UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

Will the bank package work?

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creditcrunch.jpgThey were widely accused of dithering earlier this week but Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling have now finally caught up with events and have tried for the first time to overtake them by unveiling a 50-billion pound rescue package for the banks.

The aim is to bolster their balance sheets, increase confidence in them and get them lending again so ordinary financial life can start anew.

Newspapers have generally welcomed the fact that action has finally been taken, though some feel the package on its own is not enough.

Sector analysts have more specific questions about future bank dividends or who will make use of the rescue money.

At last — decisive action

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blurry-screen-traders2008.jpgNewspapers generally praised the government move to shore up the banks, saying that whatever the prospects for the success of the “stability and reconstruction plan,” to have done nothing would have been infinitely worse.

They noted how fleeting the effect of the far larger U.S. bank bailout has been so far and called for the UK plan to be accompanied by cuts in interest rates by the Bank of England and concerted action on an international scale.

Brown needs Darling in these troubled times

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    One thing looks certain after Alistair Darling’s speech to***the Labour Party conference on Monday — he’ll be Chancellor of***the Exchequer for a while yet.******    Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to reshuffle his***ministerial team next week and there’s been a lot of speculation***that Darling could lose his job and be moved to another***department.******    The silver-haired finance minister has had a rough ride***lately. The economy is on the brink of recession and his***comments in a magazine interview saying the economic challenges***were the greatest in 60 years caused a furore and were blamed***for sinking the pound.******    But delegates at the Labour conference today just loved him.***They stood and clapped and then they clapped some more after***Darling hit out at unfettered capitalism and the huge payouts***given to bankers that he said helped cause the credit crunch.******    Darling looked genuinely embarrassed. He called for them to***stop but the delegates just went on. Besides modesty, the***finance minister had another reason for wanting them to stop.******    He had another type of conference call to attend to. A G7***one. The finance ministers and central bankers of the rich***nations club were having a hastily-arranged telephone chat at***1230 London time to discuss the latest bout of market turmoil.******    Given London’s position as one of the world’s top financial***centres, Darling could hardly miss out and he rushed off the***stage to get on with his G7 buddies.******    The crisis also looks to have cemented Darling’s position.***It would seem odd to remove the finance minister when the whole***world financial system is in the middle of the biggest upheaval***in a generation.******    With Brown making his economic experience a key selling***point, he needs Darling on side.

Could you live on a pound a day?

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pounds-in-hand.jpgWhen Kath Kelly complained to friends in the pub she was so broke she couldn’t afford a wedding present for her brother, she decided to take drastic action.

She made a bet that she could defy the credit crunch and live on just one pound a day for a year.

Has the Bank been too cautious?

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rtx71g6.jpgBattling with the twin evils of soaring inflation and weaker growth, the Bank of England has kept interest rates at 5 percent for the fourth month running.

With the risk of Britain possibly facing its first recession since the early 1990s, the MPC has clearly opted for caution.

Could house prices rise by a quarter?

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house-prices-sky-high.JPGForget everything you’ve heard about the looming property crash.

In the midst of dire warnings about collapsing house prices comes a lone voice offering a crumb of comfort for hard-pressed homeowners.

A report by the National Housing Federation says that far from falling off a cliff, house prices could actually rise by a quarter by 2013.

R-word looms as retail sales slump

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Exactly one year since the credit crunch started retail sales have shown their biggest fall on record in Britain, news that is likely to spur recession talk among consumers, who are already feeling the pinch from rising fuel and food costs.

For sure, the 3.9 percent drop in June was much worse than expected – economists had forecast a 2.5 percent decline – but shop prices are still higher than a year ago and the retail sales data series is notoriously volatile.retail-salessmaller.jpg

Spanish acquisition shows faith in UK banking sector

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(updated on July 15 with news that Gillespie won’t join as chairman)

Alliance & Leicester had increasingly been looking like a takeover target and Spain’s Santander has taken advantage of 75 percent collapse in the mortgage banks’ share price over the past year.

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The Spanish bank had made little secret of its ambition to expand in the UK banking sector following its acquisition of Abbey in 2004, having already sniffed round A&L last year.

Media’s take on bank bailout

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Bank of EnglandThe Bank of England’s 50 billion pound credit swap for banks hit by the global credit crunch leaves a “sour taste ” for the Daily Mail, which accepts it is a necessary evil.

“How could allowing banks to swap their risky mortgage and credit card debts (amassed during years of lunatically-excessive lending) for cast-iron Government bonds be anything else?,” it asks. “So much for moral hazard.”

Was a quarter point cut enough?

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bank.jpgThe Bank of England has responded to the credit crunch by cutting interest rates by one quarter of a point to five percent, the third cut in five months.

It acknowledges the risks of stoking inflation but says the availability of credit seems to be worsening.

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