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A few weeks back I found this fantastic January 09 article by Norman Lamont. Despite my delay in commenting on it, this type of material is unfortunately set to have a rather long shelf life, unfortunately for us Britons; Gordon Brown is set to wreak further havoc in the economy before the fat lady sings eventually.

Lord Lamont argues that Brown is “like an arsonist posing as a firefighter”. What does he mean by that?

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When will this government at last start cutting its wasteful spending, the money it has been squandering for years, and money that – surely – it is now seeing it cannot afford to throw around any longer?

We are now finally hearing admissions about the mammoth scale of government debt UK’s accumulated over the recent years and especially in the aftermath of the financial sector fiasco, and that Britain will be saddled with this debt for 20 years or more. Debt that both us and the next generation will have to shoulder and pay for through higher taxes whilst the government is stuggling to balance its books and finds that its income is lower than its expenditure. None of these forecasts make pretty reading, but let’s face it, we were all aware something of this magnitude was about to start unfolding.

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Searching for various opinions and predictions about the end of this recession, I came across the blog called Angry Bear, written by a number of US economists, some of them PhDs, which I found interesting hence I am going to quote heavily from it.

In this article, the author writes his prediction about the end of this recession in the US:

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Happy New Year to you, my reader.

I’ve not been blogging since before Xmas. To some extent, there is so much negativity around in news headlines that it’s all a bit of a blur. So I’ve been focussing on work – our little IT business – and planning 2009 hiking challenges around Britain, one of our great hobbies. This certainly does make one feel much more positive and I think it’s crucial at this time to have an aspiration which takes you away from the decidedly average economic outlook.

I am extremely happy to see that although companies are more careful with their money, the IT sector is still quite buoyant – so it is not all doom and gloom for us at the moment. My first web-based project should go live at the start of March and this is keeping me very busy. It’s also terribly exciting to know there will soon be a website out there that I project managed. Read the rest of this entry »

The onset of the recession on the UK High street has not really been noticeable up until now, but is starting to get quite visible.

We live in a small town in England. One could call our county fairly affluent, but it’s still a small town (full of history, too many tourists on Bank holiday weekends, some shabby buildings, some shops stuck in the 1960ies, and hundreds of grannies going about their chores on a daily basis… you know what it’s like).

There are plenty of shops in our town. There has been a move towards “premium shops” in the last 4 years that we’ve been here. A deli opened up and Costa coffee made its mark, loud and proud as it always does, on the main square (at least it’s not Starbucks, I say). But the outlook is changing. Read the rest of this entry »

It would have been a bombshell for many, but in good old British tradition details of this annoucement were leaked this weekend, so here we are picking this apart before Alistair Darling has made his speech due later on today.

The jist of it: Labour want to spend their way out of this unprecedented recession. And we are all seriously concerned that the numbers behind the justification of the intention to spend our way out of the recession just does not seem to add up.

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My other half and I have recently started a small IT consultancy business. Earlier this week, I went on a 3 day business start-up course to recap on fundamentals of law, marketing, finance and accounting. The course was organised by a UK organisation called Business Link. Its objective is to provide free advice and coaching to new start-ups.

I was a bit sceptical of how useful the course was going to be, but I have to say it was quite good. I feel that it has left me feeling inspired to go out there and make money. They say that at least 50% of small business fail – it must be more than that though – and it’s not difficult to see why this is so. Our tutor said that we as attendees maximised our chances of being in the successful 50% by coming on this course. Judging by the responses of fellow students I am inclined to believe him.

People set up on their own for all sorts of reasons, but it seems the desire for independence and flexibility is one of the biggest drivers. However many are ill-prepared. The students on this course were full of enthusiasm and great ideas. Unfortunately a few were in for a rude shock when it came to the basics of accounting and finance. For example, as we were doing a cash flow forecasting exercise, there was a sharp intake of breath from one lady. She looked around shocked and announced that she just realised she could not implement her business idea for at least another year – she forgot about the costs of buying or leasing a van and other key equipment. And she already printed labels and logos for her products! She is lucky that she realised the problem now and not after investing even more into her start-up. But many more would not have a clue and launch straight in.

