Monday’s headlines 10.02.14

Economics
The eurozone’s new chief banking regulator says that weak banks should be allowed to fail. It has said that some of the region’s lenders have no future and should be allowed to die, heralding a far tougher approach to supervision across the currency bloc. (Cover of the FT)

The Bank of England is going to give guidance on Wednesday on how quickly interest rates will rise in Britain’s rapidly growing economy. After Mark Carney, bank governor, signalled that the BoE would move away from linking rate rises to unemployment, its Monetary Policy Committee has been considering how to provide clarity to markets without jeopardising growth. Many economists think the bank will use its scheduled quarterly Inflation Report to build on recent utterances indicating there is “no immediate need” to raise rates and that monetary policy will be tightened “gradually”. They also believe the bank will broaden its analysis to include other economic data beyond unemployment, probably including wages and underemployment. (p.2 of FT)

New research from the Business Trends survey, produced by accountancy firm BDO suggests that interest rates could rise in the “very near future”. The report states that business optimism reached record levels in January, signalling rapid economic growth over the next two quarters (p.B4 of The Daily Telegraph)

The Chairmen of Britain’s leading retailers have become significantly more optimistic about the prospects for the economy and have performed a dramatic U-turn on the performance of the government. According to the fourth annual survey of chairmen by headhunter Korn Ferry, 73% of chairmen are optimistic about the outlook for the economy, compared with just 15% last year. (p.B1 of The Daily Telegraph)

Personal Finance
Young people are bearing the burden of increasing levels of debt, according to a poll that shows how the older generation are escaping the squeeze in incomes. People in their 20s and 30s face a stark choice between “putting their lives on hold or racking up substantial debt”, according to the Demos thinktank that commissed the poll. The Populus poll of 1,775 adults found that more than half (55%) of those aged 18 to 24 – and 48% of those aged 25 to 34 – say their debts have increased over the past five years. This compares with a 13% rise for those aged over 65. (p.10 of The Guardian)

Property
Four in every 10 London homes sold for more than £1m last year were bou8ght by foreign buyers, according to new research. The number of homes being sold for more than £1m in Greater London rose to 6,145, up 20% on 2012. The research, from aviation firm Beechcraft Corporation, claims non-British buyers spent a combined £5.1bn on London properties (p.14 of The Independent)

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Marsh & Parsons:

Record January for the Prime London Property Market

 Image 

  • Almost half (48%) of Prime London property sold for, or in excess of, the asking price
  • Over a third (34%) of property in January sold within two weeks of being put on the market
  • Ratio of supply and demand rose to a four-year high with 23 registered buyers for each available property
  • Strong demand is pushing prices higher, with the average price of two-bedroom properties in Outer Prime London increasing by 17% in 2013, an increase of almost £100,000

 

The Prime London market experienced a bumper January in 2014, with properties selling in record time and for closer to the asking price than ever before, according to new data from estate agent Marsh & Parsons.

 

Over a third (34%) of property in January was sold within two weeks of being put on the market – twice as many properties in this timeframe compared to January 2013.

 

In addition, almost half (48%) of all property in January sold for, or in excess of, the asking price. This meant that, on average across all property sold, 99% of the asking price is currently being achieved – an increase from 98% during the past two years.

 

Peter Rollings, CEO at Marsh & Parsons, commented: “Now is the time to get a jackpot price on property thanks to a surge of potential buyers entering the market in the New Year. These extraordinary conditions have created a strong seller’s market and one of the best opportunities to sell property in recent years.

 

“But conditions like this won’t last. Many people believe that the best time to market property is during the busier months of the spring. But these sellers could be missing a trick – the increasing levels of property supply at that time of year will dissipate current levels of demand, and bring about a return to more normal market conditions in the spring.”

 

Supply and Demand

 

In January, there were 23 registered buyers competing for each available property on Marsh & Parsons’ books. This was the highest level since 2010, and represents a dramatic increase from the ratio of 14 registered buyers per property in January 2013.  Compared to the same point last year, 19% more buyers entered the market in competition for 28% fewer properties – making this a strong seller’s market.

