London house price crashes are not what they used to be

This morning has brought unsettling news for Bank of England Governor Mark Carney on the subject of UK house prices from the Nationwide Building Society.

Prices decline 0.5% month-on-month,
biggest monthly fall since July 2012

That date will resonate because it was back on the 13th of July 2012 that the Bank of England started the Funding for Lending Scheme which was described back in the day as follows.

The FLS is a direct policy response to that threat to the UK economy posed by elevated bank funding costs. Funding costs are a key determinant of the interest rate banks charge on loans. By reducing them, the FLS should lead to more and cheaper credit flowing into the economy than otherwise. ( 2012 Quarterly Bulletin).

We know now how this claim about the FLS worked out!

In the longer term, if tight credit conditions have been holding back productivity growth, then the FLS could increase the supply potential of the economy.

Only yesterday we looked at one of the areas where the FLS was supposed to impact which was on lending to smaller businesses.

The twelve-month growth rate of lending to SMEs was -0.2% in July; this growth rate has been at or below zero for the past four months

It is easy to forget now that the original version did not allow for the fact that lending to smaller businesses requires more bank capital than many other forms of lending. A pretty basic error although frankly even when the rules were modified to try to allow for this the picture was as above. Occasionally we have seen a little flicker of growth but the overall picture has been has seen as many if not more declines. The official view clings to what they call the “counterfactual” which is that otherwise things would have been even worse.

Moving to mortgage lending the word counterfactual was not required as the estimated boost given to bank funding went straight to the mortgage lending bottom line.

Based on these estimates, at the time the FLS was
announced on 14 June 2012 it would have been around
200 basis points cheaper than using other sources of secured wholesale funding, such as RMBS or covered bonds.

The Bank of England did not know the full picture back then but I noted for myself that mortgage rates fell fairly quickly by around 1% and later the Bank itself estimated that the total impact was of the order of 2%. So rather neatly 2% of cheaper funding led to 2% lower mortgage interest-rates or a 100% follow through.Revealingly I do not recall any such numbers for the cost of small business lending.

Mortgage Lending

Back in 2012 the Bank of England was very worried about this as if we look at net lending it had gone from the £9.7 billion of September 2007 to usually less than a billion with some months recording declines.Indeed if we switch to gross lending it had fallen to £10.6 billion in December 2010 so not a lot more than what net lending had been. Gross lending was down from over £30 billion a month at the peak.

If we jump forwards we see that net mortgage lending was rescued as yesterday we noted this.

Households borrowed an extra £3.2 billion secured against their homes in July. Net lending has been relatively stable over the past year or so,

Gross lending picked up too and is now usually circa £22 billion per month.

House Prices

They responded as follows according to the Nationwide. The average house price was £164,389 when FLS started and is now £214,745. We will never know what they would have done otherwise but we do know that for the previous two years they had been drifting gently lower and that the annual rate of fall reached its peak or nadir at 2.6% in July 2012.

What about now?

Let us return to the Nationwide report.

“August saw a slight softening in annual house price growth to 2.0%, from 2.5% in July. Nonetheless, annual house price growth remains within the fairly narrow range of c2-3% which has prevailed over the past 12 months, suggesting little change in the balance between demand and supply in the market.”

Actually this is still higher than that reported by Acadata earlier this month.

On a monthly basis, prices fell again in July, for the fifth month in succession: down 0.2%, leaving the average house price at £302,251. The figure is still up on an annual basis, however, with prices increasing 1.6% and all regions in England and Wales recording modest, but positive growth.

They claim to be comprehensive and if we take the broad sweep we see that house price growth is now below both inflation and wage growth. You may also note the difference between average house prices as reported by the two bodies.Some of the gap will be caused by the fact that the Nationwide is biased via its customer base but it is also true that even so the gap is problematic or if you prefer something of a chasm.

A London House Price Crash?

The Guardian produced this yesterday.

One-in-three chance of London house price crash, says expert poll.International buyers put off by Brexit uncertainty could drive prices down 1.6% next year.

It seems that crashes aren’t what they used to be! Well apart from England’s top order at cricket. But there were some other gems.

“Central London is tanking because the traditional international buyers are staying away – and the quantum of buyers is falling. A disorderly Brexit will exacerbate this trend,” said Tony Williams at property consultancy Building Value.

A 1.6% fall is “tanking” now? At the level of prices recorded it would be a very minor blip compared to the rise.

The average asking price for a home in London was £609,205 in August according to the property website Rightmove, more than double the national average of £301,973.

Also the answer to the question below had to be 10 I think for London and some might wish to go full Spinal Tap and say 11.

When asked to rate the level of London house prices on a scale of one to 10, where one is extremely cheap and 10 is extremely expensive, the median response in the Reuters poll was nine. On a national level, prices were rated seven.

Anyway even such a minor fall seemed to seriously upset Phillip Inman.

The warning that property values in London will fall this year and next will bring a smile to many who believe house prices have run out of control in the last 30 years

Believe? Anyway he does list the potential gains.

A crash would make homes more affordable to those on lower incomes and the young. Profit-hungry housebuilders would see their revenues collapse and the much-reviled estate agency industry would shrink.

But suddenly and I am skipping the political content the above is presented as being bad.

They care little about the after-effects of a house price crash

If a 1.6% fall is going to be so bad I fear for his disposition going forwards. Perhaps his colleagues might check in on him from time to time.

