At the end of January 2014, we looked at the problem of deflation and in particular at the fortunes of Japan, as its CPI was rising. As the blog explained, the Japanese economy, rather than being plagued by high inflation has been plagued by deflation and many suggest this is even worse.
In December 2013, Japan’s core consumer prices were growing faster than expected. The data gave the economy a much needed boost, following increases in government spending aimed at stimulating aggregate demand. This in turn pushed up prices, such that they achieved their fastest rate of growth in 5 years. Now, more recent date from May 2014 shows that the trend has continued. Prices in Japan have now increase at their fastest rate in 23 years, rising 3.2% and beating the forecasts of 3.1%. This means that prices have no risen in Japan for 11 consecutive months. Numerous policies have contributed towards this impressive trend for an economy plagued by deflation for 2 decades. Boosts in the money supply, increases in government spending, a rise in sales tax are just some of the contributing factors.
Although the economy is certainly over the problem of deflation, some are now concerned that such price rises may reduce consumer spending. An ironic twist, given that barely a year ago the concern about low consumer spending was due to deflation. The next 12 months will be a key indicator of how consumers will respond to this unusual inflation data – after all inflation and high prices have been pretty uncommon. The following articles consider the update on the Japanese economy.
Japan inflation rate hits 23 year high (including video) BBC News (30/5/14)
Japan April core CPI rises to 23-year high after sales tax rise Reuters (29/5/14)
Japan inflation accelerates Wall Street Journal, Takashi Nakamichi (30/5/14)
Japan’s consumer inflation set to reach five year high The Guardian (18/4/14)
Japan’s inflation at highest rate for 23 years The Telegraph, Rebecca Clancy (30/5/14)
Japan inflation quickens to fastest since 1991 Bloomberg, Toru Fujioka (30/5/14)
Japaense inflation rises at fastest pace in over five years at 1.3% in December 2013 Independent, Russel Lynch (31/1/14)
- Why is deflation a problem?
- Using an AD/AS diagram, illustrate the problem of expectations and how this contributes to stagnant growth.
- Japanese policies have helped create a rise in the CPI. Which policies have been effective in creating rising prices?
- Explain how the sales tax has contributed towards higher prices.
- With prices rising, there are now concerned that consumer spending may decline. Using a diagram, explain why this may be the case.
- In the previous blog, we analysed the Indian economy and said that high inflation was something that was contributing towards lower growth. How is that low inflation or deflation can also contribute towards low growth?
Globalisation has led to an increasingly interdependent world, with companies based in one country often dependent on a market abroad. In recent years, it is the rapid growth of countries like China that has led to growth in the size of the markets for many products. With incomes rising in emerging countries, demand for many products has been growing, but in the past year, the trend for Prada has ended and seems to be reversing.
As the market in China matures and growth of demand in Europe slows, Prada has seen its shares fall by the largest margin since June last year.
Prada is a well-known luxury brand. The products it sells are relatively expensive and hence its products are likely to have an income elasticity of demand well above +1. With changes in China and Europe, Prada expects its growth in sales to January 2015 will be ‘low single-digit’ – less than the 7% figure recorded for the last financial year.
This lower growth in same-store sales is likely to continue the following year as well. Add on to this the lower-than-expected profits, which missed analysts’ forecasts, and you have a prime example of a brand that is suffering because of its customer base and the economic times.
Prada isn’t alone in suffering from economic conditions and, relative to its European counterparts, is expected to have higher growth in sales and profits in the next 12 months – at 11.5% and 14.8% respectively. This is according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.
Prada has exploited high demand by Chinese consumers, but has recently been affected by the strength of the euro. A strong euro means that the Italian-based Prada is struggling with exports, which only adds to its problems. As economic growth picks up in China and as other emerging economies begin to experience more rapid economic growth, the fortunes of this luxury-retailer may change once more. However, with volatile economic times still around in many countries, the future of many retailers selling high-end products to higher income customers will remain uncertain. The following articles consider the fortunes of Prada.
Prada shares fall sharply after China luxury warning BBC News (3/4/14)
Prada falls after forecasting slowing luxury sales growth Bloomberg, Andrew Roberts and Vinicy Chan (3/4/14)
Prada profits squeezed by weakness in Europe and crackdown in China The Guardian (2/4/14)
Prada bets on men to accelerate sales growth Reuters, Isla Binnie (2/4/14)
Prada misses full year profit forecast Independent, Laura Chesters (2/4/14)
- How can we define a luxury product?
