London – Still The Best?

According to Knight Frank’s latest report which looks at leading markets around the world, prime central London property market remains… ‘a stellar performer’… ‘outperforming New York and Paris’… ‘a much more consistent and less volatile performer’. Of the leading markets, Hong Kong and Singapore are currently attracting the attentions of some investors but do not match what London has to offer.

‘Both Hong Kong and Singapore’s housing markets react dramatically in times of economic uncertainty and they saw prices plummet 50 per cent and 77 per cent respectively in one year, during the credit crunch. This compares with just 11 per cent in prime central London.’

‘The (UK) Chancellor’s recent decision to exclude bona-fide businesses from the (recent) tax rise, in recognition of the multi-billion contribution the sector makes to the UK economy, should bring in vital inward investment again.’

Citizen Shipper

Texas based Citizen Shipper has been described as the eBay of the interstate. The company match products that need delivering, with road trucks and drivers who have spare capacity and are heading in the right direction. The company has grown to over 38,000 customers in four years and recently expanded into Canada. It’s a win-win situation for all concerned. Delivery drivers get to make some additional income and the customers are able to ship items which are too bulky, large or ‘lively’ for traditional freight carriers. Apparently pets are one of the most commonly shipped items!

The company uses an auction system on its site so truckers can bid on jobs. An added advantage of the service is that it’s eco-friendly given that it cuts down on the number of road journeys. These trucks are already making the journey, remember.  The obvious question is whether this could work in the UK. I don’t see why not. I’m sure there’s a massive amount of spare capacity to be exploited, not least on return journeys.

I can’t pretend this would be an easy business to set up and run but the rewards could be huge if you pull it off.

Buff Mom’s

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how lucrative the weight loss market has become. If you’re in the “all you need to do is eat less and move more” camp, you’re probably at a loss to understand why people spend so much money on it. But they do. So how do you cash in?

Well you need an angle. One business we came across recently is targeting the ‘new mothers’ market. It makes sense when you think about it. By definition, every woman gets out of shape in pregnancy. Most want to get their figure back. Go to www.buffmom.com and they’ll help you do it. It’s a clearly defined market niche and a catchy name, so I can see it doing well.

So is there a market you could create a programme for? Companies like Weightwatchers are all encompassing. It seems to me there have to be opportunities for niche businesses targeting particular groups – perhaps based on age, (The 40+ Programme) lifestyle, (The couch potato programme) occupation, (The Office Worker Programme) or reason for being overweight (The Beer Gut Programme). I’m not suggesting these are ready to go concepts, but hopefully you get the idea. By narrowing your focus, the target market will feel your programme is exactly right for them.

Pure FX Monthly Report

The pound endured a bruising start to 2013, as investors bet on a triple-dip recession for the UK.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, the euro came back to life to make major gains across the board.

The US dollar lost out, as America’s slow but steady economic recovery continued to gain pace.

The Australian dollar’s luck continued to run out, as Australia looks rudderless without its mining boom.

UK Sterling

Have you ever seen a currency beaten so black and blue?

Sterling endured a bruising start to 2013 in January, losing more than 6 pence against the euro, and 5 against the US dollar. This takes the pound to a 14-month low against the common currency and its lowest point against the greenback since last August. Of course, while the pound might be bruised, this is like manna from heaven if you’re starting with euros or US dollars and plan to buy the pound. This is because it’s lifting your exchange rate, as though it were on stilts.

So, what’s to account for this veritable pound thumping? Well, it’s really two things. First, there’s the fact that the Eurozone is back. Back from the abyss that is, as the markets decide that, having survived 2012, the common currency is tougher than they thought. Second, the UK economy is still a car with a stalled engine. The UK contracted –0.3 per cent in the least three months of 2012, putting us on course for a triple-dip recession.

Whither next for the pound? Well, like I say, that depends on whether the UK enters recession. A triple dip would quickly see the pound fall further. Furthermore, though the Bank of England is holding fire on its stimulus now, the likelier a recession looks, the higher the odds it’ll start its printing press again. That’d bring the pound down too.

Euro

A phoenix from the ashes!

The euro enjoyed stunning gains across the entire board in January, as investor confidence in the Eurozone revives. Why the turnaround? Well, it’s really little more than a case of ‘New Year, new beginning’ as investors decide that, having come out of 2012 alright, the euro will surely manage whatever else is coming at it. For the moment meanwhile, the European Central Bank is holding interest rates at 0.75 per cent.

US dollar

USA! USA!

Good news out of the US economy drove the greenback 4 cents lower against the euro in January, even as the dollar climbed against sterling. Firstly, the US Department of Labor revealed that the United States created 335,000 more jobs than previously thought last year, pointing to an economy rapidly on the mend. In addition, the Fed kept up its stimulus, injecting $85bn into the economy. As a safe haven, all that good news meant the US dollar lost out.

Australian Dollar

The end of the Aussie economic miracle?

