Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland economy: Gloomy outlook is brightening at last

By David Elliott

Northern Ireland's economy is operating at output levels comparable to 10 years ago but seems to be stablising, according to a local economist.

Alan Bridle, economist and analyst for Bank of Ireland UK, said much will depend on the fortunes of both the rest of the UK and the Republic's economies but for now the macro-economy here is stablising at 2003-4 levels.

At the CBI Economic Briefing in Belfast, he said there are some signs of progress for the economy with export trends "appearing a little more positive", hotel occupancy up and the rate of business insolvencies down but warned there are a number of difficult factors still weighing optmism.

"Northern Ireland is still dealing with its economic past and identified the 'dragging anchors' for the local economy," he said.

"Research suggests a higher incidence of 'interest-only' borrowings in the region keeping some afloat (so called 'zombie debtor' phenomenon).

"While overall demand for credit is muted, there is some evidence that trading business with property debts are four times more likely to have sought bank finance since 2012.

"The monetary value of the region's housing market activity has plummeted by over 80% since 2007 although more encouragingly, transactions are rising again.

"The 2013-14 outlook for growth for the region is broadly flat and subject to wider UK and Irish developments."

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