Welcome to the February News Roundup, where we bring you the financial, gold and diamond stories from the last month that you may have missed. The weather has been seasonably warm this February, and as we all recover from the festive season and the financial hardships of January, it’s time to start looking towards sunnier times. Of course, as we move into March, many will be aware that the UK is due to officially leave the EU on the 29th, and with no current extension or deal in place, businesses and households are not quite sure what to expect…
Banks to gain access to emergency funds
The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has made £300bn available to banksas emergency funds so that financial shocks can be prevented in the case of a no deal Brexit. The BoE has also opened up access to this cash on a weekly – rather than monthly – basis, so that banks are able to be as reactive as possible to any dramatic changes.
Carney insisted that this move is nothing to worry about and is simply part of ‘normal contingency planning’. This is due to the fact that no Brexit deal has been agreed with just 30 days left to go. The Bank of England is working hard to ensure that financial institutions will be protected, so that similar problems to those seen during the 2008 financial crisis can be avoided. According to Carney, the UK banking sector now has around four times the amount of cash it did before the 2008 crash and is therefore much better prepared for all scenarios.
Warnings of disruption under hard Brexit
While the governor of the Bank of England is calling for calm ahead of Brexit, the Chief Executive of the Financial Conduct Authority, Andrew Bailey, has warned that there could be market disruption if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Speaking to a House of Lords committee on 27thFebruary, it could not be guaranteed that Brexit preparations made by businesses and financial institutions would go far enough to avert disruption.
It is thought that a decision will be made this week as to whether an extension will be granted so that there is more time to create a deal which works, rather than suffer the various issues surrounding a hard Brexit.
Wonga customers remain in turmoil
In August 2018, the large payday lender Wonga went into administration – thanks in part to a surge in compensation claims made against the lender. Payday loans became hugely popular within a short space of time, and as they were a new type of lending the rules and regulations took a little while to catch up to demand. For this reason, many payday loan companies were found to have mis-sold loans; lending to those who clearly could not afford to pay the money back and causing future financial problems as a result.
Now, six months after Wonga ceased trading, around 10,500 borrowers are still waiting for ombudsman rulingsand feeling the effects of unaffordable Wonga loans. Now that Wonga are no longer trading, any claims against the company have stopped being investigated, and now many are arguing that this is not right. An answer from Wonga about how outstanding complaints can be progressed is expected in March.
Gold prices remain strong
The price of goldon the stock market has remained strong throughout February, thanks in part to concerns surrounding US – China trade relations. The market is leaning towards gold as a safe bet option as the dollar and pound see weak growth and political risks are high.
Precious metals have always done well when currency stocks falter; and palladium has also seen a surge in interest recently. It is thought that, unless improvements are made by the dollar and the pound, gold will continue to strengthen.
Ancient gold coin found hidden in second hand furniture
While being inspected for valuation, the 20thcentury, George II-style bureau was found to be hiding no less than three secret drawers - although only one of them held anything in it. Bureaus and writing desks often contain secret compartments, which are also called ‘coin drawers’, and are always worth checking: particularly if it’s an antique piece.
Rare diamonds discovered
There have been a spate of notable diamond discoveries announced this month, with diamond mines in South Africa, Russia and Lesotho reporting exciting finds. Firestone Diamonds PLC has recovered a 70-carat white diamondin Lesotho which is undamaged and will be auctioned in March, BlueRock Diamonds PLC has recovered an ‘exceptional’ 8.97-carat diamondin South Africa, and Alrosa in Russia have discovered a heart-shaped 65.7-carat rough diamond, which was aptly announced on Valentine’s Day. Diamonds themselves are more plentiful than one might think, but larger stones with very few flaws as well as ones which are notable in shape or colour are much rarer and therefore very valuable.
Lady Gaga wears rare Tiffany’s diamond to the 2019 Oscars
Lady Gaga attended this year’s Academy Awards wearing a legendary Tiffany & Co yellow diamond necklace. The 141-year old diamond is a whopping 128.5-carats and has never been allowed out onto the red carpet before. In 1961, the diamond was allowed to be used for publicity photos for the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, where Audrey Hepburn modelled the fabulous stone. Now, 58 years later, it graces the world of film once again and certainly brought plenty of luck to its wearer. Lady Gaga walked away with the award for Best Original Song this year, bringing her one step closer to that prestigious EGOT status.