Sterling lost 3.0 per cent against the Australian dollar in January, chiefly thanks to the UK’s economic woes. This is in spite of the fact that almost all the indicators coming out from Down Under last month pointed downward. For instance, home loans fell –0.5 per cent in Australia in November while retail sales fell –0.1 per cent. This tells us that, with the mining boom set to peak in weeks, there’s not much else keeping the Aussie economy afloat. Looking ahead, that could see the Australian dollar start to resemble a lemming, and dive.

New Zealand Dollar

Perhaps a kiwi can fly?

The New Zealand dollar claimed a whopping 5.4 per cent from sterling in January as well as hitting a 14-month high against the greenback as New Zealand’s economy looks set to accelerate. Speaking recently, Nick Tuffley, chief economist at one of New Zealand’s biggest banks ASB, said that, “From quarter to quarter, we are going to see a lot more acceleration coming through.” If so, that puts New Zealand in a markedly faster lane than most industrialised nations, accounting for the flying kiwi.

Canadian Dollar

Oh, Canada!

The loonie enjoyed one of the measliest gains against the pound in January, at just 1.61 per cent, as America’s northern neighbour got off to the new year on the wrong foot. For one, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney (soon to take the top job at the BoE) stopped hinting he’d raise interest rates above 1.0 per cent, as Canada’s economy no longer warrants the rise. Furthermore, a Reuters poll of economists predicts job creation in Canada is set to slow dramatically. All of which adds up to a lame-duck loonie!

Brazilian Real

Up the real, but down Brazil?

Brazil’s currency claimed +2.8 per cent from the greenback in January, in spite of the fact that economic growth in Brazil slowed to just 1.0 per cent. So why the climbing real? Well, it’s one part global optimism, as a bright outlook for the US leads investors to take risks elsewhere. It’s also one part capital flows, as Fed chairman Ben Bernanke floods the market with $85bn a month, meaning investors takes that cash elsewhere, to places like Brazil.

Turkish Lira

Turkey in the fast lane!

The lira enjoyed a gain of half a cent against the US dollar in January, as Turkey got off to 2013 in a bullish mood. For instance, finance minister Mehmet Simsek predicts that, following growth of just 3.0 per cent in 2012, that will increase to 4.0 per cent this year, making Turkey one of the world’s fastest-growing countries. Add to that the fact that, at 6.2 per cent, inflation is at a 35-year low, and there’s good reason to think the lira will keep climbing.

Chinese Yuan

The talk in 2013 is of the yuan’s growing global status.

When will the currency be fully floated? When will it challenge the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency? Already, there are signs that the ruling Chinese Communist Party is paving the way for this new role. In 2012, it greatly increased the amount of foreign trade allowed to be conducted in yuan. However, before it becomes a global currency, the CCP must make the yuan fully convertible. It won’t be popular until China eases its grip on the currency’s inflows and outflows.

To find out how all this will impact your foreign exchange transactions, feel free to visit foreign exchange specialists Pure FX, email enquiries@purefx.co.uk or call +44 (0) 1494 671800. They’d be delighted to give you an in-depth response to your query.

Quote

 

andrew lawrence.jpg

 

“I admire these phone hackers. I think they have a lot of patience.I can’t even be bothered to check my own voicemails.”

Andrew Lawrence

Your Stake In Posterity

Usually, if you want to invest in an idea or company you have to commit thousands of pounds. It’s a risk, and with no guarantee that you will get anything back. What if there was a way to invest a much smaller sum and with a cast iron guarantee of what your return will be – in advance? Well thanks to Indiegogo, there is.

Our long term friend and co-collaborator on a number of projects, Jonathan Willis, is using Indiegogo to raise additional investment in his exciting social media based website, Posterity. Through Indigogo, you can invest as little as £9 or as much as £1.999 in return for a whole range of interesting benefits which are spelled out on the site. If you’re interested in making an investment in posterity or are simply curious as to how this whole thing works, take a look now.
http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/337126

Drugs Warning

A friend of mine has had some issues with drugs being grown in one of his properties and, on that subject, we’ve been sent a clipping from a local newspaper about a related incident. ‘The drug farmers tore holes in walls to set up a ventilation system, and damaged ceilings, floors and the staircase to install complex electrical wiring. The ground floor of the flat, which was being used as a living area, was left untidy and dirty.’

The local police are quoted as offering some advice, ‘People renting out properties need to be more vigilant. What tends to happen is that when landlords get their rent on time every month, they don’t check on the house.
We are also finding that in the homes where drug farms have been found, the rent has been paid upfront.’

‘If that happens, landlords should be suspicious. It might be good for them in the short term to have a year’s rent in their bank account, but if the property is being used as a drug farm, there will be greater costs in the long run. In most cases the landlord has no idea what is going on in their property, and doesn’t find out until the lease comes to an end or we find a farm inside. Regular checks on the home should be part of any rental contract.’ Sensible stuff.

