30 September 2013

He didn't?

Oh yes, he did.  The Guardian reports:
The cabinet minister responsible for fighting the effects of climate change claimed there would be advantages to an increase in temperature predicted by the United Nations including fewer people dying of cold in winter ...
The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP - what's not to excoriate?


Will they ever learn?

Doomed to repeat the folly?  One would have thought that they might have learned the lesson from last time.  The Independent reports:
Fears have been raised over the Prime Minister’s decision to hurry forward the second phase of the controversial Help to Buy scheme with warnings that it would backfire and prevent people getting on the property ladder whilst threatening to create a new housing bubble.
...Under the plan banks and building societies will be encouraged to lend up to £130bn to potential buyers seeking 95 per cent loans.
Some £12bn of taxpayers’ money has been earmarked to insure deposits of up to 15 per cent on properties worth £600,000.
Does it really make sense to encourage people to borrow 95% of the cost of house purchase, putting down only a 5% deposit?  When interest rates rise, many such people will find themselves in serious trouble.  While the government will be committed to (partly) bailing them out, the effects on individual families may be long-lasting.

And, in the absence of a significant increase in housing supply, the net effect may simply be a further increase in house prices.


29 September 2013

Totally unnecessary review

The Observer decided to review the performance of the new reader of the football results:
Green is the first female announcer to read the classified football scores, but in the build-up to her debut the respected broadcaster has tried to brush the issue aside. Green stated in the buildup that her gender was not relevant – all that mattered was that she carried out her task professionally. She appeared to achieve that goal comfortably in an effortless first outing.
Green's debut, heard by millions on Radio 5 Live and the World Service, went without a hitch on a day of remarkable results – from Manchester United 1 West Bromwich Albion 2 to Rangers 8 Stenhousemuir 0. The radio veteran cruised through the classified scores with plenty of poise and little fuss, adding only "and finally" ahead of the last result – The New Saints 6, Carmarthen Town 0. Aside from a Tottenham win, things could hardly have gone more smoothly.
This was the wonderful Charlotte - it was never going to be anything less than perfect.

27 September 2013

Flogging it on the cheap

Is the coalition government so desperate to have a successful privatisation?  Obviously yes (with the added bonus that it will make millions for their chums in the City).  The Guardian reports:
The government is racing to push through the £3.3bn privatisation of Royal Mailbefore postmen and women have the chance to walkout on strike against the "great British flog off".
Formally kicking off the sale, Cable said the government will sell the shares at between 260p and 330p, valuing the business at £2.6bn-£3.3bn. The sale could swell Treasury coffers by more than £2bn.
Cable said he had been "encouraged by the interest shown by potential investors so far", which is why the government has increased the amount of shares it may sell from at least 50% to up to 70%.
Members of the public will be able to apply for a minimum of £750 worth of stock online, at the Post Office or through brokers until 8 October. The shares will pay a 7.7% dividend before April.
Guess how many companies in the FTSE 100 pay a dividend that high?  Not a single one.
Are we, the taxpayers, being screwed?  Damn right we are.

26 September 2013

Edinburgh grub

The Guardian has a rundown of the best cheap eats in my dear old home town.  I cannot say that I have tried the food in any of them, although I've had a pint or two in Thomson's.  But I rather fancy the square venison sausage.

Anyway, back to Spain this afternoon, so I will have to delay any tastings until my next visit.

All very confusing

I am having difficulty in keeping up.  It seems that the Labour Party wants to penalise those poor, misunderstood creatures, the energy companies, whose corporate profits are desperately needed in order to keep their shareholders in the style to which they have become accustomed.  Meanwhile, Slasher Osborne and his Treasury are valiantly defending the rights of bankers to continue securing massive bonuses despite the proposed cap emanating from the villainous meddlers from Brussels.  Oh, and when is a housing bubble not a housing bubble?  When the Bank of England says so, apparently ...

Has the world gone crazy or what?


19 September 2013

Conversation of the week

From here:
Cameron: What's all this about women not finding me very attractive?
Osborne: It's hard to imagine, isn't it?
Cameron: I always rather thought women rather fancied a Boden-catalogue man.
Hague: Maybe it's your personality they don't like.
Osborne: You're not helping. Dave's really sensitive about this. He really thought the party had made a breakthrough with the laydeez.
Tim Loughton: That Sarah Teather bird. Good job she's leaving at the next election. She's totally bloody useless. She called herself a families minister and she couldn't even be bothered to have a family. What a hypocrite.
Hague: Quite …
Loughton: I mean, it's like you being foreign secretary when you're not a bloody foreigner.
Osborne: You're not helping, either.


