Virtual Assassins

Here’s an idea you won’t have seen before. I just read about a guy in China who hired a virtual assassin to hunt down and kill his sons Avatar in an online video game. Apparently, he was concerned that his son was spending too much time playing games online, and saw this as a good way of dissuading him.. Now my first thought was that this won’t work. The character would simply come back to life (be respawned) after a brief interlude. Well that’s true, but if you know where to look, you can ambush the character where he’s respawned and repeatedly kill him each time he comes back to life. That’s where the skill is in this.

I know very little about these online games, but might we reach a point where players employ third parties to manage or manipulate the lives of themselves or others in some way?  And could there be a part time business in it. Something to think about for the more technically orientated amongst us.

Currency Review

US Dollar

Greenback climbs fast on debt ceiling fears

The bigger the crisis, the higher the dollar! The US dollar enjoyed rapid gains against the pound and euro over the past week, taking almost 2.0 per cent from both currencies, as fears about the US debt ceiling took hold. In less than two months, the US will default on its debts, unless US leaders agree a compromise to raise the ceiling.

Why is this a problem?

This is a problem because Republicans believe US debt (at some $16.4 trillion, if you can believe it) is already high enough. They’re therefore willing to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip, whereby they agree to raise the debt level, if President Obama accepts cuts to his sacred cows, such as Medicaid. Of course, Obama wants no such thing, setting the stage for a fierce clash.

What’s going to happen next?

The idea that the US would default on its debt is all but unthinkable. US Treasuries, after all, constitute the basis of the world financial system, to a large extent. However, the mere fact that it’s technically possible here has spooked the market and could easily see the dollar climb higher as the early-March deadline nears. (To find out more about the US debt ceiling, read our guide).


UK Pound

Pound slides as UK services contract for first time since December 2010

Triple-dip on the way? Sterling’s decline against the US dollar was exacerbated this week as the UK’s huge services sector shrank for the first time in two years in December. Last month, Markit’s services PMI, a closely-watched indicator of the sector’s health, arrived at 48.9, beneath the 50.0 point that separates growth from contraction.

Why does this point to a triple-dip recession?

This signals that the UK could return to recession in 2013, because services account for three-quarters of the UK economy. If the services sector is shrinking, it therefore all but guarantees that the UK economy as a whole is shrinking. In fact, according to Markit, last month’s services performance was consistent with about -0.2 per cent economic growth in the last month of 2012.

What’s going to happen next?

Of course, this is just one economic indicator and so hardly guarantees the UK contracted between October and December. And then, even if it did, we’d need to see two quarters of negative growth before the dreaded ‘triple dip’ became official. Nonetheless, this figure doesn’t bode well, and could put the pound on the back foot as Q4’s growth data becomes available later this month.



Euro falls, as PMI points to ongoing recession

How long can a downturn last? The euro’s fall against the greenback was exacerbated this week by economic data that showed the Eurozone remains firmly in recession. Europe’s composite PMI in December (looking at activity in services, manufacturing and construction) reached just 47.2, well below the 50.0 growth point, and all but guaranteeing the Eurozone will continue in recession in Q4.

What’s going to happen next?

Oddly enough however, this latest PMI provides some scope for the euro to climb in the next month. This is because December’s 47.2 figure was an improvement on November’s 46.5, leading some economists to argue that the Eurozone economy has now bottomed out and that the only way for the continent is now up. If January’s figures bear that out, we could see the euro soon climbing.

Get In Touch

So debt ceilings, triple-dips and ongoing recessions are what’s on the menu. If you’d like to find out what all this means for your currency transfers, feel free to visit us at foreign exchange specialist Pure FX, email, or call +44 (0) 1494 671800. We’d be delighted to provide an in-depth response to your enquiry.


Selling Leads

The lifeblood of many businesses is sales leads, and it’s not widely known that there’s a great deal of money to be made, simply from supplying hot sales leads. One of the key intermediaries in this market is T3 Leads who pay people to generate leads in a variety of markets including payday loans, car loans and insurance which they then sell on to their merchant partners.

To make money from this, you simply drive traffic from your website to theirs. If you have the right relationship with your customers or audience, this can be a valuable source of additional revenue.  Payouts for payday loan leads for example, can be as much as £100.

For further information, go to

Foreign Property Update

US Property Update

If you have been waiting for the US market to bottom out before investing, you’ll be interested in Zillow’s Home Price Expectations Survey. Based on interviews with 100+ economists, real estate experts and investment strategists, this suggests that the market has now bottomed out and that prices will rise 3.1 per cent in 2013.

‘An organic recovery in the housing market really took hold in the latter half of 2012, and this improvement is echoed in some of the most optimistic price projections we’ve seen in years from this group. Record levels of affordability and an improving overall economic picture have really helped buoy the market and have us well positioned for continued growth in 2013 and beyond.’ More coverage over at our sister service,

Portugal – Way To Go

Many lifestyle buyers are keen on Portugal and are looking to buy there as prices fall. But you don’t want to buy in whilst prices are still tumbling! According to the latest housing market survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Confidencial Immobiliario, they still are.

The survey reports that the ‘national price net balance’ fell from -60 to -72 last month. In plain English that means that 72 per cent more people saw price falls rather than price rises. The biggest falls appear to be in Lisbon, Porto and Algarve. We have more coverage over at

Spain Property News

There are some interesting figures coming out of the Property Valuation Society in Spain. Talking about new properties, they say that, since the 2007 peak, the value of new housing has adjusted downwards by 33.5 per cent.

More recently, in 2012, new housing prices fell across the country. The biggest falls were in Navarra (-12.6 per cent), La Rioja (-11.6 per cent) and Castilla-La Mancha (-10.2 per cent). The lowest falls were in País Vasco (-4.1 per cent), Canarias (-5.2 per cent), Galicia (-5.6 per cent) and Asturias (-5.7 per cent). More coverage over at our sister service,

S**t Coffee!

I’m conscious of the fact that several ideas we’ve covered in the past few weeks have involved some sort of faeces. It’s not an obsession, honestly. We just bring you what we find. produce coffee from beans that have been ingested and excreted by Thai Elephants. The company claim that the elephants stomach juices give the beans (which are picked out of the droppings – now there’s a poor job!) their unique flavour. At $500 a pound it’s one of the world’s most expensive coffees.

The key point here is the PR value of the production process, and the curiosity it engenders. Couple that up with a high price and you have something which many will be unable to resist trying – at least once.

Give some thought to your product or service. Is there some newsworthy aspect to the production process, or could you engineer one? Could you produce a special edition, blend or version at a premium price which utilises this newsworthy aspect in the production process. If you can, it could be a licence to print money.

DIY Food

I don’t know about you, but when I go to a hotel restaurant, I don’t even want to have to think about how the food got from its raw state onto my plate. I just want to eat. But not everyone feels the same way, and the Hotel Vitale in San Fransisco  has a service for those people.

The hotel is situated close to a farmers market, and as a guest you can accompany the chef to the market to select your ingredients for  your evening meal. Then, he’ll either cook it for you, or assist you to prepare it yourself, depending on your preference.

This might not be your idea of a great day out, but the fact remains that the popularity of TV cooking programmes means there an awful lot of frustrated chefs out there who would love to get their hands dirty under the watchful eye of a top chef….even if it meant cooking their own food and then paying for the privilege. Could this be a service you could introduce to a hotel near you.