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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

A VW recession for the eurozone, as German growth revised down?

Europe’s largest economy is Germany and the prospects and growth figures of this country are crucial to the growth of the Eurozone as a whole. The EU is a key trading partner for the UK and hence the growth data of Germany and in turn of the Eurozone is also essential in creating buoyant economic conditions within our borders. The bad news is that the economic growth forecast for Germany has been cut by the German government.

The German government had previously estimated that the growth rate for this year would be 1.8%, but the estimate has now been revised down to 1.2% and next year’s growth rate has also been revised downwards from 2% to 1.3%. Clearly the expectation is that low growth is set to continue.

Whenever there are changes in macroeconomic variables, a key question is always about the cause of such change, for example is inflation caused by demand-pull or cost-push factors. The German government has been quick to state that the lower growth rates are not due to internal factors, but have been affected by external factors, in particular the state of the global economy. As such, there are no plans to make significant changes to domestic policy, as the domestic economy remains in a strong position. The economy Minister said:

“The German economy finds itself in difficult external waters … Domestic economic forces remain intact, with the robust labour market forming the foundation … As soon as the international environment improves, the competitiveness of German companies will bear fruit and the German economy will return to a path of solid growth … [for this reason there is] no reason to abandon or change our economic or fiscal policy.”

The global picture remains relatively weak and while some economies, including the UK, have seen growth pick up and unemployment fall, there are concerns that the economic recovery is beginning to slow. With an increasingly interdependent world, the slowing down of one economy can have a significant impact on the growth rate of others. If country A begins to slow, demand for imports will fall and this means a fall in the demand for exports of country B. For countries that are dependent on exports, such as Germany and China, a fall in the demand for exports can mean a big decline in aggregate demand and in August, Germany saw a 5.8% drop in exports.

Adding to the gloom is data on inflation, suggesting that some other key economies have seen falls in the rate of inflation, including China. The possibility of a triple-dip recession for the Eurozone has now been suggested and with its largest economy beginning to struggle, this suggestion may become more real. The following articles consider the macroeconomic picture.

Articles
Germany cuts growth forecasts amid recession fears, as Ireland unveils budget The Guardian, Graeme Wearden (14/10/14)
As cracks in its economy widen, is Germany’s miracle about to fade? The Observer, Philip Oltermann (19/10/14)
Why the German economy is in a rut The Economist (21/10/14)
Germany’s flagging economy: Build some bridges and roads, Mrs Merkel The Economist (18/10/14)
Germany cuts 2014 growth forecast from 1.8% to 1.2% BBC News (14/10/14)
IMF to cut growth forecast for Germany – der Spiegel Reuters (5/10/14)
Fears of triple-dip eurozone recession, as Germany cuts growth forecast The Guardian, Phillip Inman (15/10/14)
Germany slashes its economic forecasts Financial Times, Stefan Wagstyl (14/10/14)
Merkel vows austerity even as growth projection cut Bloomberg, Brian Parkin, Rainer Buergin and Patrick Donahue (14/10/14)
Is Europe’s economic motor finally stalling? BBC News, Damien McGuinness (17/10/14)
Why Germany won’t fight deflation BBC News, Robert Peston (16/10/14)

Data
World Economic Outlook Database IMF (15/10/14)
World Economic Outlook IMF (October 2014)

Questions

  1. How do we measure economic growth and is it a good indicator of the state of an economy?
  2. What are the key external factors identified by the Germany government as the reasons behind the decline in economic growth?
  3. Angela Merkel has said that austerity measures will continue to balance the budget. Is this a sensible strategy given the revised growth figures?
  4. Why is low inflation in other economies further bad news for those countries that have seen a decline or a slowdown in their growth figures?
  5. Why is interdependence between nations both a good and a bad thing?
  6. Using AS and AD analysis, illustrate the reasons behind the decline German growth. Based on your analysis, what might be expected to happen to some of the other key macroeconomic variables in Germany and in other Eurozone economies?
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Miliband’s freeze

For all households, energy is considered an essential item. As electricity and gas prices rise and fall, many of us don’t think twice about turning on the lights, cooking a meal or turning on the heating. We may complain about the cost and want prices brought down, but we still pay the bills. But, is there anything that can be done about high energy prices? And if there is, should anything be done?

