Author Archives: Mark Birri

Red tape and taxation policy: strangling growth when we need it most

Whilst opinion on government spending and taxation may differ amongst politicians, the ambition to encourage growth in the economy unites them all. Until now the focus has firmly been on how far monetary and fiscal policy should go to support the economy. This has resulted in a number of tweaks to fiscal policy and £75 billion of quantitative easing.

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Quantitative easing: playing with fire

Anyone that has lived and worked in the UK in the past few years will have noticed that prices have been rising and that, owing to the sluggish economy conditions, wages and job prospects have not quite followed suit.

When the economy is booming, people earn more, consume more and, typically, prices rise. The reverse is also true when the economy is cooling. That is, if people are out of work and consume less, shops will need to lower prices to sell their stock.

The Bank of England’s primary remit is that of price stability. Its job is to rein the economy in when we all get carried away with our credit cards, and to encourage us to spend and invest when the high streets are deserted. It does this by adjusting interest rates.

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Gold: A Precious Thermometer

Paul Volcker, ex-Chairman of the Federal Reserve, once famously referred to gold as ‘the enemy’ of central banks and policy makers. In this article, I will explain the recent large swings in gold prices and, by doing so, explain why gold continues to be a precious thermometer for economic sentiment and the enemy of policy makers.

At a basic level, there are two opposing forces which drive gold price movements. The first is inflation. The second, and perhaps the more topical, is the general fear of economic collapse. I will now explain these two opposing forces and which is principally responsible for driving the current movements in gold prices. Click here to keep reading

Banking Reforms: Mission Impossible

The report on the UK banking sector issued by the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) last week has been the source of much debate amongst both political and financial classes. The report, spearheaded by Sir John Vickers, recommends the separation of wholesale banks into retail banks and investment banks by 2014. The implicit aim of the recommendations is to mitigate the risk of taxpayer bailouts (aimed at saving retail banks and guaranteeing people’s bank accounts) by limiting the exposure of the steady, dependable retail bank from its riskier, more volatile investment bank cousin whose activities include trading equities and complex financial derivative products. click here to keep reading

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