Weekly Client Update – 17th November

Market update

UK markets: The FTSE 100 index opened up 50.90 points, 0.7%, at 7,461.07. The FTSE 250 was up 156.88 points, 0.9%, at 18,508.36, and the AIM All-Share was up 2.87 points, 0.4%, at 716.16.

European markets: In European equities, the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.5%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.4%.

US markets: In the US on Thursday, Wall Street ended muted, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.1%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite both ending up 0.1%.

Asian markets: In Asia, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo closed up 0.5%. In China, the Shanghai Composite closed up 0.1%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong closed down 2.1%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed down 0.1%.

Emerging markets: Amazon aims to achieve merchandise exports totalling $20 billion from India by 2025 by incorporating numerous small sellers into its e-commerce platform, as stated by a company representative today.

Jersey economy ‘vulnerable to economic downturn’

Jersey’s economy is “vulnerable to a serious downturn” if it does not replenish its reserve funds, independent finance experts have said. The Fiscal Policy Panel (FPP), an independent group that looks at how well the island generates and looks after its money, said in its latest report that the finance industry had “benefited from higher interest rates”.

The annual rate of inflation fell by o.8% between June and September but the FPP said that, if rates continued to fall, Jersey could be left with less income. Panel chairwoman Dame Kate Barker said the government should provide additional money to the Rainy Day Fund [the States Strategic Reserve], currently valued at £922m while growth was high.

She said: “Whilst the global macroeconomic outlook is weak, Jersey has benefited from higher interest rates boosting banking sector profits and government revenues. With the economy at full capacity, this should have been used as an opportunity to rebuild Jersey’s reserves. The finance industry accounts for 20% of the island’s economy.”

The FPP said the Rainy Day Fund and the Stabilisation Fund, used to support the island through major economic shocks, had ‘shrunk’ and ‘not been replenished, despite strong economic growth and exceptionally strong government revenues’.

It said the reserve was forecast to stand at £1.2B in 2027, ‘half the minimum value recommended by the panel, and that the reserve was ‘unlikely to be sufficient to meet a major crisis’. It also said long-term health care savings could be ‘exhausted by mid-2030s’ without any policy changes.

Rishi Sunak declares victory as fall in UK inflation rate meets his pledge

Rishi Sunak now has at least one promise he can tell voters has been delivered: halving inflation. Figures released on Wednesday morning by the Office for National Statistics show that the rate of price growth in the U.K., as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, fell to 4.6 percent in the year to October.

That’s down from 6.7% in September. More significant politically, it meets the embattled U.K. prime minister’s goal set at the start of 2023 when the CPI inflation rate topped 10 percent — of ‘halving inflation’. It’s one of the five big pledges he’s asked voters to hold him accountable for in the run-up to a tough election next year.

Even as economists question just how much impact the government itself has had on prices it is a boost for Sunak, who has struggled to close the large polling lead the opposition Labour Party has over his governing Conservative Party. In a statement issued just as the figures dropped, Sunak was swift to claim credit, saying getting inflation down had ‘involved hard decisions and fiscal discipline’.

He said: “Official figures released this morning confirm we have halved inflation meeting the first of the five priorities I set out at the beginning of this year. But while it is welcome news that prices are no longer rising as quickly, we know many people are continuing to struggle, which is why we must stay the course to continue to get inflation all the way back down to 2 percent.”

That ‘2%’ is a reference to the Bank of England’s key inflation target. However, the figures suggest the drop in inflation was less due to the efforts of the government than it was to the huge increase in household energy bills last October now passing out of the calculations.

Long-term care weekly benefits to increase by 7.7%

The government has announced a 7.7% increase to the weekly benefit rates payable under the Long-Term Care Scheme. The increase, which will take effect from January, is in addition to the 2023 uprate of 12%, representing an increase in Long Term Care benefit funding of just over 20% since December 2022.

The Long-Term Care Scheme provides financial support to Jersey residents who need long-term care for the rest of their life, either at home or in a care home. The scheme is designed to meet the cost of care up to a maximum level, which varies with an individual’s care needs, and is funded by contributions from all income taxpayers.

As part of last year’s ‘unprecedented’ 12% increase, ministers also committed to undertake a review of the Island’s homecare market. The independent review was carried out by LaingBuisson, and gave all providers in the homecare sector an opportunity to discuss and explain their costs, charges and business models, with all data being reported anonymously.