The worlds of politics and economics are closely linked and Ed Miliband’s announcement of his party’s plans to impose a 20-month freeze on energy prices if elected in 2015 showed this relationship to be as strong as ever. The price freeze would certainly help average households reduce their cost of living by around £120 and estimates suggest businesses would save £1800 over this 20 month period. The energy companies have come in for a lot of criticism, in particular relating to their control of the industry. The sector is dominated by six big companies – your typical oligopoly, and this makes it very difficult for new firms to enter. Thus competition is restricted. But is a price freeze a good policy?

Part of the prices we pay go towards investment in cleaner and more environmentally friendly sources of energy. Critics suggest that any price freeze would deprive the energy sector of much needed investment, meaning our energy bills will be higher in the future. Furthermore, some argue this price freeze suggests that Labour is abandoning its environmental policy. Energy shortages have been a concern, especially with the cold weather the UK experienced a few years ago. This issue may reappear with price freezes. As Angela Knight, from Energy UK, suggests:

Freezing the bill may be superficially attractive, but it will also freeze the money to build and renew power stations, freeze the jobs and livelihoods of the 600,000-plus people dependent on the energy industry and make the prospect of energy shortages a reality, pushing up the prices for everyone.

There is a further concern and that is that large energy companies will be driven from the UK. This thought was echoed by many companies, in particular the British Gas owner Centrica, commenting that:

If prices were to be controlled against a background of rising costs it would simply not be economically viable for Centrica to continue to operate and far less to meet the sizeable investment challenge that the industry is facing…The impact of such a policy would be damaging for the country’s long-term prosperity and for our customers.

Share prices naturally fluctuate with global events and a political announcement such as this was inevitably going to cause an effect. But, perhaps the effect was not expected to be as big as the one we saw. Share prices for Centrica and SSE fell following the announcement – perhaps no great shock – but then they continued to fall. The market value tumbled by 5% and share prices kept falling. This has led to Ed Miliband being accused of ‘economic vandalism’ by a major shareholder of Centrica, which is hardly surprising, given the estimated cost of such a price freeze would be £4.5 billion.

The economic implications of such a move are significant. The announcement itself has caused massive changes in the FTSE and if such a move were to go ahead if Labour were elected in 2015, there would be serious consequences. While families would benefit, at least in the short term, there would inevitably be serious implications for businesses, the environmental policy of the government, especially relating to investment and the overall state of the economy. The following articles consider the aftermath of Ed Miliband’s announcement.

Miliband stands firm in battle over fuel bills plan The Guardian, Patrick Wintour and Terry Macalister (25/9/13)
Michael Fallon calls Miliband’s energy prices pledge ‘dangerous’ Financial Times, Elizabeth Rigby and Jim Pickard (26/9/13)
Britain’s labour treads narrow path between populism and prudence Reuters (26/9/12)
Ed Miliband’s radical reforms will make the energy market work for the many Independent (26/9/13)
Has Labour fallen out of love with Business? BBC News (26/9/13)
Top Centrica shareholder Neil Woodford accuses Labour leader Ed Miliband of economic vandalism The Telegraph, Kamal Ahmed (25/9/13)
Centrica and SSE slide after Labour price freeze pledge The Guardian (26/9/13)
Ed Miliband’s energy price freeze pledge is a timely but risky move The Guardian, Rowena Mason (24/9/13)

Questions

  1. Why are energy prices such a controversial topic?
  2. How are energy prices currently determined? Use a diagram to illustrate your answer. By adapting this diagram, illustrate the effect of a price control being imposed. How could it create an energy shortage? What impact would this have after the 20-month price freeze
  3. Why would there be adverse effects on energy companies if prices were frozen and costs increased? Use a diagram to illustrate the problem and use your answer to explain why energy companies might leave the UK.
  4. How would frozen energy prices help households and businesses?
  5. Why were share prices in Centrica and SSE adversely affected?
  6. Is there an argument for regulating other markets with price controls?
  7. Why is there such little competition in the energy sector?
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How costly is unemployment?

