Opening Bell: SuperValu's big online sales, health insurance, CRH gets Trump boost

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SuperValu enjoyed record sales in 2016, as online shopping provided a big boost to business.

Sales of €2.67 billion marked a 2.4% increase over the previous year, with online transactions jumping 22%.

More and more people are doing the weekly shop on their smartphones, with usage up 180%.

Controlled by the Cork-based Musgrave group, SuperValu is Ireland’s second most popular grocer after Dunnes Stores.

Three new Supervalu stores are set to open this year as part of an overall €35 million investment. The stores will employ 190 staff.

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Four out of five of us are paying too much for health insurance, with new research revealing that small businesses are the worst culprits.

The warning comes after Laya Healthcare announced an overall hike of 5.9% on its polices at the weekend.

Dermot Goode of Totalhealthcover.ie says people fail to negotiate and shop around when it comes to health insurance:

"They're afraid to change their cover, they're worried about losing benefits. Particularly they're worried about changing employees' benefits.

They also don't understand exactly how the legislation protects them. And a lot of people just leave it too late, they just forget about it, and what we find is that their cover is being automatically renewed. People who are on plans for three, four years or more, in some cases they are paying 100% more – double – the cost they could actually be paying."

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Waterstones more than doubled its Irish profits in its last financial year, the Irish Times reports.

The London-headquartered bookseller, which owns a branch in Cork as well as Hodges Figgis in Dublin, recorded a pretax profit of €1.9 million for the 12 months to the end of April 2016. This was up from the €712,000 taken for the previous year.

Revenue was up 7% to €14.2 million.

It’s further evidence of a resurgent Irish book market. Following a positive 2015 in which Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train was the top-seller, Nielsen has indicated that sales continued to rise in 2016.

The 270-store Waterstones chain, which is owned by Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut and headquartered in London, has now returned to profit for the first time since Mamut bought the company from HMV in 2011.

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Shares in CRH jumped 2.3% on foot of US President Donald Trump’s pledge to make a “big statement on infrastructure” during his speech to Congress on Tuesday night.

The Dublin-based building materials giant is seen as well-placed to benefit from increased US spending on roads and bridges through its construction supplies arms across the Atlantic.

Trump’s comments also pushed the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average to record intraday highs yesterday.

The Dow Jones closed at a record high for the 12th day running, its longest winning streak in 30 years.

Despite speculation last year that CRH would be involved in Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, the Irish company does not own any cement businesses in the US south-west.