Business Investment to Hit Record Low 
Concerns are being raised over the Government’s economic growth strategy following Barclay Capital’s claims that business investment in the UK is heading for a record low.

Despite encouragement from the Government for corporate activity, Friday’s figures are expected to reveal that companies are not spending. It was hoped that by slashing employers’ National Insurance contributions and corporation tax, business owners would feel more comfortable to spend more.

Following a brief bounce back to growth following the fall from 13 percent to 10 percent of Gross Financial Expenditure during the recession, BarCap claim that spending is now virtually at its record lowest level and is therefore heading back down.

However, in contrast to these reports the Office for Budget Responsibility expects business investment to expand by 6.7 percent this year and contribute a third of total growth. Trade is expected to deliver the bulk of the rest.

In May, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called on businesses "to do your bit, too ... expand and invest" to secure the recovery.

Chris Leslie, Labour's Shadow Treasury Minister, said: "The Chancellor banked on business investment and exports to counter his cuts but his reckless plan isn't working.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "The Government has set out an ambitious path for growth ... creating the right conditions for businesses to start up, invest and grow."

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, explained that business will only start to see improvements to growth when confidence in both consumers and exports improve.

"Although business investment will eventually come back, in the short term there is no great argument as demand is going to be low," he said.

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Going For Gold 
Spot gold soared to an all-time high above $1,900 an ounce in the Eastern markets this morning, scoring a record top for a fourth consecutive session and aiming for its biggest monthly rise in 29 years, amid growing concerns for the safety of the global economy.

And some analysts say this could help gold vault $2,000 an ounce within the coming weeks if risk aversion on financial markets gains momentum.

"Everyone says that gold has been rising too fast, beware, beware, beware!" said Ronald Leung, a physical dealer at Lee Cheong Gold Dealers in Hong Kong. "But there is no sign of gold prices turning to point south."

"We are not hearing much good news out of Europe or the United States," said Darren Heathcote, head of trading at Investec Australia.
"The picture looks pretty bleak in the short term... For the time being investors are happy looking at gold as safe haven in these troubled times, and will continue to do so until we see something positive and sustainable."

Global analysts say that demand for gold is also being driven by speculation that the US Federal Reserve may announce new stimulus measures in a bid to boost the economy.

Central bank governors from across the globe are scheduled to gather for their annual meeting at the Jackson Hole summit later this week amid speculation that Ben Bernanke, the governor of the US central bank, may announce fresh stimulus measures in his speech at the summit.

Colin Whitehead of Fat Prophets said: "If they push through with more stimulus, gold could rise even further."

He explained that a fresh stimulus package would mean that the US will have to print more money to boost liquidity in the markets, which in turn could see the US currency weaken further.

"The underlying driver of gold prices is the depreciating US dollar value, so the more money they print, the stronger gold gets," Whitehead added.

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Nowhere To Hide 
In a move that will change centuries of financial transactions offshore, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has revealed that it is close to signing an agreement with Switzerland, which could see tax recouped on money held in Swiss bank accounts.

At the beginning of this year HMRC acquired details of some Swiss accounts held by UK residents. It is believed that the accounts are held by high net worth individuals in the Swiss division of HSBC who were exposed by an employee of the bank.

Now armed with this information HMRC have contacted those implicated to commence a detailed investigation of their tax affairs here in the UK, with a view to some very public prosecutions.

The agreement, which could net billions for HMRC, is part of a wider clamp down on wealthy individuals holding money offshore. HMRC has also recently instigated profession-by-profession campaigns targeting tax evaders.

It is thought that those investigated could face a criminal tax investigation or at least, a serious tax fraud investigation. Penalties could be the loss of up to 75 per cent of the individual’s offshore funds or, if prosecuted successfully under a criminal case, a prison sentence of 18 months to two years.

Wealthy Britons are believed to have stored away as much as £125 billion in Swiss accounts where the money could not be reached by the taxman. But under the new deal, those with money in the jurisdiction would have to pay between 25 and 35 per cent on the interest they earn and would subsequently be given a certificate to say they have paid the tax.

Tax campaigners have criticised the deal with Switzerland, saying that higher-rate taxpayers would still be paying less tax on deposits than savers in the UK, but the Government has argued that some gain is better than none on the previously untouchable deposits.

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Double Dip Looming? 
Shares in British banks fell to their lowest levels in more than two years yesterday and Wall Street had its worst day in a week, as higher-than-expected inflation and the lowest level for the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank (Philly Fed) business survey since March 2009 stoked fears of another recession.

Shares in Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and RBS fell to levels last seen in early 2009 with Barclays and RBS down more than 11 per cent.

The FTSE 100 index ended the day down 4.5 per cent, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 3.68 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 5.22 per cent.

Analysts agree that the global uncertainty in the markets and worries about growth and the Eurozone crisis have all contributed to talk of a double dip. Grant Lewis Head of Economic Research at Daiwa Capital Markets said:

"People are nervous about the outlook for the global economy. Every piece of economic data that has come out recently has been weaker than expected."

Market worries centre on the ability of European banks to fund dollar assets after it was revealed an unnamed bank had tapped an emergency European Central Bank lending facility for $500m (£303m), the first time the window has been used in over a year.

And officials at the New York Federal Reserve are said to be "very concerned" at the funding difficulties facing European banks.

As investors start looking for safe havens for their cash, the price of gold continued to rise, hitting a new high of 1,826 an ounce.

Adding to fears of another recession, a survey of US Mid-Atlantic factory activity by the Philly Fed showed a decline in August to its lowest level since March 2009. Economists at Morgan Stanley slashed the outlook for global growth and said the US and the Eurozone are "dangerously close to recession."

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Unemployment Rate Rising 
Figures published yesterday by the Office For National Statistics (ONS) showed that the unemployment rate rose to 7.9 per cent in the three months to June, meaning that the number of people unemployed rose by 38,000 to 2.49 million in the quarter.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance also rose, by 37,100 to 1.56 million in July, its biggest increase in over two years. The number of people claiming has now risen for five straight months.

However, the number of people in work rose by 25,000 to 2.97 million. But the jump was partly due to more people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job. According to the statistics, around 83,000 more people had no choice but to take part-time work, reaching 1.26 million on the quarter, which is the highest figure since records began.

The figures also showed that youth unemployment rose by 20 per cent on the previous quarter and the level of unemployed women rose by 21,000 to 1.05 million, which was the highest figure since May 1988.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the latest data revealed "a worrying rise in unemployment".

"But he then added: Given the government's programme to reduce the deficit, the figures are not altogether surprising. We expect unemployment to increase by 150,000 over the next year or so, peaking at around 2.6 million."

And other industry experts agreed that the figures were not totally unexpected. John Salt, Director at job site Totaljobs said:
“Following the recent decline in output in the UK manufacturing industry, the rise in unemployment, unfortunately, does not come as a major surprise."

And Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director General said that there had been some good news in the ONS figures such as the half million new jobs created in the private sector in last year and the rise in the number of people in work.

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