Weekend catchup — this week’s personal finance headlines

The Arnie effect swells PPI payouts

Refunds for mis-sold PPI in the UK have hit nearly £30bn since 2011, the country’s financial watchdog said, with a pick up in the later months of last year reflecting an ad campaign fronted by a motorised model of the head of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Claimants received just under £367m in December, the Financial Conduct Authority said, from £398m in November and £325m in October. The total tally now stands at £29.6bn.

Last August, the FCA launched a £42m ad campaign featuring Arnie that urged Brits to “make a decision” on seeking compensation and “do it now”. The deadline for compensation applications is August next year. More than a million people visited the FCA’s website for PPI in the first month of the campaign.

Read more on FT.com

Help to Buy homeowners prepare for double whammy

© Bloomberg

Thousands of homeowners with Help to Buy loans will face a squeeze on their finances as the first fees fall due to the government next month, experts have warned, writes Aime Williams.

Under its flagship Help to Buy equity loan scheme, the government offered borrowers an equity loan of up to 20 per cent of the value of a newly built home, or 40 per cent in London.

Although the loans are interest-free for five years, after that borrowers must begin to pay a fee of 1.75 per cent of the value of their loan, increasing each year by RPI plus 1 per cent.

The Resolution Foundation, a think-tank, said the fees presented “a ticking time bomb” for families who held Help to Buy loans.

Read more on FT.com

UK services grow at fastest rate in four months in February

Stronger global growth has driven demand for UK business services © AFP

Activity in Britain’s services sector grew at its fastest rate for four months in February as stronger global growth drove demand for business services, writes Gavin Jackson.

In the sector’s latest survey of purchasing managers, companies also reported the biggest jump in new orders since May 2017 over the month, driven by new business-to-business work.

But businesses cautioned that stretched household budgets kept domestic consumer spending weak, with average UK wages failing to keep pace with rising prices last year.

Overall the IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index for services rose to 54.5 in February from 53.0 in January. Anything above 50 indicates an expansion. Analysts had expected only a modest increase to 53.3.

Read more on FT.com

UK house price growth chills to five-year low — Halifax

UK house prices are rising at the slowest rate since 2013, according to data released on Wednesday that underscore the bite from falling consumer purchasing power and uncertainty over Brexit, writes Adam Samson.

Prices rose 1.8 per cent in the three months to February compared with the same period a year earlier, according Halifax, the mortgage lender. The pace was below the 2.2 per cent recorded in the three months to January but above the 1.6 per cent forecast by economists in a FactSet poll.

The slowdown highlights how the “the fundamentals for housebuyers are likely to remain challenging,” according to Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at the EY Item Club. He added:

Consumers have faced an extended squeeze on purchasing power, and it is likely to ease only gradually as the year progresses. Additionally, housing market activity is likely to be hampered by fragile consumer confidence and limited willingness to engage in major transactions.