 

Comment

The issues in this area are both complex and simple. If we start with the simple then back in 2012 it appeared to the UK establishment that in spite of the slashing of Bank Rate to 0.5% and the advent of QE the economy was flatlining. Actually the worst fears were wrong but that atmosphere of fear led to a response involving credit easing as described above from the Bank of England ( as well as an easing of government austerity). For the Bank the operations had two benefits one is that there would have been fears over the “precious” which would be alleviated and the economy would be boosted especially if house price gains can be claimed as a boost to wealth rather than inflation.

Now the flow of such policies is over as the next effort the Term Funding Scheme ended in February. That is why I expected house price growth to fade away and perhaps fall this year. The national picture is more complicated as London got a further boost from foreign safe haven buying but if we take a broad sweep prices should have fallen and they were not allowed to.

If we move to the complicated no policy helps everyone sadly and even something which is a gain hurts some. For example let me give you both sides of the London coin. I have a neighbour who rents because in spite of the fact that he and his wife both work their affordability has never caught up with the house price rises so they might finally be able to buy. On the other side of the coin I have friends who have just bought and would face losses but whilst I wish them all the best the truth is that this song has been playing for much too long now.

The only way is up, baby
For you and me, baby
The only way is up
For you and me

 

 

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UK money supply data continues to suggest weak economic growth

This morning brings us the data which will tell us if the UK has joined the trend in July for monetary conditions to weaken. It comes after a day where monetary policy tightened from another source. The comments from the European Union Commissioner Michel Barnier saw the UK Pound £ rally by 1% against most currencies and by 1.5% versus the Japanese Yen. This was equivalent to a 0.25% Bank Rate rise or what it took the unreliable boyfriend some four years to muster up the courage to do. This reminds us that in terms of monetary policy it is exchange-rate moves that are often the bazooka these days with interest-rate moves being more of a pea shooter.

The banks

The official story has been one of supposedly tighter lending standards in this area. This comes on two fronts because if we look back there were the promises made by politicians and banks that the mistakes which helped create the credit crunch would not happen again. There have also been several moves by the Bank of England to tighten standards the latest of which was in June last year. From Mortgage Strategy.

The Bank of England has tightened mortgage affordability rules to prevent loosening underwriting standards, which it warns will cause some lenders to raise interest cover ratios……….the new rule says lenders should instead consider how borrowers would handle a 3 per cent increase in firms’ standard variable rates.

Yet on Monday the Financial Times reported this.

Britain’s banks and building societies are loosening lending standards and cutting fees to maintain growth, as competition and a weakening housing market squeeze profit margins. The number of mortgage deals where banks are willing to lend at least 90 per cent of the property value has increased by a fifth to 1,123 in the past six months alone, according to comparison website Moneyfacts.

We have noted such trends along the way and I note that below longer mortgage terms merit a mention.

Earlier this month, HSBC’s M&S Bank increased the maximum loan-to-value (LTV) on three of its mortgage products to 95 per cent, and extended the term it is willing to lend for to 35 years. In July, CYBG introduced a new 95 per cent LTV mortgage that also had a higher limit on how much it would lend relative to borrowers’ income.

Some are moving into more specialist or niche areas.

Andy Golding, chief executive of OneSavings, which sells mortgages under the Kent Reliance brand, said particularly aggressive risk-taking was happening in some more specialist markets such as “second-charge” mortgages, a second mortgage on the same property.

Intriguingly in something of a complete regulatory misfire new rules seem to have encouraged this.

New rules that force banks to separate retail and investment banking operations have also had an effect — analysts at UBS estimated that the changes left HSBC’s domestic business with around £60bn that could not be used by the rest of the group, encouraging it to expand its mortgage business and putting more pressure on competitors.

As to what I have already referred to as Mark Carney’s peashooter it is to some extent being bypassed.

Competition has forced companies to keep mortgage rates near historic lows even as their funding costs have risen. Competition has been encouraged by the growth of independent mortgage brokers, which has made it easier for borrowers to access a wider range of options.

UK Wealth

Perhaps the banks have drawn encouragement from reports like this which emerged from the Office for National Statistics yesterday. Apparently we are in the money.

The UK’s net worth rose by £492 billion from 2016 to £10.2 trillion in 2017 (Figure 1), which is an average of £155,000 per person in the UK.

The banks will no doubt have noted this approvingly.

Land was by far the largest contributor to the increase in net value, rising by £450 billion since 2016.

Good job they have managed to keep that sort of thing out of the inflation data! The apocryphal civil servant Sir Humphrey Appleby would have an extra large glass of sherry for a job well done. Meanwhile first-time buyers face higher prices which in other spheres would be recorded as inflation.

The banks will be quite happy to cheer along with this as it provides backing for their mortgage loans.

In 2017, the UK’s net worth was estimated at £10.2 trillion; an average of £155,000 per person…….Land accounts for 51% of the UK’s net worth in 2016, higher than any other measured G7 country.

So a bit over £5 billion. Whilst this may make the banks happy there are more than a few problems with this. I have already pointed out that at least some of this is inflation rather than wealth gains. This is something that reflects my work about inflation measurement where I argue that it is to easy to book asset price rises as wealth gains when inflation has also come to the party. Next there is the issue of using marginal house prices for an average concept like wealth as if we tried to sell UK land lock stock and barrel the price would plainly be a fair bit lower. Also there are the problems with house price indices giving different answers which means that really such numbers should be taken with not just a pinch of salt but the whole cellar.