Unemployment is a key macroeconomic objective for governments across the world. The unemployment rate for the UK now stands at 7.9% according to the ONS, which recorded 2.56 million people out of work. But why is unemployment of such importance? What are the costs?

The economy is already in a vulnerable state and with unemployment rising by 70,000 people between December and February 2013, the state of the economic recovery has been questioned. Indeed, following the news of the worsening unemployment data, the pound fell significantly against the dollar, suggesting a lack of confidence in the British economy.

Although the increase in the number of people out of work is concerning, perhaps of more concern should be the number of long-term unemployed. The ONS suggests that more than 900,000 have now been out of work for more than a year. Not only does this pose costs for the individual in terms of lost earnings and skills, but it also imposes costs on friends and family and the wider economy. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the first chart, which shows the percentage of unemployed people out for work longer than 12 months.)

The chief executive of the Prince’s Trust focused on the costs of youth unemployment in particular, saying:

Thousands of these young people are long-term unemployed, often facing further challenges such as poverty and homelessness. We must act now to support these young people into work and give them the chance of a better future.

(Click here for a PowerPoint of the second chart, which shows how much higher the unemployment rate is for young people aged 18 to 24 than it is for the working age population as a whole.)

Furthermore, with so many people unemployed, we are operating below full-employment and thus below our potential output. Furthermore, the longer people are out of work, the more likely it is that they will lose their skills and thus require re-training in the future or find that there are now fewer jobs available to them based on their lower skill level.

In addition to this there are monetary costs for the government through lower tax receipts, in terms of income tax, national insurance contributions and even VAT receipts. With more people unemployed, the numbers claiming various unemployment-related benefits will rise, thus imposing a further cost on the government and the taxpayer. Another cost to the government of this latest data is likely to be the expectations of the future course of the economy. Numerous factors affect business confidence and unemployment data is certainly one of them. The concern is that business confidence affects many other variables as well and until we receive more positive data, the economy recovery is likely to remain uncertain. The following articles consider this topic.

UK unemployment rise adds to pressure on Osborne’s austerity strategy The Guardian, Phillip Inman (18/4/13)
Unemployment figures are ‘worrying’, David Cameron’s spokesman says The Telegraph, Peter Dominiczak (17/4/13)
UK unemployment rises to 2.56 million BBC News (17/4/13)
Unemployment jumps to 7.9% as rise in the number of young people out of work takes figure ‘dangerously’ close to a million Mail Online, Leon Watson (17/4/13)
Unemployment up as stay-at-home mothers head back to the job-centre Independent, Ben Chu (17/4/13)
Jobs data points to finely balanced market Financial Times, Brian Groom (18/4/13)
Hugh’s review: making sense of the stats BBC News (19/4/13)

Questions

  1. How is unemployment measured?
  2. What are the costs to the individual of being unemployed?
  3. What are the wider non-monetary costs to society?
  4. Explain the main financial costs to the wider economy of a rising unemployment rate.
  5. Illustrate the problem of unemployment by using a production possibility frontier.
  6. Could there be a negative multiplier effect from a rise in unemployment?
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A positive turn of events?

The story of the UK economy over the past few years has been one of bad news and worse news. With a double-dip recession having kept confidence low in the UK, positive news for the economy was seemingly a distant hope of government ministers. However, official statistics show that that in the 3 months from July to September, the UK economy emerged from recession, with growth of 1.0%.

This positive GDP figure (click here for a PowerPoint of the chart below) was undoubtedly helped by the London Olympics over the summer, which may have added as much as 0.2 percentage points to GDP, according to the ONS. Millions arriving in London and other venues, spending money on countless things. Yet, other factors have also contributed to this welcome growth. Stephanie Flanders said:

The positive ‘surprise’ in these figures is largely to be found in the service sector, which is estimated to have growth by 1.3% in the third quarter, after shrinking by 0.1% in the three months before.

Further to this, in Stephanie Flanders’ ‘Stephanomics’, she says that ‘it confirms that the last three months of this latest recession were brought to you by the Queen. Or at least, the extra Bank Holiday to celebrate her Jubilee.’ The Bank of England suggests that the Jubilee took 0.5 percentage points from official GDP statistics. So, the news so far is positive, but the economy is far from being back to its pre-recession size.