The government expects to receive the independently produced report in the next few weeks. This will form the basis of a restructure of the calculation of homecare package costs and how they are paid from the Long-Term Care Fund, as the government looks to ‘move towards a more sustainable and equitable domiciliary care market’.

Resulting changes will be implemented in the first half of 2024.Social Security Minister Elaine Millar described the increase as ‘an important step in ensuring the scheme remains both sustainable and equitable’. Health Minister Karen Wilson said the uplift demonstrated that the government “continues to support the vital services the sector provides to Islanders”.

Jersey sees lowest number of properties sold since 2002

Jersey has recorded the lowest number of properties being bought and sold in a quarter since records began just over two decades ago. Published by Statistics Jersey this morning, the latest House Price Index report for the third quarter of 2023 showed that the number of properties bought and sold in the Island was 62% lower than the same time last year.

A total of 155 properties were bought and sold in the last quarter – the lowest since at least 2002 – with the previous low point being 162 properties in first quarter of 2013.The lack of new housing developments being completed in the last quarter had an impact on turnover, with the previous two quarters seeing almost half of property transactions take place as the result of development completions.

In comparison, the last quarter saw less than 5% of transactions take place as a result of completions in new developments. The average property price fell from £695,000 in the third quarter of 2022, to £681,000 in 2023 – although it is higher than the figure of £666,000 recorded in the previous quarter for 2023.

Of the properties purchased, only 8% were not intended as main residences, which was a decrease of 20% from the previous quarter.

EasyJet abandons direct Jersey to Amsterdam route

EasyJet will not be offering direct flights from Jersey to Amsterdam next year. The route, which was announced at the end of last year and ran throughout the summer, had previously been described by Ports of Jersey’s chief executive Matt Thomas as “a major milestone for Jersey’s connectivity”.

However, in a statement, Ports of Jersey said: “EasyJet makes decisions based on commercial considerations, and while the route was well-used by Islanders, it did not attract enough passengers from Amsterdam to retain the route. The success of new routes depends on attracting visitors from other locations. Despite efforts to market the Island and the route in the Dutch market, this did not happen.”

“One of Ports of Jersey’s strategic priorities is to develop commercially sustainable air connectivity and we are continuing discussions with EasyJet on potential additional European routes. There are also other airlines and travel operators providing direct services to European destinations such as Munich, Dusseldorf, Split, Faro, Palma, Ibiza, and Malaga.”

The Amsterdam route was also last year welcomed by Economic Development Minister Morel, who said that he would be engaging with Ports “to encourage them to further the expansion of our European networks” .

However, Mr Thomas said that airlines build their operations around “mega airports”, noting that Jersey is “not Gatwick or Charles de Gaulle”.

He commented: “European connectivity is really important. We have got a base, [but] we need to develop it. The ultimate goal is year-round services to key European destinations with an airline of the scale of easyJet.”

Reservoirs to reopen following Storm Ciarán damage

Queens Valley and Val de la Mare reservoirs will reopen on Saturday following damage caused by Storm Ciarán. Both reservoirs were closed the day before the storm hit the Island and remained closed for two weeks as uprooted trees made footpaths impassable.

Jersey Water chief executive Helier Smith paid tribute to the efforts of those who had cleared trees at both sites safe.

He said: “We are pleased to be able to reopen the reservoirs to the public from this weekend; we know how much Islanders value these open spaces and we have appreciated the support and understanding we have received from so many while we have been forced to remain closed.”

Mr Smith added: “Jersey Water employees, tree surgeons and the team at Jersey Trees for Life have worked tirelessly since the storm, in very wet and windy weather conditions, to make sure the reservoirs are safe again for people to use.”

“Even though both are now back open for the public to enjoy, there are areas set back off the footpaths where trees have come down and we ask people to avoid these. But while the public will be able to visit both reservoirs, some areas of the Val de la Mare arboretum remain inaccessible while maintenance work continues.”

Alex Morel from Jersey Trees for Life commented: “When people visit the arboretum, they will notice considerable damage to all of our collections. We have had to restrict access to certain areas where our tree surgeons are still working. These areas are not safe and will be signposted.”

“We want to thank our team and the volunteers who have been helping to clear the paths. While we have been hugely saddened by the losses, we will be planting new specimen trees in the new year,” she said.

