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Marketwatch – The Big 100

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I find myself at a bit of a milestone – this is my centenary Marketwatch column, the big 100, and I couldn’t have timed it any better coming at the end of another year of hard graft for brokers and lenders alike.

What is most pleasing, apart from the fact I have not lost quite as much hair as I thought I would doing this column, is that as an industry things are looking even better for intermediaries in the new year.

Especially as the ramifications of the Mortgage Market Review begin to hit home and lenders realise just how much they really need us.

In the markets, three month Libor is hardly worth reporting on any more at 0.52 per cent, while swap rates have dropped by around 0.02 per cent.

I thought it would be interesting to do the normal table versus 3 January this year to give an annual overview – no surprise three and five year money are the main changes.

  • 1-year money is up 0.02 at 0.565 per cent         
  • 2-year money is up 0.08 at 0.82 per cent
  • 3-year money is up 0.32 at 1.15 per cent
  • 5-year money is up 0.73 at 1.835 per cent

In the product world last week the most notable talking points are Virgin Money’s Help to Buy 2 offerings, with fee saver deals available from 5.29 per cent at 95 per cent LTV and 4.29 per cent at 90 per cent LTV.  Aldermore also launched its Help to Buy 2 products with a two-year fixed rate up to 90 per cent LTV, priced at 4.98 per cent, and a 95 per cent LTV two-year fix is offered at 5.28 per cent.

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It feels like we have come a long way this year. While most were cautiously optimistic about how 2013 would turn out (we have had a few false dawns before…) once the year got into full swing there was no turning back.

This time last year all the talk was of Funding for Lending and predictions of £156bn for 2013 – at the current run rate we look well set for touching the £200bn level next year.

We have seen Help to Buy parts 1 and 2, the return of higher LTV mortgages, the beginning of the end of Funding for Lending, interest-only declining further, thousands of criteria changes causing us to both bang our fists on the table and give a small whoop of joy.

Buy-to-let and the remortgage market have strengthened, the final Mortgage Market Review rules were clarified, the FCA got a grip on things, more banking issues from drug toting chairmen and dodgy incentive schemes to banks being accused of deliberately bringing down small businesses and fines galore.

There have been more bubbles than in your average bar of Aero. Depending on which economist you care to listen to on any given day, we are either already deep in a housing bubble, about to get into one, a 77 per cent chance of being in one or nowhere near one.

Meanwhile London continues to act however the hell it pleases, not really giving a toss about anyones’ theories.

Bitcoins have become in vogue nudging even the price of gold, the FTSE has rallied and the UK looks well set on a path to recovery while even the Euro has become eerily, (some say worriedly), quiet for a while.

Speaking of the Euro, we have seen last week that the EU Mortgage Directive has been finally passed. I must say I agree with John Charcol senior technical manager Ray Boulger that all this seems to be a bit of a dog’s dinner to say the least and something that seems a pretty pointless exercise. No doubt more on this next year.

Meanwhile new Bank of England governor Mark Carney swaggered in through a haze of Superstardom and gave us forward guidance, mainstream lenders have started to come back into the high net worth market, taking business back from private banks, challenger banks have challenged and new arrivals seem to be lining up to enter the market.

We have even seen, finally, the retirements of PMS chairman John Malone and Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson – coincidence?

So we look forward to next year as intermediaries with open arms. Look around at your colleagues and make sure you shake their hand, pat them on the back, hell give ‘em a hug and say well done.

The last five years we have been to hell and back, we deserve a good break, some holiday cheer, time with the families to chillax and fully recharge.

Next year the hard work begins again and I am as ever honoured to write this column and thank you all for your kind words and help along the way.

A happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you all.

Heroes

All of you who work tirelessly for the good of your clients and have strengthened the reputation of our industry this year.

Villains

The EU Mortgage Directive is like a blunt pencil. Pointless.

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