Little Black Book: Jonathan Adler

Lane Crawford, Hong Kong
The most chic luxury store in the world. Hong Kong is bananas, and Lane Crawford – especially the flagship store in IFC Mall – is an oasis of glamour in the madness.

Jump The Gun, Brighton
I love this shop. It’s the grooviest Mod shop on earth, it’s based in Brighton and I always make a pilgrimage when I’m in England. Its JTG Merino Crew jumper is the best garment around.

Babington House, Somerset
Religiously I’m agnostic (leaning towards atheism), but Babington kinda makes me believe in God. Nowhere as perfect could exist without a higher power. It’s heaven on earth. Amen.

Babington’s, Rome
I know it looks as if I only go to places called Babington, but I love this genteel English teashop, which seems frozen in the 1940s. It should feel like a theme park, but it’s cool and you can get a fab scone. So go to Babbers – but prepare for a bracing bill.

Paul Smith, London W11
No one does irreverent British luxury like Paul Smith: his Westbourne House shop is a gem. I opened my store round the corner to have an excuse to pop in.

Kuhl-Linscomb, Houston
A visionary megaplex of home-furnishing stores. People make pilgrimages to the Rothko Chapel in Houston but I’d say this is a more powerful spiritual experience.

Fortnum & Mason, London SW1
Twee and touristy (I know, I know), but it’s still fabulous. I marvel at the majesty of the displays. Fortnum’s makes everything so wantable, and the packaging is inspiring.

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Rightmove says little sign of UK housing bubble

LONDON Mon Nov 18, 2013 12:14am GMT

A sign is seen outside some newly built apartments in Berkhampstead, southern England August 13, 2013. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

1 of 2. A sign is seen outside some newly built apartments in Berkhampstead, southern England August 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eddie Keogh

LONDON (Reuters) – Fears that Britain’s housing stimulus schemes are inflating a price bubble look overblown according research by property website Rightmove, which cited evidence of strict lending criteria.

The government has introduced two schemes to help revive a property market that crashed in 2008 but, as an economic recovery takes hold, some worry the stimulus could overheat the market and pose a new threat to Britain’s financial stability.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside said efforts by the Financial Conduct Authority were working after it introduced new rules following a review of the mortgage market to stop a repeat of the previous decade’s housing bubble.

“Given the early evidence so far and with the effect of the mortgage market review then certainly fears of a housing bubble are being overplayed,” Shipside said.

Visitors to their website since the second phase of Help to Buy was launched in September had risen 30 percent compared to the same period in 2012, indicating a possible release of pent-up demand to move, Shipside said.

Last week, data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ showed house prices hit an 11-year high in October, supported by the government schemes and a shortage of properties on the market.

Mortgage lender Halifax said earlier in November average house prices in the three months to October were 6.9 percent higher than a year earlier compared to a 6.2 percent rise the month before, the biggest annual increase since May 2010.

But, Shipside said mortgage lenders were applying tougher standards to all applicants, and that anecdotal evidence showed applications for the Help to Buy programmes were undergoing rigorous checks to ensure they could afford their loans.

“The feedback from agents seems to be that you have to be squeaky-clean,” he said. That meant having a good credit history and in some cases putting down a larger deposit than the minimum 5 percent required by the schemes.

Shipside said that Help to Buy was unlikely to add to rising prices in sought-after London because most Help to Buy candidates would struggle to afford property there. But he said it could eventually put upward pressure on surrounding areas unless supply of new homes was increased.

A survey of 40,000 potential buyers on, Britain’s most visited property website, also showed three-quarters were unaware of the full benefits of the schemes.

Last week Prime Minister David Cameron said 2,000 homebuyers had obtained mortgages through Help to Buy schemes since the second phase, which provides a partial government guarantee, was launched. The first phase consists of equity loans and is limited in scope to new-build properties.

The Rightmove data showed a 2.4 percent dip in the average asking price for properties across the country in November compared to October. Although the series is not seasonally adjusted and typically dips before Christmas, this year’s 2.4 percent fall is less than the average 3 percent seen in the previous three years.

(Reporting by William James; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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BoE sees UK economy in sustained recovery, little inflation risk – minutes

By William Schomberg and Christina Fincher

LONDON Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:43pm GMT

LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England policymakers will be in no hurry to raise interest rates even as the economy gathers steam, minutes of their latest policy meeting showed on Wednesday.

Sterling briefly fell against the dollar and British government bond prices pared losses as the BoE underscored its message that an eventual fall in unemployment to 7 percent would not lead to an automatic tightening of monetary policy.

The minutes also showed policymakers were unfazed by a recent increase in inflation expectations – which officials have previously linked to hikes in power tariffs.

But the Bank did see various risks to what it called Britain’s current “sustained recovery”, the rationale for keeping easy policy.

Governor Mark Carney linked the BoE’s interest rates to a recovery in the labour market in August. Since then unemployment has fallen faster than the BoE expected, touching 7.6 percent in the three months to September.

Last week, when the Bank announced upbeat growth estimates and said unemployment could hit 7 percent as soon as late 2014, Carney stressed that level should not be seen as a trigger for a rate hike.

The minutes of the Nov 6-7 meeting of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee suggested the other eight MPC members agreed.

“With the proviso that medium-term inflation expectations remain sufficiently well-anchored, the projections for growth and inflation under constant bank rate underlined that there could be a case for not raising bank rate immediately when the 7 percent unemployment threshold was reached,” the minutes said.

George Buckley, an economist with Deutsche Bank, said the wording was a little more explicit than previous comments from BoE officials that a fall in unemployment to 7 percent would not mean an automatic rate hike.

Jonathan Loynes at Capital Economics said the main message of the minutes was to play down the importance of the unemployment rate threshold.

“Provided inflation pressures stay subdued, as we expect, interest rates are going nowhere for a long time yet even if the economy continues to grow strongly,” he said.

The BoE’s attempts to stress it remains far from tightening monetary conditions are an echo of the message from the U.S. Federal Reserve. Its outgoing chairman, Ben Bernanke, said on Tuesday that U.S. interest rates could remain near zero until “well after” unemployment falls under the Fed’s unemployment threshold.

As expected, the BoE minutes showed the nine members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to leave interest rates at 0.5 percent – where they have been since March 2009 – and not to add to the 375 billion pounds ($604 billion) of bond purchases conducted between then and October 2012.

The MPC members saw no signs that any of the ‘knockout’ clauses – which could void the forward guidance policy – had been breached. The knockouts look at inflation expectations and other risks to the economy.

In its quarterly Inflation Report last week, the BoE emphasised that higher interest rates would hinge on various factors such as labour market productivity. The minutes showed MPC members still had “a range of views” about the outlook for productivity but generally thought it would pick up.

($1 = 0.6210 British pounds)

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