For most of us it was back to the office this week, fully "re-charged" for 2018 and all set on keeping our New Year's resolutions.  At least until February anyway.  The round-up of the week's news, however, is less refreshing.  Rail commuters were welcomed back with the highest fare increases for five years; the NHS postponed thousands of January operations in the midst of a winter crisis; and England let go another commanding position in an Ashes Test match and with it their last chance of victory against the Aussies down-under.  If this feels just a touch too depressing for a Sunday morning, spare a thought for our Scottish counterparts over the border.  Irn Bru, the manufacturer of Scotland's "other" national drink, is halving the sugar content; the main reason surely why anyone actually buys a bright orange, fizzy refreshment.  Apparently a petition has already been signed by 20,000 disgruntled fans and some are allegedly stockpiling supplies of the sacred beverage.

As it's the New Year, forecasters, commentators and fortune-tellers are all setting out their predictions for 2018.  On the property side, the most recent Investment Property Forum (IPF) UK Consensus Forecasts predict a total return of 4.0% for 2018, with a 2017-2021 five year average return of 5.4% per annum.  The weaker forecast for 2018 assumes a 0.7% fall in capital values, with only sluggish rental growth.  Underlying this, though, there is limited consensus opinion amongst the contributors, with a high/low spread for 2018 total returns of 7.8%. The Weekly's only January prediction, before Messrs Bull & Bear address the issue in more depth, is that none of the forecasters will get it absolutely right and who can blame them.  The macro-economic picture is far from certain, Brexit negotiations seemingly flounder on, and there are political uncertainties to boot.   Take the US for example.  If you believe Michael Wolff's rather explosive revelations about Donald Trump this week, we live in an era where the leader of the Free World allegedly never expected to be voted in as President, is regarded as "childlike" by his White House Staff, and spends most of his time in bed eating McDonald's cheeseburgers in front of his three television sets.  Now who could have predicted that?!  

With the post-Christmas clear-up operation in full swing, it is a good time to focus on rubbish.  For many of us, this weekend's chores will include a sobering trip to the local household waste and recycling centre with a boot full of empty wine bottles, discarded wrapping paper and a rather sorry looking excuse for a Christmas tree.  Timely action then from the MPs on the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee who have set out their intentions for 2018 by calling for all disposable cups to incur a new 25p surcharge to help pay for the cost of recycling them.  The newly labelled "latte levy" has inevitably been seen as a direct tax on coffee drinkers who rely on the caffeine hit just to get through the day.  Yet whilst some coffee addicts will be soon be grumbling about the cost of their morning Caramel Macchiato, one Twitter user was more sanguine.  As he put it, "if you're prepared to pay more than £3 for a drink with no alcohol in it, you deserve everything you get"!

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