Click for economic recovery, gold rush, choc horror

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 imgresHave you been holding out for bargain? I have. My inbox keeps pinging with special deals as retailers get wise to the fact that two thirds of shoppers pay more attention to online advertising in the run up to Christmas than ever.

Research from Rocket Fuel reveals that US-style shopping bonanza days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday mean bigger discounts for consumers and bigger business for retailers than ever.

With discounts up to 70%, Tesco says it expects Black Friday to beat Boxing Day sales this year. Visa expects £1m will be spent on its cards every three minutes. At this time of year we all do our bit to shop the nation out of economic strife.

It is online where things are getting really exciting. Online spending now accounts for nearly 20% of the total UK retail spend and this year those sales are expected to break through the £100bn mark.


It makes me wonder who will really bother queuing round the block, in the cold for big department store end-of-season-sales when we all expect (and often get) to snag a deal on our stocking fillers year-round. Ecommerce has knocked the traditional retail cycle out of whack.

Scramble for goldGold bars

This weekend all eyes are on Switzerland. Not to see first snow fall ahead of what I hope will be a spectacular ski season, but something far more crucial to financial markets: to see what they decide to do about their gold. Five million Swiss voters will vote on a proposal that would force the central bank to triple its gold reserves. If it wins majority support it could trigger a worldwide gold rush.

Under the “Save Our Swiss Gold” initiative the Swiss National Bank (SNB) would be obliged to hold at least a fifth of its assets in gold within five years, rather than the 8% it holds now. To do that the bank would need to repatriate all Swiss gold held abroad and not sell any of it. The SNB would also be required to buy 1500 tonnes of gold over the next five years, the equivalent of almost 70% of the global gold mined every year. Experts say the gold price would soar.

Hang on, I hear you cry, don’t the Swiss have referendums on absolutely everything and don’t the polls show a “yes” vote unlikely? True, they have had 11 referendums so far this year. That is how they roll. The point is they are not alone in wanting their safe haven assets where they can see them.

The Dutch central bank secretly brought a large part of the national gold reserves being held in a secure depot in New York back to Amsterdam. In total, 120 tonnes of gold valued at €4bn has been brought back to the Netherlands by ship. In a high security operation that apparently took months, somehow they kept it under wraps. The Dutch Central Bank said the move was to ensure a “better spread”. The bank hopes to boost consumer confidence by showing there is enough gold in the Netherlands to take the country through a new economic crisis.

Germany is bringing home its gold from the US and now French right-wing Front National, which shockingly came first in May’s European parliament elections, has sent a letter to the governor of the Banque de France, demanding that France join the list of nations which have, or are trying to,  repatriate their gold.

Right-wing panic mongering or something to pay attention to? Perhaps there is a message here for central bankers to reign it in and rethink the endless printing of money.

“It is about time that the power of central banks is contained and regulated” said Marc Faber, editor of the Gloom, Boom, Doom Report. “The Swiss gold initiative, while not ideal, would be a starting point.”

imagesChoc horror

It is time to start stockpiling those selection boxes. The world is running out of chocolate. 

Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut Group has joined a host of industry experts in expressing concerns about “a potential cocoa shortage by 2020”. Team that with soaring demand and cocoa process are 25 per cent more expensive than last year.

The experts cite serious economic and geopolitical reasons such as climate change and disease -the spectre of Ebola in particular, spreading to west African cocoa-growing nations such as Ivory Coast and Ghana.

But let’s face it, there is a shortage because we are eating too much!

I just hope the gloomy prediction of John Mason of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council does not ring true:

“In 20 years, chocolate will be like caviar,” he said. “It will become so rare and expensive that the average Joe just won’t be able to afford it.”

Saving for retirement or a deposit to buy a new home? Forget that and hoard your pennies for  that chocolate fix.