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Friday newspaper round-up: December taper, Barclays, energy bills

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US tapering could start as early as December; Barclays could face further investigation for Libor rigging; British Gas is hiking energy prices by 9.2%

The US government shutdown sabotaged a crucial month of data and dealt a blow to the world’s largest economy, but the Federal Reserve could still begin reducing its asset purchases as early as December. Analysts have slashed their growth forecasts for the fourth quarter to two per cent or below, with many expecting a hit of about 0.5 percentage points from the prolonged shutdown. But many said the economy would bounce back quickly with federal employees back at work, the Financial Times writes.

China’s economy expanded 7.8% in the third quarter from the same period a year earlier, marking an acceleration from the second quarter when it grew by 7.5%. The rebound in the world’s second-largest economy was largely the result of government efforts to shore up growth with looser monetary policy and a “mini-stimulus” of investment in infrastructure such as rail and subway systems, the Financial Times says.

Forecourt fuel prices fell 5p in the past month, the biggest monthly fall since the 2008 financial crisis. Petrol is down 5.48p a litre on average and diesel 3.4p since mid-September, taking prices back to their levels in the new year, 132.16p for unleaded petrol and 139.12p for diesel. The AA calculated that the decline would reduce the cost of filling a family saloon by £3.84 and would take £10 off the monthly fuel bill of a two-car family, according to The Times.

Barclays could face a fresh investigation into its attempts to manipulate Libor after the discovery of a cache of documents related to the scandal that were not available to regulators before its £290m settlement last year. The Financial Conduct Authority has been informed by Barclays of the existence of the new documents and the market regulator is expected to review the documents before making a decision on whether to open a fresh Libor-rigging inquiry into the bank, The Daily Telegraph reports.

British Gas is hiking energy bills by an eye-watering 9.2%, it announced today. The increase is 8.4% on gas and 10.4% on electricity from November 23rd – adding around £122 on to annual bills. But the rises are just averages – some customers will face considerably higher bill rises. Announcing it was hiking bills, British Gas said: “We recognise that energy bills are a real worry for hard-pressed households, particularly at a time when the cost of living is rising faster than incomes”, according to The Daily Mail.

Tory MPs have called for David Cameron to scrap VAT on energy bills after official figures revealed that the government has made almost £1bn from price hikes in the past seven years. British Gas yesterday announced that it is raising prices for 8m customers by 9%, a week after its rival SSE announced similar hikes. Other major energy companies are expected to follow suit. However, the Treasury is also making hundreds of millions of pounds from the price rises because of the 5% VAT it imposes on energy bills, The Daily Telegraph says.