“Death to cash!” – the new central banker war cry

Markets are sliding, gold is soaring, and central bankers are taking aim at your cash. Ben Judge takes a look at what's inside this week's issue of MoneyWeek magazine.


Things are getting uglier and uglier in the markets. The FTSE 100 dipped back into bear market territory this week. Commodity prices are still at rock bottom. Even the dollar's bull run has come to a spluttering halt. About the only thing that's up is gold which regular MoneyWeek magazine readers should already have stashed in their portfolio somewhere.

In all, it's a worrying time to be an investor. How on earth are you going to protect your wealth? Let's just say we have a few ideas on that.

So take us up on our latest offer.

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Central banks are turning interest rates negative

Attempting to take all this market mayhem by the horns, of course and failing are the world's increasingly desperate central banks. The latest move came from Sweden on Thursday. The Riksbank drive its interest rates down to -0.5%, shortly after the Bank of Japan entered the negative rate playground.

In our cover story this week, MoneyWeek editor John Stepek looks at the problems negative rates bring. One of the logical steps to take in a negative rate world is to get rid of cash (don't worry, John explains it all in the story seriously, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds). In any case, once cash is out of the way, rates can go well below zero, and suddenly your savings are shrinking by the month.

That's not something we'd like to see.

All this mayhem is good for one thing

The one ray of light in all of this is gold, which is climbing steadily as investors head for safe havens. And along for the ride are the gold miners.

In his editor's letter this week, John reflects on our advice late last year to buy gold mining stocks when everyone else held nothing but scorn for the sector. It's been a rewarding punt, with the companies and funds we recommended doing very nicely, thanks. In fact, one stock tipped by our resident gold guru, Dominic Frisby, has doubled.

How to pick companies that won't go under

Amid all the generalised panic about banks and commodity prices and negative rates, and all the rest of it, it's easy to forget some more prosaic problems profit warnings are currently running at a six-year high. So how can you make sure you're putting your money into a company that will keep making profits through the bad times and stay safe from bankruptcy? One way is to make use of the Altman Z score. If you don't know what that is, Alex Williams explains it in plain English and looks at the five best and five worst companies in the FTSE 100 by this measure.

The one good thing to come out of the Scottish independence debate

Scotland features heavily in the mag this week. The Scotland Bill will would give Scotland significant new tax and spending powers but what will it mean for the rest of the UK? Simon Wilson takes a look.

Meanwhile, Matthew Lynn, in his City View column, looks at what "tax competition" could mean for the rest of the country. It's a "fascinating debate", he says, and it's one of the few good things to come from the whole independence row.

Elsewhere in the magazine, Merryn interviews writer and political analyst Anne Marie Slaughter who talks about how businesses could help themselves and their workforces if they implemented more family-friendly policies, and comes up with a humane and sensible idea on how to best help refugees.

Sarah Moore looks at the controversial world of "smart beta" funds. Is there anything to them, or are they just the latest "neat marketing buzzword"? She also runs an eye over the latest in Individual Savings Accounts the peer-to-peer Isa. And in personal finance, Natalie Stanton looks at the pros and cons of topping up your spouse's.

Nothing for Valentine's Day? Don't panic

This Sunday, of course, is 14 February Valentine's Day. Chris Carter looks at four of Britain's most romantic hotels to head to. And Matthew Jukes picks a "heroic" bottle of red to make your Valentine go "weak at the knees".

For a more permanent getaway, we pick eight of the best properties you can buy anywhere for £800,000.

All that, and plenty more on the markets, companies and people in the news. If any of it tickles your fancy, sign up for a subscription now.

Ben Judge

Ben studied modern languages at London University's Queen Mary College. After dabbling unhappily in local government finance for a while, he went to work for The Scotsman newspaper in Edinburgh. The launch of the paper's website, scotsman.com, in the early years of the dotcom craze, saw Ben move online to manage the Business and Motors channels before becoming deputy editor with responsibility for all aspects of online production for The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News websites, along with the papers' Edinburgh Festivals website.

Ben joined MoneyWeek as website editor in 2008, just as the Great Financial Crisis was brewing. He has written extensively for the website and magazine, with a particular emphasis on alternative finance and fintech, including blockchain and bitcoin. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Ben bought when the price was under $200, but went on to spend it all on foolish fripperies.