Granted, it is scary to make this step at the start of a recession however well-prepared one might be. The people I know – my ex-colleagues – are keeping their heads down and holding onto their corporate jobs for dear life. I really hope there would be no going back for me. I spent so many years dreaming about working for myself that making a U-turn now and running for the relative safety of full time employment is the last thing that I want to do.

It’s all in the mindset, it seems. Over the years, I have lost count of the “final straws” in my last job with my old employer, but I never thought I’d actually do it. Watching myself getting progressively more miserable has eventually tipped the scales in favour of drastic action. So here I am facing the unknown and the daunting ahead, trying to contain my excitement.

Doing a basic SWOT (Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on any new start-up is showing that Recession is a threat. However I firmly believe that it should also teach us rigorous cost control, discipline and focus, which will give us an edge in future years. Running a business with few frills but delivering a fantastic product or level of service to a customer is a very very worthwhile objective to achieve at any time of the economic cycle.

Wish us luck – and if you, my reader, need an IT project manager, maybe we should talk? 🙂

Yesterday interest rates in the UK were slashed 1.5%, an unprecedented move which literally drew gasps of surprise from the City of London. At most perhaps 1% was expected.

Recapturing the initiative: The move was meant, the Bank claims, to be that decisive step in dragging the country out of the unfolding recession. But it seems that the investors were not impressed. UK shares continued falling on the day and the FTSE ended up 5.7% lower.

The Bank is seemingly trying to re-capture the initiative so that it is seen to be in control of the economy. It does not feel like it is in control, though, and the latest surprise interest rate cut feels like a knee-jerk reaction to events.

Economic outlook: UK interest rates have been quite high for some time and the Bank of England has been trying to micro-manage its inflation targets by fine-tuning its rates at 0.25% at a time. It lost track of the bigger picture long ago, being obsessed with inflation for way too long. Now the economy is shrinking, unemployment is on the rise, no-one is lending, no-one is spending, the markets are unstable and panicky and the financial system is in a mess. And they think they are going to be seen as leaders saving the day with a rate cut out of the blue? I don’t think so; too little, too late.

The rates should have been cut much earlier, then they could have had an impact when it mattered. That was at the latest at the start of 2008.

Retail banks’ response: One of the reasons this is not going to be an economic remedy that the Bank of England wants is to be is that retail banks are going to pass on as little of the rate cut as possible to their customers. Retail banks are in a big spot of bother themselves, needing to regroup after the credit crunch contraction set in and wiped out their balance sheets assets.

Being aggressive competetive profit-making organisation (= or fat cats as others will call them) that they are, they have no altruistic tendencies to help out consumers in need of cheaper credit – they are out to squeeze as much money as possible out of all of us.

We might argue it is socially irresponsible to act in this way when they ended the global economy in an unprecedented mess. But banks are exactly that – always have been – probably always will be – out for themselves. At best they will say they are serving their shareholders’ interests, although I have argued
before that often these are just lofty words of intent.

Yesterday’s interest rate cut will benefit banks which will now be able to secure cheaper credit for themselves at the time when credit is scarce. Banks are not going to willingly give all of this money away to its customers by correspondingly reducing their own lending rate and thus eliminating their chance of taking a profit, at the time when they are making losses on their past bad loans and derivatives transactions gone sour.

Lend me an umbrella: The confidence in making sensible lending decisions has been shattered by recent global events and it will take time for banks to start being cooperative once again. Remember the saying

“A bank is an institution that lends you an umbrella when the sun shines, only to take it away when it pours”.

We are seeing this process in action right now.

