Friday, 13 March 2009

top investment bank: uk could soon be bankrupt

House prices 'could fall by further 55 per cent'

House prices may fall by a further 55 percent and there is a "very real probability" that Britain will be bankrupted, a leading investment bank has warned in a private note to clients.

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor

10:02AM GMT 12 Mar 2009

People who bought buy-to-let flats are expected to “begin panic selling” and the average home value could drop below £100,000.

The predictions in a 298-page report from Numis Securities, a City investment bank, are the bleakest yet on the deteriorating state of the British property market. However, in the note written last month, Numis said: “Despite UK house prices already having fallen 21% from the peak, we do not believe that the correction is anywhere near over.

“Our core headline forecast is that UK property prices remain between 17% and 39% overvalued based on fair valuation. Moreover, history has shown us that when property…which has experienced a price bubble corrects, the price tends to fall below fair value for a period of time, as confidence in that market remains low. Prices could fall a further 40-55% if the over-correction was as bad as the early 1990s in our view.”

The report warns that “city centre flats” and “new executive homes” are likely to record the biggest reductions and describes investing in buy-to-let property as a “poor man’s hedge fund”.

“It is the action of these amateur investors over the next few months which we are most concerned about,” the report says. “We expect some to begin panic selling their portfolios, with the peak volume as is almost always the case with private investors, being at the market trough.”

Yesterday, Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, warned that the world is facing the most difficult economic conditions for “generations”.

However, the Numis report is scathing of Government attempts to help the economy.

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor have publicly stated that they want banks this year to lend at 2007 levels,” it said. “We think this is a crazy policy, given that too much debt was one of the prime reasons why the economy has its current problems.”

It also criticises the huge debts being run up by the Government to pump money into the economy. Yesterday, John Lewis, the retailer, said that the £12.5 billion cut in Vat has not made “any long term difference at all”.

The Numis report says: “The bankruptcy of the UK is a very real probability as the UK Government is trying to stimulate a greater debt burden in a grossly indebted economy. We believe the scale of the macro imbalances in the UK means there is no prospect of a recovery in 2009 and we expect the UK to be mired in a deep recession through all of 2010.”

Last night, the Conservatives said that the Numis analysis increased the pressure on the Prime Minister to apologise. Grant Shapps, the shadow Housing minister, said: “This is a devastating critique of the Government’s record and how Gordon Brown’s credit bubble will lead to a mountain of debt, a wave of repossessions and negative equity misery. Labour Ministers must take direct responsibility for fuelling buy-to-let speculation.

“Gordon Brown’s fingerprints are all over this economic wreckage and he should now have the decency to at least apologies for his mistakes.”

Yesterday, it emerged that the number of borrowers falling behind with their mortgage repayments has already doubled in the past year. According to Moody’s Investors Services, borrowers more than 90 days in arrears have increased to 1.5 percent of all home loans compared to 0.6 percent a year ago.

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