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Europe is preparing for winter: how can you keep costs down?

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Britain is facing a surge in cold weather, with icy conditions and fog expected for much of this week

The UK Met Office has issued a Yellow warning, which means there could be damage to buildings as Britons brace for cold conditions.

Like much of Europe, the UK are bracing for very strong winds on Wednesday, causing disruption to travel and some utilities.

Drivers are also urged to take extra care on the roads, with warnings in place for icy stretches forming on UK roads.

But some residents who are seeking to heat their homes are on edge, as power prices remain high.

Peter Smith is the director of policy and advocacy at National Energy Action, who said the rising cost of living is impacting Britons.

“The average annual bill has almost doubled since this time last year.”

The organisation seeks to close the gaps when it comes to energy affordability. It predicts 6.7 million UK households will be in fuel poverty in the coming months.

This means millions of Britons will be unable to afford living in a warm, dry and safe home.

“So far the milder than usual weather has protected many from the spiralling bills as they haven’t needed to heat their homes as high or as long as usual,” Mr Smith said.

How to keep warm without blowing your bill

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has urged people to make their own decisions, as he met with world leaders in tropical Bali last week.

“There are things that we can do—all of us—to improve the efficiency with which we use energy, to be careful about it,” he said.

For example, an efficient heater; taking advantage of the sun, where appropriate; and rearranging furniture are some cost-effective methods to reduce the burden on gas and energy bills.

Pipes at the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline are pictured in Germany.

In addition, there are some other cheap ways to reduce dependence on gas and electricity bills, as the temperature continue to plunge.

  • close off rooms you’re not using
  • lower the temperature of heating
  • make sure windows are fully closed
  • block cold drafts from under doors using door snakes or carpet.

The UK Government has placed a cap freeze on energy prices.

This means households will pay an average £2,500 on their energy bills. But there is a catch: if households use more, they pay more.

National Energy Action believes an additional 2.2 million homes could be in fuel poverty, when compared to the same time last year.

Why are energy prices so high?

As demand increases, so too does the cost of heating homes.

But there is another factor, which has sent prices rising across Europe: the war in Ukraine.

Russia accounts for 25% of global gas trade, 15% of global thermal coal trade and 10% of global oil trade.

However, countries are struggling to find alternative supplies after sanctioning Moscow for the ongoing conflict.

“Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine, and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change. They are a reason to act faster.”

RISHI SUNAK, UK PRIME MINISTER

Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was expected to double the amount of Russian gas shipped to Europe.

In July, Russia cut the amount of gas pumped through Nord Stream 1 to 20 per cent capacity.

Costa is a news producer at ticker NEWS. He has previously worked as a regional journalist at the Southern Highlands Express newspaper. He also has several years' experience in the fire and emergency services sector, where he has worked with researchers, policymakers and local communities. He has also worked at the Seven Network during their Olympic Games coverage and in the ABC Melbourne newsroom. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Professional), with expertise in journalism, politics and international relations. His other interests include colonial legacies in the Pacific, counter-terrorism, aviation and travel.

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Research shows daters are looking for solvent partners

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As the cost-of-living crisis continues to grip Australia, new research reveals a shifting landscape in the realm of dating preferences.

According to the survey conducted by eharmony, an overwhelming two-thirds of Australians are now keen to understand their potential partner’s financial situation before committing to a serious relationship.

The findings indicate a growing trend where individuals are becoming more discerning about whom they invest their affections in, particularly as the economic pressures intensify.

Read more: Why are car prices so high?

The study highlights that nearly half of respondents (48%) consider a potential partner’s debts and income as crucial factors in determining whether to pursue a relationship.

Certain types of debt, such as credit card debt, payday loans, and personal loans, are viewed unfavorably by the vast majority of respondents, signaling a preference for partners who exhibit financial responsibility.

Good debt

While certain forms of debt, such as mortgages and student loans (e.g., HECS), are deemed acceptable or even ‘good’ debt by a majority of respondents, credit card debt, payday loans (such as Afterpay), and personal loans top the list of ‘bad’ debt, with 82%, 78%, and 73% of respondents, respectively, expressing concerns.

Interestingly, even car loans are viewed unfavorably by a significant portion of those surveyed, with 57.5% considering them to be undesirable debt.