 

But for the last four years, an average of 10% more property has become available between the months of January and April.  This percentage jumped considerably between 2012 and 2013 as the property market recovered, and if this trend continues, 18% more property could hit the market by spring 2014.

 

Peter Rollings continued: “London’s rising population, together with a perfect combination of low interest rates and competitive mortgage finance has created a surge of potential buyers. But the supply of housing stock has remained more subdued. Our more astute sellers are putting their properties on the market now because they know that the imbalance of supply and demand will help them to get a great price.

 

“In a seller’s market, property regularly goes for over the asking price, so buyers need to be realistic when viewing property and placing bids. When they find their chosen property, they must not delay. Being decisive is key to successful negotiations.”

 

Impact on Prices

 

The average value of two-bedroom properties in Outer Prime London increased by nearly £100,000 during 2013 following a 17% annual growth, according to Marsh & Parsons’ latest London Property Monitor.

The average value of two-bedroom properties in Outer Prime London increased by nearly £100,000 during 2013 following a 17% annual growth, according to Marsh & Parsons’ latest London Property Monitor.

 

The average price of a two-bedroom property in Outer Prime London – comprising non-central areas such as Brook Green, Fulham and Barnes – now stands at £673,812. This is an increase of £98,214 since Q4 2012, when the average price of a two-bed in these areas was £575,597.

 

The average price of a two-bedroom property in Outer Prime London – comprising non-central areas such as Brook Green, Fulham and Barnes – now stands at £673,812. This is an increase of £98,214 since Q4 2012, when the average price of a two-bed in these areas was £575,597.

 

Property Type Breakdown

   

All Prime London

Prime Central London

Outer Prime London

1 Bed

 £     520,076

 £        599,131

 £        470,668

2 Bed

 £     939,839

 £     1,365,482

 £        673,812

3 Bed

 £  1,577,109

 £     2,362,956

 £     1,004,493

4 Bed

 £  2,024,000

 £     2,979,556

 £     1,426,778

 

 

Looking at average values across all property types, growth in Outer Prime London outpaced Prime Central London by 50% during 2013, with annual growth of 15%, compared to annual growth of 10% in the Prime Central areas of Chelsea, Kensington, Notting Hill, Holland Park and Pimlico.

 

The top five Outer Prime ‘hotspots’, where the highest levels of growth were recorded during 2013 were: Barnes (average annual price growth of 19%), Balham, Clapham, Fulham (all 18% annual growth), and Battersea (15% annual growth). 

 

Peter Rollings continued: “Last year the biggest price increases were to be found in the Outer Prime London ‘villages’. These areas are all popular with UK buyers and are favoured for their community feel and local atmospheres. Slightly lower property prices in these areas also attract those who may have been priced out of more central areas.

 

“But early indications in January point to a turnaround. While parts of Outer Prime London sped ahead in 2013, our data suggests that Prime Central areas are due for a growth spurt in 2014. This was beginning to happen in the third quarter of last year and looks set to surge forward later this year.”

 

Prime London Property Price Movements

 

Average value

Quarterly Change

Annual Change

Prime London

£ 1,477,699

3.0%

12.3%

Prime Central London

£ 2,108,717

2.3%

10.0%

Outer Prime London

£ 1,083,313

4.0%

15.1%

 

 

Headlines on Friday 7 February

Personal finance

Struggling Brits are weighed down with an estimated £139bn worth of unsecured debt. Research by Moneysupermarket shows the average debt – excluding mortgages – is £4,412. The typical 18 to 24 year old owes more than £1,000 extra. Rock bottom interest rates could be fuelling the problem by tempting people to borrow more. One in five of us have at least two forms of unsecured borrowing such as an overdraft, credit card, personal loan or store card. (Mirror p2)

Property

Almost 300,000 families are housing another family under their roof as stagnant wages and rising house prices take their toll. Official figures show the number of “concealed families” has risen by 70 per cent in the last decade to almost 300,000. Concealed families include young couples living with one set of parents, older people living with adult children and their families, lone parents living with their parents and totally unrelated families sharing a home (Times p4, Telegraph p8).