- Explain the main factors which have led to a decline in the demand for Prada products over the past 12 months.
- Using a diagram, illustrate what is meant by a strong euro and how this affects export demand.
- What business strategies are Prada expected to adopt to reverse their fortunes?
- Using a diagram, explain the factors that have caused Prada share prices to decline.
There’s been much talk about the UK’s economic recovery and whether or not it has begun and whether consumer spending is actually the cause. The latest sector to post positive figures is the car industry, which has seen 2013 bring in the highest level of car sales since the onset of the credit crunch.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), vehicle registrations in 2013 were 2.26 million, which represented a 10.8% increase from 2012. That’s not to say that we have returned to the heights seen pre-crisis levels, as sales still remain some way below their 2007 figure, but the data is certainly moving in the right direction. The key questions are: What’s the cause of this growth and what does it mean for the UK economy?
The economy has certainly turned a corner and perhaps consumer confidence is improving to reflect this. With consumes more optimistic about future economic prospects, more luxury items may well be purchased. During the height of the recession, many families may well have said ‘it will last’ or ‘we’ll make do’, referring to their old cars. However, this improved confidence, together with attractive finance deals may have been instrumental in convincing consumers to splash out. This is reflected in the data, which indicates that some 75% of car sales involve a finance package. One further explanation that has been offered by industry analysts is that the refunds individuals are receiving through mis-sold payment protection insurance are providing a nice contribution towards the deposit.
PPI payments will certainly dry up, but as long as attractive finance packages remain, car sales should continue. A key factor affecting affordability may be interest rates. When they increase, any variable rate loans will become more expensive to service and this may act to deter consumers. However, if the car industry helps to stimulate other sectors and wages begin to increase, the overall effect may be to sustain and even further the growth of this key economic sector. The following articles consider the car industry.
UK car sales hit five-year high The Guardian, Angela Monaghan (7/1/14)
UK new car sales highest since 2007, SMTT says BBC News (7/1/14)
Car sales increased by almost 11% in 2013 Sky News (7/1/14)
UK new car sales rise to highest level since 2007 Reuters, David Milliken (7/1/14)
UK car sales up 11% in 2013, topping pre-crisis levels Wall Street Journal, Matthew Curtin and Ian Walker (7/1/14)
New car sales in UK at highest since before recession Independent, Sean O’Grady (7/1/14)
UK car sales top pre-recession levels Financial Times, Henry Foy (6/1/14)
- How important is the car industry in the context of the UK economy?
- How is the UK car industry performing relative to its Western rivals?
- Would a 30% single rate of income tax be equitable?
- Explain the way in which car sales have been affected by consumer confidence.
- How have finance packages helped to stimulate car sales?
- What are the key macroeconomic variables that are likely to affect the future performance of this key sector?
Valued by private investors at more than $10 billion, the future listing on the stock market of Twitter, is an eagerly anticipated event. The necessary forms have been submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ahead of the initial public offering (IPO). Twitter will be looking to avoid the mistakes made by Facebook when they were first listed in May last year. Twitter has also announced its intentions to purchase MoPub, which is a firm specialising in mobile advert exchanges.
So, what will this listing mean for Twitter? The public will now be able to purchase shares in Twitter, in much the same way as you can buy shares in RBS or Facebook. The financial performance of Twitter will come under much greater scrutiny from its shareholders, who will be interested in short term returns and long term stability. Becoming a public limited company will attract investors and is likely to provide a much larger scope for expansion for Twitter. However, as yet no details have been released on a likely date for the flotation or on the prices we can expect.
One thing Twitter will be trying to avoid is a repeat of the problems that beset Facebook and indeed of the problems that other public listings have created for giants such as Google, Zynga and Groupon. When Facebook moved to public ownership, its share prices initially fell below its IPO and subsequently Facebook lost more than half its value. More recent success in mobile advertising has restored the fortunes of this company, but Goldman Sachs, which is handling Twitter’s transition will be looking to avoid a similar occurrence. As Sam Hamadeh from PrivCo (a firm that gathers data on private companies) said:
Twitter will learn from Facebook’s flawed playbook and do the opposite … Unlike Facebook, which waited too long to IPO (until its growth rate decelerated), Twitter will IPO at just the right inflection point: while revenue grows in triple digits.
