1) Oil prices fell between July and September, with Brent crude hitting $97 on 23rd September from $115 in late June. This appeared to confound fears that tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East might result in a supply squeeze. Slowing growth in China was widely believed to be responsible.
2) Bank account switching is progressing less quickly than expected, FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley declared. New results from the Payments Council revealed that in the first 11 months of its operation, 1.1 million customers had switched their accounts – a 19% increase on the previous period. But only 2.2% of current account holders had used the system overall.
3) Jean-Claude Juncker, the recently-elected president of the European Commission, gave David Cameron an unexpected present when Britain’s Jonathan Hill, a former leader of the House of Lords, was appointed European commissioner for financial services. Mr Cameron had earlier called Juncker’s election ‘a disaster for Europe’. No hard feelings, Dave.
4) The ‘Advice Gap’ following RDR will be resolved by ‘market innovation’, FCA CEO Martin Wheatley told the Treasury Select Committee on 9th September. “Whatever the numbers [of orphaned clients] are, people will innovate and fill those gaps,” he said. No, it wasn’t clear exactly what he meant by that.
5) Bitcoins had another wretched spell, with their value collapsing to US$398 by 23rd September, down from $647 in early July and $1,147 in December 2013. The news came as a new service was announced allowing consumers to run Bitcoin “wallets” within the euro payments system.
6) Investec offloaded its Kensington subprime mortgage lending operation to private equity specialists Blackstone and TPG for £180 million in cash. That was more than £100 million less than Investec had paid for it in 2007, but the deal frees up some £3.7 bn of troublesome legacy assets and will bolster the tier 1 capital ratio by about 1%.
7) UK house prices in the three months to August were 9.7% higher than a year earlier, the Halifax reported. But that represented a cooling after the alarming 10.2 per cent increase recorded in July – the fastest rate since September 2007.
8) Britain’s official GDP figures received a bizarre backdated boost from the adoption of new EU-standard calculations that incorporate the probable impact of ‘hidden’ activities such as prostitution and illegal drug dealing. The ONS valued them at £8.4 billion in 2012 – sharply down from £10.5 billion in 2007. So that’s all right then.
9) Mark Carney reiterated his belief that interest rates could rise in the spring. The Bank of England governor told the Trades Union Conference in Liverpool that a gentle increase next year, followed by ‘very gradual’ further increases, would see inflation settling at around its 2% target and a further 1.2 million jobs being created.
10)Britons take their personal pensions at an average age of 58, a new European survey revealed – earlier than the French (59) and the Germans (61), and among the earliest in Europe. But a doughty 20% of British over-65s were still working – by far the highest proportion in Europe.
11)Brazil formally went into recession in the second quarter, with a 0.6% GDP contraction that followed another 0.2% fall in Q1. The development disappointed BRICs investors, who had been hoping for better things.
12)Quilter Cheviot, the UK’s second-biggest independent wealth management group, was reported to have rejected a £600 million approach from Old Mutual. Bridgepoint, Quilter’s controlling shareholder, is planning an IPO which will value the wealth manager at up to £700 million.
13)America is the world’s third most competitive country, according to the World Economic Forum’s annual rankings – overtaking Finland and Germany but still behind Switzerland and Singapore. Britain came ninth, Japan was sixth.