The washing machine is one of the many unsung heroes of economic growth - the benefits of which many of us would not want to live without.
That's why the chart below is fantastic news. The ownership of washing machines in the UK from 1970 to now has skyrocketed.
This data, from the Office for National Statistics, has been measured in a number of different ways over the years - but the trend is clear. More and more homes have been able to automate the laborious task of washing clothes.
In 2012, the proportion of households with a washing machine stood at 97 per cent. During all this time washing machines have been improving, and innovation has enhanced our lives in a number of other ways - freeing us from the monotony of many boring and time consuming tasks.
Hans Rosling, professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, powerfully explains the magic of the washing machine in his TED lecture on the subject.
HMS Belfast & Tower Bridge
(Laura Lean/City A.M.)
The Shard & London Bridge
(Laura Lean/City A.M.)
(Laura Lean/City A.M.)
UK markets continue to believe that interest rates will rise in mid-2015 despite dovish noises from the Monetary policy Committee MPC, according to Capital Economics.
MPC members have repeatedly tried to signal that if unemployment falls to seven per cent this will not automatically trigger a rise in interest rates.
Overnight index swap (OIS) rates suggest that investors expect the Bank to raise rates in mid-2015. Capital Economics note that the spread between 2-year OIS rates and overnight interest rates is still much smaller than one would have expected given its past relationship with GDP growth.
Gilt yields have tracked US Treasury yields higher over the last month as investors anticipate the Fed's forthcoming tapering. Over the past month both real yields and break-even rates have risen. Capital Economics attribute to improving GDP growth.
Although corporate bond issuance was positive in October, cumulative issuance over the year is still behind that seen at the same point in 2012. Corporate bonds have risen since then, while government bonds have remained steady.
Looking to the future firms may be increasingly attracted to borrow from banks rather than the bond market.
UK equities fell over the last month, underperforming those overseas. However, recent good news on the UK economy appears to be providing some support for equities.
Over the past month, the sterling trade-weighted index climbed to its highest point since August 2009. The appreciation in sterling is largely due to markets lowering their expectations for US and Eurozone interest rates by more than they have for UK.
The pound also rose following the release of the second estimate if third quarter GDP growth. Capital Economics speculate that "given the extent of optimism about the UK’s relative growth prospects, sterling might have been higher without the MPC’s guidance."
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that households spent an average £489 per week last year. They also show where we scrimped and splurged compared to pre-recession 2006, when average spend was £526.40.
(All 2006 and other pre-2012 figures are adjusted for inflation.)
Here are some interesting changes:
Housing, fuel, power
For the first time in recent years, housing, fuel and power spending overtook transport in 2012, accounting for £68 of total spend, up from £62.80 in 2006.
That figure includes rent, fuel, electricity and maintenance. The ONS said that energy price hikes and cold winters in 2011 and 2012 drove the increase.
Moreover, the proportion of households renting has risen in recent years from 29 per cent to 34 per cent.
Transport, which came in top in 2006 at £79.70, fell to £64.10 last year - the biggest spending reduction. With petrol prices on the rise, people probably shortened journeys. Spending on petrol and diesel accounted for almost two fifths of transport costs.
The category which saw the third highest spend includes spending on TVs, computers, newspapers, books and leisure activities. People forked out £61.50 a week on such things last year, up from £58.60 in 2006. The category also includes package holidays abroad, which accounted for £16.80 of weekly expenditure.
When it comes to food and non-alcoholic drinks, we spent an average of £56.80 per week last year, down from £62.70 in 2006. Breaking last year's numbers down,£15.00 was spent on meat and fish, £4.20 on fresh vegetables, and £3.20 on fresh fruit.
Booze, clothes, cigarettes and shoes
Household spend on alcohol, tobacco and narcotics fell last year to £12.60. In 2006, it was £15.10.
We're spending more on clothes and shoes, though, despite the fact that the overall price of clothing has dropped. Average spend rose from £19.40 to £23.40 over the six years. In 2001/2 it was £15.30.
But people are tightening their purse strings when it comes to eating out and staying in hotels. Weekly spend fell from £47.50 per week in 2001/2, and £45.80 in 2006, to £40.50 in 2012. Spending on household goods and services also decreased from £35.70 in 2006 to £28.50 last year.
