85% of homes in Central London sold to overseas buyers

The extent to which London's irrepressible housing market is being propped up by foreign buyers was laid bare by figures showing as much as 85 per cent of prime London property purchases last year were made with overseas money.

Estate agent network London Property Partners reported that just 15 per cent of its sales in the past year were made by UK buyers. Of the foreign purchases, 80 per cent were from Europe and 20 per cent from Asia, LPP said.

LLP agents operate mainly in prime locations such as Pimlico and Fulham but also take in more affordable areas such as Tooting.

Overseas buyers: London has seen a huge influx of foreign buyers in recent years - while the pound has plummeted

However, the trend of foreign buyers providing most demand was continued in wider market figures. LLP said analysis of house price indices from HMRC, Knight Frank and Savills indicated that around 65 per cent of purchases were made by foreigners.

In terms of prices, the prime Central London market has marginally underperformed against the wider market in the capital over the last 12 months, with total growth of just three per cent, LPP said.

  More... OECD reveals the world's cheapest and most over-valued property markets 100 buyers per home in Brixton but a three-bed house in Blackpool can't sell for £50,000 House sales reach highest level for three and a half years as buyer confidence continues to surge The first-time buyer's guide to getting a mortgage and climbing onto the property ladder Compare the best mortgage rates and get fee-free advice

However prices in the £5million-plus bracket are still over one third higher than they were prior to the 2008 downturn, having been fuelled by international demand that has accounted for 67 per cent of purchases.

LLP predicts price growth across prime London of four per cent over 2013, contributing to five-year growth to the end of 2017 of 32.5 per cent.


Miguel Janin, director at London Property Partners, said: ‘Prime London real estate is internationally viewed as a good investment opportunity, and not a bubble market.

‘Over the past 18 months, overseas investors have continued to dominate with demand from sovereign wealth funds concentrating on large trophy assets in both the City and West End.’

Of property valued over £10million, the capital accounted for £2.3billion worth of transactions in the last year, a figure 16 per cent higher than five years ago.

An increasing number of international buyers are coming from Asia though interest from continental Europe accounts for the majority of transactions.

The Battersea Power Station development for example has sold out of most of its 866 luxury apartments – all to Singaporean investors looking for a safe haven.

Average prices in prime central London have hit £1.4m, according to analysis of Land Registry data by London Central Portfolio, up 13 per cent on a year ago.

Driving overseas demand has been the weakness of the pound. Sterling has plummeted against a number of currencies in recent times. In July 2012, when sterling was at its strongest point against the euro in the last 18 months, £1 would buy €1.29. Today, it has dipped under €1.18.

At the end of 2011 £1 would buy $2.06 Singaporean Dollars but this was $1.88 in April. At the start of 2013 £1 bought $1.62 US Dollars but this has slipped to $1.55 in just a few months.

Alistair Cotton, senior analyst at Currencies Direct, said: ‘The UK export market has failed to flourish by advertising the weaker exchange rate as a price cut for trading partners.

‘However, as prime London real estate prices remain sky high, which points to significant demand, a falling pound has been the equivalent of a discount for foreign buyers looking to acquire assets in the UK. As with any rational consumer, overseas investors are keen to take every advantage they can.’

Battersea development: Demand for luxury apartments has been fierce - with the complex almost selling out

Is foreign investment making rental prices in London unaffordable?

Tenants in Greater London have an average of £254 less disposable income every month than they did during May 2012, according to the latest HomeLet Rental Index.

The data shows that the average cost of renting a home in the capital increased by 3.1 per cent over the past year to £1,233 per month. In contrast, the average amount a tenant earns in Greater London decreased by 6.8 per cent to £36,000 per annum.

Renting a home in the capital is now 84.6 per cent more expensive than the rest of the UK

All of this reinforces how much Greater London tenants’ purse strings are increasingly being stretched.

Recent research by Cluttons found that tenants are seeking to move to the peripheries of prime Central London, primarily zones two and three, in search of lower budget properties as they attempt to minimise outgoings.

It found that the volume of applicants with higher budgets is in decline, a trend which is expected to persist over the coming months.

Areas to the East including the Isle of Dogs, Limehouse and Wapping have seen an increase in tenant demand of 42 per cent between September 2012 and March 2013.

Similarly, Clapham, Battersea and Wandsworth in the South West have collectively seen a 53 per cent quarterly increase in tenant registrations in the first three months of the year, with a corresponding upturn in rental values across the area.

House prices rise around the world - but UK the sole riser in Europe Worldwide prices: How property values across the continents have fared

Thirty five of 55 international housing markets tracked by Knight Frank’s recent global house price index recorded an increase in mainstream property prices in the year to March.

Property prices in all world regions, except Europe, increased in the year to March.

Prices across the Middle East are up 10.6 per cent on average while Hong Kong is up 28 per cent. In mainland China prices are up by 23.8 per cent in the last 12 months - and by 10.7 per cent in the first three months alone.

Greece, Hungary and the Netherlands occupy the bottom three rankings this quarter having seen prices fall by 11.8 per cent, nine per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively.

UK property prices rising by 0.2 per cent in the year to March and stand 8.9 per cent above their recent low at the start of 2009.

However, much of this growth is masked by rising London prices propping up the rest of the country – it has developed its own market. The average property price is a record £375,795 in the capital, and rising.

The capital has not been immune from the crisis - prices fell by 15 per cent in 2009 - but have climbed steadily since then.

Within London there are also hotspots. The borough of Lambeth, which includes Brixton, has climbed by nine per cent in the past year, Camden is up 12 per cent and Wandsworth by 11 per cent.

At the same time, the average property price in the North-East is £95,546 - having fallen  six per cent this year.

Since the peak in the housing market in August 2007, property values in Middlesbrough have plunged by a third from £107,497 to £72,308.

In Blackpool and Blackburn prices have dropped by eight per cent this year.

Chilean copper mining group Antofagasta polluted local water, campaigners claim

Antofagasta has disputed claims it caused water pollution and drought near its Los Pelambres mine in Chile, as well as putting the local community in danger.

Anti-poverty group War on Want, which protested at the FTSE 100 copper miner’s annual meeting earlier this week, accused Antofagasta of a string of failings.

It cited complaints from locals that the Caimanes community has suffered both contamination and shortages of water due to the presence of the mine and its ‘tailings dam’, a huge deposit of mining by-products.

Contaminated: Antofagasta has rebuffed claims that the Los Pelambres copper mine pollutes the local water

Antofagasta said Chilean water authorities had uncovered no contamination in regular testing.

But local sources insisted that independent testing by the police and Dr Andrei Tchernitchin of the Chilean College of Physicians had revealed that water was not fit for human consumption. Antofagasta also said there was ‘no evidence’ the presence of its mine had any impact on the supply of water to the Caimanes community.

The firm, majority owned by Chile’s powerful Luksic family, has already won a Supreme Court case – after a decade-long battle – over accusations of its effect on the local water supply.

  More... RBS shares hit as Hester resignation bombshell and 2,000 job cuts leave bank rocked by uncertainty Beleaguered Co-op lavishes £1MILLION on helping senior executive move house including £200,000 in relocation costs alone

The company also brushed off suggestions that the tailings dam could collapse in the event of a major earthquake.

War on Want warned that huge tremors, which are common in Chile, could cause the tailings dam to collapse, endangering the lives of hundreds of people living beneath it.

But Antofagasta insisted that the dam was built to the highest standards, pointing to Chilean regulators’ expertise in mining and earthquakes.

Solar panel Feed-in-Tariff cut again but costs fall - is it worth investing?

The amount that is paid for energy generated from solar panels is set to fall at the end of the month, as the potential returns of harnessing the sunshine that beats down on your roof are trimmed once again.

But experts claim that the continued fall in the cost of panels means that the average size of installations are growing and that means that so are the returns.

So is it still worth investing, even as the Feed-in Tariff is slashed? Tara Evans investigates.

Sunshine: Solar panel FiT rates are dropping but as the cost of installing the technology falls should you still invest?

Solar panel payments have tumbled

From 1 July the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) rate for generated electricity will reduce from 15.44p to 14.90p per kWh.

The Feed-in Tariff rate is what determines the major part of the return people can get from solar panels, paying them for every kilowatt of energy they produce. In October 2011 this stood at 43.3p - almost three times the level it will be in just over a fortnight's time.

  More... Do you want to save the planet or simply lower your energy bills? How to make the most of Government grants Energy bills: Is it worth switching and which are the best deals? Compare energy suppliers: Find a cheaper gas and electricity deal

Those days of bumper potential returns of £1,100 a year from solar panel power are long gone and the effect of the forthcoming reduction will be to push the average annual earnings amount down from to £497 to £482 for a 3kWh sized installation.

This is the average amount that a household can earn from income and export through the tariff, but they can add to that an average electricity bill saving of £107 – the latter is an unchanged figure according to data from the Energy Saving Trust. 

...but overall returns are going up

According to the EST the average size of installations has increased to 3.5kWh and because of this they have changed the way they calculate savings and earnings from households.


3kWp system 1st Feb 2013 to 30th June 2013 (15.44p/kWh) Electricity savings – £107 Income - £432 Export amount – £65 TOTAL SAVINGS AND INCOME IS AROUND £604 A YEAR

3kWp system 1st July 2013 to 30th September 2013 (14.90p/kWh) Electricity savings – £107 Income - £417 Export amount – £65 TOTAL SAVINGS AND INCOME IS AROUND £589 A YEAR

3.5kWp system 1st Feb 2013 to 30th June 2013 (15.44p/kWh) Electricity savings – £125 Income - £505 Export amount – £76 TOTAL SAVINGS AND INCOME IS £706 A YEAR

3.5kWp system 1st July 2013 to 30th September 2013 (14.90p/kWh) Electricity savings – £125 Income - £487 Export amount – £76 TOTAL SAVINGS AND INCOME IS AROUND £688 A YEAR

Its figures show a 3.5kWh sized installation on the current 15.44 generated electricity FiT rate would earn a household on average £581 (through the income from generated electricity and the export rate), plus £125 in electricity bill savings adding up to a total of £706 per year.

On the new lower FiT rate of 14.90 per kWh, which kicks-in on 1 July, the estimations will fall slightly to a total of £688 in savings and earnings from solar PV installations.

Crucially, while FiT rates are down, the cost of installing solar panels has also fallen.

The average price of a typical 3.5kWh system has fallen to £7,000, down from £12,000 for a kWh installation in 2012.

Ian Cuthburt from the Energy Saving Trust says that these levels are not sustainable and at some point the cost of installations will stop falling while FiT rates continue to reduce – cutting the earning potential even further.

'If you’re interested in solar panels then you should get them installed the sooner the better because there has been a lot talk about PV costs coming down but they can only come down so much before they get flat,’ he said. 

Should you get panels?

There are three major things to consider when buying solar panels:

the direction your roof faces in,where your home is and the size (and quality) of the installation.

A south facing roof, in southern England, will deliver the best returns and the largest a home solar panel system can be to get the best Feed-in Tariff rate is 4kWp.

Adjusting each of these factors of location, direction and size will impact on performance and what you get back.

The Energy Saving Trust has a calculator on its site that can work out potential returns for you, although bear in mind that the £10,000 figures quoted for installation costs are more expensive than what solar firms are now suggesting they can do.

It is also very important to remember that the old system of returns being paid for 25 years was hacked back and you now get them over 20 years instead.

Problems? Will I be able to sell my home?

Some homeowners are concerned that installing panels could make their properties harder to sell.

The EST says that there is no conclusive evidence that it has any negative impact on house sales but some industry experts fear that it might not be to everyone's tastes.

Property expert, Henry Pryor, said: 'I've yet to see an attractive solar array, a block of solar panels that actually enhances a house. It has the same effect as stone cladding did on 1970's terrace homes in parts of south Essex.

'Buyers are torn between their desire to do their bit for the planet and concerns that the installation was done by Del boy and Rodney.

'Beauty they say is in the eye of the beholder. Your wallet may be better off, your green credentials the envy of your new neighbours but before popping the champagne, remember that not everyone is a fan. Like wind turbines and Marmite, you either love 'em or hate 'em.'

For more information read our guide to solar and other renewable energy and efficiency methods.  

Young adult incomes fall financial crisis pensioners recession proof

Recession-proof pensioners are emerging from the financial crisis earning more money than they went in with, but the same can't be said for young adults whose incomes have taken a big hit.

High unemployment and frozen wages have meant that among people in their 20s the median income fell by 12 per cent between 2007/08 and 2011/12, allowing for inflation.

Influential think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that over-60s went through no such difficulties in the same period, as their median incomes rose by between 2 and 3 per cent.

Different story: Pensioners have seen their incomes rise during the financial crisis, but those in their 20s have suffered.

At a time when the Government is considering removing certain bonuses - such as the winter fuel payment - from wealthy pensioners, it is telling that the IFS has identified benefits as a reason why the over-60s have had a smoother ride at a time of austerity.

Its report said: 'The relative poverty rate for pensioners fell sharply - by more than a quarter - over those four years.

  More... Slump in wages over last five years is 'unprecedented' as workers have paid to hang on to their jobs Millions of workers could see pay cut or frozen as businesses absorb costs of automatic pensions Thousands of pensioners will struggle with debts 'of up to £100,000' to pay off in retirement Retiring soon? Get an annuity quote Could equity release be a good option for you? Find out using our free guide

'The primary reason for this is that, unlike wages, benefit rates broadly kept pace with inflation over the period, and benefits are a particularly important income source for low-income pensioners and families with children.


'On the other hand, relative poverty among working-age adults without children increased, driven by increasing levels of unemployment, and falls in real wages.'

Overall, average incomes fell in 2011/12, reaching 7.2 per cent lower than their mean peak in 2009/10, and 5.8 per cent lower than the median.

Average incomes for people in their 20s fell more than any other age group in those four years.

And the IFS says the widening gap between young and old incomes is part of a long trend, with median pensioner income almost doubling since 1979, compared with 50 per cent for families with children and just a third for working-age people without children.

While in the 1960s and 1970s OAPs were up to eight times more likely than others to be poor, 40 years later they are now no more likely than anyone else to be - and even less so when lower housing costs are factored in.

But while their incomes have risen, recent studies have suggested some pensioners are going into retirement with hefty debts still to pay off, while their investments have also provided lower than expected returns.

Figures: Research from The Institute for Fiscal Studies shows changing poverty rates over the last 50-odd years.

David Phillips, senior research economist at the IFS, said: 'The face of poverty has become much younger during recent decades.

'Whereas in the 1960s and early 1970s the poverty rate for pensioners was around six to eight times as high as for working-age adults without children, by 2011/12 the risks had near enough equalised.

'Indeed, once housing costs are accounted for, pensioners actually had a substantially lower risk of poverty by 2011/12.

'This is in many ways a triumph of social policy. But these figures also confirm that it is young people who have suffered most as a result of the recent recession and who are now at risk of falling further behind.

'It is important that policymakers and politicians understand these profound changes to patterns of low incomes and respond accordingly.'

Splashing out on your garden can thousands to home's value, claim estate agents

Further data emerged last week confirming the recovery in the housing market – and balmy weather is helping, especially where homes have attractive gardens, say estate agents.

According to Halifax’s latest property snapshot, national house prices were almost three per cent higher in the first quarter of this year than in 2012, the greatest increase in three years.

Making the best of a garden can add tens of thousands of pounds to even modest properties, estate agents say, but they also warn that owners often make ‘disastrous’ mistakes.

Fun: Student Lydia Wood enjoys the family jet pool

Gardens are being increasingly viewed as ‘living rooms’ – and marketed as such by vendors seeking to extract the maximum value for the property.

Mark Haywood, president of the National Association of Estate Agents, says: ‘Potential buyers want to imagine themselves relaxing in the garden. It sounds a cliche, but it is an extra room.

‘This matters now – in this mild spell of early summer – more than ever.’

  More... It's never been cheaper to fix your mortgage. Read our guide on how long you should fix for A leg-up the property ladder to a £600k home: But is Help to Buy really worth signing up for? Need financial advice? Find an adviser near you Compare the best rates and get fee-free mortgage advice Could you be getting cashback on garden equipment when you shop online?


The Wood family, of Woodstock, Oxfordshire, enjoy the benefits of a jet pool they installed in their large garden two years ago at a cost of £10,000. William Wood, 57, a lawyer, his wife Tonya, also 57, and their children, Richard, 23, and Lydia, 21 all make use of it.

Lydia, a student, says: ‘The pool was not bought as an investment but as a great way to get fit and relax. The water jets allow you to swim against a current.’

Estate agents say pools like this are an ideal way to add value to properties.

Estate agent Philip Mount says: ‘They can enhance a garden, without frightening people away with the thought of hefty maintenance costs.’

He reckons that by spending a few thousand pounds on a feature such as a patio with barbecue or hot tub, homeowners can add £10,000 to a home’s value.

In contrast, a loft extension might cost £25,000 with homeowners typically getting back only what was spent. Maintenance is also crucial, especially when growth is vigorous.

Haywood points out that basic pruning – cutting back overgrown foliage and getting rid of ‘cold and dark’ evergreens such as leylandii – can bring a sense of space and freedom. However, he warns that taste is important, and that means simple and contemporary is best.

A water feature offering a modern cascading fountain is preferable to an old fashioned pond surrounded by garden gnomes and ornamental wheelbarrows.

Philip Mount is branch manager of Churchill Estates in South Woodford, Essex, one of the peripheral areas of London where house prices are growing strongly and demand is high.

He says: ‘A large patio area with a few comfortable chairs and a table and barbecue can do wonders for the appeal of a property, you don’t need to spend a fortune.

‘The secret is to get potential homeowners to imagine themselves enjoying the extra room. Big investments such as swimming pools may put people off because of maintenance costs.’

One of the most cost-effective ways of adding to a garden’s appeal and value is to instal increasingly popular hot tubs or mini pools. An astonishing one in ten houses now boasts one of these in their garden, according to the Lloyds TSB Insurance. In high-end properties they are increasingly regarded as ‘essentials’.

THREE SIMPLER WAYS TO MAKE YOUR GARDEN LOOK GREATRemove perennial weeds, especially really nasty ones such as ground elder or Japanese knotweed. Tidiness creates the impression of a garden that can be easily maintained. Paving, gravel and potted plants are ideal for those seeking low maintenance. Large areas of lawn can be offputting.Garden furniture, barbecues, water features and hot tubs introduce a sense of relaxation for an additional living area. Patio or folding doors are also worth considering – at least obtain quotes and seek an estate agent’s opinion as they are features that can generate returns in excess of their cost.Make the most of the garden’s layout and features, such as sunny south-facing corners and kitchen garden plots. Walled gardens are also fashionable, adding to the sense of seclusion and having an extra room. Parking spaces and storage sheds are absolute musts wherever possible.

CEBR warns retailers they face SIX more years of stagnant consumer spending

High street shops already battered by the recession were today told their battle for survival would drag on for at least another six years.

Researchers for the Centre for Economic and Business Research forecast that households will focus on building up savings to guard against weak pay growth, high unemployment and continued Government austerity.

They warned consumer spending will grow as a ‘snail’s pace’ for almost the remainder of the decade.

Spending squeeze: Consumer spending is likely to be subdued for the next SIX years the CEBR says

The forecast comes just days after the Institute for Fiscal Studies said real wages had suffered their biggest ever fall in the five years since 2008.

It said a third of people had accepted a pay freeze since the start of the financial crisis in order to keep their job. Those lucky enough to receive a pay rise had seen it increase by around 2 per cent on average but many others had accepted employer imposed pay cuts rather than join the dole queue.

  More... Slump in wages over last five years is 'unprecedented' as workers have paid to hang on to their jobs, says think-tank Weather batters Britain's high streets again as retail sales fall at their fastest rate in over a year Nation's yearly pay shrinks by £52bn since the downturn as workers take a 7%-plus hit Do you prefer to shop online? See if you could earn cashback at the same time Save on your supermarket shop: The best rewards cards for cashback, points and perks

Meanwhile, inflation has been as high as 5.2 per cent in the last five years meaning anyone that has received a pay rise has more than likely seen it disappear in real terms as prices have risen. 

The CEBR said as a result of the economic environment consumer spending per household was likely to rise by just 1.8 per cent between now and 2018 having fallen 7.1 per cent since 2003.

The think tank's head of macroeconomics, Charles Davis, said: ‘Households have had to get used to living within their means as they have been buffeted by the financial crisis, weak economic growth, fiscal tightening and high inflation.

‘We think consumer spending will rise only slowly and a sustained recovery will be unable to rely on consumption.’

Continued lower consumer spending could have a disastrous impact on the wider economy as well as the high street.

The economy is almost 80 per cent reliant on the services sector - a large chunk of which consists of the retail industry.

Wage squeeze: Average earnings are growing at a lower rate than inflation

This year alone, several well-known high street names have gone to the wall including Jessops, HMV, Comet and Blockbusters.

But the forecast is also at odds with recent data which has shown the economy beginning to grow - albeit at a modest pace - amid signs of returning consumer and business confidence.

Last month official data showed the economy escaped the dire prospect of a triple dip recession in the first thee months of the year, growing by 0.3 per cent.

And the British Chambers of Commerce revised its forecast for the economic growth up from a previous estimate of 0.6 per cent to 0.9 per cent following a better than expected start to the year and rebound in the services sector.

It predicted the economy would grow by 1.9 per cent in 2014 compared to a previous estimate of 1.7 per cent and that in 2015 economic growth would by 2.4 per cent returning to levels not seen since before the financial crisis in 2008.

The CEBR said it expected people to continue to save more, at a rate of around 7 per cent of their household income until 2018 - a level more than three times higher than in 2008.

Over the years from 2002 to 2007 real consumer spending per household rose by 10.4 per cent, the CEBR said.

Closing down: recent high profile closures of some of Britain's biggest high street brands has pushed the number of empty shops on high streets to their highest ever level.

Rapid real wage increases and low unemployment meant consumers were happy to spend freely and use borrowing extensively as unsecured lending increased from £150billion to £193billion alongside large increases in secured borrowing.

Over those five years the savings ratio declined from 5.1 per cent to 1.7 per cent as households saved less of their income to fund consumption increases.

The median household's real spending power is down by 5.1 per cent since the financial crisis as a result of weak pay growth, high unemployment, elevated inflation and Government fiscal austerity, it added.

Online fashion chain ASOS sees 'phenomenal' start to Primark tie-up

'Phenomenal' demand for Primark products after just one week were the icing on the cake for ASOS today: the online fashion retailer reported a huge sales surge that predated its new partnership with the discount clothes store.

ASOS has tapped into demand from value-seeking twenty-somethings for both branded and own-label products. The company - whose name stands for 'as seen on screen' - particularly targets young women aiming to emulate the designer looks of celebrities such as Nicole Scherzinger and Cara Delevingne.

Britain's traditional high street shops have suffered as consumers feel the pinch from squeezed incomes, but ASOS's performance suggests online retailers may be faring far better - though the strongest growth came from markets abroad including the US and Australia.

Looking good: Having begun a limited trial of Primark fashion items last week - marking the clothing chain's first foray online - business has rocketed through the ASOS site

It was also helped in the UK by the coldest spring in 50 years, which discouraged shoppers from leaving their homes.

And having begun a limited trial of Primark fashion items last week - marking the clothing chain's first foray online - business has rocketed further.

'The response has been phenomenal,' ASOS chief executive Nick Robertson said.

'Clearly there's a very high demand for Primark products among our customer group; and with the internet increasingly being the preferred channel of purchase, those customers are missing out if Primark isn't online.'

  More... High Street revival on the horizon as consumers start to 'loosen their belts' Smart moves from women's fashion retailer Hobbs as sales jump

ASOS reported a remarkable 45 per cent rise in sales to £194million in the three months to May 31 - just before the Primark trial began - compared with the same period in 1012, helped by price reductions on own-brand products which boosted demand.

This rise was ahead of a forecasts for around a 42 per cent increase, and the already-impressive 37 per cent rise in the second quarter. As a result, ASOS shot up more than 4 per cent early this morning. They currently stand up 129p (3.2 per cent) at 4,110.

Copy cats: ASOS has been very successful in targeting young women aiming to emulate the designer looks of celebrities such as Cara Delevingne (left) and Nicole Scherzinger

And while UK sales jumped 39 per cent to £64million, international sales were up a mighty 48 per cent to £129million - driven by stronger growth in countries where it has dedicated websites such as the United States, France, Germany and Australia.

It means the company now makes 67 per cent of retail sales overseas, and it has unveiled plans to build on this success with the launch of a Chinese-language website in October.

Consumers are expected to 'loosen their belts' this year as changes to the personal allowance for income tax mean many people will have an extra £300 to spend, the Ernst & Young ITEM Club said on Monday.

Already there are signs the housing market is recovering too, with the Help to Buy and Funding for Lending schemes driving mortgage rates down and easing monthly payments slightly.

The knock-on effect should see a high street revival, with consumer spending is set to grow by 1.2 per cent this year, and by 2015 it will have returned to its pre-financial crisis peak.

Clothing and footwear is also expected to perform relatively strongly over the next few years, although growth will be well below that in the decade before the financial crisis, the report said - although it also cautioned that consumers will still feel ‘bruised’ by the experience of several tough years on household budgets, and retailers should not expect them to spend quite as freely as they did before the economic downturn.

Despite all this, ASOS expects full-year results to be in line with expectations. The consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of 19 analysts was for a full-year pretax profit of £53million.

Rollercoaster RBS: Now chairman could follow Hester to the exit during bank's next boardroom shake-up

The chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to follow chief executive Stephen Hester to the exit in the next twist in the Government-led boardroom putsch at the taxpayer-backed bank.

Sir Philip Hampton told Bloomberg TV yesterday that ‘when we have a new CEO, other aspects of boardroom succession will be addressed’, implying that he may leave once a replacement for Hester is found.

And the troubled banking giant - the biggest faller on the FTSE 100 yesterday, initially losing more than 6 per cent - will be ordered to lend billions more to struggling businesses.

rallied later - ending the day 10.6p or 3.26 per cent lower at 315p - but £650million was wiped off the bank's value, and City concern has been stoked by speculation over Hampton's possible exit.

Boardroom coup: Sir Philip Hampton could also go in a clear out that has wiped 3 per cent off the shares

The Treasury denied Labour claims that Hester had been removed - after George Osborne staged a ‘coup’ - to pave the way for a pre-election ‘fire sale’ of RBS, which is 81 per cent owned by the taxpayer after its £45billion bailout.

But Treasury minister Sajid Javid told MPs that small business lending would become ‘even more prominent in RBS’s strategy’.

Last night David Cameron told the financial website Bloomberg that voters were more interested in getting their money back than a quick return to the private sector.

  More... ALEX BRUMMER: Vacancies on Lombard Street after the government creates a political problem for itself CITY FOCUS: It's 'chaos' as politicians and City clash over RBS future

‘It will take time, because this is a bank that is still healing,’ the Prime Minister said.

‘As for when we get it back into the private sector, I just have two very simple concerns – one is we must make sure this bank contributes to the recovery of the UK economy.

'Secondly, people put their money in. I want them to get their money out.’

Out: RBS CEO Stephen Hester was removed in a 'coup' staged by George Osborne

Investors said Hampton had played down the idea of his imminent departure in conversations with them yesterday, but added that his position was made difficult by his failure to protect Hester from Treasury attacks, both recently and last year over his remuneration.

Hester locked horns with George Osborne on a number of issues including the level of the bank’s lending to small firms, whether or not to keep the US arm Citizens, and the scale of the investment bank.

A demand from the Treasury to cut another £28billion of assets from the investment bank balance sheet was one of the final straws.

Possible successors to Hampton include Penny Hughes, who currently chairs the bank’s pay committee and Paul Tucker, the deputy governor of the Bank of England. The search will be more difficult as Lloyds is also looking for a new chairman to replace Sir Win Bischoff.

City headhunter Anna Mann is leading the hunt for an executive to take over Hester’s mantle. Her shortlist is likely to include Nathan Bostock, who has recently been appointed as RBS finance director, though  Hampton is said to be lukewarm about internal candidates. Other possibilities are Lloyds deputy chairman David Roberts, along with National Australia Bank supremo Cameron Clyne.

Richard Meddings, finance director of Standard Chartered, has been strongly tipped for the job. However the Treasury is understood to have  reservations because of his association with the bank’s troubles last year in the US, where it was fined for sanctions-busting in its dealings with Iran. The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Culture and Standards, due to report shortly, is to recommend the Government looks at splitting RBS into a good bank/bad bank, which would delay the privatisation process.

There is also unease over RBS’s Irish subsidiary, Ulster Bank, which operates mainly in the Republic of Ireland. It is responsible for heavy losses and insiders believe it may take a generation to resolve its problems.

As savings rates continue to plummet is it worth giving Premium Bonds a whirl?

Savings woe: As savings rates tumble, Premium Bonds look increasingly attractive

It's been a terrible past year for savers. Rates have plummeted ever since the Funding for Lending scheme was launched last August leaving it nigh-on impossible for savers to get an inflation-beating return.

National Savings & Investments, currently top a number of the This is Money savings tables  and beloved of savers, announced a savage cuts to its savings rates yesterday, to take effect from September.

Its Direct ISA has been slashed from 2.25 per cent to 1.75 per cent, Direct Saver from 1.5 per cent to 1.1 per cent and Income Bond from 1.75 per cent to 1.25 per cent.

Strict rules on how the Government-backed saving vehicle is run mean that it has been forced to lower rates. Cuts to rival accounts  left NS&I at the top of the best-buys in several categories and cash flowed in from savers.

NS&I has a target deposit level set at the start of each financial year: It must raise or lower rates to prevent total deposits from reaching £2billion above or below this level.

The cut in NS&i rates means they now sit far below inflation - currently at 2.4 per cent. No other easy access savings account, or even cash Isa, will beat it either.

  More... Premium Bonds Calculator: Have I won? NS&I hunts for winners of £44m in unclaimed prizes - including three for £100k We track down Agent Million who travels the country to deliver £1m worth of good news Best savings rates: Fixed-rate accounts

The squeeze on savings accounts is making another NS&I vehicle increasingly attractive. Premium Bonds have become a default option for many looking to stash cash long-term. Premium Bonds money is often parked for years - bonds are held for an average of 13 years.

Danny Cox from Hargreaves Lansdown, says: ‘Savers are increasingly faced with below inflation returns on their cash, or taking risk in the markets.


‘Higher rate taxpaying savers shouldn’t ignore NS&I Premium Bonds as an alternative to a savings account where after-tax cash returns are paltry.

‘In some cases investors should forego the guarantee of a small amount of interest they will receive from taxable savings and invest in Premium Bonds, with the hope of winning tax-free prizes of at least the same amount as they would have earned in after tax interest. There is a chance of winning more and of course one person will win the monthly £1million prize.’

The tax-free annual prize fund for Premium Bonds is equivalent to an interest rate of 1.5 per cent, however bond holders should not assume this would be their average rate of return – they could win less or more than this. 

Savings struggle: Rates have fallen dramatically in the last ten months - and could drop even further

To beat inflation, a basic rate taxpayer at 20 per cent needs to find a savings account paying three per cent, while a higher rate taxpayer needs to find one paying 3.99 per cent.

Currently, only one account does this – Virgin Money’s five year fix. However, many experts warn against opening such a long-term savings product.

The best buy easy access account is 1.75 per cent from NS&I – which will drop in September. Nationwide and Derbyshire have the next best at 1.7 per cent – and both come with bonuses. The top paying cash Isa is 2.3 per cent from Cheshire Building Society.

The probability of a higher rate taxpayer winning prizes higher than the net return of a savings account paying 1.75 per cent gross is 78.9 per cent – assuming the maximum £30,000 is put into Premium Bonds and held for a year, according to Hargreaves Lansdown. 

Winnings on Premium Bonds are tax-free and you can hold a maximum of £30,000.

NS&I says that in its August 2012 draw, there was one in 9million chance of a £5,000 holding winning the jackpot.

The chances of a Premium Bond holder winning the next biggest prize of £100,000 with £5,000 worth of holdings is 1 in 1.8million. Holding a maximum of £30,000 in Premium Bonds means the odds change to a one in 1.4million chance of winning the £1million prize.

Financial crisis has delivered fatal blow to aspirations of UK homeowners, says IMLA

The fallout from the financial crisis has delivered a fatal blow to a generation of aspiring homeowners, with just a third of young households likely to be owner-occupiers by the end of the decade.

That amounts to little more than half the number of those aged 25 to 34 who owned their homes in 1993, according to a report.

The Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association also warned that the peaks of mortgage lending seen before the credit crunch will not be revisited. Rather than the £360billion lent in 2007, the report suggests the 'new normal' would be less than around £200billion annually.

Young couples: Far fewer young households ¿ aged 25 to 34 ¿ are likely to be owner-occupied by the end of the decade

The IMLA, which represents mortgage lenders operating through brokers, said that homeownership levels will continue to fall if policies and regulation that impact on the mortgage market are not reformed.

  More... Mortgages for first-time buyers fall in April but lenders insist the market is improving Hard-up parents having to help children up the property ladder What next for mortgage rates and should you fix? The first-time buyer's guide to getting a mortgage and climbing onto the property ladder Compare the best mortgage rates and get free professional advice


Despite 'short-term, counter-cyclical' initiatives such as the Funding for Lending Scheme and Help to Buy being introduced, the report mourned the absence of a wider debate on the property market and mortgage lending, which Lord Adair called for when launching the Mortgage Market Review 18 months ago.

The report argued that regulatory requirements on banks mean the supply of low deposit mortgages will remain limited, blocking first-timer buyers from the recovery.

And FLS, which provides banks with cheap funding, is scheduled to end at the start of 2015.

Peter Williams, the IMLA’s executive director, said: 'Generations of Britons have been raised with the ambition of owning their own homes, which has become a key part of our national identity.

'But this goal threatens to disappear from view unless we consider what kind of market we want to create for the future and what can be achieved within the scope of mortgage regulations and available finance.'

Mr Williams added: 'There is a clear onus on lenders to ensure mortgage products are simpler to understand and provide customers with a long-term service that caters to their evolving needs.

'Beyond that, we urge the government to recognise and act on these critical issues that will shape the future of the market, so we are not left dealing with unintended consequences further down the line.'

Lending to first-time buyers fell for the first time in four months in April, according to figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders yesterday - though lenders insisted the sector was continuing to strengthen.

CML said loans to first-time buyers in the first four months of this year were still 11 per cent higher than for the same period last year.

Average deposit values for first time buyers also fell to 19 per cent in April from 20 per cent the previous month, suggesting lender demands for higher deposits from would-be homeowners were easing.

Total mortgage lending was 5 per cent higher in the month, spurred on by a surge in remortgage activity from March to April.

NatWest voted most trusted bank despite IT problems that locked 7.5m customers out of their accounts

NatWest has been voted Britain’s ‘most trusted high street bank’, despite an IT glitch which left customers locked out of their accounts for several days occurring twice in a year.

The bank was awarded the accolade following an annual survey of 20,000 savers and borrowers for the personal finance magazine, Moneywise.

It comes just 24 hours after the resignation of Stephen Hester, chief executive of NatWest’s parent company, state-backed Royal Bank of Scotland.

Difficulties: NatWest customers have had problems using the banking app in recent weeks as well as having been locked out of their accounts twice in the last year because of an IT glitch

The award came as a surprise to some given the bank is currently the subject of investigation by City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority, over the IT glitches that prevented people from access money in their current accounts, paying bills or transferring money. 

  More... NatWest banking app fails again... and this time on payday Building society Nationwide says it is opening 1,000 new current accounts a day RBS customers unable to check accounts online with mobile app in bank's latest IT embarrassment Fight back against the banks? Your guide to switching accounts and where the best offers are - including free money Looking for a better bank? This is Money's five of the best current accounts Bored of the banks' low savings rates? See if you would get a better rate with lend-to-save

The glitch was among several failings at the banking group which led Mr Hester to waive his 2012 bonus.

At the time of the initial IT problem last June, NatWest apologized to customers and promised to put work round the clock to put things right. But the bank’s 7.5million personal banking customers were locked out of their accounts for three days.

Business customers and 100,000 customers of Ulster Bank were also affected by the IT problems. A second IT problem in March saw NatWest customers locked out of their accounts again but this time the bank reacted quicker and was able to fix the problem within 24 hours.

Mark King, editor of Monewise magazine told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The interesting point about NatWest is that they appear to have been seen to deal with the IT problem they had well.

‘While they responded to the issue slowly, they did eventually put things right, and customers seemed to respect that.’

He added: ‘It's also the case that a reasonable number of people don't automatically link them to RBS and so see them as less impacted by the financial crisis than we might imagine.’

Of the other high street banks only Cooperative Bank received enough votes to win an award, winning the award for best current account branch service.

Mr King suggested the vote represented a ‘subtle shift’ away from the high street banks with the results suggesting customers have big questions about their professional standing.

Yorkshire Building Society was named the most trusted overall financial services provider in the poll, beating online bank First Direct which has taken the top honour for the previous three years.

Yorkshire BS customers voted for the building society because they said it looked after its customers rather than simply seeing them an opportunity to make a profit. Nationwide BS and Coventry BS were also view favourably by customers in the poll

First Direct scooped four awards: Most Trusted Credit Card Provider, Most Trusted Mortgage Provider, and Best Current Account for both call centre service and online service.

Nationwide won two awards: Most Trusted Travel Insurance Provider and Most Consistent Financial Provider.


If you're thinking of switching to another, better, provider, there are plenty of incentives to move.This is Money's five of the best current accounts is a regularly updated guide to where the best offers are.

Top deals include Halifax's Reward Account promises new customers £100 to switch and £5 per month if they stay in credit.

First Direct pays £100 to new customers who switch to its First Account. On top of that, the bank is so confident in its customer service that it will give you a further £100 if you chose to close the account within the first 12 months.

Santander's 123 current account, on the other hand, pays interest on in-credit balances - 1 per cent on balances between £1,000 and £2,000, 2 per cent between £2,000 and £3,000 and 3 per cent on balances between £3,000 and £20,000.

Nationwide BS FlexDirect offers to pay 5 per cent interest on balances up to £2,500 for the first year, while its FlexAccount delivers free travel insurance.

Read our switching banks guide for step-by step advice on switching your current account.

By Amy Andrew

Mum paid British Gas £7,000 for a boiler on the blink


The new boiler kept failing but, to be fair, British Gas sent someone out promptly. Eventually, an engineer from manufacturer Worcester Bosch fixed the problem. British Gas paid £400 compensation.

Now my mother has been advised that the guarantee on her new boiler expired in April and she must pay £136.38 cover in addition to the £12.33 a month she pays to cover plumbing and electrics. However, Worcester Bosch says it provides a two-year guarantee. Mrs J. C., via email.

I, too, gasped when I saw how much your mother had been charged — and immediately contacted British Gas for an explanation. It says that her existing boiler was 37-years-old and was beyond repair.

Because of its age, work was needed to bring the system up to specification. The cost of the new heating system was actually £5,211.56. This included a Worcester Greenstar efficiency boiler, pipework, thermostat, upgrades to the flue, a radiator flush and installing a new electric fire.

  More... 'I do regular meter readings and stay on top of my bills but my energy company never gets my bill right. What can I do?' ASK TONY: Is our investments adviser bleeding us dry with his £11,500 fee? Can you find a better home insurance deal? Could you be paying less for your energy bills? Compare hundreds of deals and find cheaper travel insurance

British Gas acknowledges and apologises for the problems with the boiler and did pay £400 compensation in addition to the £400 it had taken off the cost of the boiler in a sales promotion.

Your mother has a two-year guarantee for parts and labour on her boiler. However, she has also had a free year’s cover on its HomeCare 200 scheme, which also protects the controls and the rest of the central heating system.

As well as this, there is an argument that she should be covered by the Sale Of Goods Act for a reasonable time — in this case, I’d say you could expect a new boiler and system to last at least three years.

Your mother was also paying a £12.33 top-up to upgrade her to HomeCare 400, which covers drains, plumbing and electrics. The extra £136.38 from April reflected the fact the free HomeCare 200 had ended.

British Gas apologises for not explaining this clearly when you called. It has now extended the HomeCare 400 cover free for the rest of this year, which is worth £174.16. It is also sending your mother a bouquet of flowers as a further apology.


British Gas admits it is not the cheapest, but argues that it does provide good follow-up customer care for people such as your mother.

For instance, following the installation, your mother called several times for help understanding several aspects of the new system.

On a wider issue, you tell me in your full letter that your mother is frail, has poor hearing and can find it difficult dealing with these sort of issues.

I think it might be in both of your best interests if you suggested to her that she gives you lasting power of attorney so you can run her financial affairs.

I paid £70 for dental treatment on holiday, and now my insurer says I wasn't covered

I have annual multi-trip travel insurance with Axa. On January  19, I visited the dentist in Gran Canaria. I contacted Axa on my return and sent off the form and receipts for €83.25.

I chased them in March and at the beginning of April. When I called a third time, they told me my policy had finished in April 2012, so they could not process my claim. Axa took £201.32 from my bank account for the policy on April 12, 2012, so I know I was insured. S. B., Manchester.

Once I got my teeth into this problem, Axa investigated and confirmed you do in fact have a valid travel insurance policy. This is something you knew all along.

Apparently, there was a ‘technical fault’ on the electronic claim form, which resulted in the correct procedures not being followed.

Axa has paid the full claim of £69.71, waiving the excess, and adding £50 compensation. They’ve also written to you to apologise.


I have some spare money and want to use it to clear my mortgage with Nationwide. What is the most I can overpay on the loan? G. A. W., Stamford, Lincs.

Nationwide customers who took out a mortgage before May 29 can pay back up to £500 a month, or £6,000 a year, more than the agreed amount. Customers who took out a mortgage after this date can give back up to 10 per cent of the loan over the course of a year, in addition to their scheduled repayments. This means someone with £100,000 debt outstanding can overpay by up to £10,000 in a 12-month period.

Our dog knocked a tin of paint on to our living-room carpet. Cleaning products haven’t worked and it’s ruined. I rang my insurer Direct Line, who said my policy didn’t cover it. It’s £800 to get a new carpet. K. R., Kent.

Accidental damage cover is an extra on most home insurance policies. This isn’t always clear. In your case, the pricier Direct Line Plus home insurance does cover such mishaps. Its ordinary policy, which you have, does not.

I’ve lived in the U.S. for 20 years and am moving back to the UK in a few months. I have joint citizenship. Can I transfer my credit report with me? N. P., by email.

Unfortunately not — even though two of the biggest credit reference firms in Britain do much of their business in the U.S., UK and U.S. reports hold different information. You could add a note to your British record to say you have been living in the U.S..

I took out boiler cover a couple of years ago. Last winter my heating broke down and I tried to claim. I was unhappy with the service I received but I’m told I can’t complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service because I have a maintenance contract and not insurance. Is this correct? E. L., Liverpool.

Your case is sadly becoming increasingly common. Many boiler cover policies are not insurance but maintenance contracts. This means you can’t take your complaint to the independent Financial Ombudsman Service.

We bought a £75 second-hand games console from a listings website for our grandson. When we got it home from the seller’s house, it seized up within minutes — and hasn’t worked since. The seller says it was fine when he owned it. Do we have any rights? D. B., Weston-Super-Mare.

When you buy second-hand goods from a private seller, your rights are nowhere near as strong as if buying from a shop. In a nutshell, it’s caveat emptor — let the buyer beware. Your only protection is that what you buy must be described properly to you.

So if your seller said very little to you about the console’s quality or condition, you won’t have any comeback. However, if you were told it was in good working condition, you have a right to your money back. If the seller is uncooperative, you face going to the small-claims court.

FTSE LIVE: Shares in London wobble as bouyant US data fails to shift central bank fears

17.30 (CLOSE): A cautious reaction to downbeat economic data from the United States held back progress on the London market today as investor nerves continued to weigh on blue chips.

A weak report on US consumer confidence and worse-than-expected industrial production data saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street fall into the red in early trading, losing much of the 1 per cent gain seen the previous session.

The FTSE 100 Index in London narrowly held firm in positive territory, up 3.6 points at 6308.3, but eased back from earlier gains after the disappointing US figures, combined with concern over America's asset-buying programme ahead of next week's Federal Reserve meeting.

Drop: in Next fell by 35p to 4553p.

Speculation over the Fed meeting dominated the thoughts of traders amid questions about when policymakers will start to taper the central bank's quantitative easing programme.

Analysts think this may happen in September, but until then markets will continue to fret as they try to work out the impact of the eventual step-down in purchases.

This may mean further volatility for world markets, which have fallen back sharply after reaching multi-year highs in May.

The pound held on to recent gains against the US dollar and the euro as official figures showed a better-than-feared performance from the UK construction sector.

Output declined by 1.1 per cent year-on-year in April, but this was the smallest drop since the start of 2012. Sterling remained at 1.57 dollars and 1.18 euros.

Riskier stocks attracted some interest during an otherwise subdued session in London, with miner Glencore Xstrata leading the way up 9.8p to 315.9p.

Royal Bank of Scotland shares edged 1p higher to 316p despite Deutsche Bank joining other brokers in placing a sell recommendation on the stock due to uncertainty caused by Stephen Hester's departure as chief executive later this year.

Yesterday, analysts at Charles Stanley described Mr Hester's planned exit as a "damaging development" for the bank.

Banks were also in sharp focus for further rate-rigging misdemeanors as Singapore's central bank censured 20 groups for attempting to rig benchmark rates, including UK players RBS, Barclays and HSBC.

The banks were not fined, but were ordered to set aside a combined $9.7billion (£6.2billion) in extra reserves and to carry out internal changes.

HSBC fell 10.3p to 680.1p and Barclays edged 1.2p higher to 297.7p.

Water giant Severn Trent was also on the fallers board, down 25p to 1760p, as investors continued to depart the water stock in the wake of this week's failure to engage in talks with an overseas takeover consortium.

Fashion and homewares retailer Next was 35p lower at 4553p after weekly sales figures from John Lewis showed a 5.2 per cent drop in department store revenues, a figure distorted by comparisons with last year's extended Jubilee holidays.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Glencore Xstrata up 9.8p to 315.9p, Kingfisher 9.3p ahead to 352.1p, Randgold Resources 122p higher at 4881p and Aggreko 41p up at 1725p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were HSBC down 10.3p to 680.1p, Severn Trent off 25p to 1760p, Tesco 3.4p lower at 336.5p and Royal Dutch Shell down 21p to 2160.5p.

16:30: Having briefly scaled the dizzying heights of 6334 this afternoon, the FTSE remains flat currently trading at 6305 barely 0.01 per cent higher than when it opened this morning.

Gains in the London market have been pegged back after US consumer sentiment retreated to 82.7 in June having hitting its highest in nearly six years in May, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading. Economists had expected the level to hold at 84.5 this month.

The reading added to negative sentiment after the May inflation report showed US producer prices rose more than expected in May as petrol prices rebounded, with the producer price index gaining 0.5 per cent. Economists had expected a gain of 0.1 per cent.

Shares rally: shares in London continue their recovery on the back of better than expected US retail and jobs data

Adding to woes, the IMF said while underlying fundamentals in the US are gradually improving, the economy is still being restrained by government spending cuts and tax increases. The IMF revised its US growth outlook for 2014 down to 2.7 per cent, while maintaining the 2013 guidance at 1.9 per cent.


US stocks have slipped at the open with investors taking a breather following a sharp rally that propelled all three major averages by more than 1 per cent each, as concerns remained over whether central banks will pare back their stimulus programs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is 0.14 per cent, or 21.81 points, lower at 15,154.27.

Shares in London were flat in mid-afternoon trading a pinch higher by 0.10 per cent at 6310.9 as investor's nervously waited for US markets to open, as well as May inflation figures and consumer sentiment data to be released and give a sense of when the US Federal Reserve may begin to tapper off its $80bilion monthly bond buying programme

The May inflation report showed US producer prices rose more than expected in May as petrol prices rebounded, with the producer price index gaining 0.5 per cent. Economists had expected a gain of 0.1 per cent.

Industrial production was unchanged in May, according to the Federal Reserve, missing expectations for a gain of 0.2 per cent.

  More... FTSE CLOSE: Bad day at the office for RBS after Hester announcement, but Footsie breaks losing streak Get the latest market data Save every month and get the experts to pick your investments at a low-cost. Find out more at Killik.com

Speculation over next week's Fed meeting is dominating the thoughts of traders.

Analysts think this may happen in September but until then markets will continue to fret as they try to work out the impact of the eventual step-down in purchases.

This may mean further volatility for world markets, which have fallen back sharply after reaching multi-year highs in May.

Riskier stocks have attracted some interest during an otherwise subdued session in London, with miner Rio Tinto up 57p at 2817.5p, Glencore Xstrata 7.4p higher at 313.7p and Antofagasta ahead 24.75p to 916.75p, a rise of 3 per cent.


A much-needed lift from Wall Street has proved short-lived today as European markets resumed the recent pattern of uncertain trading.

Better-than-expected US retail sales and jobless claims soothed concerns about global economic prospects on Thursday after a sharp sell-off in Japanese stocks earlier in the session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed more than 1 per cent higher last night but the FTSE 100 Index has failed to build on the gains retreating back into negative territory with a decline of 9.5 points to 6295.1.

Speculation over next week's Federal Reserve meeting is dominating the thoughts of traders amid questions about when policymakers will start to taper the central bank's quantitative easing programme.

Analysts think this may happen in September but until then markets will continue to fret as they try to work out the impact of the eventual step-down in purchases.

  More... FTSE CLOSE: Bad day at the office for RBS after Hester announcement, but Footsie breaks losing streak Get the latest market data Save every month and get the experts to pick your investments at a low-cost. Find out more at Killik.com

This may mean further volatility for world markets, which have fallen back sharply after reaching multi-year highs in May.

Riskier stocks have attracted some interest during an otherwise subdued session in London, with miner Rio Tinto up 57p at 2817.5p, Glencore Xstrata 7.4p higher at 313.7p and Antofagasta ahead 24.75p to 916.75p, a rise of 3 per cent.

Royal Bank of Scotland shares are slightly lower after Deutsche Bank joined other brokers in placing a sell recommendation on the stock due to uncertainty caused by Stephen Hester's departure as chief executive later this year.

Yesterday, banking analysts at Charles Stanley described Mr Hester's planned exit as a 'damaging development' for the bank.

Shares are 3.75p lower at 311.1p, having recovered from a 7 per cent fall at one stage yesterday to close down 3 per cent.

Fellow part-nationalised bank Lloyds Banking Group is a penny higher to 62.3p - above the break-even price for the Government's shareholding - but HSBC is down 8.4p to 682p and Standard Chartered  is 8p lower at 1450p. Barclays is 0.7p higher at 297.25p.

Other fallers include Severn Trent, which has dropped 22.5p to 1762.5p as investors continue to depart the water stock in the wake of this week's failure to engage in talks with an overseas takeover consortium.

Fashion and homewares retailer Next is 47.5p lower at 4540.5p after weekly sales figures from John Lewis showed a 5.2 per cent drop in department store revenues, a figure distorted by comparisons with last year's extended Jubilee holidays.


The FTSE remains in positive territory this morning trading 35.82 points or 0.5 per cent higher at 6339.89 following positive sessions in Asia overnight and the US yesterday sparked by better than expected US retail sales and jobless claims figures.

Riskier stocks are back in favour this nmorning with miner Rio Tinto up 55p at 2814.5p and Glencore Xstrata 4.7p higher at 310.7p, a rise of 2 per cent.

Royal Bank of Scotland shares were steady, despite Deutsche Bank joining other brokers in placing a sell recommendation on the stock due to uncertainty caused by Stephen Hester's departure as chief executive later this year.

Shares were 0.15p higher at 315.15p, having recovered from a 7 per cent fall at one stage yesterday to close 3 per cent lower. Lloyds Banking Group was 1.1p higher at 62.5p and Barclays improved 3.5p to 300p. 

But analysts cautioned that markets remained volatile. Matt Basi, head of UK sales trading at CMC Markets UK, said: 'Popular opinion seems to be swaying back to the view that Fed tapering will be a drawn out process, and that any knee-jerk withdrawal of stimulus is highly unlikely.


'After finding themselves deserted as investors took risk off the table over the past fortnight, mining and property stocks find themselves in a relief rally this morning as bargain hunters step in to pick up the pieces.'

'At the other end of the FTSE RBS continues to look well offered as the news of Stephen Hester’s imminent departure weighs on the share price in the short term.

'Having been hired to run a bank and instead found himself the focus of intense political scrutiny – not to mention the public outcry every time he got paid – the news of Hester’s departure doesn’t come as a huge surprise. It will take a thick-skinned candidate to fancy taking on his role.'

08:00am (Open): Shares in London have opened in positive territory this morning tracking Asia overnight after better than expected US retail sales and jobless claims data helped support a mid-afternoon rally in equities and calm fears over central bank tapering of economic stimulus.

The FTSE is currently trading 0.27 per cent higher at 6321.5. Wall Street rallied more than 1 per cent yesterday on the data.

Asian shares rebounded from multi-month lows overnight on the data after what has been a bruising sell off in global markets, but investors remained anxious ahead of next week's Federal Reserve policy meeting.

Volatility was still high in currency markets, with the dollar at one point losing more than 1 per cent from early gains against the yen, and approached Thursday's four-month lows against a basket of six major currencies.

The better data appeared to bring some temporary relief to markets that have been rocked by uncertainty on whether the Fed would dial back its massive stimulus later this year. The U.S. central bank's huge bond-buying scheme has been the main source of rallies in broad risk assets.

Analysts expect markets to remain on edge ahead of the Fed meeting on June 18-19.

After yesterday's rally investors again be watching the US for further clues as to the health of the economy and the potential impact it may have on future stimulus measures. May inflation figures are due out at 1:30pm and sentiment data scheduled for release at 2:55pm


ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND: The chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland Philip Hampton has signalled that he is likely to stand down soon in the latest upheaval involving the taxpayer-owned bank, according to various newspaper reports.

ASTRAZENECA: The British drugmaker is deepening its collaboration with academia by roping in more outside researchers to help to find new cancer drugs.

GLENCORE XSTRATA: The company has signed a new $17.3 billion revolving credit facility, to replace the pre-merger credit of Glencore and Xstrata and provide working capital.

FASTJET: The African budget airline backed by easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, said on Friday it had been granted permission to launch international flights from Tanzania to South Africa, Zambia and Rwanda.

RETROSCREEN VIROLOGY: The firm is to raise 25.5 million pounds through placing a placing of 12,750,000 new ordinary Shares at a price of 200 pence.

We want to buy our first home and have a sizeable deposit ¿ but how can we borrow as much as possible?

We are thinking of buying our first home in London and have a deposit which will probably be 15-20 per cent of the property value. But we are restricted in terms of what we can afford by salaries.

Will the forthcoming Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme enable us to take on a larger mortgage than a lender might allow us at the moment? It looks like we will not qualify for any of the Government help for first-time buyers because we have already have a sizeable deposit?

We want to borrow as much as possible - which mortgage lenders currently offer the highest income multiples? We heard that West Bromwich had just increased its to 4.75x? Via e-mail.

Mortgage restriction: How can we maximise the amount we can borrow?

Lee Boyce, from This is Money, says: According to recent Council of Mortgage Lenders figures, loans to first-time buyers in the first four months of this year are 11 per cent higher than for the same period last year.

It comes after government schemes – such as Help to Buy and Funding for Lending – have helped thaw the market.

  More... The first-time buyer's guide to getting a mortgage and climbing onto the property ladder How greedy developers are ruthlessly exploiting flagship scheme to help struggling homebuyers The first-time buyer's guide to getting a mortgage and climbing onto the property ladder Compare the best mortgage rates - and get free professional advice

Funding for Lending for instance, has helped bring down mortgage rates. According to information website Moneyfacts, mortgages for people with a deposit of 15 or 20 per cent now make up 37 per cent of the market, which is up on a year ago.


And someone with a 20 per cent deposit will now be typically offered a cheaper rate of 3.73 per cent, compared with 4.36 per cent last July.

Average deposit values for first time buyers also fell to 19 per cent in April from 20 per cent the previous month, suggesting lender demands for higher deposits from would be homeowners are easing.

So could Help to Buy enable you to maximise the amount you can borrow? I asked a mortgage expert.

David Hollingworth, from London & Country Mortgages, says: The Help to Buy scheme is made up of two separate strings.  The guarantee scheme is not due to be unveiled until the beginning of next year. 

Although there is no detail as yet it aims to help improve the availability and price of mortgages for those with small deposits.  We will have to see how that takes shape but I don’t expect it to allow you to take a larger mortgage than is affordable.

The part of the Help to Buy scheme that is already up and running offers help through an equity loan on new build property only. 

This could be up to 20 per cent of the purchase price but carries no cost for the first five years and then attracts a nominal interest charge, initially 1.75 per cent. 

The remaining 80 per cent of the purchase price is made up from the borrowers own deposit which must be at least five per cent plus mortgage finance.

If you are keen on a new build property then it could be worth exploring further and you should talk to your local Help to Buy agent to get a feel as to whether you would meet the eligibility criteria.  It’s not limited to first time buyers and is available on purchases up to £600,000.

Looking more broadly at the question of income multiples. lenders now typically use affordability models to judge the maximum borrowing level available. 

Rather than applying a one size fits all multiple these models look more closely at commitments, outgoings and monthly budgeting. 

Low outgoings and a good credit score will help open up higher borrowing levels and that could be as much as five times income. However, more typical levels would be 4-4.5x income. 

Will the local council bill me for my mother's care home fees if I sell her house when she dies?


But I am worried that if I do sell the property when my mum dies, the council will activate a charge on the property to cover the cost of my mother's care. Is this likely to happen? P.H

Expensive: Paying for care in later life is a serious concern for many current and future pensioners.

Adam Uren, of This is Money, says: Not only does having a close relative residing in a care home take a significant emotional toll on families, but the huge cost of providing the care is a serious concern for pensioners and their relatives.

Some background. The Government is taking steps to cap the total amount individuals have to pay for care at £72,000, but this is still a hefty amount that does not take into account accommodation costs that have to be paid on top of care.

As such, those without decent retirement savings still face the prospect of using their properties to pay for their care, either by selling or downsizing, or through products such as equity release.

  More... Lack of retirement savings 'biggest threat to British quality of life' as many pensioners still expected to sell home to pay for care Pension payouts tumble by 29% since money printing began - but there's hope on horizon with rates tipped to rise Is equity release right for you? Find out using this free guide Retiring soon? Search for an annuity quote

Properties can also be used to pay for care through local authority 'deferred payment schemes', when a person's property is used in the assessment to determine how much they will contribute towards their care.

This scheme allows a person to keep their property while they are in a care home and still get help from the council to pay their fees - with this financial assistance recovered from the proceeds from the sale of the property when that person dies.

But there are exceptions that prevent people having to put up a portion of their homes as a guarantee on their care home under deferred payment schemes, and in this case it would appear the the reader qualifies because of her age and because she's living in her mother's home.

Janet Davies, of care home fees planning firm Symponia, says: 'As you quite rightly say a person’s home is disregarded if a relative over 60 lives in it. So providing that your mother’s home is your main residence and you lived there (and only there) for a while before she needed formal care, then it should be excluded.

'Your comments about your mother already being in receipt of local authority contributions would suggest that this is the case. This key fact should have been documented in the letter confirming the outcome of the assessment and the contributions.

'If the property is subject to the disregard it will continue to be excluded whilst it remains your main residence. If however you sold it during her lifetime, then the proceeds would be included in her assessment from the completion date and she would stop receiving any contributions.


'After your mother’s passing the house and/or its value will form part of her estate, and how this is treated thereafter will be determined by the details and wishes set out in her will or by the laws on intestacy if she doesn’t have a will.

'Sorry if this sounds obvious, but once your mother passes, she will no longer need care and the need for the Local Authority to provide funding will cease. There should be no need for you pay back any of the money contributed by the council.

'The only exception to this will be if the property is actually being included in her assessment and the council are offering the “deferred payment scheme”. If this is the situation then yes, the all monies paid out towards her care would need to be repaid after her passing.

'From what you have said the latter is unlikely to be the case, but it will be worth double-checking with the social worker to put your mind at rest.'

Apple rumoured to be offering 'cheap' iPhone screen replacements to U.S customers

All iPhone owners in America will soon be able to get their screens replaced at Apple stores rather than sending them away to specialty repair shops, according to reports from a U.S technology site.

MacRumours claims that if an Apple customer drops their iPhone and the screen cracks, they can now take the phone to a local Apple Genius bar which will replace the screen for around £97 ($149).

Previously only AppleCare+ customers could have their displays fixed by Apple.

Cracking up: At the moment, owners who do not sign up to AppleCare+ are looking at a hefty bill if they crack their iPhone screens


During a drop test by Well, according to a video by phone insurers SquareTrade, the iPhone 5 was more sturdy than the Samsung Galaxy S3. 

In the first test, both phones were dropped from the same height.

The iPhone 5 suffered small scratches while the S3’s screen smashed.

The company then dropped household items onto the devices including a bottle of wine. 

The S3's screen smashed on impact whereas the iPhone 5 survived.

Other customers would have had to take their phones to expert repair stores, or send the phone away for an online repair, paying on average between £120 ($180) and £146 ($225) to get the devices fixed.

  More... Seal of quality: Haunting image of sea animal is deemed underwater photograph of the year by judges celebrating the aquatic world's wonderful beauty Apple BANNED from selling popular models of its iPhone and iPad after judge rules firm 'violated patent' of rival Samsung

And if a third-party fixed the screen, the customer's warranty could be affected.

Apple hasn't confirmed the plans but a number of customers have told MacRumours, and other sources including Cult of Mac, that they have had their screen replaced instore.

It is also unclear whether the service will launch in the UK.

When the iPhone 4 was announced, Steve Jobs claimed the display had been made stronger than previous models.

He added it was 'ultra-durable and more scratch resistant than ever'. 

However, in an independent drop test, technology site T3 managed to crack the device's screen by only dropping the phone four times.

The Genius Bars in Apple stores already provide technical support for customers and now, according to technology site MacRumours, they will soon be able to offer screen repairs. Apple has not confirmed the plans and it is unclear whether the service will launch in the UK

The design of the iPhone 4 and 4S also made it difficult for the screen to be replaced.

Apple's iPhone 5 was launched as being even more scratch- and crack-resistant.

Yet in drop tests the device's screen still smashed on the fifth attempt. 

The iPhone 5, however, has been redesigned to make it easier to remove a cracked screen and slide in a new one.

The reports about Apple's iPhone screen replacement service did not specify whether all models, or just more recent handsets, would qualify.

Gesture recognition technology: Fancy a cuppa? Now you can switch the kettle on from another room using Wi-Fi signals reflected off your body

Too lazy to get up to switch the kettle on? Soon you may be able to simply raise your hand or nod your head from another room, and you’ll be moments away from a fresh cup of tea.

This is the hope of researchers at the University of Washington who have developed technology that will allow people to control household devices with simple gestures.

The technology, named ‘WiSee’, is similar in concept to how Microsoft's Xbox Kinect sensor works by using cameras to recognise gestures.

Scroll down for video

A hand gesture changes the TV channel using WiSee technology. The system detects the changes in the electromagnetic waves of Wi-Fi signals as they reflect off a moving human body

By adapting a Wi-Fi router and wireless household devices, the researchers developed a system that can detect specific movements without the need for sensors or cameras.

They claim it is simpler and cheaper than similar gesture-recognition technologies.

  More... Lost the remote control again? Not to worry - now you can use your FINGER to change channels! New gadget that controls a car's functions with just a wink or a nod of the driver's head Microsoft unveils the new Xbox One - with improved voice controls, an exclusive Halo TV show, built-in Skype and a redesigned Kinect sensor

WiSee works using the Doppler effect - the way a wave of sound or light changes frequency at the point it is observed depending on the source of the wave’s movements.

A common example of the Doppler effect is the change in pitch of an ambulance siren as it passes.


A standard Wi-Fi router can be adapted to function as a receiver.

This receiver then listens to all of the wireless transmissions coming from devices throughout a home, including smartphones, laptops and tablets.

When a person moves, there is a slight change in the frequency of the wireless signal.

Moving a hand or foot causes the receiver to detect a pattern of changes known as the Doppler frequency shift.

