Money: Best advice is to sit tight, cross your fingers and wait for the election to end

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The Independent Online
With only a few more days to go before the election, this column should be addressing any last-minute financial issues that can still be addressed before next Thursday, based on the most likely assumptions as to who will win.

Hard as I try, however, I simply cannot think of much that is worthwhile left to do apart from cross our fingers.

It might still be possible to call a lender with an attractive fixed rate and negotiate an immediate approval on a loan. This might be a wise move for some, given expectations of a likely interest rate rise after the election is decided, as long as legal and other fees don't outweigh any savings.

It makes sense not to lock into the plethora of two and three-year fixed- rate savings deals now on the market, particularly with some three-month rates looking quite generous.

But elsewhere? There's not a lot that can be done now or even in the weeks immediately afterwards. This is a consequence of the growing closeness between new Labour and Tories on almost all matters related to financial decision-making.

Taxes? No fear of that fearfully strict Gordon Brown raising them, or denying us our most important loopholes to stuff a few more quid out of the Revenue's reach.

Share prices? The markets have already discounted the prospect of a Labour victory and any movement there is not electorally determined to a significant degree, although if John Major can pull off another term for his party, prepare for a short, sharp surge in equity prices.

Pensions, where the Tories are intent on privatising the state pension, is one area of difference. Perhaps the most optimistic punt, if you believe in the possibility of a surprise rebound by the Conservatives, is into utilities, whose share prices have lagged in expectation of Labour's windfall tax. Even so (though I may have to eat my words next Thursday) the possibility seems so remote that it might be wiser to go for the National Lottery rather than invest in another Tory win.

Justin Urquhart Stewart, director at Barclays Stockbrokers, is among those arranging a last-minute fixed-rate home loan. Elsewhere, he jokes, not even drinks company shares, which traditionally do well at election time, have shown any great drive.

Perhaps the best point comes from Roddy Kohn, a financial adviser at Kohn Cougar, in Bristol. He points out that anyone's savings strategy should be based on the long term, looking 10, 15 or even more years out.

Under such circumstances, world events, such as US interest-rate movements, or the future direction of Hong Kong, have a far bigger determining role on share prices than Thursday's election. The best advice is to sit tight and wait for a few weeks.

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