Currencies Update

Pound

Pound falls on retail sales, BoE pessimism

Poor old pound! Sterling endured fresh losses against the euro and US dollar this week, taking the pound to its lowest point against the greenback since last June. This is down to falling retail sales and the Bank of England’s (BoE) bleak assessment of the UK economic outlook.

To start with, retail sales fell –0.6 per cent in January according to the Office for National Statistics, far worse than forecasts for +0.5 per cent growth. Insofar as the UK economy is driven by domestic spending, this cuts the odds for strong growth in early 2013. The data therefore sent the pound lower.

Secondly, Bank of England governor Mervyn King painted a bleak picture of the UK’s economic outlook last week, when he spoke at the bank’s Quarterly Inflation Report. King told journalists that UK inflation would continue above the BoE’s 2.0 per cent target, reaching as high as 3.0 per cent in the summer from 2.7 per cent now. He also played down the prospects for economic growth, predicting that UK output would only return to its pre-financial crisis peak in 2015. This means the recovery will have taken seven full years. Insofar as neither forecast suggests a thriving UK economy, King’s testimony sent the pound lower last week too.

What’s set to happen to the pound next? Looking ahead, I think sterling will continue to lose out against both the euro and US dollar. In part, this is because Mervyn King’s testimony last week was a forward-looking indicator. This means it told us what’s going to happen to the UK economy in the future. And, if the Bank of England governor is right, that’s nothing too upbeat. Second, there’s little denying the feeling that luck is against sterling at the moment. For instance, if you type ‘UK pound’ into Google Finance, you’ll find a range of articles talking about how the pound is a currency to sell, it has strong downward momentum, and so on. As such sentiments can be self-perpetuating, the pound will continue to fall. It’d take either a sudden turnaround in the UK economy, or a relapse of the Eurozone debt crisis, to change that.

Euro

Euro on pause as Eurozone shrinks –0.6 per cent in Q4

Elsewhere, the euro was all-but unchanged against the US dollar this week, as the Eurozone’s recession deepened at the end of last year. The Eurozone shrank –0.6 per cent in the last three months of 2012, the deepest contraction since the recession started in Q2. In particular, it’s notable that Germany, the Eurozone’s powerhouse, shrank –0.6 per cent last quarter too. This suggests it’s no longer immune to the continent-wide slowdown.

What’s going to happen to the euro next? I think the euro’s next move will be higher against both the pound and US dollar. In short, this is because the common currency didn’t really lose out against the pound or greenback last week, in spite of the deepening recession. I mean, if the UK entered a triple-dip recession, you can be sure it would spark widespread sterling losses. Yet just as sentiment is against the pound this year, so it seems to be with the euro. And if a deepening recession isn’t enough to send the euro lower, well, it need only take a little bit of good news to send it higher.

US Dollar

Talk of ‘currency wars’ could cause US dollar strength

Last of all, I think there’s potential for the US dollar to gain in the short term against the pound if not the euro. This is because the failure of the G20 to stem talk of ‘currency wars’ over the weekend will add to global uncertainty. This favours the greenback.

Meeting in Moscow over the weekend, the leaders of the globe’s twenty largest economies were supposed to allay fears of worldwide ‘currency wars’. In case you don’t know, this is where individual countries fight to lower their exchange rate, and so gain a competitive advantage over each other.

In particular, Japan has been accused of currency aggression in recent weeks, as it promises to print unlimited quantities of yen. However, given the differences that divide the G20, it proved impossible to agree on anything more than generalities in Moscow. A promise among member countries that ‘we will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes’ amounts to very little. Hence, talk of global currency wars is likely to continue. That then will favour the greenback, as the biggest winner in times of global uncertainty.

Find Out More

So, sentiment is against sterling and with the euro, while talk of currency war will lead to more volatile exchange rates. To find out how all this will impact your foreign exchange transactions, feel free to visit us at foreign exchange specialists Pure FX, email enquiries@purefx.co.uk or call +44 (0) 1494 671800. We’d be delighted to give you an in-depth response to your query.

PPI Update

I’ve contributed to a guide on reclaiming PPI and the message that came across loud and clear when I did my research was this – you can do it yourself, you don’t need to use a claims management company. I’ve spoken to lots of people in the industry and some of the stories relating to some – some – of these firms is shocking. It’s a sector that has attracted its share of dodgy dealers.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) says that market share between d-i-y’ers and claims management companies is changing. These companies used to handle 76 per cent of claims; that’s now at 59 per cent.

FSCS chief executive Mark Neale says, ‘Claims management companies take a sizeable chunk of any payout. Consumers who make a claim directly to FSCS keep every penny of their compensation. Some people may prefer to use a claims management company, but it is important that they understand the charges from the outset and are happy to pay them.’ If you are interested in going it alone, drop me a line and we will sort out some introductory material for you to start you off.