Cover of MoneyWeek issue number 421

Where's the bottom?

6 February 2009 / Issue 421

How long house prices will keep falling... PLUS:

  • Profit from the coming bull market in pigs
  • Make money whichever way markets move
  • The trailblazing central banker of Zimbabwe


Is snow bad for business?

As if the recession wasn’t bad enough already, this week’s snow could make it even worse. It will cost Britain around £3bn due to lost working days, says the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). An FSB spokesman told one paper, “the economy gets put back a day as people earn less and pay less tax. People make do with what they’ve got at home, they don’t go out and buy a sandwich.” Grim news indeed.

But hang on. The FSB data presumably can’t take account of what people were doing when they were off work. For example, every sledge in the town where I live was sold within hours. That’s good for someone’s business. And apparently Betfair, the online gambling group, had its busiest Monday ever, with a 65% rise in the number of people logging in to play poker. And, of course, if you don’t buy a sandwich, it’s bad news for the sandwich maker – but that’s another £3 or £4 you’ve saved to spend on something you’d rather have in the future.

The fact that lots of people weren’t at work on Monday doesn’t mean they weren’t using their time to do anything productive. And by the same token, just because lots of people made it into work today, doesn’t mean they’re actually doing anything useful or productive either.

Read the full editor’s letter here: Is snow bad for business?