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The Italian Real Estate Market – Lifestyle Investment

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Appassionata-Casa-Leopardi

Appassionata-Casa-LeopardiDespite its new government, Italy’s economy continues to struggle, having contracted for seven consecutive quarters since mid-2011. Recent promises by economy minister Fabrizio Saccomanni to cut housing and labour taxes seem to be too little and too late, with statistics office ISTAT reporting a slide from 86.3 to 85.9 in its May consumer confidence index.

The Europe-wide picture is no more positive, with the OECD again cutting growth forecasts for the Eurozone. The OECD’s twice yearly Economic Outlook publication has predicted the Eurozone will shrink by 0.6% in 2013, as member countries continue to struggle.

In Italy, consumer spending has been weak for over a decade and the Eurozone’s third largest economy seems at a loss as to how to recover its financial balance. The International Monetary Fund is predicting that the country’s gross domestic product will fall 1.5% in 2013, after the 2012 decline of 2.4%.

House prices have been tumbling alongside consumer confidence. According to statistics agency Eurostat, Italy’s house price index has been falling for almost four years. In 2012 it fell by 4.64% (-6.94% after inflation), while residential property transactions dropped by 25.8%. According to data from the FIAIP, prices have continued to fall into 2013, by as much as 11.98% in some areas.

With prices at rock bottom and Italian mortgage lending plummeting (new mortgage lending dropped by around 42% in 2012 according to CRIF and MutuiSupermarket.it), foreign investors are turning the stricken country’s situation to their advantage: the Scenari Immobiliari research institute reported that second-home sales to overseas buyers rose 14% during 2012. Foreign investors spent a total of €2.1 billion ($2.8 billion) on Italian real estate during the year, with Germans, Britons and Russians making up over 70% of the buyers.

Palm-tree-seaThe depressed prices and the willingness of Italian owners to drop prices during negotiations (sometimes by as much as 30% according to the Case e Ville real estate agency), are creating the ideal scenario for foreigners looking to pick up a bargain place in the sun. The Italian Federation of Professional Estate Agents has predicted a slow recovery of the property market from the second half of 2013, while the Gabetti Franchising Agency is more cautious, predicting the market will begin to improve in 2014. Either way, it seems that prices are likely to be at their lowest during the coming months, which is spurring the influx of foreign investors.

Investment advisors International Property World state that Italy is currently considered to be one of the world’s top destinations for real estate investment, with capital appreciation reaching up to 20% in some areas. Fractional ownership company Appassionata, which is headed up by Michael Hobbs (the entrepreneur who headed up Adams Childrenswear for nine years in the UK), has first-hand knowledge of the situation, having seen its owners benefit significantly from the capital appreciation of their properties during the past 18 months.

Appassionata manages two houses – Casa Giacomo and Casa Leopardi – which the company has painstakingly restored from tumbledown farm buildings purchased in 2007. Set on the five acre Estate Giacomo Leopardi in Le Marche, the houses are surrounded by olive groves, grape vines, a lavender plantation and a truffle orchard, with owners sharing the organic produce as well as having exclusive use of the house that they share ownership of for five weeks every year.

Terrace-gardenAppassionata’s luxury houses are a lifestyle investment, with around 90% of owners planning to eventually pass them on to their children as an asset. With inheritance taxes reduced from up to 60% in 2000 to a current real estate maximum of 11%, along with generous allowances, Italy is enjoying one of the lowest inheritance tax systems in Europe – a further factor behind the rise in foreign investment.

Casa Giacomo (the first of Appassionata’s houses to be completed and which has now fully sold), has seen its owners benefit from 18% capital appreciation in just over 18 months. Fractions in the five bedroom/five bathroom Casa Leopardi, with its private pool and use of the estate’s tennis and basketball courts, are selling fast at their current price of just £185,000.

