Cashing in on Brown's Vital Budget Statistics

By Mccrone, Angus | The Evening Standard (London, England), February 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

Cashing in on Brown's Vital Budget Statistics


Mccrone, Angus, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: ANGUS MCCRONE

GORDON Brown's Budget next Wednesday is likely to be a more sombre occasion, with less political knockabout, than seemed likely just a few days ago. The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak has seen to that.

However, his speech is still expected to contain plenty of pre-General Election bluster and a shower of tax cuts and spending increases aimed at buttering up the voter.

Every year, the Budget attracts a wave of spread bets on everything from the length of the Chancellor's speech to the size of particular tax increases, or cuts, and the number of sips of water he takes.

This time, bookmakers City Index and Cantor Index are quoting spreads of 56-60 minutes and 57-61 minutes respectively for the length of Brown's speech. Last year's Budget words lasted 52 minutes, some 10 minutes shorter than the bookies expected.

Anyone wanting to gamble on another short oration could make a down-bet with Cantor from 57 minutes, risking perhaps [pound]10 a minute. Another 52-minute speech would result in profits of [pound]50 (57 minus 52, times [pound]10).

However, a marathon 75-minute performance - studded with election gimmicks and help for farmers - could leave that bet with losses of [pound]180 (75 minus 57, times [pound]10).

There is talk that Brown might announce a reduction in stamp duty on small share purchases. City Index is quoting a spread of 0.32-0.35 percentage points for the stamp duty rate on deals worth less than [pound]1000 (stamp duty is currently levied at a flat 0.5% rate).

Anyone expecting stamp duty to remain unchanged could make an up-bet from 0.35.

That is my phantom bet for this week and I am risking an imaginary [pound]5 per hundredth of a percentage point.

Betting tax is likely to be reformed in this Budget, with the replacement of 6.75% duty

with a tax on bookmakers' gross profits.

Cantor Index is quoting a spread of 14.2%-15.0% as the new rate.

Among the more light-hearted bets, City Index is quoting 6-7 for the number of times Brown uses the words "prudent", "prudence" and "imprudent" in his speech and Cantor is quoting 3. …

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