Business/economy

The European Central Bank has rejected calls for radical action to head off deflation and relieve pressure on emerging markets. Despite stating it is ready to act if inflation falls even further below target or if the recovery falters, it has offered no clear guidance on future policy. Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, Barclays and RBS had all been expecting a cut in the main interest rate, currently 0.25%, while widespread reports suggested the ECB would open the door to quantitative easing (Telegraph b1).

Recruitment

Canadian manufacturer Bombardier has won a £1bn contract to supply the trains for Crossrail, Lnodon’s new east-west rail line. The move will create 340 jobs at its plant in Derby as well as 260 positions at a maintenance depot in northwest London, preserving the future of Britain’s sole surviving train factory (FT p2, Telegraph b1, Express p30).

£2 Billion Lending Record for Bridging Industry

  • Industry consolidates expansion with gross bridging lending of £2 billion in 2013
  • Annual lending growth is driven by extra projects, with the total number of loans up by a third
  • Bridging interest rates reach record lows, averaging 1.11% over two months to 1st January

Gross bridging lending totalled £2.0 billion in the twelve months to 1st January, up 3.3% from the annual figure in November 2013.

This brings annual growth in gross bridging lending to 27% – up from £1.57 billion in gross bridging lending in 2012.

In the two month period from 1st November to 1st January 2014, industry gross bridging lending was £419 million, up 5.5% from £397 million in the previous two months.

If lending continued at this rate for a year, gross lending in the next twelve months would be £2.51 billion per year.

Duncan Kreeger comments: “Economic progress feels more solid by the week, and it’s branching out across every area of business. By securing vital projects against property, firms and individuals stand to make the most from a year of great opportunity.

“Bridging has grown up from the industry it once was, and it’s still evolving in 2014. Lenders are expanding and opening their doors to different types of borrower. An economy on the move needs rapid finance that can really get projects started – and short-term secured lending is moving to fill that gap.”

Trends in the Bridging Industry

The most significant factor powering the expansion of gross lending is growth in the number of deals agreed.

Industry loan volumes during the two months ending 1st January increased by 10.8% compared to the previous two month period. This brings loan volumes for the whole of 2013 to levels one third (33%) higher than the preceding twelve months.

Meanwhile, the average value of a bridging loan was largely static. The average loan is now worth £459,000, representing a slight drop of 1.4% from the two months ending 1st November.

On an annual basis, loans in 2013 were larger than the previous twelve months, in line with the long term trend. For the last twelve months as a whole, loans averaged £430,000, or 5.2% more than the average loan in 2012.

Duncan Kreeger continues: “Just a few years ago the average bridging loan was worth half what it is now. Since then, the biggest transformation has been a growing interest from bigger property developers, professional investors and small businesses looking for more significant funds.

“The last few months have seen growth focused on volumes as enquiries are coming in thick and fast. But the long-term trend in terms of loan sizes is also moving upwards. Multi-million pound deals aren’t uncommon anymore, and as 2014 unfolds, even the most ambitious ideas are becoming ever more possible.”

Loan to Value Ratios

Loan-to-value ratios across the bridging industry have risen by almost one percentage point in recent months. In the two months to 1st January the average LTV was 48.1%, or 0.9 percentage points higher than LTVs of 47.2% in the previous two month period to 1st November.

On an annual basis loan to value ratios are still lower than previous highs. The average LTV across all twelve months of 2013 was 46.4% – down from 48.0% in 2012.

Duncan Kreeger comments: “Proper underwriting and a “safety first” approach have always been cornerstones of the best bridging lenders. Higher LTVs are completely consistent with that principle, but as properties grow in value more gearing is not always necessary.

“There is certainly space to lend at higher loan ratios this year, and the industry definitely has capacity to fund bigger loans where needed. Just as business and investment opportunities are opening up, the property market is putting the pedal to the floor. Alongside rates that look set to stay low for some time, slightly higher LTVs could mean more projects will have access to the finance they deserve.”

Bridging Interest Rates

As a whole, 2013 witnessed the lowest interest rates on record for the bridging industry, averaging just 1.19% across the entire year. This compares to 1.37% in 2012 and an average interest rate of 1.55% in 2010, the first year of the West One Bridging Index.

