Recent evidence from the Institute of Economic and Social Research shows that the UK economy grew in April and May and that 2009 Quarter 2 figures will also show a rise in output. Although annual growth in GDP will still be negative, as the previous three quarters were all negative, recent growth suggests that the recession might have ‘bottomed out’ and that recovery is beginning.
Of course, it’s early days to tell whether these are real ‘green shoots’ or whether the economy will slide back into negative growth once more, but confidence is returning. One sign of this is the recent appreciation of sterling (see). The following articles look the rise of the pound, why it is occurring and whether the green shoots will flourish or wither.
Pound hits 2009 high against euro BBC News (11/6/09)
Sterling: what’s the outlook now? Telegraph (11/6/09)
Sterling hits year’s high versus euro ThisIsMoney (11/6/09)
Sterling leaves euro in its wake on hopes of UK recovery The Herald (11/6/09)
Jeremy Warner: Recession may be over but not the pain Independent (11/6/09)
Taking stock of the different economic signals Times Online (11/6/09)
- Why has the pound been appreciating?
- What are the implications of an appreciation of the pound for the UK economy?
- Why is the dollar likely to fall as the prospects for the world economy brighten?
- What evidence is there that the UK economy is now beginning to recover? What will determine whether or not the recovery will be sustained?
The following articles look at a recently published book by George Akerlof of the University of California, Berkeley, and Robert Shiller of Yale. They examine the role of what Keynes called ‘animal spirits’ and is the title of the book.
The motivation to make economic decisions (to buy, to sell, to invest, etc) may not be ‘rational’ in the sense of carefully weighing up marginal costs and marginal benefits. Rather it can be one of over-optimism in good times or over-pessimism in bad times. Just as individuals have ‘mood swings’, so there can be collective mood swings too. After all, confidence, or lack of it, is contagious. This motivation that drives people to action is what is meant by animal spirits.
But are animal spirits a blessing to be nurtured or a curse to be reined in? Should governments seek to constrain them?
An economic bestiary The Economist (26/3/09)
Good Government and Animal Spirits Wall Street Journal (23/4/09)
Irrational Exuberance New York Times (17/4/09)
Animal Spirits: A Q&A With George Akerlof Freakonomics: New York Times blog (30/4/09)
- Describe what is meant by ‘animal spirits’ and their effects on human behaviour.
- Why may animal spirits make economies less stable?
- How may animal spirits help to explain exchange rate overshooting?
- Discuss whether governments should seek to constrain animal spirits and make people more ‘rational’? Also consider what methods governments could/should use to do this?
Every six months the OECD publishes its Economic Outlook. This gives annual (and some quarterly) macroeconomic data for each of the 30 OECD countries, for all 30 countries together and for the eurozone. There are 63 tables covering most of the major macroeconomic indicators, most going back 13 years with forecasts for the next two years. OECD Economic Outlook is normally published in June and December.
Similarly, every six months the European Commission’s Economic and Financial Affairs Directorate publishes its European Economy Statistical Annex. This gives annual data for 76 macroeconomic variables for each of the EU countries, plus the USA and Japan. Most of the tables go back to 1970 and forecast ahead for two years. There is also a separate publication, Economic Forecasts. The statistical appendix to this publication has 62 tables, again covering a range of macroeconomic data. The tables go back to 1992 and again forecast ahead for two years. There is a lot of useful commentary about the individual economies of the EU and other major economies, such as the USA, Japan, China and Russia. Both publications normally appear in May and November.
Another organisation to publish 6-monthly forecasts is the International Monetary Fund. The Statistical Appendix of the Word Economic Outlook (after clicking on this, go to link on right), normally published in April and October, gives macroeconomic data for most economies and regions of the world. Forecasts are made ahead for two years and for five years.
The state of the world economy was so severe in early 2009 and was deteriorating so rapidly that earlier forecasts proved far too optimistic. In early 2009, all three organisations published interim forecasts – the European Commission and the IMF in January and the OECD at the end of March. They painted a much bleaker picture than the forecasts published at the end of 2008. What will the next set of forecasts look like? Will they be even bleaker?
The following links take you to these interim forecasts and to articles commenting on them.
EU interim forecasts for 2009–2010: sharp downturn in growth European Commission, Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (19/1/09)
World Economic Outlook Update IMF (28/1/09)
OECD Interim Economic Outlook, March 2009 OECD (31/3/09)
Global economy set for worst fall since WWII Times Online (31/3/09)
UK economy: We still need to take our medicine Times Online (1/4/09)
OECD predicts 4.3% contraction in richest economies this year Irish Times (1/4/09)
Global Slump Seen Deepening The Wall Street Journal (1/4/09)
Glimmers of hope, forecasts of gloom The Economist (2/4/09)
- Compare the forecasts for GDP growth, unemployment, inflation and output gaps for some of the major economies made by the OECD at the end of March with those made by the European Commission and the IMF in January and with those made by all three organisations in the autumn of 2008. Why, do you think, are there such large divergences in the forecasts?
