Easter / April 2024

Easter fell early this year, right at the end of March 2024, and is now behind us. We hope that our readers enjoyed the long weekend and perhaps a few extra days, noting of course that the new tax year is nearly upon us. With most provider deadlines for last minute pension and ISA contributions now complete, the end of the tax year proved to be particularly busy in our experience.

Many equity markets have been buoyant in the first quarter of 2024. Very welcome for most, although not a guarantee of future performance. To reference this, and as an example, the FTSE100 reached over 8,000 points on 02 April 2024, before retreating on concerns about inflation and anticipated rate reductions not coming through as fast as were expected. The UK Budget announcements made on 06 March by the Chancellor were rather flat in their overall effects. We thought the Budget was carefully crafted, but with little substantive cash available, it was rather lacking in allowing any 'rabbits out of the hat'. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had warned against too much generosity, and this seems to have been heeded. Trying to create some economic feel-good factors was still a priority; however, this was set against the news that the UK was in a technical recession in the last half of 2023. Indeed, December 2023 saw a 0.1% drop in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), and it will be interesting to see how the first six months of 2024 fare. January's UK GDP growth declaration was a little more promising at 0.2% (revised up to 0.3% in April 2023), however, we still have some further progress to be made. February 2023 saw growth for the month of 0.1% according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which was welcome news to UK market indexes.

More detail on the substance of the Budget announcements, including another 2% National Insurance rate reduction can be found on our blog page here: https://www.chaptersfinancial.com/blog/budget-blog-06-march-2024

As we head into the Easter break, one topic that remains high on many UK household agendas is the cost-of-living issues that persist. One high-cost swaps itself for another: as examples, high energy costs have reduced to be replaced by high variable rate borrowing costs and residential rental prices, the latter of these being 28% higher than February 2020 according to estate agency Hamptons. Many are anticipating that UK house prices will reduce on average over the year ahead, although this is not guaranteed. To some extent, these points are just part of day-to-day living, however, 2024 is different because it is likely to be an election year. If anyone believes that the underlying campaigns of each party have not yet started, they soon will know that they are well underway. As a reminder, the last possible date for a general election is January 2025.

Mid-April saw the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirm that the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for March 2024 fell slightly to 3.2% from 3.4% the prior month. Inflation has remained 'sticky' during most of 2023 and at the start of 2024, and although there was a significant reduction towards the end of 2023, March's CPI figure sees a slowing of the encouraging rapid trend downwards. The Bank of England target for UK inflation remains unchanged at 2.0% and they have recently maintained that they are on course to reach this promptly, perhaps with a rise above this rate later in 2024.

The Bank of England has maintained the current base interest rate of 5.25% (first achieved on 03 August 2023) throughout the autumn and again in March 2024. The US Federal Reserve has also held base rates, and many markets have been cheered by the current indicated view that the ceiling on central bank rates has been reached (of course not guaranteed). Most are aware that mortgage rates have hiked, and savings rates have also trended upwards, although not at the same pace, much to the frustration of savers and regulators (The Financial Conduct Authority / FCA). There is now speculation that with inflation 'under control', bank base rates may fall, which is likely to be welcomed by borrowers.

It should be noted that the rise in the Bank of England base rate is good news for savers, and some savings accounts are even offering 4.5% - 5.0% pa gross plus. Look out for AER rates (Annual Earnings Rates) which show the real rate of interest being provided. Of course, higher interest rates are not so good for variable rate borrowers, and the days of cheap borrowing for individuals and nations are over, certainly in the shorter term.

As you might anticipate, many financial thoughts will be UK focused; however, the world is now a small place and many of these economic factors are occurring globally, as we enter a new era of higher costs, inflation, interest rates and the like. Global conflicts remain constants at this time.

We have looked at some of these points in this Investment House View update.

GBP / US dollar

Many readers will know that exchange rates can vary for many economic reasons. For some, it may only become apparent when purchasing foreign currency for a holiday or visit abroad. The current indicated exchange rate is $1.26 at the time of writing (03 April 2024).

UK Net Public Sector Gross Domestic Debt v GDP

It is noteworthy that net public sector debt has consistently run over the last year (2023/2024) at approximately 95%-100% of UK monthly GDP (gross domestic product) (source: ONS). 2024 has started in a similar way with the statistics through to March 2024 showing the provisional estimate being 98.3%, and some will not want to see this level (and its associated interest costs) rise.

Markets factor in most things

Turning to the current market position, many individuals may refer to the value of their pension or ISA arrangements as a reference point to how markets are moving. We all know that the value of funds can fall as well as rise, and we have seen some significant volatility this year. Volatility is not uncommon, and this can be triggered by global economic events, or their continued effects.

The key point here is that if we think something is happening (such as the ongoing cost-of-living issues), the markets have usually factored in the effects. Looking at the markets on 19 March 2024, in comparison to a year ago, we find the following (approximate):


Approximate position now / 19 March 2024

Approximate position / 19 March 2023

+/- (Approx)





FTSE All Share




Dow Jones (US)




CAC 40 (France)




Dax 30 (Germany)




Market values can fall as well as rise and this is only a snapshot in time. As you can see, and as anticipated, some markets in this snapshot have performed better than others, although this is not a guarantee of future performance.

Spring and the new tax year 2024/2025

Checking and reviewing all your financial arrangements is always recommended, but perhaps more than ever this spring, as we approach the beginning of the new tax year 2024/2025. There are many political facets to this year, both in the UK and abroad with general elections expected both here, and certainly in America.

Although a UK general election can be delayed to the very early start of 2025, many views are that 2024 will see us heading to the polling booths. What the outcome will be, only time will tell. However, change in its many formats is likely, irrespective of the result. Being ready with your overall financial planning and household budgeting is likely to be a far better position than addressing financial issues at hand later.

With Easter now behind us, we hope that you enjoy the spring season, and we look forward to working with you into the future.

Keith Churchouse FPFS
CFP Chartered FCSI
Chartered Financial Planner

Chapters Financial Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, number 402899