Today’s data

If we start with broad money growth then the outright fall seen in June was not repeated but annual growth remained at 3.4%. So we have not repeated the falls seen elsewhere in the world but the annual rate of growth is not inspiring. If we move to lending the picture looks better as it has been picking up with annual growth going 2.7%,3.1% and then 3.3% in the last 3 months.

We see from the mortgage data why the banks are trying to boost lending as otherwise it looks like it would be slip-sliding away.

Households borrowed an extra £3.2 billion secured against their homes in July. Net lending has been relatively stable over the past year or so, but this was the lowest monthly secured net lending since April 2017………The number of mortgages approved for house purchase fell a little in July, to 65,000, close to their average over the past six months.

Unsecured Credit

This has been a bugbear for a while and let me illustrate today by comparing the official presentation of such things with reality.

In July, the annual growth rate of consumer credit slowed a little to 8.5%. Within this, the annual growth rate of credit card lending was 8.9%, whilst the growth rate of other loans and advances was 8.2% – the lowest since March 2015.

The copy and paste crew have as presumably intended been reporting the number as if it is low. Indeed this sort of thing was encouraged by the Bank of England as this from LiveSquawk back in May shows.

Bank Of England’s Ramsden Says Weak Consumer Credit Data

It was growing at an annual rate of 8.8% at the time. So is 8.5% “very weak” Sir Dave?

If we return to reality we see that 8.5% compares with wages growth of 2.4% inflation on the highest measure is at 3.3% ( although care is needed here as Sir Dave is of course against RPI and its derivatives albeit that it is apparently good enough for his pension) and economic growth at 1.3% over the past year. So we see that in reality unsecured or consumer credit remains on quite a surge in spite of July seeing slower growth of £800 million. Putting it another way the growth remains extraordinarily high when we consider the way that one of the factors that has been driving it ( car sales) has fallen this year.

Comment

The good news is that the UK credit impulse did not weaken further in July and broad money lending improved a bit. The not so good news is that it was already weak meaning that the 0.5% GDP growth for the third quarter forecast by the NIESR looks like the peak of what it might be and we would be unlikely to maintain that in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the banks are feeling the weaker credit impulse and are responding via lower credit standards for mortgages.

Meanwhile unsecured credit is out of kilter with pretty much everything and must be posing its own risks as this has been sustained for several years now in spite of the official denials. If the banks have lowered credit standards for mortgages are you thinking what I am thinking? The reality is that it now amounts to £213.5 billion.

Also we should not forget business lending and regular readers will recall that the Funding for Lending Scheme from back in 2012 was supposed to boost lending to small businesses. How is that going?

The twelve-month growth rate of lending to SMEs was -0.2% in July; this growth rate has been at or below zero for the past four months.

For newer readers wondering about the past 6 years Bob Seeger and his Silver Bullet Band will help you out.

Cause you’re still the same
You’re still the same
Moving game to game
Some things never change
You’re still the same

 

The Bank of England is now re-writing history about UK house prices

Yesterday saw the latest in a series of interviews on the Iain Dale show on LBC Radio by Ian McCafferty of the Bank of England. Actually it was the last by Ian as he is about to depart the Bank of England. Before I start I should point out that we were colleagues back in my time at Baring Securities which feels like a lifetime ago mostly because it is! His main claim to fame was declaring that the German Bundesbank would not do something at a meeting and then the door was opened by someone keen to tell the room some news which I am sure you have already guessed.

Moving forwards in time to yesterday Ian had more than a little trouble with the concept of full employment as he assured listeners that the UK was at full employment at the moment. This was really rather breathtaking as it showed a lack of understanding on two major levels. Firstly if we just stay with the unemployment rate those who read my update yesterday will be aware that Japan has seen an unemployment rate some 2% lower or nearly half ours. An odd thing to miss as our shared history involved specialising in Japanese economics and finance. Also it was a statement that on the face of it made no nod at all to the concept of underemployment where people have some work but not as much as they would like. So in his world both Japan and underemployment seemed not to exist.

Presumably Mr.McCafferty was trying to bolster the case for last week’s interest-rate rise in the UK which of course needs all the bolstering it can get but he ended up being challenged by the host Iain Dale. The response was a shift to claiming we are around the natural or equilibrium rate of unemployment but of course this led to another problem. On this road he ended up pointing out that the Bank of England has had more than a few of these but he did at least avoid a full confession that they started the game by signalling that a 7% unemployment rate was significant but now tell us that the equilibrium rate is 4.25%. Thus the reality is that they have chased the actual unemployment rate like a dog chases it tail although to be fair to dogs they usually tire of the game once the fun stops. Whereas should we live up to the song “Turning Japanese” the Bank of England will have chased the “equilibrium rate of unemployment” from if we are generous 6.5% to 2.5%.

House Prices

As you can imagine this subject came up and it was interesting to hear an explanation of UK house price rises omitting the role of the Bank of England. You might have thought that having gone to the effort of producing the bank subsidy called the Funding for Lending Scheme in the summer of 2012 and then produced research saying it had reduced mortgage rates by up to 2% that you might think it was a factor. This would be reinforced by the fact that it was in 2013 that house prices in the UK began to turn and head higher. There is also the Term Funding Scheme which began in August 2016 which amounted to some £127 billion of cheap liquidity ( 0.25% back then) for the banks which even the casual observer might think was associated with the record low mortgage interest-rates which were then seen.

