The housing market is crucial in any economy, as it provides so many jobs in related industries. It is frequently a good signal of how buoyant the economy is. With recession in the UK, mortgage rationing continuing and many homeowners having to find 20% deposits to buy a house, many would expect the housing market to be showing signs of trouble.
And to some extent this is the case. Studies on house prices have clearly shown how unpredictable this market is and prices remain 0.7% below what they were a year ago. However, in August house prices increased, recording their biggest rise in two and a half years, at 1.3%. For many, this rise was a surprise, but came as a welcome relief following the declines in previous months. Despite this rise, analysts have suggested that this trend is unlikely to continue throughout the rest of the year, as the demand for houses remains weak. Robert Gardner, the Chief Economist at Nationwide said:
“Given the difficult economic backdrop, the extent of the rebound in August is a little surprising. However, we should never read too much into one month’s data, especially since monthly price changes have been impacted by a number of one-off factors this year, such as the ending of the stamp duty holiday for first time buyers’.
So, what is behind this upward trend? Nationwide’s Chief Economist says that it could be explained by a resilient labour market, where employment has risen in recent months, despite the recession. The labour market undoubtedly has a big effect on the housing market, as mortgages do take up so a large percentage of take-home pay.
However, another key factor that affects house prices is the availability of mortgages. The Bank of England and Treasury launched the Funding for Lending Scheme at the beginning of August in a bid to make mortgages cheaper and more easily available. However, analysts suggest that the scheme is yet to have an effect. Furthermore, until deposit requirements are eased, that first step on the property ladder will remain elusive for many people. Mortgage approvals did increase slightly in July, but still remain a major barrier for the housing market to really boom.
The following articles consider this ‘surprising’ rise in house prices and the factors behind it.
House prices in ‘surprising’ jump, Nationwide says BBC News (31/8/12)
UK house prices record surprise increase Financial Times, Tanya Powley (31/8/12)
Surprise house price rise in August not indicative of market, says Nationwide The Telegraph, Emma Wall (31/8/12)
House prices in surprise rebound Independent, Vicky Shaw (31/8/12)
House prices continue to hold The Economic Voice, Jeff Taylor (31/8/12)
Mortgage approvals still subdued, Bank of England says BBC News (30/8/12)
Banks are pulling back from property – expect prices to fall Money Week, Matthew Partridge (31/8/12)
UK house prices up, as London continues surge Share Cast, Michael Miller (29/8/12)
Lending to Individuals Bank of England 2012
House Price Index Land Registry 2012
UK house prices (links) Economics Network
- Use a supply and demand diagram to analyse recent trends in the housing market.
- Why is the Bank of England’s lending scheme not having the expected impact on the housing market?
- To what extent do you think the state of the housing market depends on mortgage rationing? Which other factors are likely to affect the housing market?
- In the article from the Economic Voice, the author says that house prices holding as they are is a surprise, because of relatively high inflation and the fact that wages are not keeping pace. Explain the economic thinking behind this view.
- The Chief Economist at Nationwide has said that the future of the housing market depends heavily on what happens to the labour market. Why is this the case?
- Why have mortgages been rationed and minimum deposit requirements been increased?
- Why is the housing market so important for the economy?
A particular issue that has received much attention recently is the difficulty of getting loans. One sector that has found this especially hard is those organisations that are part of the so-called ‘social sector’. Organisations that try to do some good in society while achieving a financial rate of return often find finance impossible to obtain and, as such, the economy is allegedly losing out on billions.
The Big Society is an integral part of the Conservative’s mission and the launch of the Big Society Fund is a key stepping stone in ‘supplying capital to help society expand’. Sir Ronald Cohen, who is Big Society Capital’s Chairman said:
“It will allow an organisation which today is trying to deal for instance with prisoners who are being released and ending up in unemployment then back in prison… to get the capital to increase the size of their organisation and to improve the lives of these prisoners.”
It is hoped that this innovation will help the economy grow through new investment, but will also bring wider benefits to society. One such example is Social Impact Bonds in Peterborough, which aim to help prisoners return to work once they are released from jail. The idea is that rather than being left to their own devices, the scheme helps them integrate back into the community, such that they don’t re-offend, which does tend to be a big problem and creates a big cost for the local community and society at large. In essence, this new bank will simply be providing loans to new social enterprises that demonstrate they can generate an income stream and also provide societal benefits. The financial return will encourage investors, as will the idea of doing some good for society. The following articles consider this new social innovation.
Unclaimed bank cash to fund ‘Big Society’ Sky News (4/4/12)
Big Society Fund launches with £600m to invest BBC News (4/4/12)
’Big Society Bank’ to start providing capital Financial Times, Sarah Neville and Jonathan Moules (4/4/12)
David Cameron unveils Big Society Bank to help savers invest in good causes Telegraph, Rowena Mason (4/4/12)
David Cameron launches £600m ‘big society fund’ Guardian, Nicholas Watt (4/4/12)
The Big Society Promise that has yet to deliver Independent (4/4/12)
- Where is the finance for the big society bank coming from?
- Do you think the financial return from investments through the big society bank will have to be equal to the financial return on business investments?
- Explain the relevance of externalities to this new social innovation.