London-based commodity trader and workaholic James Mason was quick to recognise the opportunity that Italian properties such as Appassionata’s were offering. Having bought his fraction as a surprise for his wife and children, he has enabled his family to spend more quality time together at the same time as benefitting from the capital appreciation and investing in an asset for his children.

With the Italian real estate market at such a low point, it seems the time is ripe for other investors to follow James’ example. Italian law firm Magaraggia has reported that real estate transactions for 2012 were at their lowest rate since 1985, with transactions totalling 448,000 homes and 430,000 homes for the respective years. They also observed a strong decline in the overall exchange value, which at an estimated €75.4 billion in 2012 was nearly €27 billion lower than in 2011. While none of this is good news for the Italian economy, it has certainly made the market more enticing for foreign investors.

Those looking to make a lifestyle investment, such as that offered by Appassionata, are being further drawn by Italy’s growing reputation as one of Europe’s most exclusive holiday destinations. Figures from the Bank of Italy show that while Italy received fewer visitors overall in 2012 than in 2011, international tourists spent almost 3% more while in the country – a positive indication that Italy is becoming the European destination of choice for wealthy holidaymakers. Despite the slight recent drop in visitor numbers, Italy remains the world’s fifth most visited country, according to the latest data from the World Bank.

All this adds up to make Italy a particularly interesting investment prospect at present. Europe’s fifth largest nation may be experiencing economic gloom internally, but from overseas the opportunity looks bright indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Investing

Northern Trust: Outsourcing Accelerates Through Pandemic as Investment Managers Seek to Improve Margins, Enhance Business Resilience, and Future-Proof Operations

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Northern Trust: Outsourcing Accelerates Through Pandemic as Investment Managers Seek to Improve Margins, Enhance Business Resilience, and Future-Proof Operations 1

White Paper Sees Increase in Managers Outsourcing Middle and Front Office Functions to Achieve Optimal Business Structures

According to a white paper published today by Northern Trust (Nasdaq: NTRS), investment managers of all sizes and strategies have been prompted to undertake a comprehensive review of their operating models as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which has accelerated existing trends that are compounding cost pressures. This has led increasing numbers of managers to outsource in-house dealing and other functions, such as foreign exchange and transition management, hitherto seen as core.

While cost savings remain a core driver, and indeed are one outcome of outsourcing, costs are no longer the only focus. Far from being solely a defensive reaction to increased pressure on margins, the white paper (‘From Niche to Norm’) describes outsourcing as part of the target operating model, or moving toward the ‘Optimal State’ for many investment managers, and  explains how the focus “has expanded to the variety of other potential benefits offered – enhanced capabilities, improved governance and operational resilience.”

Gary Paulin, global head of Integrated Trading Solutions at Northern Trust Capital Markets said: “The pandemic has challenged a range of operational assumptions. Working from home has, for example, questioned the need for a portfolio manager to be in close proximity with the dealing desk. Previously considered essential, the pandemic has effectively forced firms to ‘outsource‘ their trading desks to remote working setups and the effectiveness of this process has disproved the requirement for proximity, in turn, easing the path to third-party outsourcing. Many investment managers are actively considering outsourcing to a hyper-scale, expert provider as a potential, cost efficient solution – one that maintains service quality and, hopefully, improves it whilst adding resiliency.”

Northern Trust’s white paper compares outsourced trading to software-as-a-service stating: “instead of carrying the cost and complexity of running an in-house solution, firms move to an outsourced one, free up capital to invest in strategic growth and move costs from a fixed to a variable basis in line with the direction of travel for revenues.” 

Guy Gibson, global head of Institutional Brokerage at Northern Trust Capital Markets said: “The opportunity to deploy capital to build new fund structures, develop new offerings, focus on distribution and enhance in-house research has been taken up by several of our clients to the benefit of their investment approach, and to the benefit of their investors.  Additionally, in the last two months alone, many firms have recognized that outsourcing to a well-capitalized, global platform has enabled them to take advantage of cost-contained growth opportunities in new markets.”

