Last week, a sluggish FTSE 100 suggested that markets are still nervous about the British economy, despite the UK Chancellor talking up its performance during his Autumn statement.
One of the biggest highlights from the budget included a reduction in National Insurance from 12% to 10%, a tax cut for around 27 million UK taxpayers. This will be worth roughly £450 for the average worker earning £35,400 a year.
Other noteworthy announcements included an increase of the National Minimum Wage to £11.44 per hour, and a commitment to maintain the Triple Lock. This means state pensions will increase by 8.5% from April next year.
There were also adjustments to business taxes. For example, the “full expensing” of expenditure by companies on qualifying capital equipment – such as plant and machinery, computers, and software capital expenditure – will become permanent, extending beyond the initial April 2026 expiration date. This means that companies will be able to fully deduct 100% of qualifying expenditures from their taxable profits.
While these changes will provide some help for consumers and business in what remains an extremely tough environment, there were limits to what Gove could do.
Hetal Mehta, Head of Economic Research at St. James’s Place, noted: “When it comes to giveaways, however, the Chancellor’s hand was limited, and he used up all the fiscal headroom that had become available from higher tax receipts.
“It is also worth noting that while the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects the Chancellor to meet his fiscal rules with a margin of £13 billion, this relies on the continued use of very optimistic growth assumptions. The OBR’s estimates of potential GDP growth continue to be much higher than those of the Bank of England.”
“In other words, there is a real risk that the economy might not reach the levels of growth the OBR expects. If this were to happen, it could have a material impact on public finances.”
Overall, the FTSE 100 fell by 0.2% over the week.
On a broader global scale, last week saw retailers promote ‘Black Friday’, offering discounts in the hope of enticing consumers back to shops. The success of this event could serve as an indicator for consumer behaviour and may set the tone for markets as we move into the Christmas month.
Certainly, with the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) due to meet before the end of the year, this could be important.
Regardless, it was a good week for American equities. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ jumped 1% and 0.9%, respectively, despite a retracement in the shares of a major constituent, NVIDIA. The decline followed cautious future guidance, even after the company had beat both revenue and profit estimates.
Returning to Europe, the political world was shaken by the Dutch elections, where the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) secured a victory. Led by Geert Wilders, the PVV emerged as the largest party in the government, holding around a quarter of the seats in Parliament. Nevertheless, the party needs to find coalition partners to effectively form a government, which might serve as a moderating influence.
Aza Teeuwen, a partner at TwentyFour Asset Management, noted: “Forming a workable coalition with 17 parties will be tricky and all kinds of combinations are possible, even without the Freedom Party.
“Whatever coalition is formed, they will all need to make significant concessions to get anything done and, with very different views on so many topics, a new election in two years could also be on the cards.
“But one thing is certain, while there won’t be a referendum, immigration will be top of the agenda. Although this was a landslide victory for the far right, I don’t see much change and looking at equities it doesn’t seem to have impacted markets at all.”
Perhaps reflecting this sentiment, European shares were positive. The MSCI Europe ex. UK Index grew 1.0%, maintaining its strong November momentum. That was despite a sixth straight monthly contraction in the Eurozone’s Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) with a recession looking increasingly likely on the continent.
Even if you’ve diligently saved for long-term care, crafted your Will, and organised your affairs, there’s no knowing when life might suddenly throw you a curveball. A sudden change in your health or mental capacity can mean you’re not able to manage your financial affairs or make important decisions about your health and welfare.
Many people believe that their next of kin, or another close relative or friend, will be able to pick up the reins. Unfortunately that’s not the case unless you’ve already set up a lasting power of attorney.
A Lasting Power of Attorney, as it’s called in England and Wales, is a legal process that allows you to appoint someone to look after your affairs if you’re no longer able to do so. This individual, or individuals, can be anyone you choose – such as a spouse, partner, a relative or a friend – and they will act on your behalf.
The government website (gov.uk) advises that it can take up to 20 weeks to arrange a power of attorney.1 If you already have powers of attorney in place, it’s straightforward for your attorney or attorneys to start making decisions promptly. However, if you don’t, there could be major delays.
It’s crucial that the person or persons you choose are individuals you know well and whom you absolutely trust to act in your best interests. It will be one less thing for you and your family to worry about if your circumstances change.
If you haven’t set up a power of attorney and you reach a point where you can no longer make decisions for yourself, things can get very complicated and distressing for you and your family.
In the absence of a power of attorney, accessing funds from your savings to cover care home fees or selling your house to meet expenses may become necessary. However, without a power of attorney, someone close to you would need to apply to the Court of Protection for a deputyship, which can take as long as six months.
Setting up powers of attorney is something that can easily be overlooked, and relatives can be caught out if an elderly parent needs immediate support. It’s crucial not to wait until you start having problems with your mental capacity either because once that happens, you’re no longer allowed to apply. Taking proactive steps to establish powers of attorney can help avoid complications in the future.
Advice relating to a Will or Power of Attorney necessitates the referral to a service that is separate and distinct to those offered by St. James’s Place. They are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Source: 1ONS, accessed October 2023.
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The Last Word
“While we are of the strong view that independence should be preserved, reforms are needed to improve the bank’s performance and to strengthen its accountability to Parliament.”
Lord James Bridges, Chair of the Lords Economic Affairs Committee, commenting on the critical report on the Bank of England released over the weekend.
TwentyFour Asset Management is a fund manager for St. James’s Place
The information contained is correct as at the date of the article. The information contained does not constitute investment advice and is not intended to state, indicate or imply that current or past results are indicative of future results or expectations. Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.
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SJP Approved 27/11/2023