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Stratos Ferric

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  1. Quality post...that's like saying two weeks ago it was cold, today it is hot: how can that be. I haven't pored over the results, nor have I even seen the primary reports, but accepting at face value the quotes above, and elsewhere, those querying the legitimacy or robustness of the figures would do well to remember that all publically listed companies are subject to considerable scrutiny from the markets where they are listed, from their auditors, and from their non-exec boards. Barclays might, I stress MIGHT, be finding some clever accounting treatment by which to mask certain exposures, but that would be quite some stunt. Perhaps they just haven't been as exposed to bad debt and speculation as other banks - they do have a massive retail operation, and they own barclaycard, and when they got Lehman Bros last year in what was a fire sale the reading between the lines was that they picked up assets whose value far outweighed the price required - even allowing for the debt that came as part of the deal. Os, I keep telling you, the world is about to end, if not tomorrow then next week. One of these days I will be only person shopping in Waitrose, and I'm still amazed every morning to find that I still have to battle through queues to get to work. The biggest problem with the current situation is that, like driving on snow, rather too many people (and it would seem an unrepresentative majority on N-W) have not experienced it before. My one despair is that Labour, in attempting to preserve their own myth, have thrown good money after bad and saddled us with a huge debt that will take years to service, the moreso because the exchequer is going to have a budgetary shortfall on corporation tax, oil duties, and general taxation income. It MIGHT have been smarter to just have run the rapids, but there wouldn't have been any votes in that. As it is we just end up taking a detour to run a different, but no less severe, set of rapids.
  2. The average man on the street knows worryingly little about the way that Government operates, for all that he might perceive the outputs and outcomes. Your local council raises funds in two main ways: local taxation, and an allocation from central Government. I'll leave you to figure out what might be happening, particularly if you happen to live in a Tory controlled authority, but given that there are three variables in the equation, not the two that you seem to be assuming, there might be another answer other than the one that you have alighted on - for all that I share your sympathies regarding the inefficiency of the public sector. Quite Roo, quite. And not the first time that market makers have been pivotal in driving down the value of a stock, asset or currency. It's not so many years ago that currency traders were forcing a run on various european currencies, sterling included, with huge knock-on consequences for all the economies trading on, or with, those currencies.
  3. I agree with all of that, though the long term unemployemnt problem isn't as intractable as you imply. At present the Labour Party has allowed a huge underclass to develop by setting benefits at levels that allow an acceptable existence - not necessarily desirable from where most of us sit, but none the less sufficient to exist on which, if you'd rather not work, rather changes the reckoning. IN addition, the Labour Party buys a lot of votes; just as it does by creating public sector jobs. If there were, say, NO benefits, I wonder how many of those long term unemployed - apparently unemployable - might take up jobs that many of our immigrants seem only too willing to do. There are plenty of menial jobs; the sad fact nowadays is that many people see those jobs as being beneath them, particulary IF there's a money for nothing alternative. To Stu's emboldened point; all governmental decisions are political - Government is about politics. In any plural democracy, the party in power will necessarily tread a fine line between that which is right in principle (principles may vary, quite legitimately - thus the left wing prefers a big centre and redistribution of wealth, the right wing prefers a small centre and the encouragement of profit and personal responsibility) and that which best serves their long term interest to stay in power. I suspect this latter is what Stu means? If so there is nothing new in this and it plays out in many forms. Early on in Labour's period in office there was some remarkable gerrymandering, and their record of investment in Local Authorities maps very strongly to seats where either they hold a margin, or are looking to develop one. Define "harm" though. As I said at the time it was a stupid piece of policy given its stated intent. Stu is right; cash in the pocket would have been the better stimulus. IN practice it's hard to calculate the impact. First up a lot of VAT is reclaimed, so much is a zero sum. Second up, if the aim was to stimulate spending, then had that end been realised there would have been more spending, but with lower VAT. Would that be spend brought forwards (in whch case not a gain), or new spend that would not otherwise have been incurred (in which case it is a gain in revenue, albeit at a marginal rate of tax). What hasn't been defined in the cost to implement (and change back again). That would take a huge bite out of uk plc profitability.