The 2008-2009 recession knocked 6.4% off the UK economy. Since then, the total growth (over the past 4 years) has reached only half of that – 3.2% and that includes the 1% figure just published. Thus, while we may be on ‘the right track’, there is still a long way to go. Economists differ in their interpretations of what this means for the overall recovery: some say that this is a sign of what’s to come; others argue that this recovery has been driven by one-off factors.

What is certain is that government policy over the next few months will be crucial in keeping the economy on the right growth path. The following articles consider the implications of this new economic data.

A special recovery BBC News, Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (25/10/12)
UK GDP rises 1pc: economist reaction The Telegraph (25/10/12)
Nick Clegg warns economic recovery will be ‘fitful’ The Guardian, Daniel Boffey (28/10/12)
GDP figures set to show UK economy has exited double-dip recession The Telegraph, Philip Aldrick, Emma Rowley and Jessica Winch (25/10/12)
UK economy returns to growth with help from Olympics BBC News (25/10/12)
U.K. posts quarterly gain in GDP, lifted by Olympics Wall Street Journal, Cassel-Bryan Low (25/10/12)
GDP figures show UK emerging from recession: full reaction The Guardian (25/10/12)
UK growth signals move out of recession Financial Times, Sarah O’Connor and George Parker (25/10/12)

Questions

  1. How do we define a recession?
  2. How is GDP calculated and what does it measure?
  3. Which factors have contributed towards lower GDP data towards the beginning of this year?
  4. Which factors have helped boost GDP in the 3 months from July to September?
  5. Why is there disagreement about the likelihood of positive GDP figures continuing throughout the rest of the year?
  6. Prior to the official release of the GDP figures, David Cameron hinted at positive news. Given that the market is so sensitive, what effect might this suggestion have had?
  7. Given this positive figure, what implications does this have for the government’s quantitative easing programme?
  8. If we translate this latest growth data onto an AD/AS diagram, how would you show what has recently happened?
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Car sales to drive the economy?

With tight incomes, the first things that families tend to cut back on are the more luxury items. Extensions to houses are delayed, interior refurbishments are put off and the old car that was going to be traded in becomes something you can live with for another few years.

Car sales have been adversely affected during the recession, but data for May 2012 show a positive turn. Manufacturers have said that car sales are up by 7.9% compared with May last year. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMTT), much of the increased demand has come from private sales, where the increase has been over 14%.

This data may not be the answer to the economic troubles, but it is perhaps an indication that confidence is beginning to return. However, should things go from bad to worse in the eurozone, it isn’t hard to see data for the coming months showing the opposite trend. One other key piece of information to take from this data is the growth in the sales of lower-emissions vehicles. Sales of these were up 31.8% in May 2012 compared to the same time last year. Jonathan Visscher from SMMT said:

‘The green sector is growing fast…Every car manufacturer is going to have a hybrid model on its lists by the end of this year, even Ferrari.’

The continuing upward trend in car sales is by no means guaranteed to continue, especially with things like the expected rise in fuel duty later this year and the ongoing crisis in the eurozone, with Spanish banks potentially looking for help via a bail-out in the not too distant future. The following articles consider the acceleration in car sales.

UK sees biggest annual rise in car sales for nearly 2 years Reuters (8/6/12)
New car sales accelerate ahead Press Association (8/6/12)
UK new car sales accelerated in May, say manufacturers BBC News (8/6/12)
New car sales accelerate ahead Independent, Peter Woodman (8/6/12)
Car registrations accelerate in May Financial Times, John Reed (8/6/12)

Questions

  1. How would you define a luxury good? What is the relationship with income?
  2. How could an increase in car sales benefit the economy? How could the multiplier effect have an impact?
  3. Which factors have contributed towards the growth in low-emissions cars?
  4. Sales of low-emissions cars have significantly increased. However, why is this increase
  5. What are some of the key things that can help to bring a recession to an end? Into which general category would you place this increase in car sales?
  6. Fuel duty is expected to rise later this year. How might this affect the number of new car registrations? What does your answer tell you about the cross elasticity of demand?
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Remember, Remember the 30th November

No, bonfire night hasn’t been moved, but the 30th November could certainly be a day to remember. This day has been ‘selected’ by Unions for a nationwide day of action in response to government plans to increase workers’ pension contribution. The action would undoubtedly lead to massive disruption to public services across the UK and if an agreement is not reached with Ministers, we are likely to see further days of industrial action. In the words of the TUC boss, Brendan Barber, if no agreement is forthcoming, there will be ‘the biggest trade union mobilisation for a generation’.

