Reuters blog archive
Although UK house prices will head steadily higher in the next two years, analysts polled by Reuters are divided over whether the Bank of England can restrain the market if it overheats. Here's what they said in the latest Reuters poll, taken this week: How confident are you in the BoE's ability to moderate the housing market if necessary?
PETER DIXON, COMMERZBANK: "Not very. A cynical interpretation would be that the government wants to see a decent rise in house prices over the next couple of years and would not be best pleased to see the BoE take the steam out of it. Nor is it clear that the BoE has the policy instruments to target the housing market without causing collateral damage elsewhere in the economy. Finally, it would call into question the thrust of policy if Help to Buy is giving to the housing market with one hand whilst the BoE is taking away with another."
PHILIP LACHOWYCZ, FATHOM FINANCIAL CONSULTING: "Not at all. The Bank of England through the FPC does now have the instruments and mandate to take specific action in the housing market. However, we find it unlikely that it will take any action as it would mean directly working against government policy."
AZAD ZANGANA, SCHRODERS: "The Bank of England is not in the business of moderating house prices, only stopping financial instability as a result of bubbles. There is no evidence to suggest that a speculative bubble is building, for example, mortgage equity withdrawals. A fundamental lack of supply in housing is driving up prices, and the only sustainable solution to this crisis is to build more homes. "
from India Insight:
With the rupee hovering near a record low, Indian tourists would be tempted to give foreign shores a miss this year. But staying home is not an option for Harsh Chadha, a multinational executive just back from a three-week family vacation in the UK.
Chadha, 35, is part of India’s growing elite, whose trips abroad are not affected by the vagaries of the currency market.
from Nicholas Wapshott:
The sickening scene from Britain of a blood-spattered man spouting Islamist hatred, who had just beheaded an off-duty British soldier in broad daylight, sends shivers down the spine. Is this the face of modern terrorism? If so, is no one safe anymore?
After the initial horror at the barbaric butchery on a leafy London street come questions about our attempts to prevent terrorism. Eleven years on from the attacks of September 11, we are still left grappling with some basic questions: What exactly is terrorism? And what can we do, if anything, to prevent it?
from Global Investing:
This is a reference when the People's Bank of China makes big decisions.Difficulty in collating accurate data is perhaps not so surprising, given the rapid urbanisation of the world's second largest economy. Off-beat labour statistics (employing dissimilar methodology to the ILO) are partly skewed due to a large number of temporary registrants that slip the official statistics net. The solution? Jinny Lin at Standard Chartered, who thinks China's real GDP level is more likely around 5.5 percent, suggested this could be taken from the history books. Emperor Yongzheng, China's ruler in the late Qing dynasty, set up an independent body to look at data at the local level, and successfully stemmed tax evasion.
If local data is reliable enough, we should use local data.
Source: Flikr creative commons
Problems are found at a local level too, however. While the current system sets local government officials' bonuses for better GDP growth, there is no penalty for supplying incorrect data, neither are local government officials assessed on the jobs they create but via a points system. Instead local governments have 'soft' and 'hard' targets to attain, according to the panellists, some of which include environmental targets.
from Global Investing:
ECB chief Mario Draghi returns to London next week almost 10 months on from his seminal “whatever it takes” speech to the global financial community in The City – a speech that not only drew a line under the euro financial crisis by flagging the ECB’s sovereign debt backstop OMT but one that framed the determination of the G4 central banks at large to reflate their economies via extraordinary monetary easing. Since then we’ve seen the Fed effectively commit to buying an addition trillion dollars of bonds this year to get the U.S. jobless rate down toward 6.5%, followed by the ‘shock-and-awe’ tactics of the new Japanese government and Bank of Japan to end decades.
And as Draghi returns 10 months on, there's little doubt that he and his U.S. and Japanese peers have succeeded in convincing financial investors of central bank doggedness at least. Don't fight the Fed and all that - or more pertinently, Don't fight the Fed/BoJ/ECB/BoE/SNB etc... G4 stock markets are surging ever higher through the Spring of 2013 even as global economic data bumbles along disappointingly through its by now annual ‘soft patch’. Looking at the number tallies, total returns for Spanish and Greek equities and euro zone bank stocks are up between 40 and 50% since Draghi's showstopper last July . Italian, French and German equities and Spanish and Irish 10-year government bonds have all returned about 30% or more. And you can add 7% on to all that if you happened to be a Boston-based investor due to a windfall from the net jump in the euro/dollar exchange rate. What’s more all of those have outperformed the 25% gains in Wall St’s S&P 500 since then, even though the latter is powering to uncharted record highs. And of course all pale in comparison with the eye-popping 75% rise in Japan’s Nikkei 225 in just six months!! Gold, metals and oil are all net losers and this is significant in a money-printing story where no one seems to see higher inflation anymore.
from India Insight:
Indians give high importance to the concept of identity and kinship, especially in a land that is home to hundreds upon hundreds of different languages and ethnic groups. Indian curator Latika Gupta explores this theme in “Homelands”, an exhibition of works by 28 leading contemporary British artists, all wrestling with the idea of what "home" means in the 21st century.
The artists whose works are displayed include four Turner Prize winners, Jeremy Deller, Richard Long, Grayson Perry and Gillian Wearing. Work by World Press Photo (2007) winner Tim Hetherington, who was killed in Libya, also is on display.
from The Human Impact:
One hour, eighteen minutes is the amount of time that remains unaccounted for between a doctor being called to treat Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison and the time Magnitsky, a lawyer, was pronounced dead. It is also the name of a new play by Elena Gremina – a play that portrays accounts, from his supporters and from his own diary entries, of events in the year leading up to his death. The play uses as background official reports that were either public or dug up by supporters.
Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year old father of two, died just under a year after being held on tax evasion and fraud charges. Former colleagues say the charges were fabricated by police investigators he had accused of stealing $230 million from the Russian state through fraudulent tax refunds.
from Global Investing:
Global funds are having a good year.
According to a report by financial services lobby TheCityUK, pension funds, insurance funds and mutual funds are on track to finish the year with $21 trillion more of assets under management than when they hit rock bottom in 2008 with the Lehmann collapse.
They are growing for the fourth year in a row, and much more so than last year, thanks to the recovery in equity markets.
from The Human Impact:
A new iPhone app offers workplace tips for strippers to help them protect themselves against financial exploitation, abuse and a lack of safety.
The “Dancers Information” application and a related website were conceived by researchers after findings from a study of the erotic-dance industry in England and Wales showed that current regulations of nightclubs in the sexual entertainment sector do not automatically address issues of employment status, welfare and security.
By Peter Thal Larsen
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Urban real estate may prove a deceptive safe haven. Investors seeking refuge from economic turmoil in the euro zone and mainland China are snapping up prime houses and apartments in the likes of London and Hong Kong. That risks crowding out locals. If the onslaught continues, cities may start to raise defenses.