- For what reasons might the OECD March forecasts turn out to be (a) much too pessimistic; (b) much too optimistic?
- In the light of the forecasts, should countries adopt further strongly expansionary fiscal policies – something rejected at the G20 summit in Early April (see news item Saving the world)?
Given all the attention that the recession has had for months in the media, it may be surprising to find out that in fact Britain only went into recession officially today (January 23rd 2009). This is because, as economists, we have a more precise definition of recession than much of the media. A recession is when there is two successive quarters of negative economic growth. Figures released by the ONS today, show that this is finally the case. The links below give a flavour of the media attention dedicated to this announcement.
Recession Britain: It’s official Guardian (23/1/09)
Countdown to recession Guardian (23/1/09)
No end to the melodrama Guardian (22/1/09)
Recession: we knew it was coming, but we didn’t know it would be this bad Times Online (24/1/09)
Recession: Sector-by-sector breakdown Times Online (23/1/09)
It’s official – Britain is in recession Times Online (23/1/09)
UK in recession as economy slides BBC News Online (23/1/09)
Recession figures heighten the gloom Independent (23/1/09)
UK recession: It’s official and the worst since 1980 Telegraph (23/1/09)
UK recession: How does this one compare to those since 1945 Telegraph (23/1/09)
UK recession: It’s now official Telegraph (23/1/09)
- Explain the principal reasons why the UK has fallen into recession.
- Discuss the extent to which the UK recession is likely to be worse than in other countries in Europe.
- Analyse whether the policies adopted by the UK government will reduce the length and depth of the UK recession.
- Evaluate two further policies that the governmnt could adopt to reduce the depth of the recession.
- Assess which sectors of the economy are likely to suffer (a) the most and (b) the least, as a result of the recession.
The Chancellor’s pre-Budget report was a massive political and economic gamble. The government has clearly recognised the potential seriousness of the economic situation and, in an attempt to avoid a prolonged recession, has injected £21bn into the UK economy in the form of tax cuts and spending increases. The headline grabbing changes were a cut in VAT and an increase in the top rate of income tax to 45% for those earning over £150,000 per year, but there was a raft of other changes including £3bn of public-sector infrastructure projects being brought forward.
Will this fiscal kick be enough to prevent a deep recession? The Chancellor clearly thinks so. He has amended his forecasts for economic growth to acknowledge that GDP will fall by 1% in 2009, but he believes growth will bounce back to 1.75% in 2010. The links below are to a selection of articles relating to the pre-Budget report, but there are plenty of other sites offering discussion and analysis of the issues relating to this unprecendented Keynesian fiscal boost.
Pre-Budget Report: Alistair Darling’s £1 trillion debt gamble Times Online (25/11/08)
Pre-budget report 2008 Guardian (25/11/08)
Pre-Budget report 2008 BBC News Online (25/11/08)
Average earners lose out in PBR BBC News Online (25/11/08)
Pre-Budget Report – the documents BBC News Online (25/11/08) Links to all pre-budget report documents as pdf files
Robinson and Peston analysis of PBR BBC News Online (25/11/08) Video from the Daily Politics show
Darling needs to cure a nation hooked on debt Guardian (24/11/08)
Darling unveils borrowing gamble BBC News Online (24/11/08)
Analysis: is this the death of New Labour? Times Online (24/11/08)
Alistair Darling announces £20bn economic boost Times Online (24/11/08)
Alistair Darling’s £20bn tax giveaway Times Online (24/11/08)
The mother of all gambles Guardian (24/11/08)
Obama and Darling: compare and contrast Guardian (24/11/08) Video comparing the packages announced by Alistair Darling and Barack Obama
The £21bn tax gamble Guardian (25/11/08)
Call this a cure? Guardian (25/11/08)
- Write a short paragraph outlining the main policies set out in the pre-Budget report.
- Evaluate the likely success of the policies announced in the pre-Budget report in preventing a prolonged recession for the UK economy.
- Discuss the short-term and long-term impact on the UK money markets of the high levels of borrowing required to fund the tax and spending changes set out in the 2008 pre-Budget report.
- Assess the likely impact of the increase in the top tax rate of income tax to 45% on (i) consumer expenditure growth, (ii) tax revenues, and (iii) the incentive for higher rate tax payers to work harder.
- Discuss whether a fiscal solution, such as that set out in the pre-budget report, or a monetary policy solution will be more effective at preventing a prolonged recession in the UK..