The so-called pensions crisis has been an ongoing saga with seemingly no end in sight. As the UK population gets older, the strain on the state pension will continue to grow. The dependency ratio has increased – there are more and more pensioners being supported by fewer and fewer adults of working age. If the level of benefits is to be maintained, workers must either work for longer or make larger contributions to make up the deficit.

Plans are already in motion to increase the retirement age, but this in itself will not be sufficient. If pension contributions do increase, workers will undoubtedly find themselves worse off – a larger proportion of their gross income will be taken and hence net incomes will be lower. With less disposable income, consumer expenditure will fall, and given that consumption is the largest component of aggregate demand, the economy will take a hit. This is even more of a concern given the pay freezes we have already seen, together with rising inflation. People’s purses will get squeezed more and more, So, while raising pension contributions may help plug the pensions deficit, it could spell trouble for the economic prospects of the UK economy.

In addition to the potential longer term effects, there will also be a significant short term effect, namely, the loss of output on the day of the strike action. If workers are absent, the company will produce less than their potential and in some cases, the lost output can never be regained. If the postal workers go on strike, businesses may find packages go undelivered, customers experience delays, bills are not paid and so on. In all, strike action on the scale that is planned will have an impact on everyone, so it is in the interests of the economy for some sort of agreement to be reached. As Mr. Barber said:

‘If there’s no progress, then potentially we will see very widespread industrial action across the public services’

The following articles look at this conflict.

Unions plan ‘day of action’ over pensions Financial Times, Brian Groom (14/9/11)
TUC: ‘Strikes will be the biggest for a generation’ says Brendan Barber Telegraph (14/9/11)
Unions call for ‘national day of action’ over pensions BBC News (14/9/11)
Unions call collective day of strike action in November Guardian, Helene Mulholland and Dan Milmo (14/9/11)
Ed Miliband to warn trade unions that they must modernise Independent, Andrew Grice (13/9/11)
Trade unions plan day of action over pensions on Nov 30 Associated Press (14/9/11)
Are the trade unions about to save Britain? Telegraph, Mary Riddell (12/9/11)
Pension row unions in day of action The Press Association (14/9/11)
Unions set date for pensions strike as ‘unprecedented ballot begins’ Telegraph, Christopher Hope (14/9/11)
TUC to attack ministers over public sector pensions BBC News(14/9.11)
Secret plan for union strikes to cripple the country Telegraph, Christopher Hope(14/9/11)

Questions

  1. What are the main costs of strike action to (a) the individual going on strike (b) the firms which lose their workers (c) small businesses (d) the economy?
  2. What is meant by the dependency ratio? What action could be taken to reduce it? For each type of action, think about the costs and benefits.
  3. If pension contributions do increase, explain how workers will be affected. How will this affect each of the components of aggregate demand?
  4. Based on your answer to the above questions, what is likely to be the impact on the government’s macroeconomic objectives?
  5. What other action, besides striking, could unions take? Is it likely to be as effective? Do you think strikes are a good thing?
  6. Illustrate on a diagram the effect of a trade union entering an industry. How does it normally affect equilibrium wages and employment?
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Houses take another dive

Despite better economic growth in the first quarter of 2011, confidence remains low and according to Halifax, this has contributed to a decline in house prices from March to April by 1.4% to give their lowest average price since July 2009. Halifax has blamed this steady decline on a lack of confidence and the uncertain economic climate. However, despite this latest decline, Halifax have suggested that the trend may be coming to an end. Martin Ellis, from Halifax had this to say:

“Signs of a modest tightening in housing market conditions, a relatively low burden of servicing mortgage debt and an increase in the number of people in employment are all likely to be providing support for house prices, curbing the pace of decline. There are signs that house sales are stabilising, albeit at a level lower than the historical average.”