  4. Nope. To the younger members of the forum who are used to continuing growth a dip in the cycle is unknown and shocking, just as the first death of a close friend, or the occurrence suddenly of a debilitating illness when, hitherto, one has been healthy. I've mantained for a long time that Brown's miracle was founded on excessive personal borrowing and exported inflation, as much of what UKplc consumes by way of labour intensive goods has increasingly been produced further and further offshore. There are many different ways of measuring these things, but compared to the early 70s when the country was put on a three day week, supplies ran low in shops, petrol rationing coupons were printed and issued, the bottom fell out of the stock market, and the lights routinely went out for 4-8 hours each day, this is trivial. One or two in this thread talk as if the world is about to end, surfing on their own hubris: it isn't. In a year or two's time people will look back and, hopefully, have learned some lessons. Yes, this is a recession, and certainly more marked than I expected, but if growth dips by 2-3% that puts UKplc where exactly? Back where it was in 2007, say? If property falls 30% then it is back at what level? 2003 or something? Where I do agree with you is re the point you copy in from the US commentator. How banks, and other lenders, behave in managing debts over the coming year will be important. Lenders will likely be better served by taking some entrepreneurial punts with some of their clients than they will be universally foreclosing. Similarly in what I take to be your sector; foreclosing on a rental agreement serves no benefit if the property is otherwise going to go unfilled, or will only be filled by a tenant on a lower rent. Things would be more parlous IF the pound weren't in freefall (it will recover), and if oil prices had remained high. Since both of these are likely to recover only in lag of the overall economy (the former in the UK, the latter on a global scale) I don't see for now the eventuality of either harming us. For this to be anything other than "turbulence" the economy would have to flat on its back, limbs rigid with rigor mortis; the whole system would have to broken beyond repair: it isn't. The ride has been more bumpy that I thought likely, for sure, but fro where I'm sitting, and making a presumptive look back from a year or two hence, still turbulence. I think there are still risks: one is that the level of global indebtedness becomes hard to service, whether due to over-zealousness on the part of creditors, or due to the simple magnitude of that debt; a factor in that is also the continuing risk of deflation. I suspect RPI / CPI may well dip negative over the coming year; the UK Government needs inflation to be at the top end of its target, if not higher, in order to help with its debt mountain: stagflation, and its associated side-effect, is also a risk, though I suspect a low one now.
  5. Mr Peston has a lot to answer for, and I suspect that one or two in the BBC's news and current affairs dep't are quite happy to be mischief making for the Government and the current administration. A few general observations. 1 - many on here are too young to remember anything other than apparent economic "good times". I say "apparent" because, as I have long maintained, the recent boom under Brown has essentially been funded by personal debt (credit cards, store casds, and remortgaging during the property price spike) coupled with imported levels of low inflation (by off-shoring to low wage economies much production of staple goods). In the 70s things were FAR worse (the lights went off very frequently, people didn't go to owrk, inflation rocketed, and the bottom fell out of the stock market to the extent that UKplc was borring money to buy its own shares - and you thought Darling was suspect in his judgment), and we're all still here now. 2 - As Socrates said: "no man should hold high office who knows nothing of the tending of the land". Farmers routinely used to set aside harvest and seed in years of plenty. If Labour have made one crass error it is this; that during years of very high tax revenues they have frittered money away, instead of building a big reserve. The same is true of most of us. One thing boom and bust teaches us, just like a sailor on the sea, is to be ready for the next storm. Sailing too long on apparently benevolent waters lulls us into a false sense of security. 3 -If the economy dips by a cumulative 3%, say, over the next 18 months we will be back where we were about 30 months ago - not back in the mediaeval times, or even back in the 1990s. There is plenty of wealth and money out there, the problem at present is that it's not moving around, and the likes of Peston banging on about how bleak things are just pander to the worst fears of those who are either too lazy, or too stupid, to find out or know any different.
  6. That much was true the day the euro was born; there was absolutely no way that the UK could continue to reside indefinitely outside a european economic bloc that had accepted monetary union. Most international businesses in the UK would favour the single currency anyway, and are in various stages of being set-up to switch as and when the day comes. The problem in the UK is the national identity; any move which leads to a perception of reduction in self-interested Government is bound to be unpopular, irrespective of the extent to which it is, in fact, already after the event. You might want to revisit some of your ratios there Reef, however, the fact remains that for me, the UK's biggest problem at present is a big, flabby underclass, many of whom don't work, don't want to work, and have never worked. It's a little late for Labour to be discussing the breakdown of society: that rot set in some time ago. Hiding the cracks under a veneer of complicated benefits - all of which are really just distillations of the same point - does not remove the problem.
