Hard to believe, but there’s also some good news amid the gloom

Sunak told 'you need to try harder' by NHS patient

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I’m not downplaying the challenges ordinary Britons face to make ends meet, but there is also a danger in overdoing the gloom. There is now some good news out there if you look for it.

New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s appointment is bringing some urgently needed stability, and several other factors may also be moving in our favour.

Gilt yields are down. In the frenzied aftermath of former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget, yields on 30-year gilts shot up to 5.20 percent.

Bond investors demanded a higher return on government bonds, as they considered UK debt was racing out of control. The cost of servicing the nation’s £2.5trillion debt rocketed.

New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s emergency U-turns quickly calmed markets, and gilt yields have now fallen to just 3.67 percent as former Goldman Sachs analyst Sunak steadies the ship.

Mortgage rates to fall. Before Sunak was appointed, markets were predicting base rates would hit 6.5 percent in the spring.

The Bank of England has suggested rates will rise at a slower pace, and markets now expect them to peak at 4.5 percent.

This could be good news for homeowners, who have seen two-year fixed rate mortgages shoot up from just over 1 percent to 6.65 percent this year, a 14-year high. That should soon ease (although not as much as owners would like).

Lenders are usually slower to cut rates than increase them, said Chris Sykes, technical director at mortgage broker Private Finance. “Yet we have already seen reductions from Accord, HSBC and Coventry. I suspect others will follow, albeit slowly.”

House prices yet to crash. House prices should be plummeting given the gloom but the average home is actually up £36,000 in the last year, latest official figures show.

This gives recent buyers a cushion even if prices do now fall, said Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients. “Most homeowners are insulated from rising interest rates as they are on fixed rates, although they may face a payment shock as their deals expire.”

Simon McCulloch, chief commercial & growth officer at Smoove, said price growth is slowing but remains positive. “A shortage of stock will also continue to underpin house prices.”

Savings rates are up. This time last year, the best buy one-year fixed-rate bond paid just 1.40 percent, while five-year bonds paid 2 percent. Today, Shawbrook Bank pays 4.50 percent over one year and United Trust Bank pays 5 percent a year for five years.

Savers have not seen rates like these since before the financial crisis, 14 years ago.

While still below inflation, rates are heading in the right direction, said Anna Bowes, founder of SavingsChampion.co.uk. “They could rise even higher if the Bank of England increases bank rate again on Thursday.”

The FTSE 100 holds firm. While the US stock market has crashed 25 percent this year, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index is only down around 5 percent.

This is good news for pension and Isa savers, said Laith Khalaf, head of investment analysis at AJ Bell. “FTSE 100 dividends underpin our income from pensions and Stocks and Shares Isas.”

Unemployment is low. The unemployment rate is at its lowest for almost 50 years, falling to 3.5 percent.

Employers are being forced to pay more for talent, with wages up six percent in the last year, official figures show.

The downside is that many over-50s have left the workplace since Covid, with the numbers not looking for work up 330,000 in three months.

Gas prices falling. Insane energy prices forced former PM Liz Truss to cap average household bills at £2,500 for two years, although Hunt will now end the scheme in April.

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The estimated cost was be £140billion but it may now be much less as European states scramble to secure winter supplies. Storage facilities are now almost at total capacity, giving some protection against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s threats.

Natural gas prices are falling as mild weather, falling consumption and rationing on the continent cut demand.

If this continues, the cost of Truss’s Energy Price Guarantee will plummet. By the spring, our bills could be much lower.

Sterling is stronger. The pound was in danger of collapsing to parity against the US dollar, but has rebounded 3.5 percent to more than $1.16.

Budget black hole has shrunk. Sunak’s decision to postpone Hunt’s fiscal statement from tomorrow to November 17 helped to shrink the black hole in the Treasury’s finances.

Think tank the Resolution Foundation reckons the fortnight delay will save the Treasury up to £15billion, as gilt yields and gas prices fall.

Of course, there is still plenty to spook us as Halloween looms tomorrow, but there are some positives to weigh against the negatives.

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