Swedesturn to Britain for a bargain

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The Independent Online
The seasoned bargain-hunter knows it is necessary not just to shop around, but to shop around the world to get good value for money. Why else would the Swedes and Danes be doing their Christmas shopping in Oxford Street this year?

Scandinavians are turning their backs on expensive home cities such as Copenhagen and Stockholm and heading for cheaper European centres such as Brussels, Frankfurt and London.

The League Table of Global Living Costs, published today and based on price comparisons across 121 big cities, is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit for expatriate businessmen, but could just as well double up as an essential price guide for any serious international shopper.

Tokyo tops the charts, although the weakening yen means it is not quite as expensive as at its peak in June 1995. In London, ranked 28th and five per cent dearer than New York, prices have not changed much since June.

Not surprisingly, New York- which has moved from 36th to 32nd place - is America's most expensive city. Chicago is second - ranked 45th along with Auckland, Melbourne and Wellington. San Francisco is 51st, and Los Angeles and Miami joint 58th. Beyond the border, Mexico will not necessarily yield the bargains it once did. For the cost of living there is increasing because of continuing high inflation after the devaluation of the peso at the beginning of last year.

Although changes in rankings are caused mainly to the strength of the dollar against the yen and European currencies, the results of the six- monthly survey sheds a clear light on weak inflationary trends across the world. In only a few countries, such as Mexico, is the cost of living rising significantly.

So those who are set on shopping in Tokyo and Osaka, ranked first and second in the world respectively, can console themselves with the fact that prices in these cities have dropped by nearly a quarter in the past 18 months.