If there’s a correlation between the amount of news and the economy’s woes, then now is the time to worry. There is simply too much happening at the moment to squeeze it all in.
Goldman Sachs is in trouble again. The issues at the bank were referred to here the other day; see: Will Goldman Sachs be the next Toyota?
Now they have fallen under Ben Bernanke’s antenna. The Fed chairman was focusing on the role it played in disguising Greek debt by securitising certain assets, or in other words by using future revenue as a way to reduce the current level of debts. Ben said: “Using these instruments in a way that potentially destabilises a company or a country is counterproductive.” He added: “We’ll certainly be evaluating what we learn from the activities of the holding companies that we supervise here.”
House prices are down. For the first time in ten months, the Nationwide had house prices falling over the course of one month. It had them down 1 per cent in February. Does this mean the long awaited second housing crash is under way? Well, actually, it seems the dip may have had more to do with the removal of stamp duty and the bad weather. You can’t call these things on one month’s worth of data.
The fact is, however, the economic prognosis is not looking pretty, and the real surprise is surely not that house prices fell in February, but that they had risen for the previous nine months. And yet while house prices were rising, business investment was dropping like a stone.
2009 was a simply awful year for business investment. And that really does illustrate the problem. The UK is still reliant on hot air to propel itself forward. When the child pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, everyone talked about it. But when the credit crunch showed the UK wore no clothes, and that its growth was based on spending, not productivity, the lesson was ignored. See today’s lead story for more on this.
Finally, a new report from PwC says: “While the government has already legislated for the State Pension Age to rise from 65 in 2020 to 66 by 2026, 67 by 2036 and 68 by 2046, there is a fundamental question as to whether this goes far enough, particularly given the sharp rise in UK public debt due to the global financial crisis since this legislation was introduced in 2007.”
It suggests the State Pension Age should rise to 67 by 2030 and to 70 by 2046, and the default retirement age for employees should be scrapped.
Is it right?
Well, we will cover the report in more depth next week. But the short answer is, yes, of course it is. There is no other way of affording the retirement of the baby boomers and the next generation. But it is a lesson that countries across the developing world have got to learn too. Resistance to this change will be one of the big social and political pressures for the next few decades.
© Investment & Business News 2013