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Equilibrium's Finance and Investment News Roundup

As we edge nearer to Christmas and the end of 2015, we take a look back in this roundup at a week that has seen UK consumer confidence grow in December, oil prices edging up for peak season, predictions of renting costs outpacing house prices and a £26 million settlement to be paid by Npower.


Consumer confidence 'has risen in December'

This month has so far seen consumer confidence in the UK edging back up after it plummeted to a six-month low in November. This is according to new figures from market research firm GfK, which has reported that its monthly consumer sentiment indicator has risen to +2 in December, having stood at +1 the previous month.

Joe Staten, Head of Market Dynamics at GfK, commented: "This is the first time since the Consumer Confidence Barometer started in 1974 that the Index has remained positive for an entire calendar year."

Despite this, the research also suggested consumers are pessimistic about the economy and how it will fare in 2016. It was shown that optimism regarding the economy next year is currently scored at -6, which is the lowest reading since July 2013. 

Oil prices 'edge up for peak season'

The price of oil has shown signs of rising for winter, which is the peak-demand season for the commodity in the northern hemisphere. An oversupply of oil has resulted in oil futures tumbling by more than 30% in 2015, but prices edged up from multi-year lows on Tuesday with brent futures LCOc1 standing at $36.46 (£24.48) per barrel and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures CLc1 at $36.04 per barrel.

Despite this slight upturn, there remain concerns that milder-than-usual weather and the continuing oversupply of the commodity will lead to prices remaining relatively low for some time into next year. 

Rent rises to outpace housing costs?

The cost of renting a property could soon climb faster than increases in house prices, it has been warned. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), this overtaking could occur during the next five years, and at the end of this period tenants may find themselves having to pay 25% more than they currently do.

It was suggested that the acceleration in renting costs may be partly due to efforts by the government to dissuade people from taking up the position of buy-to-let landlord.

Despite the anticipated rise in rents, Simon Rubinsohn, Chief Economist at Rics, said that he does not foresee rents increasing rapidly immediately, and claimed house prices would continue to increase faster than rent costs in 2016.

Indeed, estimates provided by Rics showed that house prices will likely rise by 6% in 2016, compared to a 3% increase for rents during this time. 

Npower 'to pay £26m for failures'

Npower will have to pay out £26 million after Ofgem found that the energy firm had committed failure with regard to treating customers fairly. The energy watchdog said that the company had sent out inaccurate bills and had not dealt correctly with complaints.

The £26 million settlement is to be split between charity and a number of those customers worst affected by Npower's failures. A total surpassing 500,000 customers were impacted by billing issues between September 2013 and December 2014.

Ofgem stated: "Npower often failed to resolve these issues promptly, pursued debts which were in dispute and failed to keep its own commitments to customers on billing."