THE NUMBER of people asking about buying a house last month rose at the sharpest rate for two years, suggesting that the property market is beginning to pick up, according to this morning's papers.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said it was the fourth consecutive increase. Around 20% more chartered surveyors reported an increase in interest in October than a fall, says the Daily Telegraph.
At the same time, the number of completed property deals rose for the fifth month in a row, and estate agents have the lowest amount of unsold property on their books since January.
Jeremy Leaf, a spokesman for Rics, said buyers were less nervous about interest rates, and high levels of employment underpinned the market. "The return to more balanced market conditions is welcome," he said, but added: "Negotiations between buyers and sellers remain hard, and over-priced property continues to remain unsold."
Rics, which surveys the market every month, said although interest is rising, "a return to boom conditions is not at all evident." The level of enquiries is still far below what it was in 2003.
SIGNS THAT an oil-fuelled surge in inflationary pressures may be starting to subside boosted hopes for a further cut in interest rates in the new year, reports the Times.
The cost of goods leaving factory gates saw a surprise 0.1% drop last month, cutting the headline rate of producer price inflation to a weaker than expected 2.6%, its lowest in four months.
The underlying “core” measure of producer prices, excluding volatile costs of food, drink, energy and tobacco, showed a 0.3% drop in October, cutting the annual rate of increase to a two-year low of 1.2%. Inflation for factory input costs, for raw materials, components and energy, eased on an annual basis to 7.5%, setting a low for the year.
The figures came before the Bank of England’s quarterly Inflation Report tomorrow and as the British Chambers of Commerce said it expects a quarter-point cut in interest rates early next year. The Chamber cut its forecast for UK growth this year to only 1.6%. It left its 2006 growth forecast unchanged at 2.2%, but sounded a warning over risks of an outcome of under 2%.
PRIVATE COMPANIES should be allowed to compete to run the country's worst performing further education colleges, a report published today will argue, according to the Financial Times.
The government-commissioned study by Sir Andrew Foster, former head of the Audit Commission, of the colleges urges them to focus on the needs of business.
Under the proposals, institutions that failed to improve within a year could be taken over by a range of providers, including other colleges, charities and private companies. Such a step would go further than the recent education white paper, which ruled out for-profit companies being able to run schools.
Sir Andrew said a focus on improving the nation's skills and “employability” was of “vital economic importance” for its future. To achieve this, his report, “Realising the Potential”, calls for colleges to simplify their remit. They currently teach a vast array of courses, including workplace skills, A-levels, adult education and recreational subjects such as arts and crafts.
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