Quarter of UK home-owners worried they will not be able to renew mortgages


A quarter of UK home-owners are worried about renewing their mortgage during the pandemic according to a poll.

A third said their income was less secure now than before the pandemic according to the poll.

While more than 1 in 10 mortgagees have had to take a payment holiday on their mortgage during COVID according to the poll of 2,000 British adults by Yonder (formerly Populus).

The proportion of those feeling less financially secure during COVID rises to 63 percent among the self-employed.

The government’s mortgage support scheme allowing people to take mortgage holidays comes to an end on October 31.

From next month lenders can start repossessing homes of those who have been unable to pay.

Those who have taken mortgage holidays will have their missed payments spread over the rest of the payment term meaning larger payments from next month.

Wesley Ranger, Managing Director of Willow Private Finance, who commissioned the poll, said: “This is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Millions of mortgage holders in Britain are up for renewal in the next 12 months with changed circumstances.

“On top of all the other fears at the moment they are having sleepless nights worrying if they will be able to renew or even pay they bill.

“We are calling on the industry to show leniency for people with changed circumstances and for the government to extend its mortgage support scheme with urgency.”





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Footy finals during coronavirus leave experts ‘very worried’ about spike in domestic violence


Attitudes towards women have long been an insidious undercurrent of Australia’s major football codes.

Most recently, there have been allegations of domestic abuse and drug use against Rabbitohs’ legend turned assistant coach and TV star Sam Burgess.

Burgess denies the allegations. Police and the NRL are investigating and the club vehemently denies there was a cover-up of allegations against Burgess.

Coach Wayne Bennett recently said the issue had “nothing to do with us” and “it won’t have any impact on the team whatsoever”.

Police and the NRL are investigating allegations of drug use and domestic abuse against Sam Burgess (left).(AAP: Darren England)

Allegations about attitudes towards women are not just a problem in rugby league. And in some cases it involves violence.

AFL player Elijah Taylor’s career is in jeopardy with the Sydney Swans after he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault of his former partner.

Former rugby league player Ian Roberts works with the NRL, running player workshops about harassment and sexual abuse.

He believes education is key.

“The NRL are kind of on the front foot but it’s a conversation that needs to be taken to the next level … the conversation needs to be had in the boardrooms.”

Former rugby league star, Ian Roberts. April 2017
Former NRL star Ian Roberts says league is a “man’s world” where tribalism still exists.(ABC News: Simon Beardsell)

Roberts admits harassment and abuse is still a bit of a taboo subject when it comes to footy.

He wants people to start talking about it, particularly around finals time.

“Rugby union, AFL, league, soccer, tennis — all the big ones need to have the conversation because that pushes things along and makes it public,” he says.

Respect Victoria is trying to do just that.

The organisation is dedicated to preventing family violence and violence against women.

At the helm is Tracey Gaudry, who became the AFL’s first female chief executive back in 2017 when she was appointed by Hawthorn.

Tracey Gaudry
Tracey Gaudry says rates of domestic violence spike during major sporting events.(YouTube: UCI)

“Sports is traditionally male dominated and therefore that unhealthy hyper masculinity can come forward in terms of power or rights,” Gaudry says.

So during these finals, Respect Victoria is urging people to call out gender inequality both on and off the field.

“Statistics show that rates of domestic violence spike during major sporting events,” Gaudry says.

“During the 2018 State of Origin, police callouts for family violence rose 40 per cent.”

She’s also concerned that coronavirus could compound those figures.

“The impact of coronavirus on the home has caused an increase in family violence,” she said.

“We are very worried about the compounding effects of football finals and the ongoing COVID restrictions.”

Sports broadcaster Emma Race is passionate about reaching equality and has worked with Our Watch, which prevents violence against women and children.

“It is men that are holding the positions of power still in sport and media, so they are essential to this conversation and we need them to come along with us, we can’t do this without them,” she says

Groups like Ladies who League are also working towards change by celebrating women in sport.

“Now that women in sport are more visible across the board, not just playing but in administration, the media, refereeing, you can only be what you can see,” Ladies who League founder Mary Konstantopoulos says.

A woman stands in front of a window in the city and smiles for the camera.
Mary Konstantopoulos, founder of Ladies who League, says we can all do more to help stamp out domestic violence.(Supplied: Ladies who League)

“Now young boys and girls want to not only be like James Tedesco, but Sam Bremner and Kezie Apps. That visibility is so important and a powerful message not just for women but boys because they will grow up in a world where that’s really normal,” she says.

Her organisation works with the NRL and has been supportive of actions taken like the “no-fault stand down policy” and the “voice against violence program”.

“The NRL is doing a lot but I want to say they can do more, we can all do more,” she says.