  7. We're probably not far off 6 million already. There's not far shy of 3 million on incapacity since the terms were changed a couple of years or so back (am I the only person for whom the face validity of one in ten of the working population being physically unable to work doesn't really seem to stack up?); add to that 2m or so unemployed and claiming that benefit. Reopen the soup kitchens and poor houses...
  8. This Administration continues to knee-jerk with ill thought through populism. VAT was a daft decision if the desire was to increase spend. It's the equivalent of a 47 for the price of 46 scheme, the likes of which even Iceland wouldn't have dreamed of. In terms of stimulating spending it's daft: if I don't have the money to spend in the first place, requiring me to spend to save doesn't help. It's a pain to implement because most point-of-sale is automated, hyence software needs to be upgraded, or, if you're a small retailer, a patch needs to be purchased if you have an integrated system, and as one or two previous posts point out, it's hard for the consumer to spot whether or not prices genuinely have fallen. In practice a lot of retailers were already discounting heavily; they could be forgiven for turning this into 2.5 points of margin. Mortgage holidays beggars belief. I understand the economic intent, but yet again this government bails out people who have taken on too much risk, and effectively penalises those who have been thrifty or more cautious. It might pass a test of stimulating the market, but it doesn't pass the fairness test. The race has an inbuilt tendency to learn only very slowly from experience. House prices will rise again, as they always have, because they are a safe and sensible long term investment. I disagree with Stu's footnote for one reason, which id the inherent retained earnings in the economy. Most of us can look back down our family line and see that we libve in better houses than our parents, just as they lived in better houses than our grandparents. Inherited wealth, locked-up in property, gets passed on, and some of that itself finds its way back into property. If earnings is redefined over the cycle of a lifetime then what he says will still, generally, prevail over the long term, but it will tend to trend upwards slightly ahead of earnings (average salary) alone.
  9. I'd be staggered if Tescos had major difficulties, and annual leave is usually restricted in multiple retailers at Christmas for what ought to be obvious reasons: it's the busiest time of year. Cash movements (I assume you mean loose cash) always occur daily from any store; retailing is a cash business. If they have increased collections from store it would have no material impact on corporate performance, it might be down to a desire to reduce the amount of cash on site, a potential security hazard. Increased cash movements might just reflect the fact that people are making fewer cashback transactions at the tills, something that would be quite in line with a slowing economy. This is normally one way of reducing the cash in store; if this drain slows then cash movements need to increase.
  10. Thus prompted by some excellent contributions to date I shall start with my own records from 1978-9 when I was living NW of Leeds. The comments in green are straight lifts from my own weather diary. December December, at first sight, appears to have taken off where November left. However, certain facets appeared which were to signal the start of a winter which was not challenged until late March, and which did not finally depart until May 5th. The first half of December was essentially mild, though the 1st was a freezing day and the second nearly, a continental block only slowly receding east. The encroaching front on the 2nd gave light snow, which later turned to rain. Through to the run-in to Christmas things remained fairly zonal, but on the 20th a small depression ran into Biscay, with pressure rising over Greenland, and the 19th-23rd were cool; the 19th was another freezing day and throughout my temps didn't get above 2.5C. On the 20th a warm front from the east brought rain turning to sleet and snow in the evening, and on the 21st there was further snow with settling to around 3". Snow fell again overnight into Christmas Eve, but this was a breakdown feature from the west. This was the first of several frontal systems crossing the country over Christmas, and I still recall the forecasters pointing to cold air to the N dragging its heels, but insisting that the milder Atlantic air would win. In fact, the far north of Scotland never was overcome by the mild air, and by the 27th the fronts were pusing back south. My contemporry chart shows three fronts on it; an occlusion lying across Tayside and the Highlands; a warm front across the Borders, and an occlusion pushing NE across S Wales and the SW. My diary fron the 28th notes: Yet another (4th) front (occlusion) entering Britain. Tm airstream still predominant though Pc over Scotland. And from the data record... The 25th-27th saw 4 occlusions and a warm front push north over Britaihn, but never clearing North Scotland due to astrengthening area of high pressure moving west. The 28th saw the low lose its battle and the high pushed the 5 fronts, now compresed into two, southwards. To