A further development, which has echoes of the journey the technology industry has already undertaken, is the move towards ‘whole office’ solutions, which represent the next potential wave in outsourcing.

According to Paulin; “recently we have observed a growing number of managers wanting to outsource to a single, hyper-scale professional service provider who can do everything, everywhere. This aligns with Northern Trust’s strategy to deliver platform solutions for the whole office, serving our clients’ needs across the entire investment lifecycle.”

The white paper can be downloaded here.

Integrated Trading Solutions is Northern Trust’s outsourced trading capability that combines worldwide locations and trading expertise in equities and fixed income and derivatives with access to global markets, high-quality liquidity and an integrated middle and back office service as well as other services, such as FX. It helps asset owners and asset managers to meaningfully lower costs, reduce risk, manage regulatory compliance and enhance transparency and operational efficiency.

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How are investors traversing the UK’s transition out of lockdown?

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How are investors traversing the UK’s transition out of lockdown? 2

By Giles Coghlan, Chief Currency Analyst, HYCM

Just when we thought we had overcome the initial health challenges posed by COVID-19, the UK Government has once again introduced lockdown measures in certain regions to curb a rise in new cases. This is happening at a time when the government is trying to bring about the country’s post-pandemic recovery and prevent a prolonged economic downturn.

This is the reality of the “new normal” – a constant battle to both contain the spread of the virus but also avoid extended economic stagnation.

Of course, no matter how many policies are introduced to spur on investment, traders and investors are likely to act with caution for the foreseeable future. There are simply too many unknowns to content with at the moment.

To try and measure investor sentiment towards different asset classes at present, HYCM recently commissioned research to uncover which assets investors are planning to invest in over the coming 12 months. After surveying over 900 UK-based investors, our figures show just how COVID-19 has affected different investor portfolios. I have analysed the key findings below.

Cash retreat

At present, it seems that by far the most common asset class for investors is cash savings, with 78% of investors identifying as having some form of savings in a bank account. Other popular assets were stocks and shares (48%) and property (38%). While not surprising, when viewed in the context of investor’s future plans for investment, it becomes evident that security, above all else, is what investors are currently seeking.

A third of those surveyed (32%) said that they intended to put more of their wealth into their savings account, the most common strategy by far among those surveyed. This was followed by stocks and shares (21%), property (17%), and fixed interest securities (17%).

When asked about what impact COVID-19 has had on their portfolios throughout 2020, 43% stated that their portfolio had decreased in value as a consequence of the pandemic. This has evidently had an effect on investors’ mindsets, with 73% stating that they were not planning on making any major investment decisions for the rest of the year.

Looking at the road ahead

So, it seems that many investors are adopting a wait-and-see approach; hoping that the promise of a V-shaped recovery comes to fruition. The issue, however, is that this exact type of hesitancy when it comes to investing may well slow the pace of economic recovery. Financial markets need stimulus in order to help facilitate a post-pandemic economic resurgence, but if said financial stimulation only arrives once the recovery has already begun, the economy risks extended stagnation.

It seems, then, that there are two possible set outcomes on the path ahead. The first is a steady decline in COVID-19 cases, then an economic downturn as the markets correct themselves, followed by a return to relative economic stability. The second potential outcome is a second spike of COVID-19 cases which incurs a second nationwide lockdown – delaying an economic revival for the foreseeable future. At present, the former of these two scenarios is seemingly playing out with economic growth and GDP steadily increasing; but recent COVID-19 case upticks show that it’s still too soon to be certain of either scenario.

A cautious approach, therefore, will evidently remain the most common investment strategy looking ahead. But investors must remember that, even in the most uncertain times, there are always opportunities for returns on investment. Merely transforming a varied portfolio into cash savings risks a long-term decline in value.

High Risk Investment Warning: CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 73% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. For more information please refer to HYCM’s Risk Disclosure.

