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September 22, 2011

Accountant fails energy bill test

by Gill Montia
Accountant fails energy bill test
Energy tariffs are so complicated that even an accountant could not calculate how much they should be paying, according to latest research from Which?. The consumer group asked 36 people including a solicitor, an engineer and an accountant, to work out their domestic energy bill using only the information from the supplier’s website, and a calculator, pencil and paper or Excel. ...




September 14, 2011

Britons duped into buying “shoe-box” homes

by Gill Montia
”Britons
Britons are being duped into buying new homes that are too small to live in comfortably, with house builders and estate agents demonstrating a distinct "lack of transparency" over floor space. According to research from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), thousands of brand new homes are failing to provide the space families need, with the average new three-bedroom property (built ...




August 26, 2011

Retail outlook gloomy as sales fall

by Gill Montia
Retail outlook gloomy as sales fall
UK retail sales volumes fell in August, at the fastest pace for over a year, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reports. In a new quarterly survey, 46% of retailers said they had experienced falling sales in the two weeks to mid-August (compared with a year earlier) and the level of negativity registered over prospects for the coming quarter was at its ...




Thaw in private sector pay rises

by Gill Montia
Thaw in private sector pay rises
UK pay settlement levels are stable, according to the latest analysis from employment research specialist, Incomes Data Services (IDS). The average settlement for the three months to the end of July stood at 2.5%, having remained constant since January, and with pay settlements in manufacturing continuing to lead the way, typically at 2.9%. In addition, no pay freezes were recorded at private ...




August 25, 2011

Co-op hit by falling food sales

by Gill Montia
Co-op hit by falling food sales
Co-operative Group has reported a fall in first-half underlying profit to £230.8 million, down from £262.3 million a year earlier. The mutual has been hit by declining food sales in the face of strong competition, reduced government funding for prescriptions and a change in the income recognition policy on the sale of its funeral bonds. More positively, Co-op's food business has finally completed ...




Consumer confidence slips

by Gill Montia
Consumer confidence slips
Consumer confidence slipped by two points in July, according to Nationwide's index, returning to a level seen in the post-Christmas gloom of January. At 49 points, the lender's main confidence index remains well below its long-run average of 79, and the building society is not expecting a substantial improvement during the remainder of this year. Over half of those surveyed were shying away from major purchases, ...




Customer complaints down at Barclays

by Gill Montia
Customer complaints down at Barclays
Barclays has improved its customer service, with new complaints down 9% in the first half of 2011, compared with the previous six-month period, to 251,563. However, in the general insurance and protection category, volumes increased 25% to 73,692 with payment protection insurance (PPI) complaints leading the surge. The bank expects PPI volumes to be even greater during the remainder 2011 and says it is ...




Steve Jobs steps down at Apple

by Gill Montia
Steve Jobs steps down at Apple
Steve Jobs has stepped down as chief executive of technology giant, Apple, to be replaced by Tim Cook, previously the group's chief operating officer. In his resignation letter, Mr Jobs, who has been on medical leave following a diagnosis of cancer, said: "I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations ...




Brits to pay tax on money hidden in Swiss bank accounts

by Gill Montia
Brits to pay tax on money hidden in Swiss bank accounts
UK residents holding cash and investments with Swiss banks are to be taxed by Swiss authorities, with the money then handed over to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). A deal has been agreed between governments whereby account holders can retain their anonymity but will be forced to make their contribution to the Treasury. HMRC expects to receive billions ...




August 24, 2011

Japan’s sovereign debt rating cut

by Gill Montia
Japan's sovereign debt rating cut
Moody’s has lowered the government debt rating of Japan to Aa3 with a stable outlook, from Aa2. The credit rating agency has also taken action on the ratings of most Japanese banks, including Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, with the average downgrade one notch. According to Moody's, the sovereign downgrade has been prompted by the country's large budget deficit and the ...




