City&FinanceBriefing HOUSE prices are higher than they were a year ago for the first time since the start of the recession. The dramatic recovery in the property market continued this month with a 0.4 per cent rise to a national average of 162,038, according to figures from the Nationwide. This is two per cent above the level of October last year. However, the Nationwide warned that the recovery may already be fizzling out as the latest rise is much slower than in previous months. It said this could reflect an increase in the numbers of sellers putting their homes up for sale in the autumn to take advantage of more buoyant market conditions. T he last time prices were showing year-on-year growth was in March 2008, just as the recession was starting. Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: Octobers sig- nificantly reduced month-on-month increase fuels our suspicion that the recent rally in house prices is unsustainable and will fizzle out before long. He added: Housing market activity is still at a low level despite improving in recent months, unemployment is high and rising, earnings growth is low and falling, and house price/earnings ratios are moving back up. The October price rise is the smallest since April, down from 0.9 per cent in September and 1.4 per cent in both July and August. But the average house price has now risen by 9.7 per cent from the February low of 147,746. 44 Friday, 30 October 2009 London Lite Inbrief House prices rise but gains may not lastBY sri carmichael and jonathan prYnn John Lewis sales point to strong Xmas ahead The debate over whether Christmas will be a gift or a letdown to retailers took on a new twist today when latest figures from John Lewis showed signs of building pre-Christmas trade all around as it posted a 9.1% rise in year-on-year sales. The department store chain, often viewed as a barometer of high Street spending, said seasonal purchasing kicked off strongly in some parts of the country with London stores flourishing. The tills at Peter Jones rang up 8.4% more sales, at Oxford Street takings were 7% higher and the Bluewater branch raked in 13.5% more than the same time last year. The retailer admitted that some of the rise was flattered by weak sales in the same period last year but said early indications for Christmas trading were good. Sister supermarket group Waitrose also flagged up green shoots of recovery for the festive period. Shoppers are already starting to think ahead to Christmas, with many opting to spread the cost of the festive season, a spokesperson said. Gift sales were up 133% on the week to 24 October last year, and demand for Christmas cake was 28% higher. Big bonus culture is back The age of the City mega- bonus really is back, according to a survey of bankers which found almost two thirds expect their payout to match or beat last years package, with one in 10 predicting a record windfall. Having survived the biggest economic downturn since the 1930s, a third of all traders, analysts and fund managers in the City and elsewhere in Europe said they expect a fatter bonus this year, according to a quarterly poll by Bloomberg. Australia Dollars 1.7256 Canada Dollars 1.6835 Denmark Kroner 7.8911 Eurozone Euro 1.0634 HongKong Dollars 12.0800 Japan Yen 141.7300 NewZealand Dollars 2.1135 SouthAfrica Rand 11.9800 Sweden Kronor 11.0600 Switzerland Francs 1.6027 UAE Dirham 5.6580 UnitedStates Dollars 1.5677 TourisT raTes UP 26.04 at 5163.76 fTse 100 dow jones nikkei -$ UP 199.89 at 9962.58 UP 143.64 at 10,034.74 UP 0.15 at $1.6561 >>for all the latest City share prices, call 0905 817 1694* or visit thisismoney.co.uk * Calls cost 75p/min from a BT landline & last approx 1 min per quote. not all stocks are available lookersforesees a slide in sales l THE boss of one of Britains biggest motor dealers today predicted the recovery in the new car market will stall next year after the Governments cash-for- bangers scrappage scheme ends. Peter Jones, chief executive of Lookers, said he expects new car sales in the UK to be flat as the end of the scheme offsets a boost from a rally in the economy. Looking up: but experts warn that house prices could fall soon Cosmenrageat nationalexpress l CIVIL war has broken out at National Express. Jorge Cosmen, the deputy chairman and largest shareholder with 18.5%, today blasted the absence of a well- defined strategy and the failure of the board led by chairman John Devaney to make a sufficient assessment of the merger plan put forward by Stagecoach which Devaney rejected yesterday. Tilbury boosted by good harvest l TILBURY has had a win-some, lose-some summer. The giant port complex on the Thames, east of London, said grain volumes were up 35% year-on-year in the quarter to end-September after a successful harvest in the South-east. However, Tilburys parent, Forth Ports, said the recession has hit container traffic at the port, off 22% from the third quarter last year. ex-Barings boss lands Virgin job l A FoRmER boss of collapsed bank Barings has been chosen to head the board of Virgin Group. Sir Richard Branson has appointed Peter Norris as the new chairman for the parent company of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Rail. Norris has had to rebuild his career after rogue trader Nick Leeson ran up losses of 827 million, causing the banks demise.