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base rate

Saving & Debt: Base Rate Should Not Discourage Caution

Commenting on the recent spate of base rate cuts – and the resulting 0.5% base rate – financial solutions company Think Money pointed to the potential implications of the Bank of England’s actions over recent months, and urged savers not to risk debt problems by turning their backs on saving.

“In the short term,” a Think Money spokesperson began, “it’s important to realise that many people – the vast majority of the country – haven’t benefited from these cuts in any way at all. A full 50% of the UK’s 11.75 million mortgages are fixed-rate deals, 40% tracker and 10% SVR (standard variable rate).

“Clearly, anyone on a fixed-rate mortgage won’t benefit any more than someone who’s renting their home. As for SVR deals, lenders aren’t obliged to pass on any reductions, and many have passed on only part of these cuts. Even people on tracker deals haven’t universally seen their interest rates drop by the full 4% since October, as many of those deals have come up against their collar.”

In the longer term, there’s the question of what lessons people will take with them once the recession is over. Many people on fixed-rate mortgages will be looking at the low rates on offer today, calculating how much they could save if they switched and comparing this against the cost of the early repayment charges they would pay if they left their current mortgage early.

“In future, they may be unwilling to sign up to fixed-rate deals – or at least reluctant to sign up to the longer-term fixed-rate deals which come with more substantial charges for early repayment.

“In other words, some may be tempted to sign up to a tracker or SVR deal the next time the base rate reaches 5 or 6%, believing that another fall will soon follow. There’s nothing inherently wrong with variable deals, but they’re not suitable for everyone: people whose monthly finances can only just cover their mortgage payment should think very carefully before committing themselves to a deal with an interest rate that could go up as easily as down. For people in that situation, erring on the side of caution – and taking a fixed-rate mortgage – could be far more sensible.”

The other long-term effect of these base rate cuts, of course, could be in the country’s attitude to savings. Now that the average interest rate on instant access accounts has plummeted to little more than 0%, interest is simply not keeping pace with CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation – and for people who aren’t paying variable mortgages, this figure is more relevant than the RPI (Retail Price Index) measurement.

“We would, however, stress that interest is by no means the only reason people should build up their savings. With or without interest, a savings account is its own reward, helping people cope with financial challenges without running into debt problems.

“Even so, the thought of watching savings shrink in real terms may be enough to put many people off saving in a standard savings account. This could be terrible news: whether they stop saving altogether or feel they need to ‘gamble’ their money in higher-risk investments, they could be leaving themselves open to all kinds of debt problems in the future.”

Via EPR Network
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Think Money have welcomed the Bank of England’s shock base rate cut to 3%, commenting that the mortgage market could benefit as a result

Following the Bank of England’s shock base rate cut to 3%, financial solutions company Think Money have welcomed the news, commenting that firm action is more likely to encourage banks to consider cutting their interest rates accordingly. However, they added, there are still some factors that may prevent lenders from passing on the full 1.5% cut to their mortgages and loans.

The base rate cut, from 4.5% to 3%, is the biggest cut since the Bank of England lowered the rate by 2% in 1981. The base rate now stands at its lowest point since 1955.

Many economists had predicted an aggressive cut in base rates, but the extent of the cut was still unexpected. Most predictions in the run-up to the Bank of England’s announcement pointed towards a 0.75% or 1% base rate cut – and only a few days previously, 0.5% seemed a more realistic figure.

A spokesperson for financial solutions company Think Money said: “It would seem that the Bank of England are acting based on Mervyn King’s recent statements that the recession would be long and drawn-out, and rather than take the base rate down in small increments, they have ‘bitten the bullet’ and taken it down further than most people expected.

“Potentially, it’s very good news for people and businesses looking for loans, but not such good news for savers.”

However, the spokesperson stressed that as with previous base rate cuts, there is no guarantee that lenders will pass the full cut onto their mortgages and loans – although the extent of the cut could at least increase the impact on lenders’ behaviour.

“There will still be a lot of uncertainty with regards to what will happen in the economy in the future, as well as some apprehension amongst banks as to how much they might lose from things like defaults on mortgages as the recession takes hold,” she said.