There are many factors that contribute towards house prices: the number of properties on the market, the number of buyers, the availability of mortgages and finance, interest rates and the future economic climate. How these factors change will have a crucial influence on the future house price trend. The following articles consider the causes and likely consequences of this latest housing market data.

House prices fall at fastest rate in 18 months Telegraph (9/5/11)
House prices ‘fell by 1.4% in April’ the Halifax says BBC News (9/5/11)
House prices post biggest fall in 1-1 ½ years Reuters, Fiona Shaikh (9/5/11)
House prices dive to a two-year low Independent, Nicky Burridge (9/5/11)
UK housing market remains weak Wall Street Journal, Jason Douglas (9/5/11)
U.K April house prices fall most in seven months, Halifax says Bloomberg, Svenja O’Donnell (9/5/11)

Questions

  1. What are the main causes behind this decline in house prices?
  2. The articles talk about the volatility of house prices over recent months. What is the explanation for this?
  3. If interest rates are increased by the MPC, is it more or less likely to cause house prices to decline further? Explain your answer.
  4. Why dies Martin Ellis, of Halifax, believe that the decline in house prices might reverse this year?
  5. How does the housing market affect the wider UK economy? Is these latest data likely to jeopardise the fragile recovery?
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Japan: An Economic Aftershock

We’ve had numerous examples in recent years of the economic turmoil that natural disasters can have and unfortunately, we have another to add to the list: the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. As Japan tries to take stock of the damage and loss of life, the economic consequences of this disaster will also need considering. The previous Kobe earthquake cost the economy an estimated 2% of GDP, but this did hit a key industrial area. The economic consequences of the 2011 earthquake were originally not thought to be as bad, but the economy will undoubtedly suffer.

The Japanese economy, like the UK, shrank in the final quarter of 2010, but was expected to return to growth. The devastation of the earthquake and tsunami is now likely to delay this economic recovery. Many car companies are based in Japan and are expected to take some of the biggest hits. Nomura analysts suggested that annual operating profits of companies such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda would be dented by between 3% and 8%. You only have to look at some of the footage of the disaster to see why this is expected. Supply chains will undoubtedly be disrupted, many of whom are located in the exclusion zone and financial markets across the world have fallen, as the possibility of a nuclear disaster threatens. As Louise Armistead writes:

‘By lunchtime in Britain £32bn had been knocked off the value of the FTSE-100 dropped, which fell by more than 3pc in early trading but recovered later to close down 1.38pc at 5,695.28. Germany’s DAX plunged 3.19pc, recovering from a 4.8pc fall, and France’s CAC ended the day 3.9pc lower, while on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Index dropped 2pc shortly after opening.’

A key question will be whether Japanese reconstruction will push the economy out of its deflationary spiral or make it even worse.

GDP measures the value of output produced within the domestic economy, but it is by no means an accurate measure of a country’s standard of living. Whilst it will take into account new construction that will be required to rebuild the economy, it doesn’t take into account the initial destruction of it. As output and growth are expected to fall in the immediate aftermath, we may see a boost to growth, as reconstruction begins.

The problem of scarcity is becoming more and more apparent to many survivors, as they begin to run short of basic necessities, which has led to various rationing mechanisms being introduced. Despite the devastating conditions which survivors now find themselves in, when supplies are delivered, the efficiency of Japan is still very evident. As noted by BBC Radio 4 coverage, as soon as the supplies arrived, a line was in place to unload the van in minutes. Teams have been set up to help everyone get through the tragedy. Even in the most devastating of times, Japanese efficiency still shines through and undoubtedly this will be a massive aid in the huge re-construction projects that we will see over the coming months and even years. Analysts say that there will be short term pain, but that the investment in construction will boost the economy later in the year.