This seems to be a new phase where the Bank of England sings along with Shaggy “It wasn’t me.” The absent-minded professor Ben Broadbent was on the case on the 23rd of July.

But it should be borne in mind when reading – as one often does – that QE has done little except boosted
prices of assets like shares and houses, or even led to a “boom” or “bubble” in those markets.

The research quoted was from colleagues of his who have voted for this QE and I am sure many of you would love to be judge and jury on your own actions! Later he tells us this about UK house prices.

But the latest figure is barely any higher than it was in the middle of the last decade.

So it is the same as the level that contributed to the crash? Not quite so good and whilst it may not be that much of an issue when your salary plus pension benefits total £356,000 many will note that real wages are 6% below their peak according to the official data.So house prices compared to wages are rather different.

Also there is this issue.

Broadly speaking I don’t think any of these things is true. It’s not new; it’s not exactly printing money; equity
and house prices are in real terms still comfortably below their pre-crisis levels; inequality hasn’t risen – nor,
according to the most detailed analysis available, did easier monetary policy have any net impact on it.

I guess he has never seen that bit in the film The Matrix where the Frenchman describes the role of cause and effect. Also on the subject of inequality I note that FT Alphaville has pointed out this.

In London and the South-East of England, this shift has been profound – real prices are nearly 30 per cent higher in London, and 10 per cent higher in the South-East and East.

Some house owners are indeed more equal than others it would appear. But this brings us back to Ian McCafferty who assured us on LBC that the ratio of house prices in London to the rest of the country “is now re-establishing itself at close to its more normal long-term level” . Is 30% higher the new “close to”?

Inevitably the issue of Brexit came up and sadly our intrepid policymaker seemed to struggle with both numbers and words in this regard. Here is the Reuters view on this.

“We are getting stories on (how) the numbers of French and German and other European bankers that are coming to London have fallen quite sharply over the last couple of years,” McCafferty said in a question-and-answer session on LBC radio.

You might think that he would know the numbers via contacting the banks rather than listening to “stories”. Also he had opened by saying there had been an “exodus” of such bankers which of course evokes the thought “movement of jah people” a la Bob Marley. The response from the host was that the number of bankers in the City had risen which then got the reply that the inflow had slowed which again is somewhat different to the initial claim. As this is an issue that is both polarised and political an independent ( his words not mine) should be ultra careful in this area rather than giving us vague rhetoric which falls apart at any challenge.

Oh and before we move on from housing there was this bit.

a number of those who are renting particularly those who work in the City.

Was he thinking of Governor Carney who of course got a £250,000 annual rent allowance?

Comment

There is much that is familiar here as we note that the Bank of England is looking to re-write history in its favour. There are two initial problems with this and the first is the moral hazard in you and your colleagues judging your own actions. On this road Napoleon could have written a counterfactual account of how his retreat from Moscow was a masterly example of the genre. Also there are clear contradictions in the story of which two are clear. The rise in asset prices seems able to boost the economy on the one hand but to have had no impact on inequality on the other. London house prices can have soared and become completely unaffordable in central London to all but the wealthiest and yet are close to normal long-term trends.

Only last week we were guided towards three interest-rate rises but now there seems only to be two.

Britain is “now at full employment” and so can expect “a couple more small interest rate rises” in the next two to three years to stop the economy from overheating, according to Bank of England policymaker Ian McCafferty. ( Daily Telegraph which failed to spot the full employment issue)

Maybe it is because they are only raising them so they can later cut them.

Higher interest rates will also give the Bank room to cut them once more if the economy hits a troubled spell in the years ahead.

 

What is happening to the UK housing market and house prices?

The last year of two has seen something of a change in the environment for UK house prices. The most major shift of all has come from the Bank of England which for the moment seems to have abandoned its policy where the music was “Pump it up” by Elvis Costello. This meant that when around 2012 it saw that even what was still considered an emergency Bank Rate of 0.5% plus its new adventure into Quantitative Easing was not enough to get house prices rising it introduced the Funding for Lending Scheme. This reduced mortgage rates by around 1% quite quickly and had a total impact that rose towards 2% on this measure according to Bank of England research. This meant that net mortgage lending improved and then went positive and the house price trend turned and then they rose.

The next barrage came in August 2016 with the “Sledgehammer QE” and the cut in Bank Rate to 0.25%. This was accompanied by the Term Funding Scheme (TFS) which was a way of making sure banks could access liquidity at the new lower Bank Rate and it rose to £127 billion. This was something of a dream ticket for the Bank of England as it boosted both the “precious” ( the banks) and house prices in one go,

However that was then as the Bank reversed the Bank Rate cut last November and the TFS ended this February. So whilst the background environment for house prices is favourable they have risen to reflect that and for once there are no new measures to keep the bubble inflated. Also we have seen real wages fall and then struggle in response to higher inflation.

Valuations

This morning has brought news about something which has not happened for a while now but is something which is destabilising for house prices. From the BBC.

There has been a “significant” rise in homes being valued at less than what buyers have agreed to pay, the UK’s largest mortgage advisers have said.

These “down valuations”, by lenders, can mean buyers having to pay thousands of pounds extra, up front, to avoid the sale collapsing.

Estate agents Emoov said it reflected surveyors predicting a financial crash.

UK Finance said lenders, which it represents, were right to ensure property values were realistic.

The organisation said borrowers also benefited from houses having an “independent valuation”.