“The base rate cut only affects how cheaply lenders can borrow funds from the Bank of England. It does not directly affect the LIBOR rate, which is the measure of how expensive inter-bank lending is. Since lenders rely heavily on borrowing from each other to fund their loans and mortgages, they may well be slow to bring their rates down.

“That said, the Bank of England will have no doubt had this in mind when deciding on their base rate cut – and it may well be that such a large cut is sufficient to encourage some lenders to bring their rates down to more competitive levels.”

However, a number of banks appeared to take defensive action even before the 3% base rate had been announced, with several lenders removing tracker mortgages from their product ranges on Wednesday and Thursday morning, while others upped their interest rate margins on tracker mortgages.

“This may just be a temporary measure by lenders in order to avoid any risks in the short term,” the Think Money spokesperson said. “A number lenders have said they will be taking some time to think about their next step, so it’s possible that we will still see some significant interest rate cuts in the next week or two.”

The spokesperson was also keen to emphasise the importance of good mortgage advice. “With so much uncertainty surrounding what will happen with mortgage rates in the next few months, it often pays to speak to a mortgage adviser who understands the market. They should be able to point you towards the best mortgage deals for your circumstances, which could save you a lot of money in the long run.”

Via EPR Network
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Despite the economic gloom, Wednesday’s base rate cut could stimulate the economy – and it does hint that the Monetary Policy Committee sees the threat of inflation as lessening, says financial solutions provider Think Money

Responding to the half-point cut to the Bank of England’s base rate, financial solutions company Think Money welcomed its already noticeable impact, and pointed to the implied likelihood of future cuts.

“There’s no question that we’re facing extraordinary issues today, both globally and nationally,” a Think Money spokesperson commented. “As a company, we were pleased to see the Bank of England taking this step – not just dropping the base rate, but dropping it by a substantial amount.

“Furthermore, we’re delighted to see major mortgage providers passing that reduction on to consumers. After so many months of negative news, this could make a big difference to many homeowners’ financial circumstances, as their variable rate mortgages drop from 7% to 6.5%.”

Anyone with a tracker mortgage, meanwhile, is sure to enjoy lower payments at once: The Times predicts immediate benefits for around 4 million people paying home loans that track the Bank’s base rate. ‘Those with a £150,000 mortgage’, it reports, ‘will see their interest-only repayments fall by £63 a month’.

“The same goes for other kinds of credit,” the spokesperson continued, “from secured loans to credit cards: people with tracker deals will certainly profit from the cut, and borrowers with SVR deals will be following their lenders’ reactions closely.”

New fixed-rate loans could also drop in price. “Now that the cost of credit has come down, lenders will be able to pass the savings on, giving their customers a better deal without placing their own profits in jeopardy – something which could have a profound impact on their stability at a time like this.

“Looking beyond the actual cut,” the spokesperson stressed, “it’s equally important to consider the implications – not just what the deal means, but what it says about the Bank of England’s assessment of our economy. First, the cut reveals how seriously it is taking today’s financial troubles. Second, it implies that the Bank is feeling more comfortable about inflation.”

As stated in the Bank’s news release about the rate cut: ‘The recent intensification of the financial crisis has augmented the downside risks to growth and thus has diminished further the upside risks to price stability’.

“In other words, today’s financial crisis has become more of a threat to the nation’s GDP – but on the plus side, slowing growth does tend to slow inflation too. The Bank may well have liked to postpone the base rate cut until inflation came down closer to the 2% target, but given the choice between letting the economy deteriorate and losing some ground in the fight against inflation, it chose the latter.”

As for the months ahead: “The latest BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index (SPI) for the UK reveals that annual shop price inflation shrank to 3.6% in September, down from 3.8% in August. It’s encouraging to see inflation on the way down, particularly as it gives the MPC more leeway when it comes to future base rate decisions. Various influential bodies are calling for the Bank to make further cuts to the base rate – and there’s reason to hope it’ll be able to do that.”

Via EPR Network
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