Category Archives: Blog

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The Great Recession probably ended a good while ago

The Great Recession is over. In fact, it probably came to an end last year - possibly even before that. Now, I'll admit that the above isn't yet borne out by the official, or even unofficial, numbers. According to the Office for National Statistics, by the end of the first quarter of this year UK gross domestic product was still a few fractions of a percentage short of where it was at the start … Continue Reading ››
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Help to Buy: Impossible to switch off?

When George Osborne unveiled his Help to Buy scheme in last year’s Budget, there was a collective sigh around the City. Of all the lessons learnt during the crisis, surely the clearest was that mortgage guarantee schemes, such as the one the Chancellor was proposing to set up, could lead to even more dysfunction in the housing market. After all, the US was forced to bail out its own mortgage guarantee … Continue Reading ››
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AstraZeneca is NOT a UK-owned company, OK?

It’s strange that in all the coverage of the AstraZeneca-Pfizer story, few people have seen fit to mention that AstraZeneca is not technically a UK-owned company. I’m talking not about the fact that it’s the product of a 1990s UK takeover of a Swedish company (many have pointed that out), but about something far simpler: who actually owns it. Yes, the company is listed and headquartered in the UK, meaning it has … Continue Reading ››
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The future of journalism is the history of journalism

At various points over the past few years, I’ve been invited along to seminars to discuss the role of journalism during the financial crisis. The opinions expressed at such events tend to vary, from those who feel journalists covered themselves with glory during the Great Recession to those who reckon they bodged it and also deserve some blame for the disaster in the first place (I’m closer to the latter … Continue Reading ››
Formal Reception - OHP 5 Bedroom Show Apartment

The £140m property that doesn’t tell the story of the housing bubble

It’s tempting to see the story of the £140m London apartment that just sold to a Ukrainian buyer as yet more evidence of the madness in the UK housing market. But while there is now little doubt that the London property market is in the midst of a bubble, and that the exuberance is now spreading out around the UK, the sale of the One Hyde Park apartment is, … Continue Reading ››
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Ed Miliband has got it wrong on rent reform: he doesn’t go far enough

In case you hadn’t already noticed, it’s election season. Yes, there may still be (just) more than a year to go until the general election, but the unhappy windfall of a fixed-term parliament is even more campaigning time. And so any pretence of genuine policy analysis is slowly dribbling out of Westminster.  Both main political parties, schooled in 21st century media strategy, have decided upon their lines, and are determined to … Continue Reading ››
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GDP: a balanced, strong recovery (so far)

The economy is now growing at comfortably the fastest annual rate since late 2007. Though the latest quarterly growth number was a touch lower than expected (0.8% rather than 0.9%), that makes little odds (and, as we'll come onto in a moment, these initial estimates are usually lowballs anyway). Moreover, the growth is pretty well-balanced. As you can see from this Goldman Sachs table, most of the … Continue Reading ››
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Just how imbalanced is the UK economy?

There are plenty of complaints one hears about the UK economy, but perhaps the most frequent one is about it being deeply imbalanced. It includes the following notions: 1. "we don't make anything any more"; 2. we are overly reliant on consumer spending and 3. we are way, way too reliant on the City and financial services. Though such notions feel instinctively right, one rarely sees internationally comparable statistics that back … Continue Reading ››
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London’s foreign “cash” property buyers may be less cash-rich than you think

There are all sorts of explanations for the bubble in the London housing market, but as with all markets, in the end the truth lies somewhere between supply and demand. On the one hand, we know that there is a shortage of supply, with too few new homes being built in the capital and many existing owners still reluctant to sell. The upshot is that prospective buyers seriously outnumber sellers (see charts … Continue Reading ››