Wednesday 4 September 2013

Over-heating UK economy?

Now this may feel a little premature, but with the OECD announcing yesterday that the UK is expanding fastest amongst the major Western economies, is there a chance that we could over-heat too quickly?

Rather like the now nicknamed Walkie Scorchie building in London, the new is not always without teasing problems. Indeed, the building is a metaphor for the wider economy too. On the dust if the financial crisis a new boom has begun. That of London property. Yields are plummeting and prices rocketing as investors from all over the world seek "London Gold".

Last week a banker who is well placed to know, suggested to me that nearly 1/3rd of the world's movable wealth was either being managed in London or looking to be invested here. The new boom has carry over effects as the prime parts of the City have short supply, slowly outer areas of the City are gaining investment.

Another huge benefit for the Banks comes in the form of their over-weight property lending portfolio's, as prices improve these become less toxic, profitable even and the banks' financial worries go away. Indeed a big chunk of the new lending by banks is on property; traditional corporates shy away from debt and with property lending comes an asset that can be held as security. Banks love it again.

All of the above is good news and is praised by the Government as the end of the long recession. However, its birth is inspired too by Government programmes of keeping interest rates artificially low, printing money and the 'Help to Buy' scheme that will see Government invest with people in residential property too.

Does anybody else see a problem with all this? Anybody else reminded of the craziness of the early 2000's as the recipe is the same. A positive now is that overseas equity is investing rather than our own bank's debt at huge leverage, meaning the bust will be less painful for UK Government and people - but bust there will be.

This is no way to run an economy either or ti try to re-balance. A much better bet would be huge investment via tax breaks into the North Sea and Shale exploration. Cheap energy would help non-service industry and lower inflation. Interest rates need to rise, very, very slowly, but rise they should to more normal levels to curb the housing bubble. The Government has no business in Help to Buy and this policy should be scrapped in the face of a recovered housing market.

The party has begun, its nearly time to take away the punch bowl before it gets out of control again. 


hovis said...

CU what is a "normal" interest rate?

CityUnslicker said...

1-2% above current inflation.

So today that would be between 3% and 4%.

Due to the shortage of money in the system post financial crash, we don't need rates this high. But we do need to start to get back there and higher rates will encourage more balanced growth.

Anyone who says different thinks that all our growth is BS built on sand of free money - so their economic view is rather extreme - despite the fact that this is a mainstream view...

Ryan said...

Overheating economies are usually caused by rapid growth exceeding latent capacity. Given that the UK has the limitless resource of the unemployed of the EU I'm not sure that the economy can overheat in the usual sense. People flooding to the UK will naturally push up property prices. The limit to growth might very well be in the limits to planning permission.... and the willingness of the people of Britian to continue to sit by while immigration fuels growth that frankly they are missing out on.

CityUnslicker said...

Ryan - if all the growth is in one area it is a bubble that can burst. I am speculating that GDp growth we are seeing is really heavily concentrated in one area more than being that broadly based. It's hard to tell from PMI surverys etc becuase property affect different surverys, e.g. construction, services etc.

Anonymous said...

"it gets out of control again."

Nice, euphemism for rank corruption?

Graeme said...

if the growth is only in the City and Canary Wharf then we have another bubble on our hands

Electro-Kevin said...

It isn't just in the City and CW.

I'm shocked that a duff end-of-terrace in murder-mile-twinned-with-Lagos Mitcham (my childhood house) can fetch £2k pcm in rent according to Zoopla.

Even here rents for similar properties are pushing £1k per month - that's with local wages typically £15k pa. So I'm inclined to believe the Mitcham valuation.

As with my unease prior to the 2007 crash I find myself asking exactly the same question but about rent instead of mortgages: Where is the money coming from ?

That said. Doomsayers on this site (myself included) predicted that we'd be subsistence farming and bartering for our living by now. It hasn't got that bad.

Ryan said...


"As with my unease prior to the 2007 crash I find myself asking exactly the same question but about rent instead of mortgages: Where is the money coming from ?"

In most cases it is coming from the taxpayer. Local councils have a duty to frind housing for families, even if they are merely EU citizens or recent immigrants granted citizenship. So there is pressure on recent incomers to get pregnant to get a house. Council housing doesn't exist much, so local councils pay rent instead. Middle-class people but up properties to rent out, forming an oversize cartel continually pushing up rental values, always paid for by a government with (almost) limitless spending ability. It is hard to believe the rental prices in London but in South Wales where there are no jobs and nobody can afford to buy a house, rental prices are through the roof paid for by the taxpayer with the middle class landlords piling on and pushing up rental prices as far and as fast as local councils can take. 10% yield is a great incentive to buy-to-let especially when the taxpayer is underwriting the entire investment making it apparently "no-risk".

Eventually you reach the systemic risk point of the whole system - i.e. rents have risen so far so fast that the system can no longer be funded and the system collapses in total dissarray. Obviously this situation has been ongoing for some time and is a bit separate from the recent "boom" conditions we are seeing now.

The reality of mass immigration is that the incomers have no sellable skills in the UK. If they did they would stay right where they were. They come to the UK with no sellable skills but take up part-time shop work paying £6 per hour. Somebody getting £13,000 per year is making no useful contribution to government spending on education, welfare, defence, or health but they benefit from all of these things, and in fact in order to survive long-term in the UK they MUST have young children in order to maximise their claims on the benefits system for housing. Quite frankly this situation cannot persist forever. The UK tax system cannot continue to support the lifestyles of immigrants that come here to do a bit of car valeting on a minimum wage and contribute nothing valuable to the overall wealth of the nation, no matter how earnest and hard working they may appear to be. This is a sophisticated nation that maintains is relative wealth by selling the skills of highly educated people. Dilute the impact of those skills by re-distributing the weatlh of the skilled to the poor of Bangladesh and pretty soon you will get mass emigration of the skilled to Oceania and North America.

Blue Eyes said...

CU as usual I disagree with much of your premise in the hope of being invited as the token anti-Capitalist to the next Capitalist drinks. However it does seem to be an open question as to whether the UK would be a more optimal currency zone if certain London boroughs were not members if the Pound.

Unknown said...

I think Normal interest rate between3% and 4 %,but it may be more,i'm not sure.
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