Low confidence is driving the recession: So if the government wants for retail banks to re-start lending, it is a bit like ordering the water to flow upstream. Lending policies are being drastically tightened, tolerance of customers in arrears is probably approaching zero, and rate cuts are not being passed on in a desperate bid to increase banks’ own profitability.

The promise of a recession is as ever becoming self-fulfilling, and we seem to have little control over this downward spiral at this stage – until we think we’ve gone far enough and confidence starts returning again.

 

Copyright 2008 by CuriouslyInspired

In this morning’s speech, David Cameron laid blame for the current state of the UK economy at Gordon Brown’s feet.

Labour a failure: Cameron stated that the Labour government was responsible for the “complete and utter failure” of economic policy and that it has been an “irresponsible government” presiding over a period of “irresponsible capitalism”.

The implication is that the nation is now reaping the results of this policy as we slide into a recession, our financial sectors in tatters – and that this could have been prevented.

Cease support: In the recent days, Conservatives have been seemingly supporting Labour especially in the latter’s bid to work out a bailout package. So much so that one was wondering if the Conversatives have had any of their own thoughts about the economic policy. And, whilst Cameron is now effectlively making a statement that he is ending Conversatives’ support of the current government’s economic measures, one still wonders what exactly is he going to propose that amounts to a solid economic platform that is actually different from the current course.

General noises are being made about tougher regulations, “new measures to rebalance the economy”, and changes to laws. Whilst this is all good and fine, none of these appear novel measures that have not been mentioned before by someone else.

Are Conservatives still struggling to pull it together? On the evidence I see (or shall I say, do not see) today – yes. But so is Labour, really, although at least they have some sort of action plan for now.

Silly Political games: What seems to be happening on both sides is a lot of posturing. Whilst Gordon Brown is savouring the role of the saviour of the world’s financial system, his opponent David Cameron is the homegrown oracle who had seen it all coming and can see right through the incompetencies of the present government – yeah, right. How easy is it to throw stones about, say “I told you so” and then duck for cover – as really you have nothing new to say, Mr Cameron. Come up with some really smart proposal that will tell you apart from other government policymakers, then maybe we’ll put more trust in the Conservatives.

Until then – the usual charade of ceremonial policital repartee continues. Yawn…  

 

Copyright 2008 by CuriouslyInspired

The euphoria of earlier this week, which followed an announcement of the UK bailout by Gordon Brown, has seemingly finished – as it was feared to. Shares have yet again collapsed. Asia showed probably the worst results today, with the Nikkei dropping 11% on the 16th October. As I am writing this, the FTSE has fallen below 4,000 again. And Dow will be perilously close to its 8,000 mark.

Shifting sands: Investor sentiment, similar to voter sentiment, is a funny thing. Markets are driven by it, same as elections are won on the strength of popular feeling. However stock market sentiment is also fickle and impermanent, and prone to wild swings especially in troubled times such as now. We are nowhere close to being out of the woods yet. In the weeks to come, there will be significant market volatility, and the market will trend downwards. Perhaps my fears of FTSE at 3,000 have yet to be realised.

Credit crunch biting hard: Interbank lending is still pretty frozen, although short term rates have fallen a little – with banks still not keen to do any longer term lending. Despite all government intentions and declarations, banks cannot be forced to start lending against their will if they do not have confidence in their financial partners. Somebody compared this to “asking water to flow upstream” – just is not going to happen. The impact of this has already spilt out into the real economy: businesses are finding it very hard to refinance their existing loans. This will have a negative impact on the whole economy, reducing business activity and forcing some to cease trading altogether.

Recession: What is driving the stock markets plunges at this very moment are investors realising that we are heading full steam into a global recession – and the existing bailout funds will not be enough to prevent it. A lot of government money is being pumped into the banking system – yet as long as investors think we are heading for a recession, they will keep on selling, and the money will keep on burning up and vanishing into the bottomless pit. It’s a vicious circle which under the current financial system, only restored consumer confidence can stop – and we just are not getting any positive economic news for this to happen. Read the rest of this entry »

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