18 September 2013

It could happen to any vehicle

Bloomberg reports:
Tires that wear out too soon are adding to the troubles facing Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-35, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system.
Landing-gear tires made by Dunlop Aircraft Tyres Ltd. for the Marine Corps version of the fighter have “been experiencing an unacceptable wear rate when operating as a conventional aircraft,” according to Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Defense Department’s F-35 program office.
Yes, I used to have that problem with my old Nissan Micra.

The fx pros and cons

While we are on the subject of financial matters, if you are thinking of a winter holiday in the Florida sun or of a skiing holiday in Europe, now may be the time to consider buying foreign currency.  The pound is now worth over 1.59 dollars or over 1.19 euros (see here), in both cases higher than it has been since last winter.

Unless, of course, you think that the pound sterling may rise further ...


17 September 2013

Low finance

Well, what would you have done?  The Government chose to sell part of Lloyds when the share price kicked up over 77 pence, compared with the 73.6 pence they cost, resulting in a profit of about 5%.  Here is the Lloyds share price movement over the past year:

You might have been tempted to hold on a bit longer, waiting for the price to rise further.  Me?  Well I sold my Lloyds shares last month, when the price hit 74.5 pence, compared with the 70 pence I paid for them.

But that's me with buying and selling shares:  don't be greedy, take your 5% profit, be thankful and move on.


16 September 2013

No real choice

So it has become easier to switch your current account from bank to bank.  The Guardian reports:
Britain's 46 million current account holders will be bombarded from Monday with offers to switch banks thanks to the formal introduction of "seven-day switching", after a £750m systems overhaul to ensure direct debits and payments can be transferred between providers in the space of a week.
Three-quarters of current accounts are still held by the "big four" high-street banks, with the typical customer staying with a bank for 17 years – six years longer than the average length of a marriage. Fears of payments going awry has discouraged most customers from moving, even if they have endured poor service. A recent survey found that one in five people would rather go to the dentist than try to switch their current account....Martin Lewis, creator of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "Far too many people whinge that their bank is a bastard, but then do nothing about it. A whole swath of the country still has the same bank account they set up as a child on the back of being given a piggy bank. Don't whinge, ditch and switch."
But what if your new bank is just as bad as your old bank?  Why would it be any better?  As Ms Kylie Minogue once said, better the devil you know.


12 September 2013

Headline of the day

Incomprehensible from Bloomberg (here):
Aussie Drops on Jobless as Won to Kiwi Climb on Rate View
Mean anything?  Here is the explanation:
The Australian dollar fell for the first time in a week and the nation’s bonds rallied after unemployment rose, while New Zealand’s dollar and South Korean won gained after central bank decisions. Japan’s stocks dropped as Sharp Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (7211)planned share sales.
The Aussie weakened 0.8 percent to 92.58 U.S. cents as of 12:42 p.m. in Singapore and the yield on 10-year Australian government bonds slid 12 basis points, the most in a month, to 4.05 percent. The kiwi jumped 0.5 percent, while the won headed for a six-month high. The Topix Index (TPX) lost 0.5 percent as the yen climbed against the dollar. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.2 percent while Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures fell 0.1 percent. Gold dropped to a three-week low,
All clear now?  No?  Well, me neither.

I don't know why I read this stuff.


Questions, questions

I confess to some confusion on the matter of Syria.  Why are the Americans so trusting of Russia and the Syrian government?  The Guardian notes:
The US has welcomed what it called "very specific" Russian proposals to secure the handover of Syria's chemical weapons before key talks in Geneva on Thursday.
Placing its faith in Moscow's leverage over its Syrian ally, the White House urged patience and said it was increasingly confident that its Kremlin partners were acting in good faith by "putting their prestige on the line".
"We have seen more co-operation from Russia in the last two days than we have heard in the last two years," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
"The proposal they have put forward is very specific and the Syrian reaction is a total about-face. This is significant."
Are we really going to see Syria admit to the ownership of chemical weapons and provide details of their locations?  Then permit UN arms inspectors to verify the position and supervise their destruction?  Is this even possible in the middle of a civil war?  And how long will it take to discover that the proposals are just another delaying tactic, allowing Assad to continue the assault on the rebels?  And how does any of this help the poor damned Syrian people?

Furthermore, Obama and Kerry are not fools.  They must know that they are being taken for a ride.  So is their complaisant attitude a reflection of the fact that they have now decided that military intervention is no longer advisable or feasible?  If so, it is cynicism at its most extreme.


