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Insights from the UK and beyond

from James Saft:

Britain eats (leverages) its young

James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Four years, several failed banks and at least one global recession later, Britain has finally discovered what its young people need: 19-1 leverage.

Britain has announced a new housing initiative, the centerpiece of which is a plan to entice first-time buyers into buying newly-built properties with as little as 5 percent down.

Under the plan both builders and the government would contribute funds to partially indemnify lenders against what I am betting are the inevitable losses. Borrowers, who are almost by definition younger and less well off, will still bear all losses, but will be rewarded with the chance to take out the kind of loan which has proven time and again to be a bad idea.

This is utterly wrongheaded -- the best possible thing that can happen for first-time buyers, and arguably for most Britons, is for housing prices to fall to a level commensurate with earnings.

from Breakingviews:

Becalmed UK in danger of double dip

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By Ian Campbell
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The UK economy looks dangerously becalmed. While GDP did increase a good-looking 0.5 percent in the third quarter, the number was flattered by a catch up from a royal wedding-distracted spring. Besides, there has only been a 0.5 percent rise over the full year. And now a euro zone storm is brewing. That Tuesday's UK manufacturing survey for October dropped to the lowest level for over two years is no coincidence -- but is alarming.

from Breakingviews:

UK will get QE2 – but may need fiscal help too

The odds are moving rapidly towards a launch of QE2 in the UK. A second bout of quantitative easing - printing money - would be controversial. But a fragile economy needs extreme treatment - monetarily, and probably fiscally, too.

Britain's substantial home-grown problems are being exacerbated by crisis in the euro zone. UK unemployment crossed 2.5 million in the three months to July. Activity in services, the bulk of the economy, almost contracted in August. Wages, up just 1.7 percent in the past year, are falling fast in real terms, impoverishing consumers and threatening deflation. And exports are stalling: the euro zone is the UK's main trade partner.

from MacroScope:

BoE rate decision has echoes of Jan 2007

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By Sumanta Dey in Bangalore Mervyn King

The BoE is expected to keep rates on hold at its monthly meeting today. Sixty-two out of 63 economists polled by Reuters expect such an outcome. Statistically speaking, that is more than a fair majority. But are we in for another upset like the one more than four years back? At that time, Simon Ward of Henderson Global Investors was the only economist correctly calling a rate hike.

There are a number of spooky similarities today that point to an almost identical scenario.

from MacroScope:

Broadbent’s BoE appointment keeps hawks in health

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BRITAIN-BOE/Ben Broadbent’s appointment to the Monetary Policy Committee ought to dispel any notions that the Bank of England would be left short of hawks after the departure of Andrew Sentance.

A brief look at the history of Reuters polls shows that Goldman Sachs' UK economists – led by Broadbent – were uber-hawkish in their outlook for British interest rates early last year.

Britons face rising price pain

Fiona Shaikh is Reuters’ Economic Correspondent, based in London. –

BRITAIN/Stubbornly high inflation has proved something of an inconvenience for the Bank of England over the last year, but the unrelenting rise in prices is turning out to be a real headache for ordinary Britons — one which is likely to get worse before it gets any better.

from MacroScope:

The perils of predicting BoE policy

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BRITAIN/As we’ve noted extensively, economists often get it wrong. Leaving aside their collective failure to recognise an impending global recession, you might recall a shock interest rate hike from the Bank of England in January 2007.

This was another event that almost every economist polled by Reuters failed to spot, and there are signs that four years on, economists might be setting themselves up for a similar shock.

from The Great Debate UK:

Are interest rates set to rise?

USA/Whenever he approaches a bend, an F1 driver has to make a fine judgment: brake too soon and he loses vital momentum, too late and he risks losing control altogether, with possibly fatal consequences.

For the past year, the MPC has been getting closer to the bend – the point at which it will have to raise interest rates – so, as each month passes without a touch on the brakes, the balance of risk changes as the danger of losing control of inflation increases.

from MacroScope:

How uncertain exactly is the uncertain BoE?

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king-inflation.jpgFor a central bank that looks certain to bust its 2 percent inflation target for most of the time between now and the London 2012 Olympics, there is still a lot of uncertainty out there.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King referred to "uncertain" or "uncertainty" about the outlook five times at the May quarterly Inflation Report press conference according to the bank's transcript, and the latest one didn't seem much more confident in tone.

from The Great Debate UK:

Rubbish rates – what is a saver to do?

-Rachel Mason is PR manager at Fair Investment Company. The opinions expressed are her own.-

The base rate is going to be stuck at 0.5 percent for years to come, according to experts, so where does that leave savers?

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