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NUKI&#39S EYE

It&#39s just a hunch but I bet your clients have become a tad more cautious in the last few weeks. Rail deaths, flash floods and petrol protests have combined to give the distinct impression that Arma geddon will strike next Tues day evening.

For the thousands whose lounges now boast a wall-to-wall water and sewage mix for flooring, financial meltdown has already happened. Prop erty experts are predicting that house prices in these areas will fall by an average of 25 per cent in flood-hit areas over the next few months as insurance and mortgage costs soar.

The stockmarket is not looking too jolly either. Share values have fallen sharply in the last few months as one sexy sector after another has gone pop.

The optimists among you will be telling your clients that the dip in share values has created a wonderful buying opportunity. On the other hand, the pessimists predict an imminent and devastating recession sparked by climbing oil prices and consolidated by – yes, you guessed it – diminished equity and property prices.

For those of you who like a bit of horror, the worst-case scenario goes something like this.

As winter progresses, the weather gets steadily worse, causing world demand for oil to outstrip supply by several million barrels a day.

Countries are unable to meet the excess demand from reserves so the price of oil jumps sharply.

Hit hard in the pocket, consumers and businesses turn to cash in their already depleted equ ity portfolios to fill the gap.

Spending and investment slow dramatically and, as more and more shares are sold, stockmarket prices fall further still.

Now panic sets in and inflation takes off, causing central banks to raise interest rates.

At about the same time, stockbrokers start jumping out of tower blocks and I start writing about the horrors of negative equity (again).

So where does this leave IFAs? Well, if there was ever a time to play on people&#39s fear of the unexpected and get them to buy a protection plan it must be now amid the watery chaos that has des cended on the nation.

The best of you will alr eady have donned your wind-cheaters and started knocking not on front doors but on car doors as people queue in their hundreds for petrol at the local filling station.

Never before have those sitting captive in their vehicles been so likely to see the logic in taking out a little something to protect their families from the financial consequences of popping their clogs unexpectedly or being plunged into negative equity.

I am told that policies that protect against redundancy are also selling well – particularly among hauliers and sheep farmers.

IFAs of a more cheery disposition may find that there is scope for helping first-time buyers into the housing market. For the first time in a long while, there is now a buyers&#39 market in many parts of the country and I&#39m not just talking flood plains here.

In London and the South-east, few properties are selling quickly and virtually none are fetching their asking price.

This is a complete transformation from the position a year ago when first-time buyers stood no chance of buying anything at a reasonable price and would find themselves being gazumped on every other flat that they bid for.

Depending on whether or not you buy the Armageddon scenario described above, buying a new flat today may or may not be a good idea.

The optimists among you will note that annual property price inflation has been running at 10 per cent a year for quite some time now and that the vast bulk of each year&#39s rise is put on in the spring.

By that time, of course, our trains, cars, rivers and economy may be functioning ent irely smoothly again.

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