10 September 2013

Trampling upon the green shoots

By George, he thinks he's cracked it!  The Independent reports:
George Osborne claimed a decisive victory for his economic policy by telling Labour it had “lost the argument” and predicting that Britain was now finally “turning a corner”.
Speaking at a building site in the City of London the Chancellor said Britain’s return to growth over the first half of the year, after two years of stagnation, vindicated his bitterly-contested deficit reduction programme and demonstrated that only he could be trusted with the economy.
“We held our nerve when many told us to abandon our plan” he said. “The evidence increasingly suggests that our macroeconomic plan was the right one and is working.”
Accordingly, we can now expect "the decisive victory" to turn to ashes within weeks.  Georgie boy is turning a corner in order to be run over by an oncoming juggernaut.

Memo to politicians:  Beware of announcing success; it always ends in tears ...

05 September 2013

Missing the point?

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of economists, with fingers pointing ominously at the governor of the Bank of England.  This in CityAM is not untypical:
COULD Mark Carney’s luck have already run out? Given that he has only been governor of the Bank of England since July, it may sound churlish even to ask such a question. But the timing of his revolutionary announcement that interest rates would stay on hold for three years – barring a spike in inflation or a bubble – is starting to look terrible. It was a signal that the economy remained weak, that it needed historically low interest rates for years to come and that normalisation could wait.
That might have made sense had the economy continued to flatline or grow by a few tenths of a per cent a quarter. But instead we have seen a flood of strong data over the past few months, culminating in yesterday’s astonishingly good services sector purchasing managers index, the best since 2006, taking the composite index for the entire economy to its highest reading since 1998. The economy remains riddled with structural problems but activity is bouncing back dramatically.
The real point, dear friends, is that the UK economy appears to be recovering.  It started when Mr Carney took up his post and has ever since intensified.  Rejoicing would seem to be a more appropriate reaction.  And, by the way, give the man a bonus ...

04 September 2013

Hey, I'm rich!

Amazon sent me a credit note for 1 penny:
Credit Note Date: 03/09/13
Credit Note Number: EUVINS1-VCN-GB-9286733
Original Order Number: 203-8901334-6791512
Supplier Name: Amazon EU S.a.r.L.
Supplier Address: 5 rue Plaetis, L-2338, Luxembourg
Supplier VAT number: GB727255821
Customer Name:[ XXX]
Customer Ship To Address:[XXX]
Customer Bill To Address:[XXX}
QtyItemUnit Price
(VAT Exclusive)
VAT RateVATTotal Price
(VAT Inclusive)
1[XXX] - Season 1 [DVD] [2013]-£0.0120.00%£0.00-£0.01
TOTAL: -£0.01
Now, what should I spend it on?

03 September 2013

Fred the Shred

It's easy to put the boot in after the event.  But they never dare make their instant judgements at the time.  But still they cluster round the corpse.  The Independent reports:
... what role did the obsessive streak in Goodwin’s character play in RBS’ eventual downfall?
Professor Malcolm Higgs, a leading occupational psychologist at the University of Southampton, toldThe Independent it certainly can’t have helped matters.
“You occasionally find this narcissistic tendency in CEOs,” he said. “They want to control everything, they don’t want to know that they’re not perfect. It’s not conducive to successful leadership of a company.”
Lehman Brothers boss Dick Fuld had similar tendencies, Professor Higgs said.“The big question is: how do these ‘corporate psychopaths’ get to the top? They’re actually quite engaging people, they can appear very visionary. But they can’t take any negative feedback, so they lose contact with reality.”
For some of us, the professional vultures are just as loathsome as their subjects.

02 September 2013

The best days of your life

I do not usually have much sympathy for teachers but I do not have a heart of stone.  This piece in The Guardian made me think:
Teenagers will be forced to continue studying English and maths if they fail to get good enough marks in the two subjects at GCSEs under government changes.
Under the rules that come into force this week, 16-year-olds will be required to get at least a C grade in the two subjects or face carrying on until they do. Ministers are keen to improve the performance of British schoolchildren in what were called the "most important [subjects] in the world".
The education secretary, Michael Gove, said: "Good qualifications in English and maths are what employers demand before all others. They are, quite simply, the most important vocational skills a young person can have. Young people must be able to demonstrate their understanding of these subjects."
Aye, well, Mr Gove.  But you're not the poor sod of a teacher who has the unenviable task of teaching English or mathematics to a bunch of bolshie 16 and 17 year-olds who have already demonstrated a fairly convincing inability to deal with the subject matter.