The Opening Bell: China slumps on, global markets contract, Ireland's likely to lower its borrowing target

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Chinese shares continued to struggle overnight after the country's central bank intervened to prop up its slumping markets.

The People's Bank of China (PBOC) pumped 130bn yuan (€18.4bn) into the country's financial system through its open market operations.

When the markets closed the Shanghai Composite Index was down a further 1.5% at 3,247, and the Hang Seng finished down 0.8% at 21,167.

Trading on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets was suspended yesterday when shares plunged by about 7% after an independent report showed that factory activity in China has been contracting for 10 consecutive months as of December.

This is the first time that a new "circuit breaker" system - designed to curb volatility in Chinese stock markets was triggered - trading ended 90 minutes earlier than the usual close.

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Shockwaves from the market turmoil in China were felt throughout global markets yesterday.

More than €700m was wiped off of the value of equities listed on the Irish stock exchange - the ISEQ closed down 1.28% at 6,705.

The FTSE 100 in London closed down 2.4% and Germany's DAX fell by 4.3%.

The Euro Stoxx 600 index, which tracks shares from 18 different European countries took a 2.5% hit - this was its worst ever start to a new year.

In the US the S&P Index fell by 1.53%, the Dow Jones closed down 1.58%, and the NASDAQ finished down 2.08%.

The market instability has been created by volatility in Chinese markets, escalating tensions in the Middle East, sparked by Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent Shia cleric over the weekend which led to a jump in oil prices, and mixed manufacturing data from a number of major economies.

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The Government is to lower Ireland's borrowing target for the year as exchequer returns for 2015 were higher than expected.

In October, Finance Minister Michael Noonan set a borrowing target of 1.2% of GDP - in light of strong tax returns he is expected to indicate today that the actual level of borrowing will be significantly lower. 

The country's coffers have been boosted by strong corporate tax returns and the one-off repayment of €1.6bn from AIB in December.

The Exchequer returns for December and last year as a whole are due to be published later today.

The exchequer returns for November revealed tax revenues were close to €3bn ahead of target year for the first 11 months of the year.

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It's expected that a meeting of the IFA's executive council later today will lead to full elections for the organisation's board in the coming months.

A protest by IFA members is expected ahead of the meeting.

Yesterday, senior members of the association's board indicated that they would step down and allow for full elections to take place.

This follows the recent controversy over and pension packages paid to high ranking IFA staff.

News reporter with the Farmer's Journal Pat O'Toole, says he expects that senior members of the board and the IFA's leadership will be replaced through an election in the near future: