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Showing posts from June 15, 2013

85% of homes in Central London sold to overseas buyers

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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

Chilean copper mining group Antofagasta polluted local water, campaigners claim

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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 i

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

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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 fortnigh

Young adult incomes fall financial crisis pensioners recession proof

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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 pensioner

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

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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

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

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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 qu

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

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'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

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

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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

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

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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 l

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

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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 bu

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

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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 payd

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

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> 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 regul

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

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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

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

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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 t

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 o

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

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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 HOW STURDY IS THE IPHONE 5? 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.  T

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

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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

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

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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 WHAT IS 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 no

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

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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 WHAT'S NEW IN WINDOWS 8.1? The lock screen is being turned into a 'cloud-powered photo frame' that will shows photos stored on the device and in SkyDrive. Wi