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House prices, property funds, credit cards and tax

7 July 2016

9:32 AM

7 July 2016

9:32 AM

Annual house price growth eased to 8.4 per cent in the month of June, the lowest rate in a year, according to the Halifax, the UK’s largest mortgage lender.

The quarterly rate of growth was 1.2 per cent, the slowest since December 2014. Nevertheless, the average price of a house rose to another record high, at £216,823. The figures pre-date the result of the UK’s EU referendum, which many economists believe will slow house price inflation even further.

Markets

Shares in London have opened almost 1 per cent higher and the pound has made some modest gains – but it remains around a 31-year low. The 100 share index was up 56.39 in early trading to 6,519.98. The pound rose 0.22 per cent against the dollar to $1.2959 and was 0.32 per cent higher against the euro at €1.1684.

Property funds

Aberdeen Asset Management has become the seventh property investment fund to suspend payouts. Henderson Global Investors, Columbia Threadneedle and Canada Life said yesterday that they were freezing their property funds. They join funds managed by M&G Investments, Aviva Investors and Standard Life Investments, which stopped trading on Monday and Tuesday.

Housing

The Guardian reports that the plunge in sterling following the UK’s decision to leave the EU has prompted a flurry of interest in luxury homes in London from overseas buyers, who stand to save about 10 per cent of the cost of buying a £1 million property.

Arcadis, a property consultancy, said its clients had reported ‘a bounce in inquiries’ since the referendum, with investors keen to make the most of the favourable exchange rate. The firm’s head of commercial development, Mark Cleverly, said that family offices, which represent wealthy clients, had also been ‘pretty active. in the market.

Business confidence

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found small business confidence at a four-year low following the largest annual drop in the FSB Small Business Index (SBI) since it started in 2010.


The latest SBI, gathered before the EU referendum, found smaller firms planning to cut jobs for a second consecutive quarter. FSB members reported falling profits with increases to the cost of labour and the overall tax burden listed as major contributors to a rise in the cost of doing business.

The index also saw a sharp fall in investment intentions with just 12.2 per cent of small firms planning new capital investment in the next 12 months – less than half of the 31.9 per cent planning the same a year ago. This came despite improvements to both the availability and affordability of credit.

Credit cards

A new balance transfer card launched by Halifax offers 0 per cent on balance transfers for 24 months with a 0 per cent fee and is the longest fee-free balance transfer offering in the bank’s history and puts the bank on par with the AA’s market-leading card.

Matt Sanders, head of money at Gocompare.com, commented: ‘Just a few years ago it seemed unlikely that we would be talking about fee-free, 24 month 0 per cent balance transfer cards. However, this latest announcement from Halifax is indicative of how competitive the credit card market currently is, which is good news is for consumers.

‘Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen providers compete to offer increasingly longer 0 per cent periods on purchase and balance transfer cards, with some cards on the market offering a staggering 0 per cent period of 40 months on balance transfers. Halifax’s latest offering now means it shares the top spot of both balance transfer cards, and fee-free balance transfer cards and suggests a shift in the market.’

Travel insurance

One in 10 Brits with a pre-existing medical condition are running the risk of invalidating their travel insurance policy by not declaring it, according to new insight from MoneySuperMarket.

Analysis found nearly half of holidaymakers have a pre-existing medical condition they are required to declare to their travel insurance provider, but only 85 per cent of these actually comply. This means the 12 per cent that have a condition but do not declare – equating to 1.8 million Brits – risk invalidating their policies and could typically face minimum bills of £3,500 in the event they need to make a claim while abroad. This is 70 times the original cost of an average premium for travellers with a pre-existing medical condition and means in total the UK’s under-insured travellers run the risk of having to fork out £6.4 billion.

For those who didn’t inform their insurer of any pre-existing medical conditions, a third didn’t declare in order to get a cheaper policy. A fifth blamed the fact their insurer didn’t ask them and almost half claimed their condition hadn’t caused them any issues lately.

Tax

London has cemented its position as Britain’s number one taxpayer since the financial crash, leaving the Government more dependent on the capital for its tax income. A study by the thinktank Centre for Cities found that London generated almost as much tax as the next 37 largest cities combined and increased its share of ‘economy taxes’ underpinning the Treasury’s finances to 30 per cent, up five percentage points since 2004/5.

Wedding bells

With wedding season upon us and people gearing up to attend their nearest and dearest’s big day, new research from American Express reveals guests are set to spend £479 per wedding this year. This is just £24 less than the UK average weekly salary.

When it comes to the costs associated with attending the big day, guests are set to spend over £100 on gifts alone, which is closely followed by travel (£94), hotel accommodation (£74) and drinks at the venue (£48).

M&S

Marks & Spencer has suffered an 8.9 per cent plunge in clothing sales during its first quarter of the year after slashing the number of promotions in its shops and online.

The Telegraph reports that the City had been braced for the retailer to post a sales drop in the region of 6 per cent following what some called a ‘soggy start’ to its year.

However, its dramatic 8.3 per cent slide in total clothing and home sales and a 8.9 per cent drop on a like-for-like basis for the 13 weeks to 2 July has disappointed even the most bearish analysts and prompted fresh fears about the health of the British high street.

Finally…

Direct Line Pet Insurance has revealed that millions of cats are at risk of life threatening illnesses as a result of being overfed and not doing enough physical activity. Over two fifths of the nation’s cats are overweight. Direct Line Pet Insurance is urging responsible pet ownership as more than a quarter of vets surveyed said that more than half of the cats they treat are now overweight.

As the owner of a cat who can no longer fit through the cat-flap, Spectator Money is taking this research seriously.


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