Emoov are an interesting firm that have recently completed a crowdfunding program and perhaps want some publicity but for obvious reasons estate agents usually stay clear of this sort of thing. If we step back for a moment we note that whilst they are mostly in the background surveyors do play a role in price swings via their role in providing a base for mortgage valuations. They should know the local market and therefore have knowledge about relative valuations but absolute ones is a different kettle of fish. If they get nervous and start to be stricter with valuations then the situation can snowball though mortgage chains. As to the numbers the BBC had more.

Emoov, one of the UK’s largest digital estate agents, said one in five of its sales now resulted in a down valuation.

Two years ago, it was fewer than one in 20, it added.

This is the highest rate since the UK’s financial crash in 2008, according to agents from 10 mortgage adviser groups contacted by the Victoria Derbyshire programme.

There is a specific example quoted by the BBC.

Phil Broodbank, from Wirral, bought his house for £180,000 a few years ago and spent up to £25,000 renovating it.

When the time came to remortgage, a surveyor valued his house at £200,000 without visiting it in person – in what is known as a “drive by”.

This valuation was £20,000 lower than a local estate agent had valued the property.

One bonus is that “drive by” in the Wirral does not quite have the same menace as in Los Angeles. Also these have been taking place for quite some time now but there were fewer complaints when the bias was upwards. The response from UK Finance is fascinating.

“Although the valuation is carried out for the lender, borrowers also benefit from a realistic independent valuation as it could help them avoid paying over the odds for the property they are buying.”

How do they know it is “realistic” especially if it was a cursory observation from the road? Also as the valuation is for the lender there are always going to be more interested in downturns that rises as of course the bank is more explicitly vulnerable then. In case you are wonder who UK Finance are they took over the British Bankers Association.

Borrowing Limits

The Guardian pointed out over the weekend that some old “friends” seem to be back.

this week Clydesdale Bank said it will grant first-time buyers mortgages of 5.5 times a borrower’s income and lend up to £600,000 – and the buyer only needs a 5% deposit.

A little care is needed as this is for the moment only available to those classed as professionals by Clydesdale Bank who earn more than £40,000 a year. Also there is a theoretical limit in that according to Bank of England rules mortgage lenders are supposed to keep 85% or more of their business using a 4.5 times times a borrower’s income. But if history is any guide these things seem to spread sometimes like wildfire and this industry has a track record that even a world-class limbo dancer would be envious of in terms of slipping under rules and regulations.

This bit raised a wry smile.

But mortgage brokers said they were relaxed about Clydesdale’s new deal.

As it is a potential new source of business they are no doubt secretly pleased. Also I did smile at this from the replies.

 5.5 times of income is nothing unusual. In Australia this is very common and goes as high as 7 to 9 times. ( GlobalisationISGood )

This Australia?

Rising global interest rates are combining with bank caution on lending, via extreme vetting of loan applications in the wake of financial services Royal Commission revelations, to generate a mini-credit crunch.

That’s putting further pressure on house prices, whose falls are gathering pace. ( Business Insider )

What this really represents if we return to the UK is another sign that houses are unaffordable for the ordinary buyer. Another factor in the list is this.

While 25-year terms were the standard in the 1990s, 30 years is now the norm for new borrowers, with many lenders stretching to 35 years to make monthly payments more affordable. ( Guardian )

 

Comment

We do not know yet how the two forces described today will play out in the UK housing market but down valuations seem to be a stronger force. After all Clydesdale will only do a limited amount of its mortgages and fear is a powerful emotion. Mind you some still seem to be partying like its 2016.

The billionaire founder of Phones4u John Caudwell has claimed his Mayfair property development will be “the world’s most expensive and prestigious apartment block”.

The entrepreneur, who turned to property after selling his mobile phone company for £1.5bn in 2006, plans to convert a 1960s multi-storey car park in the heart of Mayfair into 30 luxurious flats.  ( City-AM).

As to hype well there is this.

“I see London as the epicentre of the world and I see Mayfair as the epicentre of London. Therefore, I see my building site as the epicentre of the world,” Caudwell told City A.M. “I can’t think of anywhere better for people to live.”

Meanwhile I am grateful to Henry Pryor for drawing my attention to this. From the Independent in August 2000.

Roger Bootle, who predicted the death of inflation five years ago, says Britain has seen the last of extreme gyrations in house prices…………Nationwide, Britain’s largest building society, reported yesterday that the price of the average home fell 0.2 per cent, or £319, to £81,133 between June and July.

As of this June it was £215,844.

 

 

 

Were PPI payments more of an impact on the UK economy than QE?

Yesterday brought news on a subject that has turned out to be rather like a vampire you cannot kill. This is the issue of compensation for miss selling of payment protection insurance or PPI. Yesterday it bounced back as this from the BBC explains.

People who were not mis-sold PPI policies may be able to claim billions of pounds more in compensation, following a court ruling in Manchester.

Christopher and Joanne Doran were awarded all the sales commission they paid plus interest for a policy, a total of £17,345.

They are the first people to have all of their commission payments refunded for a legitimately sold policy.

This made me think as a bit more than a decade or so ago I worked for the small business division of Lloyds Bank and recall one of the small business managers telling me that the commission on protection insurance for small business lending was 52%. So according to the BBC it now qualifies.

Under the Financial Conduct Authority’s existing guidelines, consumers who were sold their policies legitimately may still be entitled to claim back commission which is deemed excessive.

This means that policy-holders can reclaim any amount of commission that was in excess of 50% of the premium.

