Populists in Europe have been steadily gaining ground over the last decade. At the start of the year, it looked liked the continent was under siege. Nowhere was that more apparent than in France. There, far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen posed a serious threat to the very survival of the European Union, riven by its high levels of unemployment and the inherent flaws in the single currency.
How quickly things change, says Matthew Partridge in this week’s cover story in MoneyWeek magazine. Almost out of nowhere, Emmanuel Macron arose to confront the threat head on. France’s new liberal president has brought a wave of optimism to the continent – one the main eurozone stock index has ridden to climb over a third higher. This is the turning point we have all been waiting for. Check out Matthew’s cover story on the rise of Europe to find out what he’s tipping. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up here.
It’s a tall order. Many have tried to reform France and Europe – and many have failed. Will Macron be any different? That’s the question MoneyWeek regular Simon Wilson tackles on this week’s Briefing page in MoneyWeek magazine. “Bon courage!”
Cyber war is here
Europe has been under attack over the last week in another sense. And it’s not just Europe. Computers in around 150 countries have been hijacked by the WannaCry virus – a form of “ransomware” that encrypts your files and demands a ransom paid in the digital currency bitcoin to allow you access to them again. In Britain, it led to chaos at the NHS. Emily Hohler delves into the political fallout from this in this week’s MoneyWeek magazine. Meanwhile my colleague Ben Judge looks at what the virus tells us about bitcoin, and its underlying blockchain technology. As each transaction on the blockchain is traceable, is the cyber attack doomed to failure? After all, the ransom money has yet to be claimed. Or was the money only ever a distraction?
Talking of digital currencies, many start-ups are issuing their own in a novel, new way to raise funds. It’s known as an initial coin offering (ICO) and they are becoming “wildly popular”, says Ben. Take Tezos, for instance. This new “blockchain” has already attracted a high-profile backer in the person of billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper. It launches in June, and off the back of it, a new digital currency will be created. “The potential for huge gains is a big part of the appeal of ICOs to investors”, Ben explains. Read the article to find out all about it. Remember, if you haven’t already, sign up here.
Saving for university
Elsewhere in this week’s issue of MoneyWeek magazine, regular contributor Emma Lunn explains why it’s vital to start saving for your child’s university education as early as possible. After all, taking into account interest rates on loan repayments, graduates could end up repaying £54,000 in total, according to the Intergenerational Foundation (IF) think tank. Emma has some handy hints to go about doing it, including how to make the most of your tax breaks.
From university to engagement, my colleague Sarah Moore explores whether it really is in investors’ interests for fund managers to actively engage with the companies they hold in their portfolios.
Ruth Jackson explains why it doesn’t make sense to lock your savings away for seven years – even if Shawbrook Bank’s new savings account does offer a tempting return of 2.2%. I say tempting, but of course, that’s still well below the inflation rate of 2.7%. So, in real terms, you’d still be losing money. As Ruth says, “locking your money away for a long time in an account paying less than inflation is madness”. Ruth reveals some better options for savers sign up here.
David C Stevenson offers his two pennies’ worth on how to fix the housing crisis, while Max King suggests one new real estate investment trust (Reit) to avoid.
I take a look at how a British start-up company is working on a novel way to 3D print bionic hands for amputees at a fraction of the cost of what current prosthetics cost. They’re better too. And on this week’s travel page in MoneyWeek magazine, I compare the various types of tapas to be enjoyed around Spain this summer, and Matthew Partridge gives his verdict on former rebel Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’s new book, Adults in the Room.
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