Minister: ‘Tree law is even more relevant after storm’

The Environment Minister is refusing to back down on controversial plans for tree legislation after hundreds were damaged or destroyed during Storm Ciarán.

Deputy Jonathan Renouf (pictured, right) said that laws to regulate tree-felling were “as relevant, if not more relevant” now than before hurricane-strength winds tore through the Island, bringing down hundreds of trees.

The plans, which govern the chopping down and pruning of trees, were met with protest from landowners and tree surgeons when first lodged earlier this year, and have been subsequently altered by Deputy Renouf, with a debate on the issue delayed multiple times.

Even before the storm hit, a former Bailiff, Deputy Sir Philip Bailhache, criticised the legislation and lodged a proposal to repeal the relevant part of the Planning and Building law to leave landowners free to carry out work on trees without needing planning permission.

In a letter to the JEP this week, one Islander said he hoped “common sense will prevail and that the intrusive and ill-thought-out legislation to ‘protect’ trees will not be enacted into law” in light of the storm damage. This law is as relevant, if not more relevant, now.”

“The key point is to get the balance right and make sure that the resulting regulation is not overly intrusive and that it does not create too much bureaucracy while achieving what it needs to achieve with the lightest touch possible, which is much harder than just establishing the basic principle”.

Deputy Renouf said that the storm and its damage to the natural environment had not yet “played into” conversations around drafting the law. “I’m not backing down on the basic point but I am prepared to consider all the levels of details on it.”

Jersey Post issues deadlines for Christmas delivery

Islanders sending gifts, products and other parcels outside of Europe should do so before Friday 24 November if they want it to arrive before Christmas, according to Jersey Post. The business has published deadlines for cards and parcels destined for the UK and Europe – with Jersey Post anticipating a 30% increase in parcels as the festive season approaches.

So far this year, the organisation has processed and delivered 3.4 million items. Jersey Post managing director for post and logistics Julie Thomas said: “Throughout November and December, we have put in place extra operational measures to ensure that our on-Island processing and delivery is prepared to manage the increased volume as seamlessly as possible.”

“Offering Islanders a top-class service remains, as always, our first priority.”

She added that following disruption caused by Storm Ciarán, Jersey Post was encouraging Islanders to be mindful of “further possible disruptions to services due to adverse weather”.

Jersey Post are also encouraging Islanders to use SecureDrop, which lets them designate a safe place for postal carriers to leave deliveries.

Last recommended posting date for letters, cards and documents: to Jersey – Thursday 21 December, 10am at postboxes, 4pm at parish post offices, and Friday 22 December 6am at Broad Street and Rue des Prés. To the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands – Friday 15 December. Monday 18 December if using the tracked and signed service. To Europe – Monday 4 December. To the rest of the world – Friday 1 December.

For parcels: To Jersey – Thursday 21 December. To the UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands –  Wednesday 13 December. Friday 15 December if using tracked and signed with prepaid VAT. To Europe – Friday 1 December. To the rest of the world – Friday 24 November.

Jersey’s Christmas lights parade and ice rink make comeback

The town centre Christmas lights were turned under on with the return of the Christmas parade, after a two-year absence due to weather and Covid. On Thursday, Santa visited the Christmas Village at the Weighbridge, and enjoyed food, drink, live music and stalls.

Town centre and events manager Connor Burgher said: “The Christmas Lights Switch On marks the official start of the festive period in the town centre. We are delighted that the event is back after a hiatus due to Covid and adverse weather.”

An ice-skating rink has been set up at the Weighbridge, funded by the Jersey Development Company, which will be open daily from today until the end of February half term (18 February), except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

JDC chief executive Lee Henry said: “The ice rink at Fort Regent was a popular and much-loved community attraction during previous festive seasons. However, the Island has been without this amenity for the past three years and we wanted to bring it back.”

The Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa will host its first Christmas market in the Grand Suite on 16 December. There will also be festive food and mulled wine made by the hotel’s chef, Nic Valmagna, with funds going towards the hotel’s charity of choice, Brighter Futures.

Hotel general manager Tim O’Sullivan said: “We’re delighted to be hosting this special Christmas market and spreading some seasonal cheer with the help of our specially selected exhibitors. We promise there’ll be plenty of present ideas here, even for the trickiest person to buy for. ”

Genuine Jersey Christmas Markets will be held over three weekends in the Royal Square from 23 November and 10 December.