically adopted by Taoiseach Sean Lemass and the nation soon started to thrive.

In 2001 the public voted him Irishman of the 20th Century. Two years ago he joked to the Irish Times: “I feel I made a contribution.”

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Boris Johnson has declared Britain is "first in line" for a trade deal with the US, after meeting Donald Trump's senior advisers for talks.

The UK Foreign Secretary, who once quipped he would not visit parts of New York because of the "real risk of meeting Donald Trump", praised the President-elect's "very exciting agenda of change".

He also said relations between the UK and US would remain close once Mr Trump takes office on 20 January 20th.

Outgoing US President Barack Obama warned during the EU referendum campaign that Britain would be at the "back of the queue" for a trading agreement if voters opted to leave the EU.
Johnson said, however:

"Clearly, the Trump administration-to-be has a very exciting agenda of change.

"One thing that won't change though is the closeness of the relationship between the US and the UK.

"We are the number two contributor to defence in NATO. We are America's principal partner in working for global security and, of course, we are great campaigners for free trade.

"We hear that we are first in line to do a great free trade deal with the United States. So, it's going to be a very exciting year for both our countries."