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Fed’s new zero-rate vow has Kaplan worried on market excesses



FILE PHOTO: Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan gestures during a news conference after of the True Economic Talks event in Mexico City, Mexico, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

September 21, 2020

(Reuters) – U.S. Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said Monday he is “completely” on board with keeping interest rates at their current near-zero level even into 2023, but worries a vow to keep them there even longer risks excesses and imbalances in financial markets.

Last week the Fed promised not to raise rates until the economy reaches full employment and inflation is on track to moderately exceed the Fed’s 2% target.

Kaplan, who dissented, said Monday he believes the economy will be on track for full employment and stable prices by late 2022 or into 2023.

“I’m a big believer if you make a commitment like this, you need to fulfill it, unless there’s an extraordinary reason why you can’t,” Kaplan told Reuters in a phone interview. “My worry was that this would encourage in the shorter run more risk- taking and maybe create imbalances and instabilities.”

Because technological advances and other forces are putting downward pressure on inflation, promising to delay rate hikes until inflation is headed above 2% could lock the central bank into inaction in the face of such imbalances.

And if inflation does unexpectedly take off before the labor market has fully healed, the new vow could make it hard for the Fed to react, he said.

Kaplan said he expects that as the economy recovers, the neutral rate – the theoretical level of interest rates at which a healthy economy can chug along – will rise. As that happens, he said, “if you keep your setting of the fed funds rate exactly where it is, you are actually increasing the level of accommodation.”

Kaplan said he now expects unemployment to fall to as low as 7.25% this year, and for the economy to shrink less than 3%, far less than his earlier forecasts.

If the economy is approaching 3.5% unemployment, where it was before the coronavirus crisis, but inflation is still a little below 2%, “I certainly understand why you’d want to maintain a high level of accommodation, but do you actually want to be increasing the level of accommodation? I don’t know if you do or don’t, and that’s the point.”

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Andrea Ricci)





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That sinking feeling: Canadians losing faith in price index and that has central bankers worried


Article content continued

When policy-makers started thinking about the issues they should explore back in 2017, the emphasis was on whether there might be a better way to set interest rates than targeting an annual two-per-cent increase in the CPI, the Bank of Canada’s approach since the early 1990s.

It’s critical that we measure inflation as accurately as possible so Canadians have confidence in our target

Carolyn Wilkins

That work is coming along. Rhys Mendes, the central bank’s managing director of international economic analysis, presented at a virtual conference on Aug. 26 an overview of preliminary results of the “horse race” officials are conducting between a set of popular theories on how central banks should conduct monetary policy.

So far, the current regime is performing well. Adding an employment goal to the inflation target also produces positive outcomes, as does a framework that attempts to achieve an average rate of inflation over a longer period of time. Mendes had fewer positive things to say about two other approaches that are popular with academics: price-level targeting, which would require setting interest rates to achieve a specific increase in the CPI rather than a rate of change; and the idea that central banks should target a certain change in nominal gross domestic product.

To be sure, the Bank of Canada’s research so far detects only marginal differences between all the approaches. “I’m not sure the gains would justify shifting away from the current mandate,” said Mendes, who early in his presentation made clear that he was speaking for himself and not Governor Tiff Macklem, Wilkins and the other members of the Governing Council.



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Worried about sleep apnea? Home-based testing is now the norm – Harvard Health Blog


If your bed partner complains about your loud snoring, it might be a disruptive nuisance — or something more serious. High-volume snoring punctuated by snorts, gasps, and brief pauses in breathing is the hallmark of obstructive sleep apnea.

Although this condition occurs most often in men over 40 who are overweight or obese, it can affect people of all ages and sizes. The resulting daytime sleepiness — a direct result of not getting enough high-quality sleep — can leave people moody and forgetful. Even more worrisome: car accidents are two to three times more common in people with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea also can boost blood pressure and may increase the risk of clogged heart arteries, heart rhythm disorders, heart failure, and stroke.

What is the STOPBANG test for sleep apnea?

The easy-to-remember acronym STOPBANG can help you decide whether it’s wise to talk to a doctor about having a sleep study to determine whether you have sleep apnea. It helps to have input from someone who sees you sleep.

A “yes” answer to three or more of these questions suggests possible sleep apnea. Ask your doctor if you should have a sleep study.
S Snore: Have you been told that you snore?
T Tired: Do you often feel tired during the day?
O Obstruction: Do you know if you briefly stop breathing while asleep, or has anyone witnessed you do this?
P Pressure: Do you have high blood pressure or take medication for high blood pressure?
B Body mass index (BMI): Is your BMI 30 or above? (For a calculator, see www.health.harvard.edu/bmi.)
A Age: Are you 50 or older?
N Neck: Is your neck circumference more than 16 inches (women) or 17 inches (men)?
G Gender: Are you male?

