Belfast Telegraph

Happy new year could be reality

By David Elliott

The referee has blown the whistle to kick off 2014 and already one of the biggest names on the high street has faced the wrath of the increasingly choosy shopper.

Having apparently arrested the decline in sales from its online rivals, Debenhams has struggled to meet its sales targets over the Christmas period, despite heavy discounting.

A 12% slump in its share price was probably a bit of an overreaction but it's focused the spotlight on chief executive Michael Sharp who has come in for his fair share of criticism.

On a more positive note, 2014 promises a warmer reception for the Northern Ireland economy in general.

Even the most pessimistic commentators have been forced to admit that economic activity here is picking up, something reflected in the likes of the property and jobs market.

We still lag the rest of the UK by some distance but because of that we can be reasonably confident in predicting how our economic fortunes will pan out in the next few months.

At the moment the signals point to growth, something which only the foolhardy would have predicted with any conviction this time last year.

That's not to say prosperity in 2014 is nailed on, because there are still too many variables, but it is certainly an increasingly likely prospect.

But the one thing we do need to hope for is that Bank of England governor Mark Carney doesn't see fit to raise interest rates before we in Northern Ireland are good and ready.

Providing he realises that a one-size-fits-all policy won't work for the UK then we'll be firmly on the road to recovery.

Belfast Telegraph