Tag: cross-elasticity of demand

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?

The price of petrol at the pumps has risen substantially over the past few years. In the UK, according to the AA, the average price between January and June 2011 was 133.13p. In the same period in 2010 it was 116.68p; and in the same period in 2008 it was 109.00p.

Over the first six months of 2011, the amount of petrol sold fell by 5.2 per cent. This was on top of the decline in consumption over the previous four years. Between 2006 and 2010 consumption of petrol fell by 17.4%. The consumption of petrol and diesel are given in the following table.

UK consumption of petrol and diesel (tonnes millions)

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Petrol 18.14 17.59 16.68 15.76 14.99
Diesel 20.15 21.07 20.61 20.06 20.87
Total 38.29 38.66 37.29 35.82 35.86

Source: Digest of United Kingdom energy statistics (DUKES) (Department of Energy and Climate Change)

So what has caused this decline in petrol sales? Are there multiple factors at work here? Have a look at the articles and consider the explanations.

Articles
Cash-strapped drivers cut petrol use by 15 per cent Channel 4 News (5/10/11)
Sales of petrol slump as skint motorists cut costs Daily Record, Jamie Grierson (5/10/11)
Petrol Sales Plunge As Cash Squeeze Tightens Sky News (6/10/11)
Fuel cost rise ‘forcing change in driver habits’ TRL News, Mary Treen (6/10/11)

Data
Digest of United Kingdom energy statistics (DUKES) Department of Energy and Climate Change
Fuel price report (monthly) Automobile Association
Brent Crude spot prices Energy Information Association

Questions

  1. What factors have caused a fall in consumption of petrol?
  2. If you choose to spend a set amount on petrol, what is your price elasticity of demand?
  3. What determines the price elasticity of demand for petrol?
  4. Why has the consumption of diesel fallen less than that of petrol?
  5. Under what circumstances would an increase in tax on road fuel of 3p per litre (as planned for January 2012), result in a decrease in tax revenue? Why would the price elasticity of demand for road fuel have to be significantly greater than 1 (ignoring the minus sign) and not merely above 1 for this to be the case?
  6. Why is it likely that people’s price elasticity of demand for road fuel will become less elastic the more they have cut back on consumption?
  7. Why is the demand for petrol likely to be more elastic with respect to (a) price, and (b) income over the longer term?
  8. To what extent is the demand for road fuel a ‘derived demand’?
  9. To what extent is the fall in the consumption of petrol a reflection of a movement along the demand curve for petrol or a shift in the demand curve? Explain.

The UK Supermarket industry is intensely competitive. It’s hard to slot it directly into a specific market structure, but it has many characteristics of an oligopoly – a market dominated by a few firms with intense competition, both price and non-price.

This competititve aspect of the market structure has become even more important as trading conditions become harsher. The latest development sees Sainsbury’s announcing its price promotion – it will match certain prices offered by Tesco and Asda in a bid to attract customers from its rivals.

The supermarket industry has a history of intense price wars and we can only expect them to increase. This is certainly in the interests of customers, as we face ever decreasing prices. It’s a market in which it certainly pays to shop around and compare prices. The following articles consider the latest developments in one of the most competitive markets out there.

Sainsbury’s joins price cut battle The Press Association (9/10/11)
Sainsbury’s follows rivals in price promotion BBC News (9/10/11)
Every basket helps, as supermarkets battle for shoppers Independent, Laura Chesters (9/10/11)
Sainsbury to extend price match trial Financial Times, Andrea Felsted (7/10/11)
Tesco profits grow but UK sales subdued BBC News (5/10/11)
Sainsbury’s to launch price match scheme The Telegraph, Harry Wallop (7/10/11)
Retail bully boys must not protect themselves unfairly Financial Times, Sarah Gordon (7/10/11)

Questions

  1. What are the characteristics of an oligopoly? To what extent do you think that the supermarket industry fits into an oligopolistic market structure?
  2. Are the price wars being carried out by Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda in the interests of consumers?
  3. What aspects of non-price competition have been undertaken by the big supermarket contenders? On what factors does the relative success of these pricing strategies depend?
  4. What might explain the growing presence of fast food companies in the top 100?
  5. How could the supermarkets use the concept of elasticity in determining the most effective pricing strategy?
  6. How has the economic climate affected the supermarket industry? Would you expect the impact to be smaller or larger than that in other sectors of the economy? Explain your answer.