Sleep monitoring can be done at home

Diagnosing sleep apnea is less complicated that many people realize. In the past, diagnosing this condition always required an overnight stay in a sleep lab. “Today, about 60% to 70% of sleep studies for suspected sleep apnea are done using home-based tests,” says Dr. Sogol Javaheri, a sleep specialist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. If your symptoms suggest moderate to severe sleep apnea and you don’t have any other significant medical problems, home sleep monitoring is almost as accurate for detecting apnea as a night in a sleep lab, she says.

So, if you suspect you have sleep apnea, ask your doctor for an evaluation. Or if your health insurance allows you to see a specialist without a referral, you can start there instead. “Sleep specialists are better versed in insurance-related barriers, and they know how to order testing to avoid problems and delays in care,” says Dr. Javaheri.

For the test, you’ll get a small, lightweight monitor, a belt you slip around your midsection, a small finger clip that monitors your oxygen, and an airflow sensor to place under your nose. These sensors and devices measure your oxygen saturation, heart rate, and airflow, as well as the movements of your chest and abdomen and your position while you sleep.

One main advantage of home-based testing is the cost, which runs between $150 and $500, compared to testing done in a sleep laboratory, which usually tops $1,000. But the best part about home sleep test is the convenience. You sleep in your own bed, not an unfamiliar hospital bed, and you do the test based on your schedule. However, you’ll need to borrow the monitor from a hospital sleep lab, and you may have to wait a few weeks to get it. Later, if you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, home-based tests also provide an easy way for a physician to check how well your treatment is working.



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Britons a bit more upbeat on finances but worried about economy, GfK says


August 20, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – British consumers turned a bit more confident about their personal finances in August, but they were increasingly worried about the outlook for the economy with unemployment expected to rise sharply, a survey showed on Friday.

The headline GfK consumer confidence index held at -27, the same level it has been since early July.

That represented its joint-highest reading since the coronavirus lockdown began in March, but is not far above its lowest level in a decade that was touched in May.

“Circumspect consumers report they are more confident about their personal financial situation over the next year but the uptick from zero to +1 does not amount to much,” Joe Staton, GfK’s client strategy director, said.

“This can change quickly when furlough ends and the inevitable redundancies start.”

Around one in eight workers remain on the government’s job retention subsidy scheme which has already cost 35 billion pounds ($46 billion) and is due to close at the end of October.

A measure of how consumers view the economy over the next 12 months fell to -42 from -41 in July, GfK said.

Britain’s economy shrank by more than 20% in the April-June period and the Bank of England thinks it will take until the end of next year for it to regain its pre-pandemic size.

Some private-sector economists say it could take a lot longer than that, with the average forecast in a Reuters poll on Thursday showing that it would take at last two years for the economy to return to the same size it was at the end of 2019.

(Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)





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After bushfires and coronavirus, China’s anti-dumping probe has Australian winemakers worried


Winemakers still battling to rebound from bushfires, a drop-off in tourism, and sharp declines in cellar door sales are concerned China’s investigation into Australian wine imports could further damage the local industry.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce has launched an anti-dumping investigation into Australian wine — the latest local industry to be hit by China this year.

Beef and barley exports are already facing trade sanctions, and China has warned students and tourists not to travel to Australia.

China is the South Australian wine industry’s largest export market, and imports about 30 per cent of wine produced by McLaren Vale winery d’Arenberg.

Chief winemaker Chester Osborn said if China’s investigation results in tariffs against Australian wine imports, it could severely damage an industry already “in a bad spot” because of bushfires and “poor weather”.

“We’ve had restaurants closed for months, cellar door sales have been non-existent until recently, and there are no tourists,” he said.

South Australian winemakers are concerned about China’s anti-dumping probe.(Carl Curtain)

Barossa winemaker David Powell said coronavirus meant the Chinese market was even more important to local producers.

“Domestically, our wines sell mainly into high-end restaurants and independent retail which have been hit hard by the COVID-19 lockdown,” he said.

“At the moment our main source of revenue is our Chinese business, so this could be quite devastating.”

‘Political interference’ could distort the market

Mr Osborn said the effects of a possible tariff would depend on how it was implemented.

“If it was on the price of the wine, it would be really, severely negative … we sell a lot of $80 or $100 wines over there,” Mr Osborn said.

“If it was done on a per-litre basis, it wouldn’t be as big a problem.”

He said the outcome would not be known for some time, because China’s investigation has “got a year or more to play out before they decide what they’re going to do”.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham rejects allegations Australia is “dumping” wine in China.

Clare Valley winery Taylor Wines said the industry had enough problems with the coronavirus without worrying about tariffs from China.

“It is concerning that political interference may put some distortion into the market, not only for us but also for the distributors we work with in the Chinese market and the employees,” managing director Mitchell Taylor said.