I am also reminded that loans could be cheaper with such insurance or to put it more realistically if you did not take it then your interest-rate was higher. As you can see the poor small business borrower was in quicksand pretty much anyway he or she moved.

As to the new development here is an estimate of the possible impact.

But the judge in Manchester ruled that the Dorans were entitled to receive the whole of the commission – in their case 76% of the premium – plus interest.

Paragon Personal Finance, which lost the case, is deciding whether to appeal against the ruling.

Lawyers have claimed the ruling is a new precedent that could mean that banks are liable for another £18bn in pay-outs.

That may or may not be true but does gain some extra credibility from this.

However, sources in the City were sceptical about that figure.

How much so far?

If we move to the total so far from PPI payments then the Financial Conduct Authority or FCA  tells us this.

A total of £389.6m was paid in March 2018 to customers who complained about the way they were sold payment protection insurance (PPI). This takes the amount paid since January 2011 to £30.7 bn.

Actually it is likely to be a little more than that as the FCA believes it only covers 95% of payments. If so the total is more like £32 billion which even in these inflated times is a tidy sum. We also learn something from the back data as whilst payments began in 2011 they really kicked into gear in 2012 and peaked at £735 million in May of that year. That sort of timing coincides very nearly with when the UK economy picked up as back then you may recall the fears of what was called a “triple-dip”.Moving forwards the boost from this source reduced but intriguingly so far in 2018 it has picked up again to just shy of £400 million a month on average.

Economic impact

This is in many respects straight forwards. As the money is the modern version of cold hard dirty cash as it pings into the recipients accounts. A bit perhaps like last night when I heard several RAF Chinooks over Battersea no doubt instructed by Bank of England Governor Carney to be ready to do a Helicopter Money drop should England lose to Colombia. Fortunately his crystal ball was as accurate as ever.The principle being that you get such money and immediately spend it and in the UK that does coincide with our enthusiasm for what might be called a spot of retail therapy.

Another route may well have been the way that car sales responded. Of course there is a mis-match these days between getting a lump sum and paying a monthly lease as so many now do but that does not seem a big deal. Actually measuring this is not far off impossible though. Back in January 2014 Robert Peston who was at the BBC back then had a go.

Over 18 months or so, banks have paid out around £12bn to those mis-sold the credit insurance, out of a total that they currently expect to pay of £16bn.

It represents an economic boost equivalent to circa 1% of GDP – which is big. It is a bigger direct fiscal stimulus than anything either government has attempted since the crisis of 2008, involving more money for example than the temporary VAT cut of 2009.

Perhaps he had been reading some of my output as he also pointed out this.

 the UK’s car market last year returned to the kind of buoyant conditions not seen since before the 2007-8 crash.

There was a rise in motor sales of almost 11% to 2.26 million vehicles, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Another potential impact could have been on the housing market as whilst in London the effect may be limited because of the level of house prices elsewhere a PPI payment may well be a solid help in deposit terms.

The reverse ferret here is something perhaps unique in the credit crunch era in that it hurts the banks or more specifically the shareholders. I do sometimes wonder if bank boards are not bothered because lets face it lower share prices may be good for their share options assuming they eventually rise. Also of course they have been on a drip feed of liquidity assistance from the Funding for Lending Scheme and then the Term Funding Scheme.

QE Impact

This is much more intangible. In theory there is a boost from asset reallocation and higher asset prices but that is somewhat intangible and is very different from the “money printing” theory of people getting cash and then spending it. That and the associated impact on inflation has mostly been redacted from the Bank of England website. There was a Working Paper in October 2016 which apart from demonstrating that the authors made a good career choice in not trading financial markets gave us these thoughts.

Bank of England estimates suggest that the initial £200bn of QE may have pushed up on the level of
GDP by a peak of 1½-2% and on inflation by ¾-1½% (Joyce, Tong and Woods (2011)).

And also this.

For example, consistent with Weale and Wieladek (2016), evidence in the US (Figure B1.7 in Appendix B) suggests that a 10% of GDP central bank balance sheet expansion has a peak impact on output of around 6% after three years and a peak impact on CPI of around 6% after around seven quarters.

Perhaps they shift to the US because if you look at Appendix B you see that the UK impact is about a third of that and the Euro area impact even less.

Comment

There is a clear moral hazard with the majority of estimates of the economic impact of QE in that they are done by the central banks responsible for it. For example the research above is from the Bank of England and it quotes a paper from Martin Weale who is in effect presented as judge and jury on policies he voted for. So we are much thinner on evidence for its impact than you might think. You may also not be surprised to read that Martin Weale has been an opponent of my campaign to get asset prices represented in the inflation measures.

On the other side the impact of PPI is much more easy to see. The catch here is that of course we have seen a lot of things happen at the same time and it is clearly impossible to be exactly certain about which bit was at play at any one time. We are often more irrational than we like to think so who really knows why person A goes and buys X on day Y? But I think we can be clear that PPI compensation played a solid role in the UK economy recovering and seems set to continue to do so.

UK house price growth continues to slow

Yesterday we looked at a house price bubble which is still being inflated whereas today we have a chance to look at one where much of the air has been taken out of the ball. Can a market return to some sort of stability or will it be a slower version of the rise and fall in one football match demonstrated by Maradona last night? Here is the view from the Nationwide Building Society.

Annual house price growth fell to its slowest pace for five
years in June. However, at 2% this was only modestly below the 2.4% recorded the previous month.