- To what extent do you think funding through the big society bank is simply a way of replacing direct government funding of the welfare state?
- Do you think the amount of money this bank is enough to make any difference?
- Why do you think social projects find it difficult to obtain funding through traditional lending?
Throughout the credit crunch and since then, one of the major problems in the global economy has been a lack of lending by banks. A key cause of the credit crunch and many of the debt problems countries and people face today is because of people living off borrowed money. In the past, credit was so easy to obtain – people could receive a mortgage for more than 100% of the value of their property. However, when more and more people began to struggle to make their monthly mortgage repayments, the banking crisis began and since then mortgage lenders have become increasingly wary about who they lend to and how much.
The Bank of England has said that in the coming months it will become even harder to obtain mortgages, as banks become increasingly wary about who becomes their customer and potential home buyers put off even applying for a mortgage. Although mortgage approvals are at a 2-year high, they still remain significantly below their pre-crisis level. Indeed, the Bank of England said:
“Lenders expected the proportion of total loan applications being approved to fall over the coming quarter with some lenders commenting that they had revised down expectations for households’ disposable incomes and hence the affordability of taking out new secured loans.”
As part of this new rationing of mortgages, lenders are requiring applicants to put down larger and larger deposits and so for first time buyers, getting on to the property ladder is becoming more and more of a dream. The property market has been suffering from this mortgage rationing as house sales are down below their pre-crisis level. The housing market is crucial to any economy, as so many other sectors and hence jobs depend on it. If mortgages remain scarce and the required deposit so high, the UK housing market is likely to remain stagnant and this will certainly prove damaging for the prospects of the UK economy in 2012.
Mortgage approvals hit new two-year high The Telegraph, Angela Monaghan (4/1/12)
Mortgage approvals up but overall lending weak Reuters (4/11/12)
Mortgage rationing becomes worse, Bank of England says BBC News (5/1/12)
Mortgage demand fell in Q4 2011, say lenders Mortgage Strategy, Tessa Norman (5/11/12)
Mortgage lending still stagnant, Bank figures show BBC News (4/11/12)
BoE: Lending to be tighter in Q1 2012 Mortgage Introducer, Yuan Phoon (5/11/12)
Lending to Individuals Bank of England
- Why are mortgages being rationed?
- Why is the housing market so important for the UK economy?
- Which other sectors of the economy employ people whose jobs are dependent on a buoyant housing market?
- Why has the Bank of England said that in the coming months it will become harder to get a mortgage?
- Why would increased mortgage lending be a much needed stimulus for the UK economy?
- Using an aggregate demand and aggregate supply diagram, show how rationing of mortgages and other loans will affect the UK economy.
Cadbury is arguably the producer of the best Easter eggs and also one of the best known adverts – who can forget the guerrilla playing the drums! If you think there is no substitute for Cadbury chocolate, then you’ll find this story especially interesting.
In early September, Kraft Foods made a £10.2 billion bid for the maker of Dairy Milk. This was duly rejected by Cadbury, whose Chairman said that the offer ‘fundamentally undervalued’ the business. This initial bid, although rejected, has sparked interest in the corporate world and Cadbury shareholders have seen their shares rise in value by almost 40%, closing at 775.5p on Friday 11th September.
Following this bid, other potential buyers have entered the picture, including Nestlé and Hershey’s. There is also the likelihood that Kraft Foods will make a higher bid, financed through a bridging loan. Despite this interest, Cadbury still wants to remain independent, hoping that its investors will be buoyed by the company’s rising profits in recent months.
Take a look at the following articles that consider these possible take-overs of Cadbury and how the corporate world has been, and will continue to be, affected.
Cadbury snubs £10.2bn Kraft move BBC News (7/0/09)
Hershey’s and Nestlé in running to buy Cadbury Telegraph (10/9/09)
Kraft races to prepare new Cadbury bid Guardian (9/9/09)
Return of the Deal? BBC News (7/9/09)
Hershey considers Cadbury counterbid Times Online (9/9/09)
Cadbury spurns ‘low growth’ Kraft BBC News (13/9/09)
Long Cadbury shares? Cash out! Khaleej Times Online (United Arab Emirates) (14/9/09)
Hedge fund Eton Park stakes £180m on Cadbury bid Telegraph (10/9/09)
Cadbury vision is to stay single Financial Times (11/9/09)
- In the 13th September BBC News article, an extract from a letter to the Kraft Chief Executive from the Chairman of Cadbury stated that under Kraft’s offer “Cadbury would be absorbed into Kraft’s low growth, conglomerate business model, an unappealing prospect.” What does he mean by a ‘conglomerate business model?’
- Eton Park has bought £180 million worth of shares. In what ways do you think this will affect the future of Cadbury? Is Cadbury more or less likely to sell now?
- How would you explain the rise in Cadbury’s share price when it looked as though the company might be taken over?
- Cadbury’s Chief Executive hopes that investors will continue to support the company given the positive profit margin growth. What does this actually mean?
- If the take-over were to go ahead, what do you think would be the impact on the (a) the Cadbury factory in Birmingham; (b) Cadbury’s workers; (c) Cadbury’s shareholders; and (d) the price of Cadbury chocolate?