The chief executive of Virgin Atlantic has condemned the UK's punishingly high level of Air Passenger Duty (APD). In a film made for the BBC's Daily Politics programme, Craig Kreeger said the UK government took aviation "for granted in a way that no other government in the world does."
Kreeger, 53, is a veteran of the airline industry. He joined Virgin Atlantic in January, leaving American Airlines (AA) where he held a 27-year career spanning commercial, financial and strategic roles.
The UK has the highest level APD in the world. Kreeger criticised the UK's high tax environment saying "It is a massive disincentive for business and travel to and from the UK."
Since it was introduced in 1994 APD has risen rapidly. Then APD amounted to five pounds for European flights and £10 for everywhere else. APD now ranges from £13 to £188 per flight and takes close to £3bn from passengers every year.
The UK is certainly bucking the world trend when it comes to APD. Denmark, Norway, Holland and Malta have already abolished their version of APD with Germany now considering the same.
However, the government has made it clear that it intends to continue raising APD. The tax has come under increasing attack from campaigners and MPs. In 2012 the House of Commons committee on Northern Ireland said APD should be abolished for short-haul flights.
Last year, the campaign A Fair Tax on Flying managed to get 200,000 people to write to their MP asking for the lowering or abolition of APD. They were joined by the influential campaign group the Taxpayers' Alliance.
The Fair Tax on Flying Campaign has the support of more than 30 airlines and tour operators.
An update from Australia's third biggest copper producer, Oz Minerals, has investors panicked.
Last night the company announced a disappointing results, alongisde a poor outlook for its flagship mine, Prominent Hill (pictured).
Societe Generale's Sebastien Galy says that this indicates over capacity, and that "such over capacity exists also on the transformation side also in China (steel) in large quantities."
Those fears have seen FTSE 100 listed miners drop, including Aggreko (-2.0 per cent), Randgold Resources (-1.9 per cent), Anglo American (-1.3 per cent), BHP Billiton (-1.1 per cent), Rio Tinto (-1.0 per cent), and Antofagasta Holdings (-0.7 per cent).
One in three babies born this year could live to see 100, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Over the last 30 years (1982 to 2012 - the period the ONS was looking at) life expectancy at birth has risen by around eight years for males and six years for females, from 71.1 and 77 years respectively.
But by 2062, 100 will be the life expectancy at birth for females in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - so they're the ones at the top of the graph above. For men it's 98, and for women in Scotland, it's 99.4. So that cohort will be celebrating birthdays into the 2160s.
When it comes to life expectancy for those currently at retirement age, eight per cent of (65 year old) men alive today will live to 100, along with 14 per cent of women.
The ONS says that today, there are around 14,000 centenarians alive in the UK. And life expectancy for children born last year is 79 for males and 82.7 for females.
Gold prices could see a rally of about five per cent before the end of 2013, according to the chief executive of Compass Global Markets, Andrew Su.
Sparking to CNBC, Su said that when a market becomes overly bearish, for him, it's a clear signal to buy - and this is the current case with gold.
Su believes gold has found a floor ar $1,200, which he doesn't think will break. Investors, he said, are shy to take gold below $1,200 as last time that happened, the precious metal bounced very quickly.
Gold saw a three-day winning streak in trading today - it is currently around $1,250 - boosted by weakness in the dollar.
Here are three reasons for Su's stance:
Recent weakness has provided something of a let-up for gold - anticipation of tapering in the US have fuelled sharp sell offs in the gold price over the year.
Mike van Dulken of Accendo Markets said this morning: "In commodities, Gold has benefited from the weaker dollar to get above the trendline of resistance at $1250, which may well revert to support on any weakness. From here, resistance possible at $1290."
Current weakness isn't just buoying gold: the Euro hit a six-week high against the dollar yesterday as traders re-evaluated the prospect of a taper being announced at next week's Fed meeting. And today, the dollar is edging lower against the yen on the same uncertainties.
But Su, who doesn't think the Fed will taper this December, predicts that the dollar will continue to strengthen over the next few months and that gold will follow it.
