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Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

Our roundup this week explores a potential crisis for commodities and the latest concerns affecting China and the Asian markets, while we also consider the re-emergence of a north-south divide in property prices and news of students being hit by unfair charges.


Shares drop suggests commodities crisis

Commodities could be reaching a state of crisis due to energy and raw material prices continuing to drop. Tuesday saw shares in commodity trading companies suffer significant hits in what marks the latest round of trouble for the sector; crude oil has tumbled by almost 60% since June 2014, while iron ore prices have dipped 70% from 2010 levels and thermal coal has fallen 60% since 2011.

Shares in mining and trading firm Glencore dropped by almost 30% on Monday, closing at a record low, with fears mounting that the company is failing to reduce its debt in order to survive the reduction in global metal prices. There was also a fall of 15% on Tuesday for Asian commodity merchant Noble.

Fears were triggered among Glencore shareholders when analysts at investment bank Investec expressed concern regarding the business's valuation, especially if there is no marked improvement in spot metal prices soon. 

3 ½ year low for Asian shares

Asian shares fell to a three-and-a-half-year low on Tuesday, with concerns remaining about the state of the Chinese economy. The Shanghai Composite Index was down 1.9% and China's CSI300 index down 2% in afternoon trading, with MSCI's index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan tumbling by 2.3% to hit lows not seen since June 2012.   

Official data showed on Monday that Chinese industrial companies' profits have dropped at their fastest rate in four years, which only served to heighten fears about the country's fragile economy and its ability to recover. 

House price movement suggests renewed north-south divide

The pace of house price movement in England and Wales could be indicative of a renewed north-south divide, new research has suggested. According to the latest figures from the Land Registry, house prices in Wales, the North West of England and the North East all rose by less than 1% in the 12 months to the end of August.

This paints a significantly different picture to that seen in the South and East, where climbs of 8.4% (the East of England) and 7.6% (South East) were recorded.

Notably, house price falls were recorded in Yorkshire, the North West and the East Midlands between July and August. This compares with the overall England and Wales house value rise of 0.5% in August against July, and an annual house price climb of 4.2%. 

Students 'suffering because of unfair charges'

Unfair charges are having a negative financial impact on UK students, new research has indicated. The figures from consumer mediator Ombudsman Services suggest university goers are losing an overall £335m a year - or £240 per student - because they are either unaware of their rights or they do not like to make any complaints.

It was shown that students tend to lose out when paying for property, energy and telecoms, with overcharging a common occurrence, as well as being charged for something they should not be required to pay, such as bills owed by previous tenants.

The research found that more than three-quarters of students (78%) who participated in the survey have fallen victim to unfair charges.