These frequency changes are very small – only several hertz – when compared with Wi-Fi signals that have a 20 megahertz bandwidth and operate at 5 gigahertz.

An algorithm to detect these slight shifts and the system also accounts for gaps in wireless signals when devices aren’t transmitting.

If a person wants to use the WiSee, they would perform a specific repetition gesture sequence to get access to the receiver.

Once the wireless receiver locks onto the user, they can perform normal gestures to interact with the devices and appliances in her home.

The researchers tested these gestures with five users in a two-bedroom apartment and an office environment.

Out of the 900 gestures performed, WiSee accurately recognised 94 per cent of them.

It was found that as many as five people can move simultaneously in the same room without confusing the receiver.

The Wi-Fi receiver listens to all of the wireless transmissions coming from devices throughout a home, including smartphones, laptops and tablets. When a person moves there is a slight change in the frequency of the wireless signal

Collaborator Sidhant Gupta, a doctoral student in computer science and engineering at the university, who has worked with Microsoft Research on two other similar technologies.

SoundWave, which, as its name suggests, uses sound waves to monitor whole-body gestures and Humantenna, which uses radiation from electrical wires.

But WiSee stands apart because it doesn’t require the user to be in the same room as the receiver or the device.

WiSee detects the changes in the electromagnetic waves of Wi-Fi signals as they reflect off a moving human body. When specific gestures are used, it was found that as many as five people can move simultaneously in the same room without confusing the receiver.

‘This is the first whole-home gesture recognition system that works without either requiring instrumentation of the user with sensors or deploying cameras in every room,’ said Qifan Pu, who worked on the research project.

The researchers now plan to look at the ability to control multiple devices at once.

WiSee detects the changes in the electromagnetic waves of Wi-Fi signals as they reflect off a moving human body.

Using a software algorithm, the technology can identify nine different whole-body gestures, ranging from pushing, pulling and punching to full-body bowling.

VIDEO: WiSee Wi-Fi signals enable gesture recognition in the home

World's oldest tumour found in the rib of Neanderthal that lived 130,000 YEARS ago

The world's oldest tumour has been discovered in the rib of a Neanderthal who lived around 130,000 years ago. 

Scientists at the University of Kansas took X-rays of the inch-long rib fragments - first found in the Krapina rock shelters of Croatia - and discovered parts of the inner bone were missing.

Following CT scans the scientists discovered that this was likely to have been caused by soft-tissue tumour known in modern-day patients as fibrous dysplasia.

Scans found that a small part of the inner bone network was missing and had been 'eaten away' by a soft-tissue tumour. This condition is called fibrous dysplasia


Fibrous dysplasia is an abnormal bone growth where normal bone is replaced with soft fibrous bone tissue.

It can cause abnormal growth or swelling of the bone.

Although it can occur in any part of the skeleton the soft tumours are most commonly found in the skull, thigh, shin, ribs, upper arm and pelvis

Fibrous dysplasia is not cancerous but is rare and there is no known cure.

The disorder is usually diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood.

Males and females of any race are equally affected.

The bones studied by Kansas university anthropologist David Frayer and his team were first excavated more than 100 years ago in Croatia.

  More... Dino Jaws! Meet the terrifying 150m-year-old ocean monster that weighed 12 tonnes (and his name's Kevan) World's oldest primate dating back 55m years is found in China (and it's small enough to fit in the palm of your hand)

The site, known as the Krapina rock shelter, in the north of the country held more than 900 Neanderthal bones dating back from between 120,000 and 130,000 years ago.

Frayer wanted to scan the bones because many of them showed signs of trauma and marks that happened after the neanderthal had died.

Many of the 900 neanderthal bones found in Croatia had evidence of trauma or possible bite marks. This scan taken during the 1980s by researchers in Pennsylvania has a white area of overexposure which was the first evidence that a tumour had 'eaten away' the bone

The detailed scans show exactly where the bone has been 'eaten away'

These marks suggest either cannibalism or burial rituals. 

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania took X-rays of the bones during the 1980s and published a book containing all the radiographs.

One of the inch-long rib fragments was shown to have sections of bone that were 'burned out' in the X-ray images.

'Burned out' sections of X-rays suggest over exposure, and in the rib bones this overexposure was caused by missing bone in the inner part of the fragment. 

Frayer used these images as a guide to take new, higher-resolution X-rays of the specimens.

His team also scanned the bones using high-resolution microCT scanners that doctors currently use on modern-day patients. 

The microCT scan found that the 'spongy bone' which should be on the inner part of the fragment was missing and may have been 'eaten away' by a soft-tissue tumour. 

This type of tumour is seen in modern-day patients and is called fibrous dysplasia.

Fibrous dysplasia is an abnormal bone growth where normal bone is replaced with fibrous bone tissue.

It can cause abnormal growth or swelling of the bone and although it can occur in any part of the skeleton, it is most commonly found in the skull, thigh, shin, ribs, upper arm and pelvis

Fibrous dysplasia is not cancerous but is rare and there is no known cure.

Frayer reported the findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

He told LiveScience: 'People of that time didn't live as long as they did today; plus, there weren't very many of them compared to the Egyptians and people today.

'Finding evidence of tumors and evidence of cancers, is - I don't know if I want to say "lucky" - but there isn't a lot of evidence for it.'

It was previously thought that climate change and a reduction in tree cover forced early man to stand up, but now experts believe the rocky African landscape played a far more significant role

Describing the type of tumour that was found, Frayer added: 'They range all the way from being totally benign, where you wouldn’t recognize them, to being extremely painful.

'The size of this one, and the bulging of it, probably caused the individual pain.'

Previously the earliest known tumours were found in Egyptian mummies dating back 4,000 years so this discovery predates this find significantly.

A study released earlier this month discovered that Neanderthals lost out to homo sapiens in the battle to survive because they were not clever enough to adapt.

The results showed that modern man walked the planet much earlier than was believed and Neanderthals died out much sooner than was estimated.

Neanderthals had larger eyes than Homo sapiens but did not develop brain power in the same way. This meant that Homo sapiens were able to outsmart and ultimately outlive Neanderthals who had to use their brains more for physical rather than mental needs


Neanderthals breastfed their babies for over a year - just like humans, according to new research.

Chemical analysis of a neanderthal child's tooth reveal it was reared on mother's milk for seven months with suckling continuing for the same period coupled with solid food.

The change from breastfeeding to plants and grains can be established by looking at differences in the distribution of barium – a similar compound to calcium -  in teeth enamel.

This enabled Dr Manish Arora and colleagues at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York to discover the early life diet of a 10 to 12 year-old child that lived in a cave in Belgium around 100,000 years ago.

The brains of Neanderthals were the same size as those of modern man but more of it was used to focus on the physical needs of their larger bodies.

Researchers from the University of York additionally found that early man began to walk on two feet because of rocky terrain and not climate change.

The study found that our upright gait may have its origins in the rugged landscape of East and South Africa which was shaped during the Pliocene epoch by volcanoes and shifting tectonic plates.

Hominins, human's early ancestors, would have been attracted to the terrain of rocky outcrops and gorges because it offered shelter and opportunities to trap prey.

But it also required more upright scrambling and climbing gaits, prompting the emergence of bipedalism.

Official Microsoft preview video confirms it IS reinstating the Start button in Windows 8.1 and shows off a host of other new features

Microsoft has released a video showcasing all the new features of its upcoming Windows 8.1 software, due to be released later this year.

Among changes to apps, tile options and an improved search, Jensen Harris from the Microsoft User Experience team also confirmed the company will be bringing the Windows Start button back.

Microsoft removed the button from the Windows 8 operating system when it was released last year but many customers complained and demanded it was put back.

Scroll down for video

Blink and you'll miss it: Microsoft's Jensen Harris shows off the new Start button on the upcoming Windows 8.1 software. It's only a fleeting glimpse but it confirms that the button, which was removed in Windows 8 last year, is making a comeback. Leaked screenshots in May suggested this would be the case


The lock screen is being turned into a 'cloud-powered photo frame' that will shows photos stored on the device and in SkyDrive.

Windows 8.1 also includes a vastly improved 'search' function, which allows a user to search for documents, apps, or items on the Internet from a single search bar.

It also allows users to see all their applications immediately in a grid by swiping down or pressing a button on-screen.

There are new personalisation options for tiles including colours and fonts.

Users can also customize the Start screen much more easily; changing sizes of app icons or controlling which apps appear.

For the first time, it will be possible to open two windows simultaneously in the new-look interface.

Windows 8.1 includes Microsoft's latest browser, Internet Explorer 11, and lets the user restore the address bar and tabs to the screen view.

Many customers said that the new Windows 8 interface was too complicated, and sales of iPads and tablets have also eaten significantly into Microsoft's profits as users move away from desktop computers.

Screenshots leaked last month suggested that Microsoft would be reinstating the button and this latest video has confirmed it - albeit not directly.

  More... Computer virus found on Facebook steals bank details and money from accounts when users click on links Will Apple start offering 'cheap' iPhone screen replacements? Rumours abound that service could be offered to U.S. customers

During the demonstration, Harris swipes between screens and lands on the Desktop view.

A Windows logo is shown in the bottom left-hand corner.

Although it will not be labelled 'start', the leaked screenshots suggested that Windows logo would takes the user straight to a grid of applications.

To catch a glimpse of the button, skip to 2.11 in the video below.