Less bullish sentiment can be better news, said Su: "When the market becomes overly bearish as it did yesterday, [we see it] as an indication to buy. There was a lot of news yesterday that hedge funds had increased their shorts to the highest level in five years and we took this opportunity to go long".
Gold will be driven higher, argued Su, by a decision not to taper. Consensus is that gold prices will remain lethargic until investors have more information on when a taper could - or will - take place.
The sell offs seen in anticipation come because cutting quantitative easing will likely push up interest rates, making non-interest bearing assets like gold less attractive to investors.
But Su believes a reignited fiscal policy debate in congress will spur a desire for safe haven buying next year, pushing prices higher.
He acknowledged that metal remains vulnerable to further falls - demand in China, crucially, is set to cool. But this slowdown will bring back some risk aversion into the markets, Su said, which will help gold recover.
In the wake of the announcement that Barclays will not renew its sponsorship of the London bike hire scheme, here are four ways that Transport for London (TfL) could attract greater commercial investment.
1. TfL should be more active in seeking sponsorship
In a report for GLA Conservatives, Gareth Bacon suggested TfL should be more proactive in seeking sponsorship deals. So far TfL has been too complacent and has waited for companies to approach it with deals.
2. No shortage of sponsorship opportunities
TfL has a host of resources as its disposal to entice private companies to offer sponsorship deals.
Opportunities include renaming of existing underground stations, selling naming rights for new stations, sponsorship of bus routes and renaming of entire existing underground lines.
3. Pursue long-term deals
According to polling conducted for GLA Conservatives some types of sponsorship are more acceptable to the public than others. Renaming of an existing underground station for 10 years was a more attractive than a short-term deal.
Changing station names for short periods is not likely to become ingrained in the minds of commuters and is therefore a less attractive advertising opportunity.
4. Actively pursue selling of naming rights to new stations
Naming rights for a new station are an attractive prospect for potential sponsors. There are a number of new stations currently being planned across London, including two new stations to service the Northern Line Extension27 and nine new Crossrail stations. Property 28, a company involved in the redevelopment of the Nine Elms area would be a strong candidate for the naming rights for either of the Northern Line extension stations.
The public have also expressed overwhelming support for sponsorship. In a poll of Londoners taken in May 2013, 74 per cent agreed that TfL “should expand their use of sponsorship across public transport in London and use the money generated to freeze or cut fares."
Speaking of the new landscape for sponsorship of the London bike hire scheme, Graeme Craig, director of commercial development for TfL said:
Cycle Hire will become part of a much wider and larger cycling sponsorship offer encompassing Cycle Hire and the major new commitments made in the Mayor's Cycling Vision - new flagship segregated routes through the heart of London, new Quietway backstreet routes, along with cycle training and potentially other forms of active travel.
City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has slapped Lloyds Bank with a £28m fine "for serious failings in their controls over sales incentive schemes".
This is the largest fine ever imposed by the regulator or its predecessor, the Financial Services Authority.
The failings affected branches of Lloyds TSB, Bank of Scotland and Halifax, it said.
The FCA said:
The findings do not make pleasant reading.
The incentive schemes led to a serious risk that sales staff were put under pressure to hit targets to get a bonus or avoid being demoted, rather than focus on what consumers may need or want. In one instance an adviser sold protection products to himself, his wife and a colleague to prevent himself from being demoted.
Because there have been numerous warnings to the industry about the importance of managing incentives schemes, and because Lloyds TSB had been fined in 2003 for unsuitable sales of bonds, we have increased the fine by ten per cent.
Both Lloyds and Bank of Scotland had, said the regulator, "higher risk features in their advisers’ financial incentive schemes which were not properly controlled." This created "a significant risk that advisers would maintain or increase their salaries, and earn bonuses, by selling products to customers that they did not need or want."
Lloyds has made an obligatory apology. The FCA said that changes and the redress being made by the group "should right many of these wrongs".
Lloyds said this morning:
The Group recognises that its oversight of these particular schemes during the period in question was inadequate and apologises to its customers for the impact that they may have had.
We are determined to ensure that any customer impacts are dealt with quickly and fully.