The Great Debate

from The Great Debate UK:

A year of austerity looms in 2010

david-kuo_motley-foolthumbnail-David Kuo is director at the Motley Fool. The opinions expressed are his own.-

If you thought 2009 was as bad as things will get, then think again: 2010 could be worse. It is likely to be a year of enforced austerity with both the government and households making obligatory cuts to their budgets.

High on the government’s agenda will be reducing the Budget deficit, if the UK is to avoid the embarrassment of having its sovereign debt rating cut by rating agencies. This will have a knock-on effect on households, which could see their disposable incomes slashed by hikes in both direct and indirect taxes.

There are two possible ways for the government to reduce the Budget deficit. The first is to increase tax revenues and the second will be to slash expenditure – both of which will have an adverse impact on the economy. There is a third, which is to raise revenue through the sale of state assets. These may include the Royal Mint, the nations stake in part-nationalised banks, and anything else the Chancellor might find lurking at the back of the wardrobe.

It should, therefore, not come as a huge surprise to households next year if the government takes a larger proportion of our income through tax hikes. It is unlikely that businesses will be burdened with increased taxes (unless you include banks), so wage earners will shoulder most of the responsibilities. Consumers have already been warned of the reversal in the 2.5 percent cut in VAT on 1 January 2010, and it would not be unreasonable to expect VAT to rise to 22.5 percent or even as high as 25 percent afterwards.

Controversially, London shares may perform well next year even though the economy may remain in the doldrums. That’s because companies that generate a vast proportion of their income overseas dominate the FTSE 100 index. As a consequence, The Motley Fool still believes the FTSE 100 index could hit 7,000 points next year if businesses can achieve their profit targets next year.

from The Great Debate UK:

You never know when rates will rise

David Kuo-David Kuo, Director at the financial website The Motley Fool. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Go on. Admit it. You didn’t see it coming, did you? You never thought a member of the G20 nations would dare to break ranks and raise interest rates this soon.

But Australia has done just that. The Central Bank of Australia has increased the cost of borrowing by 0.25 percent to 3.25 percent. It is doing what it thinks is right for the country regardless of what the rest may think. Now, Asian countries, keen to avert another bubble, may follow Australia’s lead and ratchet up interest rates before long.