Market Watch: A parliamentary Brexit debate at last

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Hopefully we can have a proper Brexit debate and answer the all-important question: how will Boris actually vote?

There was a lot of speculation last week around the future of Mark Carney’s role as Bank of England governor, as we waited with bated breath to hear what he had to say about staying or leaving.

Given some of the comments he has endured recently, who could blame him for hightailing it out? But the added uncertainty that would bring was not what we wanted, of course. So all credit to him for announcing he would stay until June 2019 to see out the two-year period after Article 50 is invoked, which Prime Minister Theresa May has set for March 2017.

That said, last week’s High Court decision to prevent the Government doing so without the consent of Parliament rather put a spanner in the works. It did, however, send the pound back up again.

Hopefully we can now have a proper debate about it all and answer the all-important question: how will Boris actually vote?

The Government will no doubt appeal but I cannot help but think all this ‘hard Brexit’ talk is a front to placate the Conservative eurosceptics. And before the Brexiters start moaning, is the UK taking responsibility for its own laws not what they always wanted?

Prefabs sprout

Meanwhile, I was interested to read about the return of the prefab. No, not the 1980s band but ministers’ plans for 100,000 pre-made homes to help solve the housing crisis.

Apparently they can be built in a day and take 48 hours to install. Plans will also include encouragement to banks to lend to the firms behind them.

In the markets this week, three-month Libor is a touch lower at 0.4 per cent while swap rates have continued to climb a little.

  • 2-year money is up 0.01% at 062%
  • 3-year money is up 0.02% at 0.69%
  • 5-year money is up 0.06% at 0.84%
  • 10-year money is up 0.11% at 1.20%

In the product world, the Christmas countdown has started with one headline proclaiming ‘The big Christmas mortgage sale’ has begun.

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This was heralded by the news that Yorkshire Building Society has launched a rate of 0.98 per cent for borrowers looking for loans between £500,000 and £5m.

Nationwide has introduced some 90 per cent loan-to-value rates for clients looking for a pound-for-pound remortgage, which is a welcome addition. A two-year fixed rate at 2.39 per cent or five-year fix at 3.19 per cent is available with a £999 fee and free valuation and legals.

Virgin Money has made some policy changes and will now accept flats in blocks up to 10 storeys, with some areas of London becoming uncapped. It has also improved its lending-into-retirement proposition: for those 10 years or more away from their expected retirement date, affordability will be based on their current income, provided the customer proves they are making provisions into a pension.

Elsewhere, Accord has changed its affordability calculator, although this will affect only those borrowers with a household income between £60,000 and £70,000. No doubt this has something to do with tweaking around the 15 per cent maximums on income multiples.

Buy-to-let
New Street Mortgages has reduced its buy-to-let rates by up to 0.6 per cent while Furness Building Society has launched an online exclusive (a three-year fixed at 1.68 per cent to 80 per cent LTV with a £995 fee) to celebrate the launch of its new system.

Finally, it was interesting to see the latest Treasury plan to help small-business borrowers that have been rejected by banks. Nine major banks will legally be required to pass on customers they have turned down to alternative lenders.

Three lending platforms are currently involved: Funding Options, Funding Xchange and Bizfitech.

Obviously there are potential ramifications for mortgages. Could lenders in the future have a duty of care to pass on customers who do not fit their criteria, or for whom they do not have the right product to a broker that can place them elsewhere? It certainly makes sense for a bank to offer that service.

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Andrew Montlake is director of Coreco Group.