the north heavy snow and only 1 or 2C. To the south heavy rain and 11C in tropical air. By the 30th all this rain had turned to snow as the last front was pushed into the English Channel and Britain had her last whitewash of 1978, and the first of a very long, often bitter, winter. Friday 29th: Overnight rain turned to snow between 2-3am, lying by morning when snow became heavyt and continued all day. Bitter. Saturday 30th: Continuous light snow through night into morning. Returning again at 6pm to become very heavy later on. Sunday 31st: Snow showers punctuated by sunny spells until 15:30 when skies clears. Freezing and arctic like. By the 31st the snow was lying about 8" deep. My average for that month, though using an unscreened max-min, was 2.8C. January 1-16 1-6th: Cold, continental air predominated though a breakdown eventually came from the NW. Only the 3rd and 6th got above freezing, with the max min figures for the first six days being: -3,-9; 0,-6; 2,-9; -1.5,-9; -2,-7; 1.5,-6; There was snowcover throughout, with snowfall on the 1st, 2nd and 4th. The 7th was the warmest day of the month, temperatures climbing as high as 8C, a warm front crossing fron the NW and introducing warm sector air; this was the only day in the month when temperatures did not fall below freezing, and lying snow partly melted. On the 8th the passage of a cold front at the back of the same system intorudced mP® air and my diary reports that a shower at 23:12 was of sleet. By this time the LP to the north was migrating eastwards towards the northern N Sea, introducing an increasingly polar feed. The 9th started with snow showers, and overnight there was a further light cover from a cold front pushing south. The low continued to migrate SE, across the Baltic by the 13th, and a new system approached from the SW of Iceland. Pressure remained high N of Iceland, but the Atlantic was continuing to dominate. Even so, three cold nights occurred from the 12th-14th, with minima of -7, -9 and -8C under slow air, clear skies, and with snow covered ground. On the 15th another frontal system pushed in from the WSW, temperatures climbing as high as 4C on the 15th and 6C on the 16th. My diary for the 15th reports very dull and cloudy with generally moderate to thick fog throughout (warm moist air, cold surface), clearing only slowly in the evening.
  11. Not all overhead cables will be I'm afraid. In rural areas it doesn't make economic sense. I don't know what the ratios are now, but when I used to work in policy at BT years ago, it was something like 100 times more expensive to bury a cable than to run an aerial link. The interesting thing about the Times' reports is the sparsity of infornation available back then. Where nowadays everyone has a broadband link and a mobile phone, so the world is dense with potential reportage real time, back then there were very few people putting pen to paper and feedback was painfully slow. Hence, yesterday's slight event gains a perspective that is larger than events merited, whilst events back in the 1880s will, by comparison, have been underemphasised.
  12. Winter kept returning that year. My own records show that it snowed pretty much non-stop for 40 hours om the 16-17th, depositing 13" of level snow. It soon warmed up, but even so the snow persisted for over a week. It then snowed again March 27-29th; April 1st-4th; and, April 30th-May 5th.
  13. I think I'd be right in saying that the only time we had the rain-snow that winter was at the very start of the severe period in late December, when three or four warm fronts stacked up and pushed north. I still recall, even on Boxing Day I think, Michael Fish predicting that the warm air would probably win the battle. Most of the other events (and I'd beg to differ with the Eye's suggestion of two main blizzards, there were five decent events that winter, any of which on their own would have sttod very proud in a typical winter) were characterised by warm fronts banging into polar or arctic air - it was not unusual, therefore, for the snow to turn to rain further south; it's also the case that not every even made it up to Scotland. I suspect that Central Northern England very much got the brunt of it that winter, invariably being far enough north to stay pole-side of the polar boundary, but not so far north that the precipitation didn't reach. The additional point, further to Mr D's very good write up, is that we had another severe event mid-March. In those days March most definitely was a winter month.
  14. He's just getting rid of a load of debt. I'd be very surprised if he hadn't done it with some negotiation with main creditors, but at least it should reduce a significant burden. Ordinarily I'd disapprove, but given some of the people who have been bleeding Leeds dry I have limited sympathy. It's also a bizarre world in which footballers do not have to take a pay cut whilst in contract, even if via their performances their team drops a division. Probably no further. Leeds' turnover will ensure they have the pick of the players at that level. Sooner or later someone with a lot of money will step in, particularly if the administration really has removed a lot of debt. Suddenly they start to look like a significantly undervalued brand.
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