Sharon Draper, a relationship expert at eharmony, said the significance of financial compatibility in relationships, noting that discussions around money are increasingly taking place at earlier stages of dating.

“In the past, couples tended to avoid discussing money during the early stages of dating because it was regarded as rude and potentially off-putting,” Draper explains.

“However, understanding each other’s perspectives and habits around finances early on can be instrumental in assessing long-term compatibility.”

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Money

US energy stocks surge amid economic growth and inflation fears

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Investors are turning to U.S. energy shares in droves, capitalizing on surging oil prices and a resilient economy while seeking protection against looming inflationary pressures.

The S&P 500 energy sector has witnessed a remarkable ascent in 2024, boasting gains of approximately 17%, effectively doubling the broader index’s year-to-date performance.

This surge has intensified in recent weeks, propelling the energy sector to the forefront of the S&P 500’s top-performing sectors.

A significant catalyst driving this rally is the relentless rise in oil prices. U.S. crude has surged by 20% year-to-date, propelled by robust economic indicators in the United States and escalating tensions in the Middle East.

Investors are also turning to energy shares as a hedge against inflation, which has proven more persistent than anticipated, threatening to derail the broader market rally.

Ayako Yoshioka, senior portfolio manager at Wealth Enhancement Group, notes that having exposure to commodities can serve as a hedge against inflationary pressures, prompting many portfolios to overweight energy stocks.

Shell Service Station

Shell Service Station

Energy companies

This sentiment is underscored by the disciplined capital spending observed among energy companies, particularly oil majors such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

Among the standout performers within the energy sector this year are Marathon Petroleum, which has surged by 40%, and Valero Energy, up by an impressive 33%.

As the first-quarter earnings season kicks into high gear, with reports from major companies such as Netflix, Bank of America, and Procter & Gamble, investors will closely scrutinize economic indicators such as monthly U.S. retail sales to gauge consumer behavior amidst lingering inflation concerns.

The rally in energy stocks signals a broadening of the U.S. equities rally beyond growth and technology companies that dominated last year.

However, escalating inflation expectations and concerns about a hawkish Federal Reserve could dampen investors’ appetite for non-commodities-related sectors.

Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel Corp., highlights investors’ focus on the robust economy amidst supply bottlenecks in commodities, especially oil.

This sentiment is echoed by strategists at Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets, who maintain bullish calls on energy shares, citing heightened geopolitical risks and strong economic fundamentals.

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Money

How Australians lose nearly $1 billion to card scammers in a year

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A recent study by Finder has unveiled a distressing trend: Australians are hemorrhaging money to card scams at an alarming rate.

The survey, conducted among 1,039 participants, painted a grim picture, with 2.2 million individuals – roughly 11% of the population – falling prey to credit or debit card skimming in 2023 alone.

The financial toll of these scams is staggering. On average, victims lost $418 each, amounting to a colossal $930 million collectively across the country.

Rebecca Pike, a financial expert at Finder, underscored the correlation between the surge in digital transactions and the proliferation of sophisticated scams.

“Scammers are adapting, leveraging sophisticated tactics that often mimic trusted brands or exploit personal connections. With digital transactions on the rise, it’s imperative for consumers to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their financial assets,” Pike said.

Read more – How Google is cracking down on scams

Concerning trend

Disturbingly, Finder’s research also revealed a concerning trend in underreporting.

Only 9% of scam victims reported the incident, while 1% remained oblivious to the fraudulent activity initially. Additionally, 1% of respondents discovered they were victims of bank card fraud only after the fact, highlighting the insidious nature of these schemes.

Pike urged consumers to exercise heightened scrutiny over their financial statements, recommending frequent monitoring for any unauthorised transactions.

She explained the importance of leveraging notification services offered by financial institutions to promptly identify and report suspicious activity.

“Early detection is key. If you notice any unfamiliar transactions, don’t hesitate to contact your bank immediately. Swift action can mitigate further unauthorised use of your card,” Pike advised, underscoring the critical role of proactive measures in combating card scams.

As Australians grapple with the escalating threat of card fraud, Pike’s counsel serves as a timely reminder of the necessity for heightened vigilance in an increasingly digitised financial landscape.

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