BP has just published its latest projection of energy trends – its Energy Outlook 2030. According to the press release:

World energy growth over the next twenty years is expected to be dominated by emerging economies such as China, India, Russia and Brazil while improvements in energy efficiency measures are set to accelerate.

The following podcast from the Financial Times features a discussion of the report and the factors affecting oil prices and their relationship to economic growth

Webcast
Emerging economies seen driving energy demand Financial Times videos, John Authers and Vincent Boland (19/1/11)

Articles
Energy outlook Financial Times, Lex column (19/1/11)
BP energy outlook: main points The Telegraph (20/1/11)
High energy prices need not mean doom Sydney Morning Herald, Jeremy Warner (21/1/11)

Report
BP Energy Outlook 2030 (January 2011)

Data
Power slide The Economist: Daily Chart (19/1/11)

Questions

  1. What are the most powerful driving forces behind the demand for energy?
  2. Why does the report forecast virtually no increase in energy demand in developed countries? What assumptions are made about growth rates in OECD and non-OECD countries?
  3. What factors would lead to a substitution of sustainable energy sources for fossil fuels? What would detrmine the size of such substitution?
  4. What is the role of the price elasticity of demand for and supply of oil and the income elasticity of demand for oil in determining oil consumption in different parts of the world?
  5. Why may high energy prices not necessarily mean ‘doom’?

Whilst the internet and technological developments provide massive opportunities, they also create problems. For some time now, newspapers have seen declining sales, as more and more information becomes available online. Type something into Google or any other search engine and you will typically find thousands of relevant articles, even if the story has only just broken. As revenue from newspaper sales falls, revenue has to be made somewhere else to continue investment in ‘frontline journalism’. The question is: where will this come from?

The Financial Times and News Corp’s Wall Street Journal charge readers for online access and we can expect this to become more common from May, when the Times and the Sunday Times launch their new websites, where users will be charged for access. Subscription to these online news articles will be £1 per day or £2 for weekly access. Whilst the Executives of the Times admit that they will lose many online readers, they hope that the relatively low price, combined with a differentiated product will be enough of an incentive to keep readers reading.

Critics of this strategy argue that this a high risk strategy, as there is so much information available online. Whilst the BBC does plan to curtail the scope of its website, the Times and Sunday Times will still face competition from them, as well as the Guardian, the Independent, Reuters, etc., all of whom currently do not charge for online access. However, if you value journalism, then surely it’s right that a price should be charged to read it. Only time will tell how successful a strategy this is likely to be and whether we can expect other online news sites to follow their example.

Times and Sunday Times websites to charge from June (including video) BBC News (26/3/10)
Murdoch to launch UK web paywall in June Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw (26/3/10)
Times and Sunday Times websites to start charging from June Guardian, Mercedes Bunz (26/3/09)
News Corp to charge for UK Times Online from June Reuters (26/3/10)
Murdoch-owned newspaper charges for content BBC News (14/1/10)

Questions

  1. Why have newspaper sales declined?
  2. How might estimates of elasticity have been used to make the decision to charge to view online articles?
  3. ’If people value journalism, they should pay for it.’ What key economic concepts are being considered within that statement?
  4. Why is charging for access to the Times Online viewed as a high-risk strategy?
  5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy? To what extent do you think it is likely that other newspapers will soon follow suit?
  6. Which consumers do you think will be most affected by this strategy?
  7. In what ways might non-pay sites gain from theTimes’ charging policy?
  8. Would you continue to read articles from the Times linked from this site if you had to pay to access them? If so, why? If not, why not? (We want to know!!)