As you can see the air continues to seep out of the ball as we see another measure decline to around 2% reaching one of out thresholds on here. Or to put it another way finally house price growth is below wage growth. Of course that means that there is a long way to go to regain the lost ground but at least we are no longer losing it.

The Nationwide at first suggests it is expecting more of the same.

Indeed, annual house price growth has been confined to a
fairly narrow range of c2-3% over the past 12 months,
suggesting little change in the balance between demand and supply in the market over that period.
“There are few signs of an imminent change. Surveyors
continue to report subdued levels of new buyer enquiries,
while the supply of properties on the market remains more of a trickle than a torrent.

Although I note that later 1% is the new 2%

Overall, we continue to expect house prices to rise by
around 1% over the course of 2018.

Every measure of house prices has its strengths and weaknesses and the Nationwide one is limited to its customers and tends to have a bias towards the south but it is reasonably timely. Also there is always the issue of how you calculate an average price which varies considerably so really the best we can hope for is that the methodology is consistent. According to the Nationwide it was £215,444 in June.

The Land Registry is much more complete but is much further behind the times as what is put as April was probably from the turn of the year..

As of April 2018 the average house price in the UK is £226,906, and the index stands at 119.01. Property prices have risen by 1.2% compared to the previous month, and risen by 3.9% compared to the previous year.

As you can see the average price is rather different too.

Bank of England

It will be mulling this bit this morning.

Annual house price growth slows to a five-year low in June

This is because that covers the period in which its Funding for Lending Scheme ( replaced by the even more friendly Term Funding Scheme) was fully operative. When it started it reduced mortgage rates by around 1% and according to the Bank of England some mortgage rates fell by 2%. I think you can all figure out what impact that had on UK house prices!

Or to put it another way the house price falls of 2012 and early 2013 were quickly replaced by an annual rate of house price growth of 11.8% in June 2014 according to the Nationwide. So panic at the Bank of England changed to singing along with Jeff Lynne and ELO.

Sun is shinin’ in the sky
There ain’t a cloud in sight
It’s stopped rainin’ everybody’s in a play
And don’t you know
It’s a beautiful new day, hey hey

Some of them even stopped voting for more QE as it has mostly been forgotten that nearly a quorum wanted more of it as the economy was kicking through the gears.

Although some at the Bank of England will no doubt have their minds on other matters.

Simon Clarke MP said the figures had “disturbing echoes” of the MPs’ expenses scandal. “One of the most important aspects of the culture of any public institution is of course that it provides value for money to the taxpayer,” he added.

“In the last two-and-a-half years two members of the FPC, Mr Kohn and Mr Kashyap, have incurred £390,000 in travel expenses, which is simply a staggering sum.”  ( The Guardian).

Regular readers will recall I did question a similar situation regarding Kristin Forbes on the Monetary Policy Committee who commuted back and forth from the US. I do not know if she benefitted from the sort of largesse and excess demonstrated below though.

The pair are based in the US and Clarke said the £11,084.89 flight for Kashyap from Chicago to London would leave his constituents “gobsmacked”.

Kohn spent £8,000 on a flight from Washington to London and £469 on taxis as part of expenses for a single meeting.

As ever a sort of Sir Frank ( h/t Yes Prime Minister ) was brought forward to play a forward defensive stroke.

“Having seen these committees in action, and seen the contributions they’ve made, as high as their expenses have been, also staggering has been their contribution,”

I was hoping for some enlightenment as the their “staggering contribution” as I do not recall ever hearing of them. The man who thinks this also submitted this about his role as a bank CEO so I guess he might also believe in fairies and the earth being flat.

The key, I always found, was to begin the process by
considering life from the customer’s perspective and then to build products and services that responded to real needs – whilst taking utmost care to build the TCF principles into every operational step in the firm’s business model.

Oh and I have promoted Bradley Fried the chair of the Court to a knighthood although of course those of you reading this in a couple of years or so are likely to be observing his K.

Looking ahead

Yesterday’s mortgage data from UK Finance had a two-way swing. Let us start with the positive.

Estimated gross mortgage lending for the total market in May is £22.2bn, 8.8 per cent higher than a year earlier. The number of mortgage approvals by the main high street banks in May has also risen, increasing by 3 per cent compared to the same month a year earlier.

Except that the latter sentence was not so positive when broken down.

 As in April, increased approval numbers were driven by remortgaging, some 18 per cent more than a year earlier.  In contrast, approvals for house purchase were 3.8 per cent lower than the same period a year earlier.

In case you are wondering about who or what UK Finance represents it is the new name for the BBA. The title of British Bankers Association became so toxic that they decided to move on.

Comment

So the winds of change are blowing and not only at the O2 where the Scorpions played the weekend before last. The era of Bank of England policy moves to push asset price higher is over at least for now although of course the stock as opposed to the flow remains. If it stays like that we could see house prices for once grow at a similar rate to rents and wages but I doubt it because the Bank of England is a serial offender on this front.

And when the electricity
Starts to flow
The fuse that’s on my sanity
Got to blow
System addict
I never can get enough
System addict
Never can give it up ( Five Star and I mean the pop combo not Beppe Grillo)
In the shorter-term will Mark Carney fire things up again or spend his last year here thinking about his legacy and some Queen?
Because I’m easy come, easy go
A little high, little low
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me

Are London house prices set for more falls?

This morning has brought news on the state of play concerning UK house prices although I think the Guardian has tripped over its own feet a little in an attempt to slay several dragons at once.

