Lawmakers have backed calls for greater regulation of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin to bring an element of control to a market that more resembles the Wild West. In a report on digital currencies published Wednesday, the Treasury Select Committee called for regulations to protect consumers and prevent money laundering. The report highlighted a rapidly emerging industry that’s been troubled by wild price swings, allegations of fraud and worries it could be used to finance criminal or terrorist activity. In the report, the committee said the British government has taken an ambiguous position on regulation and argued that the industry’s voluntary approach is inadequate. As a result, it said, investors have been left open to risks including volatile prices and hacking vulnerabilities.
Investors seemingly shrugged off the latest round in the trade dispute between the US and China. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced the US would impose tariffs of 10% on $US200 billion worth of Chinese imports. China responded in kind, of course, but there is relief the new duties are not as high as originally threatened (as much as 25% mooted at one point). However, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned that escalating trade tensions, financial problems in countries such as Turkey and Argentina, and political risks could threaten global economic growth. And yet, most economists believe protectionist measures will have only a modest impact on global growth — provided the bilateral conflict does not turn into an all-out multilateral war.
Scott Flemings has been appointed as Director at Cannock-based Wealth Design Group Limited joining co-Directors; Steve Bennett and David Phillips. Flemings, a Chartered Financial Planner and Fellow of the Personal Finance Society joined the organisation in 2016.
Flemings headed up the firm’s Streetly office following the acquisition of Hunter & Co. His role involved liaising with clients who had been working with their previous adviser for almost twenty years. Scott commented “it was initially a little daunting to build new relationships with people who had trusted someone with their financial plans for decades. However their feedback was very positive and we’ve retained all of these relationships and been referred to their friends and family”.
Scott, aged 45, who is married with a daughter and lives in Pelsall, will be bringing with him more than two decades experience in financial services, teaming up once again with former Royal Bank of Scotland / Natwest colleague Steve Bennett.
Bennett commented “We are delighted to welcome Scott as a Director, he shares our client-focused approach and our underpinning values to take the Wealth Design forwards.”
Falling London house prices have helped drag annual growth in UK property values down to a five-year-low, according to official figures. House prices in London fell by 0.7% annually in July – the biggest tumble there since September 2009 when there was a 3.2% decline, according to figures released jointly by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Land Registry and other bodies. The report said London has shown a general slowdown in its annual property price growth rate since mid-2016 – hitting a recent peak of 14.8% in March that year. Across the UK, house prices increased by 3.1% in the year to July – the lowest annual growth rate since August 2013. The average UK house price stood at £231,000 in July. Earlier this week, property website Rightmove said it has recently seen some signs of confidence returning to the London market, but of course the spectre of a no-deal Brexit scenario looms large.
The slide in UK factory growth has brought the City back to earth with a bump after the summer holidays. Optimism has fallen whilst job creation is virtually at a standstill, with cuts by larger businesses neutralised by job growth in SMEs. Together with export orders – also at a 25 month low despite continued sterling weakness – these figures are particularly concerning against the backdrop of global trade wars and increasing uncertainty around Brexit – both of which will be weighing on businesses.
Operators of costly final salary pensions are being accused of offering overly-generous sums to savers leaving the 'gold-plated' schemes. The Pensions Regulator (TPR) wrote to 14 schemes earlier this year to raise a number of concerns around increased levels of transfer activity - demanding the risks were better explained to savers. It noted a spike in people leaving defined benefit (DB) schemes, where income is guaranteed, in return for a one-off lump sum payment. Rising costs mean DB pensions have become scarce in recent years, especially in the private sector, because people are living longer. They have largely been replaced by defined contribution (DC) pensions.
The housing market continues to show signs of a slowdown as asking prices dropped 2.3% over the past month, according to new figures. The average listed home fell £7,218 between July and August to £301,973, dragged down by sharp declines in London, according to Rightmove. The property portal played down the price fall saying it was 'seasonal', although it is steeper than the 0.9% fall recorded this time last year. Despite the monthly fall, asking prices are still higher than last year, having risen 1.1% and, overall, commentators believe that asking prices are reasonably steady, with the dip likely the outcome of motivated vendors pricing competitively in order to attract a buyer.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the regulator, estimates that a third of pension holders aged 45 to 65 wouldn’t know how to check whether calls they receive about their pensions come from a legitimate adviser or provider. It costs each victim an average of £91,000. The official number of thefts are doubling every year but the true figures are probably far higher. There are eight attempts to steal money every second in the UK. Citizens Advice has calculated that 10.9 million consumers have received unsolicited contact about their pension since those rule changes in 2015, and industry estimates suggest fraudsters could be behind as many as one in every ten pension transfer requests. This week, the FCA and The Pension Regulator (TPR) announced new plans to try to tackle the problem. Their solution? Adverts aimed at retirees and those about to retire, highlighting the effects of losing money to scammers. Industry critics have described it as nothing more than sticking plaster.
UK inflation climbed in July as had been expected, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The ONS reported that the rate of consumer price inflation increased from 2.4% in June to 2.5% in July, reversing a trend of gradually declining inflation over the course of 2018. Transport tickets and fuel, along with often erratic computer game prices, drove up costs for consumers. Inflation in the UK had been subdued for several years prior to the vote to leave the EU in June 2016, but the vote caused a fall in the value of the pound, which pushed up inflation. As the pound has recovered, inflation once again started to fall, dropping from 3% at the end of 2017 to 2.4% last month. It has now risen again, although the ONS suggested this is likely a blip.
It took three bailouts, around €290 billion in loans from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund, countless nights of knife-edge negotiations, an avalanche of austerity, a collapse of monumental proportions, and three close brushes with an exit from the euro. But this week Greece’s third bailout concludes, and the country will no longer have to rely on its official creditors to finance itself. A closer look at the Greek economy, however, reveals a darker picture. Growth last year was barely half the initial government and European Commission forecasts, and the lowest in the eurozone. On top of that 55% of new jobs created last year and in the first two months of 2018 were part-time or shift work, as per the Greek Ministry of Labour. On top of that Greece’s tax wedge – the tax burden on employment – is significantly above the average. Plenty of work to do!