- Onward and Upward
Global stock markets continued to brush off fears expressed recently about higher US interest rates and the troubled Greek bailout. By late April the S&P 500 was close to its February all-time highs and the FTSE-100, the FTSE Eurofirst 300, the Shanghai Composite and the Nikkei 225 were firmly in record territory – although a little dented in the closing days of the month.
- Selling Annuities
17% of annuity holders would consider selling their contracts for cash, a survey from Tilney Bestinvest research found. 33% said they wouldn’t, and 50% said they had no plans either way.
UK inflation stayed at 0% in March for the second month running, according to the Office for National Statistics. Good news for buyers, worrying news for economists. Most current projections show a small dip into deflation during the summer months.
Payday lender Wonga suffered a pre-tax loss of £37.3 million in 2014, compared with a £39.7 million profit in 2013, as lending to UK consumers fell away in the wake of last year’s clampdowns in lending and debt rollover policies. The company had been forced to write off debts worth £220 million from more than 300,000 customers because of poor lending practices.
Ros Altmann, the government’s champion for older workers and a retirement specialist, was offered a Conservative peerage in the event of a Tory election win, plus a ministerial responsibility for consumer protection.
- Oil be Blowed
Russia’s economy shrank by 2% in the first quarter of 2015, according to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The premier blamed the weak oil price by also acknowledged the impact of sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. But, he insisted that the situation was not as bad as in 2009 and was in fact stabilising.
- Ello, Ello, Ello
Bitcoins headed back down toward $200 again as April progressed – the last time the price was below $200 was in January. What was odd here was that, unusually, there was no particularly bad news to prompt the price drop. Meanwhile Interpol launched a crypto-currency cybercrime unit, with some support from the bitcoin exchanges.
- Euro Bank Rate Stable
The European Central Bank voted to keep the main Eurozone interest rate at its record low of 0.05%, despite (or perhaps because of) perceptions that the euro was particularly weak. Meanwhile more government bonds went into negative yields.
- Hold my Beer
The United States has overtaken France as the world’s biggest wine consumer, according to a BNP Paribas report, with average annual consumption of 12 litres per person . However, Europe still accounts for 50% of wine consumption worldwide, and 84 of the 100 most famous wine brands in the world are French.
- Platform Champions
Allfunds, jointly owned by Santander and Italian banking group Intesea Sanpaolo, is Europe’s largest mutual fund platform, according to The Platforum. With €147bn in assets under administration, it is now bigger than UBS, last year’s winner. Cofunds is the UK’s largest with £69bn, followed by Fidelity FundsNetwork and Old Mutual Wealth
The Bank of England finally published details of its stress tests for seven large UK banks, designed to see how well they could cope not just with a crisis in the UK but also on the international stage. Up till then, banks had infamously already been obliged to meet the BoE’s test standards even though nobody knew what they were.
- Not Hacked Off at All
Trading on Bloomberg’s bond terminals crashed worldwide after a technical glitch on 17th April which took an estimated 300,000 traders offline for significant parts of the day and forced the postponement of a £3 billion debt sale by the UK government. Bloomberg angrily denied reports of a hack attack, blaming the failure on technical issues.