Monday, 29 June 2015

New travel advice for Greece

The government has updated its advice to tourists visiting Greece, reassuring them that they can continue to make withdrawals from cash machines up to their usual amount, despite the €60 daily maximum for Greeks, and that there are no restrictions on taking unspent euros out of Greece.

The new advice adds that "the system for paying with debit and credit cards for retail transactions continues to function".

However, travellers are still warned that banking services, including cash machines and credit card processing, could potentially become limited at short notice.

And the suggestion that visitors should take cash for emergencies is hardened.

The official word is now that it should "cover the duration of your stay" and those carrying cash are now encouraged to "take appropriate security precautions against theft".

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

House prices softening

There is more evidence today that the housing market has softened.

Monthly figures from the Land Registry put the annual rate of house prices increases in England and Wales at 4.6 per cent in May, down from 5.1 per cent.

The price of the average home was virtually unchanged between April and May at just under £180,000.

Earlier, the latest UK-wide house price index from the Office for National Statistics suggested the rate of increase was falling back even faster.

The ONS figures, covering the 12 months to April, showed that the annual rise had fallen to 5.5 per cent from 9.6 per cent.

It added that the average price had actually fallen over April itself, as the London market stalled.

A rapid gain in values earlier last year ran out of steam after the imposition of much tighter rules on how much buyers could borrow.

Meanwhile, the Council of Mortgage Lenders reported that lending to first time buyers had declined.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

HSBC closing branches

HCBC hasn't provided full details on the number of UK branch closures it plans as part of its cost-cutting programme between now until 2017.

However, the bank says in today's statement that it envisages having 12% fewer branches and 20% less square feet in its top 7 markets.

The UK is one of those top 7.

Currently HSBC has 1,057 UK branches, employing anything from 2 to 50 people in each one.

47 were cut in 2013, 65 last year and 20 so far in 2015. 23 closures are already planned later this year.

So we have already seen 132 closures in little more than a year.

Another 12% would work out at roughly 127 more closures.

How far could it go? All the major retail banks are taking a long hard look at their branch networks.

The boss of the reborn TSB suggested that 700 branches would be a "sweet spot" for British banks.

TSB inherited 631 branches from Lloyds and is actually opening a few.

But if the bigger High Street banks axed branches to get down to TSB's level, the closures would just go on and on.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Curb on payday ads

The UK's TV advertising watchdog has warned that payday lenders should exercise care when using "animation, catchy upbeat jingles and humorous themes" in their adverts.

The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice or BCAP also warns that the high cost lenders will be breaching its guidelines if they suggest loans are a suitable means of addressing ongoing financial concerns, condone frivolous spending or unacceptably distort the serious nature of payday loan products.

Last year the online lender, Wonga, pulled its TV campaign featuring elderly puppets -- known as the Wongies -- playing music, dancing and in comic poses, on the grounds that the ads might appeal to children.

Recently it launched a new TV campaign showing working people, described as acting responsibly.