Welcome to our News Roundup covering November 2019. At the beginning of the month, a General Election was called, with the date for voting set for 12th December 2019. This has obviously dominated the headlines and the airwaves this month, as each political party campaigns for your vote. Here are some relevant news stories you may have missed this month; covering finances, gold and diamonds – so take a look to see what’s been happening during November!
Retail sales suffer as shoppers spend more on takeaways
New figures on consumer spending were released at the beginning of November, showing that shoppers on the high street are spending less than this time last year. Although shoppers bought 0.6% more goods in October 2019 – which is the best performance since April – last October’s figures showed a 1.3% growth. This means that average growth in the last 12 months is just 0.1%, which is the lowest annual growth since these particular records began 1995.
Increased competition and economic uncertainty have both been cited as reasons why shoppers are not spending as much. Research from Barclaycard showed that 22% of consumers spent less on leisure activities and eating out in October, but 6.9% more was spent on takeaways, suggesting people are increasingly opting to stay at home rather than go out.
Re-mortgage activity increases
Talking of staying at home, new figures released by UK Finance on 20th November show that re-mortgages in September outstripped last year’s figures by an amazing 5.9%. First-time buyer and home-mover mortgages were both showing much lower growth since last year, at 1.6% and 1.8% respectively. This suggests that people are increasingly deciding to stay put rather than move ‘up the housing ladder’ during these uncertain times. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes on to affect the economy in the coming months.
Hundreds of communities have little or no access to cash
Which? released figures on the 14th of November after analysing data from Link, who provide cash machines. They found that 115,741 people live in cash deserts, where there is not a single cashpoint in their postcode district. Of these 130 areas, 36 districts also do not have access to a Post Office. Areas with just one ATM are just as numerous, with 129 communities in this position. Unfortunately, of these ‘one cashpoint communities’, a whopping 65% of them must pay a fee in order to access their cash.
These figures have added to the concern about how rural and poorer communities will be hit hardest as we transition into a cashless society. Which? have set up a Consumer Agenda for Government, which calls for the next leader to guarantee access to cash for as long as it is needed.
Mystery bundles of cash left in County Durham village
Over the last 5 years, residents of Blackhall Colliery, a small village in County Durham, have been puzzled by mysterious bundles of cash left out on the pavement. Since 2014, 12 separate bundles of £20 notes have been found on pavements in the area, almost always amounting to £2,000 each time. It is unclear where the money is coming from, but the honest villagers of Blackhall Colliery have been dutifully handing in what they find to local Police.
Investigations have been carried out with the local bank and the cash has been tested for fingerprints, with no leads. The latest find, on 18th November, was the fourth one that had been handed in this year. Whether it’s the work of a Good Samaritan or something else is yet to be seen – how long will this saga continue?
New police advice as gold thefts rise
There have been a number of notable gold thefts from residential homes recently, where certain properties seem to have been targeted specifically for the gold that is assumed to be inside. As the price of gold is doing rather well of late, jewellery is an even more tempting item for burglars – particularly as it can be easily melted down and sold for cash.
The police have released some tips to help you keep your gold safe:
- Keep high value jewellery in a bank safety box when you are not using it; do not keep it at home.
- If you’d rather keep your jewellery on your property, invest in a home safe.
- Keep an inventory of your jewellery and always take photographs so you can prove ownership.
- Insure your jewellery with a reputable provider.
- Make sure your home is as secure as possible.
- Never leave jewellery on display.
- Be careful what you post on social media.
Warning over fake online gold
At the very beginning of November, it was reported that the British Hallmarking Council found some concerning results after conducting a 10-day study on gold jewellery sold online. A third of items they reviewed did not have a hallmark, which means it’s very likely that the gold is not genuine. In fact, it is the law that anything sold in the UK which is made from a precious metal and is above a certain weight MUST have a hallmark, as it confirms its authenticity. Some smaller items, such as gold earrings for instance, do not require (and may not even have room for) a hallmark, so items like these should be scrutinised carefully if you’re buying online. The BHC has called for a review of the current Hallmarking Act, saying that it should be extended to cover internet trade.
If you want to buy gold jewellery online, always look for an established, professional seller who has decent images of each piece and is happy to answer your questions. Always ensure there is a hallmark present before agreeing to buy, and if there is not one present, is there an acceptable explanation for this?
Petra sells amazing blue diamond for $14.9m
On the 18th November, Petra Diamonds sold one of their most striking recent finds for $14.9m, or £11.49m. The diamond, which is a massive 20.08 carat rare blue stone is of such high quality that it commanded over $741,000 per carat. The buyer is only known as ‘a leading diamond company that wished to remain anonymous’. The stone was unearthed in South Africa’s famous Cullinan Mine, where the largest rough gem in history was found – the Cullinan Diamond. Half of this stone was used as part of the UK’s crown jewels, so a rare blue diamond from the same mine has a special appeal. This sale has come at a good time for Petra Diamonds, who have had a challenging year thanks to a drop in diamond sales, trade issues and an increased interest in lab-grown diamonds.
Alrosa’s Matryoshka Diamond is put into their permanent collection
Last month, we reported on an incredible natural find by Alrosa mining company – a diamond within a diamond. This unusual find made headlines all over the world and generated a lot of interest with collectors and diamond companies. However, it was announced this month that the unique stone will be added to Alrosa’s collection of rare finds and will not be up for sale. It joins other interesting finds in their permanent collection, such as a skull-shaped diamond and one shaped like an American football.