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Hatton Gardens 5 top tips for investing in Diamonds

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Hatton Gardens 5 top tips for investing in Diamonds 3

By Ben Stinson, Head of eCommerce at Diamonds Factory

Investing in diamonds can be extremely rewarding, but only if you know what to look for. For investors who lack experience, finding your diamond in the rough can be quite daunting.

For even the most beginner of diamond investors, the essentials are fairly obvious. For instance, you need to ask yourself will the diamond hold its value over time? What’s the overall condition of the stone and the jewellery? Is there history behind the item in question?

Although common sense plays a big part in investing, people often need insider tips and tricks to go from beginner to expert. Tony French, the in-house Diamond Consultant, at Diamonds Factory shares his professional knowledge on the 5 most important things to look for when investing in diamonds.

1: Using cut, weight and colour to determine value

Firstly, consider the shape, colour, and weight of your diamond, as this can play a pivotal role in guaranteeing growth in the value of your item. Granted, investing trends change with time, but a round cut of your diamond will almost always be the most sought after. The cut of your diamond is incredibly important, as it can influence the sparkle and therefore, the overall value. It’s a similar story for the intensity of some colours, such as Pink, Red, Blue, Green etc. Concerning weight, the heavier (bigger) stones will generally increase in value by a bigger percentage. Collectively these factors also contribute to the supply and demand aspect, which will determine their high price, and will ensure your item is re-sellable.

2: Provenance

Looking for significant value? Well, aim to own jewellery or diamonds that come from an important public figure. If you’re lucky enough to own a piece that has significant history, or was owned by a celebrity or person of interest, it’s an absolute must to have concrete evidence of this. Immediately, this proof will increase an item’s overall value, and there’s a good chance the stardom of your item might drum up interest amongst diehard fans, increasing the value even further…

Equally, it’s possible to proactively bring provenance to unique diamonds of yours. For instance, you can offer to loan bespoke, or unusual pieces for film, theatre, or TV performances – then it can be advertised as worn by xyz.

3: Find the source

Ben Stinson

Ben Stinson

Establishing your diamond’s source is one of the most important things you can do when investing in diamonds. If you’re starting out, try to purchase diamonds that have NOT been owned by too many people, as the overall value of the diamond will reflect multiple ownership. Alternatively, I’d always recommend buying from suppliers like ourselves or other suppliers and retailers, who buy directly from the people who have had them certified.

Primarily, this will allow you to have a greater degree of transparency, which is crucial when buying such a valuable item. Next, you should immediately see an increase in value of your diamonds, as identifying a source will allow traceability and therefore, market context.

4: Certification

Linked closely with my previous point, is the requirement to ensure that your diamonds are certified by a credible lab, and you have the evidence to prove so (a written document with specific grading details about your diamonds) – this will remove any doubts of impropriety.

It’s essential to remember that not all labs are the same, and many labs are better than others. Both the AGS (American Gem Society) and GIA (Gemological Institute of America) have great reputations and are world renowned. I’d recommend doing your own research into the labs, and when you’ve found the pieces that you’d like to invest in, then make an informed decision based upon your findings. Ultimately, proving certification will make your stones easier to insure, and deep down, you can have peace of mind knowing you have got what you have paid for.

Don’t forget to keep this paperwork in a safe location as well – you’d be surprised how many people we’ve met who have lost, or forget where they’ve placed it.

5:  Patience is a virtue…

If the market is strong, it might be tempting to look for an immediate sale once you’ve purchased a high value item. However, I suggest holding onto your diamonds for some time before even thinking about selling. More often than not, an item is more likely to increase in value over a few years than a few days – try and wait a little longer!

Equally, I would encourage having your diamonds, or jewellery professionally valued regularly. If you don’t have the knowledge to make a rough judgement on how much your pieces are worth, a consultant or expert can provide both a valuation, and contextualise that amount in the wider market. From there, you should be empowered with the knowledge to decide whether to keep or sell.

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