Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

With voting day less than a month away, we turn our attention to the general election, looking at how family finances have fared since the Coalition came to power, David Cameron's latest approval ratings, reactions to last week's live TV leaders debate and a cautious response to new pension reforms. 


Household incomes 'higher since the Coalition came to power'

Families in the UK have become better off since the Coalition came to power, new figures have suggested. According to the findings from the Office for National Statistics, average household incomes are currently higher than they were in 2010, while gross domestic product has climbed by 2.8% over 2014, beating forecasts of a 2.6% rise.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne described the figures, which also showed household spending increased by 0.6% in the final quarter of 2014, as good news for both families and businesses throughout the UK.

Looking ahead to the election, Mr Osborne stated: "Voters now face a stark choice: do we stick with a plan which is working, delivering growth and jobs, or do we put all that at risk with Ed Miliband whose policies of more spending, more borrowing and higher taxes will lead to economic chaos." 


Cameron's approval ratings 'positive for first time since 2011'

David Cameron's net approval rating has turned positive ahead of the general election next month. This is the finding of a YouGov/Sunday Times survey, which revealed the Prime Minister's personal rating is positive for the first time in nearly four years.

According to the poll, 47% of respondents believe Mr Cameron is currently performing well, compared to 46% who think he is doing badly. However, the popularity of Labour leader Ed Miliband also appears to be moving in the right direction. While just 30% of respondents questioned last month said they believe Mr Miliband is doing well as party leader, this has climbed to 33% this month. Unfortunately for the Labour leader, 59% still believe he is not performing well in his role. 


Miliband shaves leader debate ratings

A snap poll has indicated Ed Miliband narrowly defeated David Cameron in last week's live TV leaders debate. The Guardian/ICM poll, held after the event, showed Mr Miliband picked up 25% of the vote - slightly ahead of Mr Cameron's 24%. However, when respondents were asked to choose between these two leaders only, the result was a dead heat at 50% each.

Third place in the main poll went to UKIP's Nigel Farage with 19% of the vote, ahead of Scottish National party leader Nicola Sturgeon on 17%. Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats party forms the Coalition with the Conservatives, came in fifth on 9%. Natalie Bennett of the Green Party received 3% of the vote, while Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood collected 2%.

Speaking ahead of the election and the impact it might have for investors, Mike Deverell, Partner and Investment Manager at Equilibrium, commented: "The outcome of the election is probably the most uncertain in history and if there's one thing markets hate its uncertainty. It's possible we could see quite a bit of volatility the closer we get to the election so for the time being we are being cautious towards markets." 


Govt pension reforms get 'cautious response'

There has been only a cautious response to the introduction of new government pension reforms, one provider has indicated. The BBC reports that Hargreaves Lansdown found Bank Holiday Monday, which represented the first day of the reforms, to be relatively quiet for inquiries. 

The new pension arrangements enable people aged 55 and over to withdraw any amount from a Defined Contribution scheme, subject to income tax, but the provider explained just 7.7% of the calls it took on Monday related to cashing in a whole pension, suggesting many people are not rushing into the new arrangements.