House prices in parts of London that were once at the epicentre of the UK property boom have fallen as much as 15% over the past year in fresh evidence of the impact of the EU referendum.

Actually if you then read the article no evidence of it being caused by the EU referendum is given but in the article linked to by it from December we are pointed towards one rather likely cause as Russell Galley of the Halifax tells us this.

“As a result of the rapid price growth in the capital, house prices in relation to average earnings are still very high in London; at 8.8 times annual average earnings they are close to the historical high of 9.”

I do like the “additionally” in the sentence below, what could it be about the house price to earnings ratio that causes this?

Additionally, mortgage affordability in London is worse than its long-run average, the only region in the UK where this is so.

As we progress on we discover that the peak or nadir of the falls depending on your perspective is rather close to home for me.

Figures from Your Move, one of the UK’s biggest estate agency chains, reveal that the average home in Wandsworth – which includes much of Clapham, Balham and Putney – fell by more than £100,000 in value over the last 12 months………..Homes in the London borough of Wandsworth were fetching an average of £805,000 in January 2017 but this has now fallen to £685,000.

There have been falls elsewhere too.

Other London boroughs are also showing steep price falls. In Southwark, south London, the average price has dropped from £666,000 to £585,000 in 12 months, while prices have pegged back in Islington, north London, from £750,000 to £684,000.

At this point with Wandsworth and Southwark on the list I am starting to feel a little surrounded although a common denominator is beginning to appear.

Wandsworth and Southwark are home to huge speculative property developments facing on to the River Thames – including the Battersea Power Station development – but the market for £1m-plus one-bed properties has shrivelled in recent years.

The scale of this was explained in the Times just under a fortnight ago.

The new neighbourhood — Europe’s biggest regeneration zone, with 39 development sites across 561 acres — will contain 20,000 homes as well as cultural, retail and business facilities. It is set to be completed by 2022. A £1.2 billion Northern Line Tube extension will create two new stations, Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station, to open in 2020.

Or if you prefer in in picture form, here is a part of it which is yet to come.

If you cycle through it as you now can you get an idea of the scale that somehow cycling past does not quite give, If we return to the economic consequences of this we see that the existing lack of affordability in central London combined with the surge in supply is something that can explain the recent price falls. It was always going to require quite an influx of wealthy people to populate the area and of course that would be in addition to the many who have arrived in recent times. A sort of “overshooting” I think in assuming that a trend would not end. If we wish to help the Guardian out we could suggest that the EU Referendum has probably deterred some although it does not actually make that case and curiously I have seen one or two bits of evidence that more in fact have arrived ahead of possible changes. So something along the lines of what happened with Hong Kong a couple of decades ago.

Looking wider

If we do we get something much more sober. Here is LSL Acadata which produced the report.

Prices in London fell again in January, down £4,662 or 0.8%, leaving average prices in the capital at £593,396. That’s down 2.6% annually, the biggest decline since August 2009.

So we have gone from the 15% click bait to a reality more like 2.6%, However as we have often discussed this is significant as the UK establishment pretty much lifted heaven and earth to stop a significant house price fall post credit crunch. I remember prices falling in my locale and wondering of those selling were making a wise decision and that buyers would regret it? Instead of course we got the UK establishment house price put option as interest-rates were cut to 0.5% where they remain, QE and when they were not enough more QE the Funding for Lending Scheme and then more QE as well as the Term Funding Scheme. The latter has now finished albeit a stock of £127 billion remains as we await the next move.

Before we move on there was another hint in the data that affordability is the main player here.

The cheaper boroughs have fared better. More than half have seen price rises over the year, led by 4.5% growth in Bexley, which, with an average price of £363,082, still has the cheapest property in the capital outside Barking and Dagenham (£300,627).

Up up and away

We get reminded that the UK is in fact a collection of different house markets which are connected but sometimes weakly.

That’s now led by 4.6% annual growth in the North West, one of four regions to see new peak prices in January (along with the East Midlands, the South West and Wales).
Just eight months ago, the region was trailing every other region bar one. Now, it’s seeing strong growth in every part of the market: at the bottom, Blackburn with Darwen has seen the biggest increase in prices in the country, up 16.4% annually. At the top, Warrington is also seeing double digit growth, with prices up 10.3%.

Comment

We find on today’s journey that the trends for UK house prices remain in place as we see substantial falls in the new developments in central London and helping make the average price fall there too. This means that the UK picture is according to LSL Acadata as shown below.

Including this February, we are now in the ninth month where the annual rate of house price growth has continued to slow. It now stands at 0.6% when including London and the South East, or at 2.5% when excluding these two regions.

This represents quite a change from the 9% of February 2016 and the change has mostly been seen in London. This particular series makes a lot of effort to be comprehensive but like all efforts has its challenges and estimations.

We have subsequently recalculated all our various house price series on the basis of the new weightings, which has had the effect of decreasing the average house price in December 2017 by £6,340.

So did the average house price from this series go above £300,000 or not? I will let you decide.

One consequence of the new weightings is that the average price of a home in England & Wales has fallen below the £300,000 threshold, which we reported as having been breached during 2017.

As we mull what is or is not Fake News there was this in the Evening Standard?

Millennials, criticised by baby boomers for buying avocado on toast instead of houses….

Meanwhile eyes turn to the Bank of England as we wonder how it will respond as house prices in London fall? Perhaps its Governor Mark Carney is already thinking that June 2019 cannot come fast enough.