…Those who predict don’t have knowledge.” Wise words from the 6th Century Chinese poet, Lao Tzu. But rarely heeded over a millennia later. Just as every year has its in thing to be doing/wearing/following, (in 2013 it was the year of the ‘selfie’, an obsession with Royal babies and Miley Cyrus’s heroic efforts to make us forget that she was ever a protégé of the Disney factory), 2014 is already following the trend; literally. If the newspapers are to be believed trends, or more specifically trend spotting is the new trend of the new year. Still with me? Alongside the articles beseeching us to get fitter/drop a dress size in a fortnight/’discover a whole new you’, (I have enough trouble locating the old me), were several articles on improving our financial well-being to put us in fiscal nirvana by 2015. These industry commentators cited their top selections as regards tapping into the equities market that has over the past four years enjoyed what industry insiders call a ‘bull-run’ with markets at or above record highs. The macro marvel that was highlighted was none other than Bellway Homes whose reservations are up 43pc and whose pre-tax profits have increased by over a third to £141m in the latest full year results. As John Ficenec writes in The Daily Telegraph, “the macro marvel is all about trend spotting”[sic] The Daily Telegraph, January 1 2014. Please forgive my sounding slightly impertinent, but wouldn’t the real skill be in spotting the trend of the company’s ever improving market performance before the results were announced?
Trending on the trending theme are commentators viewing the Bank of England’s latest quarterly appraisal of mortgage borrowing – published on December 20 2013 – that showed that homeowners are continuing to reduce mortgage debt and build the equity in their properties at the slowest rate since 2010. Industry commentators believe that this is showing a trend towards a more normal housing market as opposed to the trend of the post-apocalyptic financial crisis of 2007 that stopped borrowers cashing in on the ever increasing value of their homes. As always, the definition of ‘normal’ can be open to all sorts of interpretations. We believe that people are starting to feel more confident in that they do not feel the need to pump every spare penny into their mortgage repayments, as better or at least less bleak times are approaching. People feel that they can live a little more. This is borne out by figures published by the LSL that show first time buyer transactions rose 28pc in the 12 months to November 2013; a clear sign that strength is gradually returning to the market.
One trend that will undoubtedly continue with a gilt-edged assurance is that of Keith Vaz MP turning up to anything that offers a photo opportunity. He has started his 2014 campaign of exposure to the masses with a zeal comparable to Susannah Reid trying and failing to win Strictly Come Prancing. When not welcoming newly arrived Romanian immigrants at Luton Airport, (incidentally, I am with Rod Liddle in The Sun who wrote that the sight of the erstwhile Member of Parliament for Leicester East bearing down upon me would be enough to make me jump back on the next plane back to Brasov), I fear that he may come closer to the Severn. If the proclamation by one of my colleagues in the property market of South Wales that,” they sell more houses…than anyone else…”, (criteria not specified), is to be applauded, then Mr Vaz could hot foot it down the M4 to award them a gold star, “I met Keith Vaz” badge. I do have to ask in response to the hysterical ululation of another agency, “And?” The vendors with whom I speak want to know how I am going to sell their house, not that belonging to anyone else. They do not care if only one a house a month is sold in their particular demographic, as long as it is their property and the appearance of, “that smirking oil slick” [sic] (Rod Liddle’s words, not mine), The Sun January 9 2014, would have no relevance whatsoever to a successful house sale, or indeed beginning a successful career as an immigrant worker/beneficiary of the British welfare system.
Enough trending on trends. I leave you with the words of the former United States Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, Edgar R Fielder. “He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass”. Edgar R Fielder, “The Three R’s of Economic Forecasting-Irrational, Irrelevant and Irreverent”, 1977. Take note all wannabee Delphic oracles.