Top money stories - 4th - 8th February 2008

Top Tip:

Energy prices on the rise – The average fuel costs of a household have been rising recently and Tuesday marked another day when energy costs were raised by a leading energy provider. It’s important to try to get the best deal available on the market for your situation – have a good look at a couple of price comparison websites.

Additionally, often you can reduce your energy costs by setting up a standing order or a direct debit to pay your bills every month. Research this week by the The Daily Telegraph showed that ‘millions of people are being forced to pay a £307 penalty’ because they are using cash and cheques to pay bills. A direct debit allows the energy company to take out the amount that you owe them from your bank account automatically. It also reduces the costs for the energy provider and these cost savings are passed on to you. Speak to your energy provider or your bank/ building society about setting one up.

The Financial week that was...

Monday 4th February

Savings opportunities abound – On Monday another bank launched a new high-interest savings account. As banks and building societies continue to suffer from the effects of the credit crunch, lenders are offering higher interest rates on savings accounts than in the past in order to meet their cash requirements. If you have not compared interest rates on savings accounts you could be missing out on lots of extra cash. Check out Moneysupermarket, uSwitch or another price comparison website to start your search for the best deal.

Tuesday 5th February

Growth in UK services sector – The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply’s index showed that the UK services sector grew in January 2008, rising for the second month running. The UK economy is driven by our services sector and so growth in this area is a good sign about our long-term economic healthiness.

Thursday 7th February

Disappointing December retail figures – Spending in retail outlets during December 2007 was down 0.4% from November 2007, according to the Office of National Statistics. Considering that December is a key month for retailers, it is understandable that there were a few retailers who have announced results over the last month that have been below par.

Interest rates cut to 5.25% – Often there is much debate as to whether the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will cut, raise or keep interest rates constant. However, the question being asked before the decision on Thursday by many was not if interest rates should be cut, but by how much. The MPC decided to plump for a quarter point cut, providing a reprieve for borrowers, and giving the MPC some breathing room to see how the economy and inflation develop.

The rate cut should also help companies that export their products or services to other countries. As interest rates are cut, there is less incentive for investors from other countries to save their money in the UK and so the value of holding British pounds falls in respect to other currencies. This helps to make British products or services more competitive in other countries, helping to further stimulate economic growth.

Thursday 8th February

Home repossession at 8-year high – Figures released from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) showed that home repossessions in 2007 were at their highest level since 1999 at 27,100. However, this fell below many analysts’ expectations that repossessions would reach 30,000. Despite this, the CML still reiterated its forecast that repossessions in 2008 would rise more than 50% to 45,000. If you are struggling with debt, Credit Action produces a Dealing With Debt Moneymanual that can help you to avoid serious over-indebtedness and repossession and it is crucial that if you are having difficulty that you seek help sooner rather than later.

Prepared for Moneybasics by Jason Taylor, Advocacy Officer (Credit Action).