Twitter is a rapidly growing business, but still has significant scope for expansion and this move to public ownership may be just the thing. Setting the right IPO and the right date will be crucial, as a multitude of factors can and do affect the price of shares listed on the stock market. Twitter will also need to ‘focus on doing the right stuff’ to make a success of the listing and its purchase of Mopub looks to be a step in the right direction. For now, all we can do is speculate, but if the launch is successful, then the founders of Twitter are likely to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each.
Twitte files for IPO The Telegraph, Sophie Curtis (13/9/13)
Twitter plans stock market listing (see also) BBC News (13/9/13)
Twitter files for IPO, hopes to avoid Facebook’s mistakes Independent, Nikhil Humar and James Vincent (12/9/13)
Facebook shares close 11% below flotation price BBC News (21/5/12)
Twitter fails to answer key IPO questions Financial Times, Richard Waters and April Dembosky (13/9/13)
Twitter IPO: how much is it worth? The Guardian, Juliette Garside (13/9/13)
Twitter IPO: Tech float successes and disasters The Telegraph, Gabrielle Putter and Szu Ping Chan (13/9/13
Twitter to see ‘strong demand’ for share sale BBC News (13/9/13)
Twitter IPO: Firm in stock market launch bid Sky News (13/9/13)
- What are the characteristics of a public limited company? Are there advantages and disadvantages?
- Which factors affect (a) the supply of shares and (b) the demand for shares?
- What mistakes were made by Facebook when it made the transition to public ownership?
- How does advertising generate revenue for Twitter?
- How might you go about valuing Twitter or Facebook?
- Companies such as Twitter and Facebook have hundreds of millions of subscribers. Are there network externalities of this?
- Twitter is purchasing MoPub. What type of takeover would you classify this as?
The growth of emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil brings with it both good and bad news for the once dominant countries of the West. With growth rates in China reaching double digits and a much greater resilience to the credit crunch and its aftermath in these emerging nations, they became the hope of the recovery for the West. But, is it only benefits that emerge from the growth in countries like China?
Chinese business has grown and expanded into all areas, especially technology, but countries such as the USA have been reluctant to allow mergers and takeovers of some of their businesses. Notably, the takeovers that have been resisted have been in key sectors, particularly oil, energy and technology. However, it seems as though pork is an industry that is less important or, at least, a lower risk to national security.
Smithfield Foods is a US giant, specialising in the production and selling of pork. A takeover by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings has been approved (albeit reluctantly) by the US Committee on Foreign Investment. While the takeover could still run into obstacles, this Committee’s approval is crucial, as it alleviates concerns over the impact on national security. The value of the deal is some $7.1bn, including the debt that Shuangui will have to take on. While some see this takeover as good news, others are more concerned, identifying the potential negative impact it may have on prices and standards in the USA. Zhijun Yang, Shuanghui’s Chief Executive said:
This transaction will create a leading global animal protein enterprise. Shuanghui International and Smithfield have a long and consistent track record of providing customers around the world with high-quality food, and we look forward to moving ahead together as one company.
The date of September 24th looks to be the decider, when a shareholder meeting is scheduled to take place. There is still resistance to the deal, but if it goes ahead it will certainly help other Chinese companies looking for the ‘OK’ from US regulators for their own business deals. The following articles consider the controversy and impact of this takeover.
US clears Smithfield’s acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Penn Energy, Reuters, Lisa Baertlein and Aditi Shrivastava (10/9/13)
Chinese takeover of US Smithfield Foods gets US security approval Telegraph (7/9/13)
US clears Smithfield acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Reuters (7/9/13)
Go-ahead for Shuanghui’s $4.7bn Smithfield deal Financial Times, Gina Chon (6/9/13)
US security panel approves Smithfield takeover Wall Street Journal, William Mauldin (6/9/13)
- What type of takeover would you classify this as? Explain your answer.
- Why have other takeovers in oil, energy and technology not met with approval?
- Some people have raised concerns about the impact of the takeover on US pork prices. Using a demand and supply diagram, illustrate the possible effects of this takeover.
- What do you think will happen to the price of pork in the US based on you answer to question 3?
- Why do Smithfield’s shareholders have to meet before the deal can go ahead?
- Is there likely to be an impact on share prices if the deal does go ahead?