On bi-monthly basis, rates have also fallen to a record low. In the final two months of 2013, bridging loans cost on average 1.11% per month, down from 1.22% in the two months ending 1st November.

By comparison with other asset classes, potential returns for those funding bridging loans remain several times the total return of mainstream investment classes. Monthly product rates currently stand at 4.5 times those of 10 year government bonds, with a monthly spread of 0.87 percentage points.

Mark Abrahams, CEO of West One Loans, concludes: “Nearly seven years on from the financial crisis, markets are still shaking with volatility.

“Equities of all kinds are far too risky to form a large portion of most investors’ portfolios, and most fixed income products are set for years of trauma as central banks begin to wind up artificial bond-buying programmes like quantitative easing.

“As mainstream lenders already feel the first withdrawal symptoms from artificial stimulus and special measures, money from normal investors will be more in demand in 2014. And from a lending perspective, that will also be a serious advantage for privately funded lenders.”

Wriglesworth Vlog: Paper Summary for 6th February 2014

The key macro-economic, personal finance, property and recruitment stories from today’s papers, read by Wriglesworth senior account executive Ludo Baynham-Herd

Economics

  • House prices are likely to continue rising for at least another ten years, George Osborne suggested yesterday when he attacked “Nimbys” for slowing down planning reforms – reported on the front page of The Times by Sam Coates, Philip Aldrick and Francis Elliott. The Chancellor told peers that the shortage of housing was an historic problem as he stressed that the coalition was trying to boost supply as well as providing cheaper home loans to struggling families. “I imagine if we were to assemble again in ten years’ time, we would still be talking about the challenge of making sure that our housing supply keeps up with demand,” he told the House of Lords Economics Affairs Committee. Mr Osborne defended the Help to Buy policy in the face of criticism from Liberal Democrats such as Vince Cable, who suggested last week reducing the maximum home purchase of £600,000.

 

Personal Finance

  • While The Sun’s leader is dedicated to energy prices, the Daily Mail looks at miss-selling of superfluous insurance against credit card fraud along with a brief history of miss-selling scandals – from pensions mis-selling scandal, endowment mortgages, and Payment Protection Insurance to interest-rate swap loans and packaged bank accounts. Some 7 million customers of banks such as Barclays, Santander and RBS have been conned into paying up to £1.3billion for policies they don’t need – Lloyds is now implicated as well. The Mail says “though the products mis-sold may have varied, one mystery endures. Why, after this long history of deception and grand larceny, has not a single senior banker been hauled before the courts?…. This fraud won’t cease until the guilty are behind bars.”

 

Property

  • Prince Charles has waded into the battle for residents of Somerset according to the front page of The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Mail. The Mirror and the Daily Telegraph are unlikely bedfellows but not only do they also put Charles’ criticism of the official response to the crisis on the front page – they also run editorials on it. Although it was not overtly political, the Daily Telegraph compared the Prince’s visit (he was greeted warmly) to that of Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, who was met with placards and jeers. The Telegraph says the visit “reminded us in what low regard quangocrats – such as the mysteriously absent Chris Smith, who runs the Environment Agency – are held.” The Mirror’s Leader piece, on the other hand says the Prince of Wales criticising the disastrously slow response… “is a royal seal of disapproval on David Cameron’s Government”.

 

Recruitment

  • The Daily Express says “Britain’s overstretched public services are nearing breaking point” blaming immigration. “One in four babies born in this country have a mother who comes from outside the UK, while Afghan and Somali women are having four or more children, more than twice the national average. They will… need medical care before, during and after the birth… and that’s before the needs of schooling and housing even enter the equation…. This simply has got to stop. The Prime Minister has talked grandiosely about bringing net migration figures into the tens of thousands (and even that would be too much in this overcrowded little isle) and yet it has been revealed that net migration from the EU rose to 106,000 in the year ending June 2013, up from 72,000 the previous year. And that was before immigration controls on people arriving from Eastern Europe were lifted in January. Labour’s stance on immigration was one of the wickedest policies it pursued in its 13 years of office, a course of action foisted on the electorate for utterly cynical reasons which has changed the face of this country for ever.” The Express concludes, “Mr Cameron must act to stem further damage. And fast.”