Shocks & Stares » Property http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares H&K\'s Financial & Professional Services Team Blog Tue, 19 Mar 2013 08:00:56 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 FPS’ Friday Fiver http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/11/fps-friday-fiver-28/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/11/fps-friday-fiver-28/#comments Fri, 25 Nov 2011 17:24:44 +0000 David Chambers http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=436 Happy weekend all! It’s been an incredibly busy week in our financial and professional services team this week, handling everything from the forthcoming surge in Christmas shopping, to understanding the world’s expats just a little bit more. Speaking of Christmas, it’s now just one month away – something our resident Christmas Enthusiast, Karen, reminds us of thanks to this handy iPhone app every single day.

Sadly, there isn’t actually a whole amount of Christmas cheer around at the moment, particularly not if you live in Europe, or indeed the US, as Ross blogged on yesterday. With that in mind this week’s Friday Fiver covers off the continuing economic situation, as well as changes for UK bank customers, and two of the biggest video games of all time. Enjoy, and happy weekend.

BYE BYE FREE MONEY…..When is a free bank account not free? Pretty much always in the opinion of the Financial Services Authority. According to this morning’s Financial Times, the financial regulator is of the belief that free current bank accounts have “distorted the landscape and led to damaging decisions about what products are available”. In other words, the costs of providing free current accounts have been made up elsewhere by retail banks charging higher fees for other services (and by selling occasionally dubious products such as PPI).

The result of all this? The FSA believes that customers should be charged for their current account to negate this problem. It may appear a controversial idea, but the UK is something of an anomaly on bank accounts in the West – lots of other countries charge for this service, albeit at a low level, so we shouldn’t really be surprised that charging may happen here too. That would certainly make starting a retail bank far easier, something Metro and Virgin would probably welcome. Any move is likely to require concerted action though – as the FT also noted, if one bank were to unilaterally start charging, customers would simply get up and walk down the road to a ‘free’ competitor.

IS THE UK REALLY A SAFE HAVEN?…..This week, Germany failed to sell all €6 billion worth of ten year bonds, which came as a bit of a shock to many. Then again, it also provided evidence of what we perhaps should already know by now: even Germany may not prove immine from the unfolding Eurozone crisis. The lacklustre auction may be an indicator that investors and banks are spooked by Germany’s exposure to the Eurozone crisis and the fact they are intrinsically linked to the future success or failure of the Euro currency. Remember it is the bond markets that have wreaked havoc for many of the Eurozone’s failing economies, so this week’s bund auction which only raised €3.6 billion, little over half of the full allocation, is an ominous sign.

It may be Germany's turn to sweat next

Following the under-subscribed auction Germany may have lost some of its image as the safe haven of Europe. This was further compounded by the fact that charges for UK 10 year gilts dropped below the same cost of borrowing for 10 year German bunds – 2.18% and 2.26% respectively – which is the first time this has happened since 2009. This evidence points to the fact markets view the UK as a safer option than Germany right now, a point you can bet Chancellor George Osborne mentions in his Autumn Statement on Tuesday. As Osborne will inevitably say, the low gilt charges are evidence that the Coalition Government’s economic policy is working to the extent that it is repelling contagion from our numerous struggling European counterparts.

Does all this point to the fact the UK is now the European safe haven of choice? We’re not convinced. With youth unemployment now over 1 million and forecasted economic growth of no more than 1% in 2012, the UK is teetering on the edge of slipping back into recession. Whilst the Government should be applauded for appeasing the markets to date, we are no-where near out of the woods yet and certainly can’t consider ourselves a safe haven as suggested by Osborne earlier this year.

GRAPH OF THE WEEK – PROPERTY…..We always enjoy the Business Dashboard graphics created by The Times’ business team, and Tuesday’s was no exception, highlighting the internationalisation of the City’s commercial property.

The City's property by nationality of ownership (Image: The Times)

LOBBYING AND THE BANKS…..With all the threats of regulation and counter threats by financial services companies of ‘we’ll leave the country if you regulate us’, it was refreshing this week to see the mud-slinging continue, this time on the subject of lobbying. The mud in question came from Robert Jenkins, newly appointed to the Financial Policy Committee – the body responsible for spotting risks to financial stability and ways of containing them. Jenkins adopted an aggressive approach, arguing that “A profession which should stand for integrity and prudence now supports a lobbying strategy that exploits misunderstanding and fear”. Though the FT pointed out that the most interesting dynamic in this is whether this rhetoric translates into FPC recommendations, we can’t help but think we could do with less of the rhetoric and more, well,  stability, though the two aren’t apparently (we hope) mutually exclusive.

GOOD WEEK/BAD WEEK…..In the Good corner this week, it’s Infinity Ward. Never heard of them? They’re the guys behind the Call of Duty video game, which along with our client Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls V, is currently outselling Hollywood blockbusters at a rapid rate. Video games are big, big business these days, enjoying huge marketing campaigns and massive airtime. It’s all a far cry from Pong in the 70s that’s for sure. Call of Duty isn’t without its detractors though – a group of MPs this week started a petition against the game in Parliament. As The Independent noted though, support hasn’t exactly been overwhelming for the cause, while Murdoch-scourge Tom Watson MP appears to be something of a fan – probably no select committee hearing just yet then.

In a rare appearance in the Bad corner, it’s the usually all-conquering Sir Philip Green, owner of the Arcadia Group which counts Topshop and Miss Selfridge among its raft of retail businesses. Green was forced to announce a hefty plan to axe over 200 stores this week following a large drop in profits. Arcadia has been a strong retail pillar in recent times, with Topshop leading the way on the high street. With consumer spending tightening each day in the UK, it could be a bumpy ride for Green ahead.

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