The Opening Bell: Irish consumer confidence improves, oil prices tumble, PwC announces 500 new jobs

Get up to speed with today's breaking Irish and international business news

Irish consumer confidence has continued to improve according to Deloitte Consumer Tracker - the latest edition of the bi-annual survey was published today.

27% of respondents say that they feel more confident about the level of disposable income in their household - while 29% say that they feel less confident, that's down from 42% in March of this year.

During the next six months, 26% say that they will spend more on clothing and shows, 24% will increase their spend on holidays, 36% say they pay more for utilities, and 28% plan to increase their spend on healthcare.

David Hearn, head of consumer business at Deloitte commented on the survey's findings, "It is welcome to see the general overall improvement in consumer confidence and consumer intentions to spend over Christmas and into the new year.

"However, Ireland is finding the recovery is uneven and spending will not necessarily return to the way it was before the recession."

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Oil prices have fallen to a seven-year low ahead of this week's meeting of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee, which is expected to result in the first hike since the financial crisis.

Brent crude fell by 4% to below $36.40 a barrel - US shale producers are expected to be the hardest hit as prices slide.

OPEC decided to keep its oil production levels unchanged during its December meeting two weeks ago - increasing the pressure on US producers.

"Prices will remain low and will drop even lower," at Irish petrol stations, according to Tom Noonan, chief executive of Maxol Ireland. Although Irish consumers have been warned that almost 90% of the cost of petrol is fixed and mainly goes to the Government through taxes and charges, meaning that price changes should be modest.

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Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) is to recruit more than 500 people in Ireland next year.

The international professional services firm says that number is made up of 300 graduate positions and 200 posts for more senior professional staff.

The jobs at PwC will be in areas of assurance, technology, digital, data analytics and cybersecurity.

The company, which employs more than 3,000 people in Ireland, said it hopes the announcement will encourage more Irish abroad to come home.

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Uber has suffered a setback in Seattle where the city council has voted unanimously to give drivers collective bargaining rights.

These new rules will allow drivers working for Uber and Lyft to form unions to negotiate wages with these companies.

"It was a huge victory for drivers who took a lot of risks; many have been deactivated, lost their jobs," Dawn Gearhart, a representative of Seattle Teamsters Local 117 said after the ruling.

Ubers disruptive business model has faced legal problems in a number of states across the US, and countries in the EU. The company is currently facing legal action in California where drivers are classed as independent contractors working for Uber - but they are seeking recognition as employees.