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This week’s roundup includes modest growth for the UK construction sector, suggestions that an era of cheap personal loans could be coming to an end, the biggest rise in rail fares for five years and thousands more people living in poverty across the UK.

Housebuilding leads to modest growth in construction

Modest growth to housebuilding has spurred a small recovery in the UK housing market, which has helped to make up for weakness in other parts of a largely downbeat construction sector, it has been revealed.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI reached a five-month high of 53.1 in November - up from 50.8 in October - which was better than all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists that had predicted a reading of 51.0.

According to the data, the slight upturn was driven entirely by the residential sector. Commercial and civil engineering activity continued to decline, despite easing in cost pressures.

It comes after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a series of measures in the Budget to boost housebuilding, which has lagged behind demand for years and contributed to a sharp increase in house prices.

Cheap personal loans ‘could come to an end’

Cheap high-value loans and long 0% credit card balance transfer deals could be coming to an end, a finance expert has predicted. Andrew Hagger, an analyst at financial consultancy Moneycomms, told the BBC that loans of more than £10,000, with interest rates of less than 3%, were now very rare.

Mr Hagger also pointed to a marked shortening of the length of 0% balance transfer deals, amid concerns that an era of cheap loans had led many young people to rely too much on credit.

The Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England have previously expressed concerns that young people could be getting too used to credit during a period of low interest rates, which could expose them to financial difficulty when rates increase.

Mr Hagger said the latest “best-buy” tables signalled a shift away from the deals available in recent years. He said it was now more expensive to borrow larger sums, and the longest 0% balance transfer periods on credit cards had fallen from 43 months at the start of 2017 to 38 months now, with some falling at a faster rate.

Rail fare rise ‘biggest for five years’

Train fares in Britain will increase by an average of 3.4% from 2nd January 2018.

Representing the largest jump since 2013, the rise covers regulated fares - including season tickets - and unregulated fares, such as off-peak leisure tickets.

The Rail Delivery Group, which admitted the changes were “significant”, justified the hikes by claiming more than 97% of fare income went back on improving and running the railway network.

A rise in regulated fares had already been capped at July’s Retail Prices Index inflation rate of 3.6%.

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “"While substantial, welcome investment in new trains and improved track and signals is continuing, passengers are still seeing the basic promises made by the rail industry broken on too many days.”

According to Transport Focus, one-in-nine trains (12%) have arrived late at their destinations in the past 12 months.

Children and elderly ‘hardest hit by poverty’

Thousands of vulnerable people across the UK are struggling to make ends meet every day, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

An additional 700,000 children and pensioners have fallen into relative poverty - households with less than 60% of the median income - over the past four years.

According to the JRF, since 2013, an extra 300,000 pensioners and 400,000 children are now living in poverty, and the prospects of solving the problem “currently look worrying”.

The figures come despite the government protecting the value of the basic state pension since 2010. However, the Foundation says Pensions Credit - a benefit paid to the poorest pensioners - has not kept pace with rising costs.

Researchers said the rise in child poverty was driven by stagnant wage growth for low income families, a freeze on benefits and changes to tax credits that many families rely on

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