Japanese earthquake: Markets shed £1trillion amid nuclear fears Telegraph, Louise Armistead (16/3/11)
Panic over Japan triggers market turmoil Independent, Nikhil Kumar (16/3/11)
Japan quake: Economy ‘to rebound’ after short term pain BBC News (14/3/11)
Japan disaster: The cost of a crisis Guardian (16/3/11)
Global stock markets tumble in ‘perfect storm’ amid fears of nuclear disaster Mail Online, Hugo Duncan (16/3/11)
Japan’s earthquake will cause a global financial aftershock Guardian, Peter Hadfield (15/3/11)
Economists’ estimate of Japan quake impact Reuters (16/3/11)
Fukishima factor adds pressure to economic fallout from Japan’s crisis Guardian, Larry Elliott (15/3/11)

Questions

  1. What is the likely impact on Japan’s GDP?
  2. Why is the potential disruption to the supply chain important for a firm?
  3. How and why will this catastrophe affect global financial markets?
  4. What are some of the main problems of using GDP as a measurement for growth? Think about the impact on GDP of Japan’s destruction and their future re-construction.
  5. What types of production methods etc have Japan implemented to allow them to become so efficient in production?
  6. What are the arguments to suggest that this disaster might help the Japanese economy recover from its deflationary spiral? What are the arguments to suggest that it might make it worse?
  7. What are some other examples of natural disasters or human errors that have also had economic consequences?
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Election 2010: The Final Debate

The final debate between the three party leaders was mainly on the economy. A key issue under debate was how each party would cut the huge budget deficit and how households and businesses would be affected. Something that we may see in the future is a banking levy and possibly new powers given to the Bank of England to ‘ration credit in boom years’. Spending cuts and tax rises are inevitable, but there were differences between the parties as to the extent of these changes and when they are likely to occur. The articles below consider these important issues, as the election entered the final 72 hours.

The broadcast debate
Prime Ministerial Debate: The Economy BBC Election 2010

Articles and podcasts
Economic debate: Banks and a balanced economy BBC News, Peston’s Picks (29/4/10)
General Election 2010: a fact checker for the leaders’ debate on the economy Telegraph (29/4/10)
Tim Harford on the truth behind leaders’ claims BBC Today Programme (30/4/10)

Questions

  1. It is not unusual for countries to have a budget deficit, so why is the UK’s receiving so much attention in the election?
  2. What is the difference between retail and investment banking?
  3. What do you think David Cameron meant by giving the Bank of England power ‘to call time on debt in the economy’?
  4. What is the difference between the budget deficit and national debt?
  5. What are the arguments for and against cutting the budget deficit now, as the Conservatives want to do and cutting it in the next financial year, as Labour is suggesting?
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Have you got your mail?

Everybody relies on post, whether it is bills, cards or packages, and everyone is annoyed when something goes missing, which has becoming an increasingly common occurrence. Over the past few weeks, a country already suffering from the economic downturn has also been suffering from a lack of post, as workers throughout the Royal Mail have been striking over pay and job cuts. Postal workers are now to vote on a national strike, although the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has said they will call it off if the Royal Mail agrees to stop all redundancies.

And it’s not just individuals who are suffering. Businesses have also been affected, as packages go missing and costs begin to rise. However, there is good news for one firm, the DX Group. DX Mail is the only independent mail operator in the UK which doesn’t rely on the Royal Mail for any part of its service. If the disputes continue, it could see a significant boost to its sales.

Consider the following articles and think about the effect this strike may have on businesses and the economy and then have a go at the questions.

Postal workers to vote on strike BBC News (17/9/09)
The DX: Keeping Business Mail moving during strike Hellmail (30/8/09)
Mail Privatisation to ‘go ahead’ BBC News (11/6/09)
Threat of strikes underlines TUC warning over spending cuts Times Online (14/9/09)
Postal strikes drive customers to Royal Mail’s rivals Guardian (18/9/09)
Postal workers strike in Swindon BBC News (16/9/09)
Royal Mail denies mail backlog BBC News (11/9/09)
Postal strike over job cutbacks The Herald (Plymouth) (5/9/09)
Managers and unions fail to sort out Royal Mail modernisation Guardian (17/9/09)

Questions

  1. In what ways is a postal strike likely to cost businesses?
  2. What other options are there for postal workers apart from strikes? Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.
  3. How does a trade union affect wages and employment when an industry becomes unionised? What happens if a trade union is facing a monopsonist employer of labour?
  4. What is this dispute about and what do you think is the best way to resolve it for all concerned?
  5. Why in pay negotiations is a trade union more effective than each individual asking for higher pay?
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