From World War to Sub-Prime Lending - It Is Still a Happy Sunday

Posted on Jan 30, 2022. by NTI

Sunday is often a very good time to perform a rain-check; depending on your liking for rain, or checking, and usually swathed in a dressing gown in bed, with a cup of tea beside you.

Today's article courtesy of the weekend team in the NTI newsroom is particularly aimed at savers; so that automatically disqualifies most of you, as figures released in 2021 revealed that almost one in five of the UK adult population have less than £100 in savings. As Neil said earlier this morning: "Those aren't savings, that's money in your pocket ready to pay for Sunday lunch." The '£100 number' is placed into a degree of perspective when you realise that at the end of 2021, 67 per cent of our population had a smart TV, and 88 per cent of us owned a smart phone. We don't like savings, we like stuff.

Some of you will know that stock markets around the globe have been roasted in January, falling by as much as 9 per cent in the US and only just shy of that on our own island. For instance, had Neil spent his Sunday lunch cash on shares in Netflixin 2021 it would now be worth about £91.50.

More broadly, investors around the world are emotionally coming to terms with the fact that we have reached the end of the era of free money; instead, facing up to four interest rate rises this year as part of what we always feel in the newsroom is a rather clumsy way of dealing with inflation (rather like persuading your daughter to respect an imposed evening curfew by murdering two of her best friends). The changes now being delivered by central banks - stopping bond-buying and raising rates, unimaginable as recently as a year ago - is only just beginning to bite in asset markets, reflecting investors' struggles to come to terms with increasing tightness in raising money.

The sudden and (for economists) unexpected turnaround has been dramatic for speculative stocks, as well as novel instruments, such as cryptocurrencies.

Ultra-cheap money that was washing around this time last year enabled companies to raise vast amounts of capital. Homebuyers raised mortgages at sub-prime levels because property prices were galloping at breakneck speeds, and distressed companies availed themselves of a dizzying array of Government-backed loans, being almost begged to take advantage of them. 

"Bounceback, recovery, interest-free? What can we do for you this afternoon? We know you agreed to take a 0.2% loan on your decripit premises this morning ..."

But high levels of indebtedness makes the world economy much more senistive to changes in monetary policy. Your neighbours' balance sheet may look better in the light of their property increasing in value, but much of this depends upon asset prices staying high.

We have Russian troops gathering on the Ukraine border and NATO sending forces to countries such as Estonia and Romania as we take a peek at an unimaginable future of the Soviet Union rising from a shallow grave. War is unimaginable, but so were interests rates of 7.2 per cent 12 months ago.

The Sunday news media is full of chat about Bounceback loan fraud costing the Government about £1 billion so far. The actual number is more like £70 million, but that doesn't make such good headlines. The pressure is on us insolvency practitioners to pursue director fraud and report it to the troops from HMRC following along behind us, but we need to be appointed first.

My, but it is going to be an interesting year.

Happy Sunday.

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