Winning wine
Managing director of Taylors Wines, Mitchell Taylor.(Taylors Wines)

Riverland Vintners operator David Harris said Australian wine had taken a huge proportion of market share away from Chinese wine growers over the past several years.

He said “very cheap wine” had been exported into China during Australia’s wine glut, but now “we are by far the most expensive exporter into China, so we’ve built on success”.

“What’s happened is [that] the success of imported wine into China has had a very deleterious effect on the local [Chinese] industry,” Mr Harris said.

“When they joined the World Trade Organisation I think the imports into China from Australia were $10-15 million — 14 years later, it’s $1.1 billion.

‘Not unusual, just disappointing’

Wine exports from New South Wales are worth about $500 million a year, according to the NSW Wine Industry Association.

Orange winemaker Justin Jarrett has been trying to export his wine to China for the past three years, and rejected suggestions Australia was dumping wine.

But he said it was not rare for countries to investigate each other’s exports.

“America has done this, the EU and the UK have done this, they’ve all investigated dumping laws on different products at different times and they’ve also investigated the use of tariffs to slow trade down,” he said.

“We want to do business with them, we don’t want the politics to get in the way, but they’re making their call and we have to make ours at the same time.”

A cluster of grapes hang on a vine.
“We can’t afford to have any disruptions in this valuable market,” said Australian Grape and Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene.(Supplied)

Australian Grape and Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene said members of his organisation were concerned about potential tariffs.

Mr Battaglene said China takes around 40 per cent of Australia’s wine exports, equating to $1.1 billion of Australia’s $2.9 billion wine exports annually.

“It’s really important to us — even if you don’t export to China, if something happens to that market, that product’s got to go somewhere and that impacts on everything you do,” he said.

“China’s such an important market to us, and to have this come down on us that quickly, is of great concern.



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Gunner Government worried about backlash over Darwin Turf Club gambling venue support


The Gunner Government was reluctant to promote its financial backing of a new venue at the Darwin Turf Club because the facility was “very gambling and poker machine-oriented”, Freedom of Information documents obtained by the ABC show.

In July 2018, Treasurer Nicole Manison agreed to extend a taxpayer-backed guarantee worth $3.5 million so the turf club could secure a bank loan to build a sports and gaming venue known as Silks.

Three months later, the turf club’s chairman sent the Chief Minister’s then-chief of staff, Alf Leonardi, a draft members’ update about how plans for the Silks project were proceeding.

“Been a long long road but I think we are there!!!” Brett Dixon wrote, asking if the Government wanted to add comments to the update.

The update included references to a “modern spacious gaming room”, as well as quotes from Tabcorp, which planned to set up an outlet within Silks.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Darwin Turf Club to deliver an exciting punting experience like no other,” Tabcorp was quoted as saying.

There were large crowds at the 2020 Darwin Cup.(ABC News: Amy Culpitt)

‘We may want to think this through’

But when Mr Leonardi forwarded the draft update to Chief Minister Michael Gunner and other senior staff, he raised the issue of how it might be perceived, given Silks would feature 55 poker machines as well as trackside TAB facilities.

“This club has been guaranteed by the NT,” Mr Leonardi wrote.

The Government’s director of communications, Maria Billias, responded, saying: “I don’t necessarily mind it from a construction/jobs perspective.”

It is not known what — if any — comments the Government provided to the turf club for the members’ update.

However, the Government never issued a media release about its decision to approve the loan guarantee extension.

‘There is no ‘mini-casino’

Mr Leonardi, who was replaced as the Chief Minister’s chief of staff in August last year, declined to comment to the ABC.

But a spokesperson said the Gunner Government had no issue with being associated with gambling.

However, several FOI documents indicate a tendency to distance itself from the potential negative impacts of gambling associated with some of the venues it has supported.

Natasha Fyles stands in front of micrphones and looks serious.
One month before it approved the Silks guarantee, Ms Fyles said the Government was reducing the community-wide cap on poker machines.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

In August 2019, a “hot issue” brief was prepared for Attorney-General Natasha Fyles to deflect ongoing criticism over the Government’s decision to provide a previously-unbudgeted $12 million grant to the turf club for a new grandstand, in addition to the loan guarantee for Silks.

The main dot point in the brief stated: “There is no ‘mini-casino’ being developed at the Darwin Turf Club.”

The brief also pointed out Silks would have had fewer poker machines had it not been for the previous CLP Government’s decision to increase the cap from 45 to 55.

A separate FOI document showed the Government removed draft references to “corporate bookmaking” from its final response to a series of Questions on Notice from the Opposition about Silks.

Despite the Government’s apparent reluctance to publicly promote gambling activities in venues that have received its support, Labor has trumpeted its efforts in trying to combat problem gambling.

In a press release issued one month before it approved the Silks guarantee, Ms Fyles announced the Government was reducing the community-wide cap on poker machines.



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