Headlines on Wednesday 18 September

Personal finance

Free school meals will be available to all reception, year one and year two pupils at school in England from next September, regardless of their parents’ income. Around 1.5m extra children will qualify for help as a result, saving families an average of £437 per year. The £600m plan is presented as the Liberal Democrat’s condition for supporting Conservative plans to implement a tax break for married couples worth £150 a year.

Currently free school meals are limited to the country’s 400,000 poorest families and experts have already questioned the wisdom of introducing costly universal support after cutting back on other universal payments such as child benefits for the better-off.  (Everywhere)

Meanwhile, a fifth of workers believe they will never have enough money to retire, according to a study by HSBC which warns that Britain must prepare for the ‘Age of the Unretired’. (Mail p2)

Property

House prices are booming to record highs with industry experts predicting a full recovery from the credit crunch, with the ONS House Price Index showing average values in July were up by £11,000 on July last year.

Prices in England hit a record high, exceeding the peak of January 2008 and taking the average house to £255,000 on the back of a roaring London market. Values are up almost 10% in the capital and by 2.5% in the South East. (Everywhere)

Business

The FTSE 100 will hit rise far above its record high to hit 8,000 by the end of next year, according to market strategists at Citigroup. Receeding fears about the break-up of the Eurozone combined with improving bank balance sheets and corporate earnings will lift investor appetite for equities. (Telegraph pB1)

More than a third of the £150m public funding available to entrepreneurs under the Start-Up Loans scheme is likely to be lost, with analysis suggesting that 40% of the loans are unlikely to be repayed. Just last week David Cameron increased funding for the scheme and extended eligibility from under-30s to all adults. (FT p4)

Recruitment

US banking group JP Morgan Chase has employed 3,000 extra staff in its compliance department during 2013 so far to prepare the market for the outcome of negotiations with regulators over the ‘London Whale’ trading incident. US prosecutors have accused the bank of a cultural breakdown because of the $6bn losses resulting from its over-blown trading positions. (FT p1, Guardian p23)

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