Retailers assess riot damage to trading and staff

by Gill Montia
Retailers assess riot damage to trading and staff
A snapshot survey of retailers hit by the riots two weeks ago found that across 899 stores retailers lost over 7,500 hours of trading and reported more than 11,000 members of staff affected by the violence. However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) expects the damage to the sector as a whole to be "considerably higher" than the initial research ...




August 23, 2011

Manufacturers optimistic on orders and output

by Gill Montia
Manufacturers optimistic on orders and output
UK manufacturers are reporting healthy order books and expectations for output growth remain above their long-run average, despite being less strong than earlier this year. New research from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) also indicates that pricing pressures have eased following strong inflation during the first six months of 2011. Expectations for growth in factory output have picked up a little, with ...




Mortgage approvals nudge ahead

by Gill Montia
Mortgage approvals nudge ahead
The UK's High Street banks approved 74,590 mortgages in July, with the figure up from 71,521 in June and ahead of the previous six-month average (69,803). According to the British Bankers' Association (BBA) house purchase approvals came in at 33,417, activity having gathered pace since June (32,123) and exceeded the previous six-month average (30,695). At £151,500, the value of the typical house purchase loan ...




Bank ring-fencing threatens UK economy

by Gill Montia
Bank ring-fencing threatens UK economy
Britain's banks are warning that ring-fencing their retail activities, to protect against investment banking losses, could endanger the UK economy because of the cost involved. A ring-fencing proposal will form part of the Independent Commission on Banking's (ICB's) final report, due out in September. However, according to the British Bankers' Association (BBA), the proposed reform has not been costed and a "chorus" of concerned ...




UBS to axe 3,500 jobs

by Gill Montia
UBS to axe 3,500 jobs
Swiss investment bank, UBS, has announced that it will be cutting 3,500 jobs worldwide as part of its latest cost reduction programme. Approximately 45% of the job losses will come from its investment banking business, 35% from wealth management and Swiss bank, 10% from global asset management, and 10% from the group's wealth management Americas division. Last month, UBS reported pre-tax profits of CHF ...




August 22, 2011

Loan scam complaints up 50%

by Gill Montia
Loan scam complaints up 50%
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is warning people to steer clear of scam loan companies that take upfront fees but fail to provide credit, or offer unsuitable credit alternatives. The watchdog has seen a 50% year-on-year rise in complaints about loan scams, particularly credit applications that involve upfront fees sent through money transfer companies. It has therefore issued key "dos and ...




Business confidence falls as profit growth weakens

by Gill Montia
Business confidence falls as profit growth weakens
Confidence among British businesses has declined as both UK and global economic turmoil impact on firms' plans for the future. The latest ICAEW/Grant Thornton UK Business Confidence Monitor shows confidence at its lowest level since the third quarter of 2009, when the UK was still in recession, with firms seeing turnover and profit growth weakening and revising down future expectations. In particular, ...




Shops vacant as customers drift away

by Gill Montia
Shops vacant as customers drift away
The vacancy rate for shops across Britain's High Streets and shopping centres stands at over 11%, according to new research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Northern Ireland (17.1%), Wales (13.4%) and the North and Yorkshire (13.1%) recorded the highest vacancy rates, as overall footfall between May and July 2011 fell 1% compared with a year earlier. In terms of footfall, the ...




Finances worsen for 40% of UK households

by Gill Montia
Finances worsen for 40% of UK households
Almost 40% of UK households saw their finances deteriorate in August, according to the latest Markit Household Finance Index, with the rate of deterioration faster than at the height of the recession. Worsening finances were evident across all income groups, age ranges and regions, as the survey registered the fastest fall in cash available to spend on record, and ...




August 4, 2011

Base rate held at 0.5%

by Gill Montia
Base rate held at 0.5%
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has opted to keep the base rate at 0.5% in August, as widely expected. The rate has remained at its historic low for well over two years and earlier predictions of a rise this autumn lost credibility once UK economic growth slowed to 0.2%, in the second quarter. According to a recent BBC poll, 26 out ...