Tag: elasticity of demand

There’s some good news and some bad news concerning the balance of payments, according to figures just released. First the good: the trade in goods and services deficit narrowed from £4.89bn in August to £4.57bn in September; and the trade in goods deficit narrowed from £8.47bn to £8.23bn. Now the bad: the trade in goods and services deficit rose from £12.63bn in quarter 2 to £14.28bn in quarter 3 and the trade in goods deficit rose from £19.72bn to £21.33bn over the same period.

This is worrying as the recovery depends to a large part on a recovery in exports. These rose by only 1.36% from quarter 2 to quarter 3, whereas imports rose by 3.33%. And this is despite a fall in the exchange rate of the pound against the UK’s trading partners over the past four years. Looking at the quarter 3 figures, the exchange rate index was 104.3 in 2007, 91.6 in 2008, 82.9 in 2009 and 81.8 in 2010. What is also worrying is a very modest rise in manufacturing output.

UK’s September trade deficit smallest since June BBC News (9/11/10)
Record trade deficit for UK Guardian, Larry Elliott (9/11/10)
Britain’s trade gap: What the economists say Guardian (9/11/10)

UK Trade National Statistics
Statistical Bulletin: UK Trade September 2010 National Statistics
United Kingdom Balance of Payments – The Pink Book National Statistics (Balance of payments data going back many years)
Statistical Interactive Database: Effective exchange rates Bank of England


  1. How is a depreciation of its currency likely to affect a country’s balance of payments?
  2. What are the requirements for the UK to achieve an export-led recovery?
  3. Why did the UK’s balance of trade deteriorate between Q2 and Q3 of 2010?
  4. How might supply-side policy affect the balance of trade?
  5. What determines the income elasticity of demand for (a) UK imports; (b) UK exports?

You can hardly have failed to miss the snow! From children sledging to cars skidding and from being snowed in from work to being snowed in at work. In the UK, it only happens once in a while and when it does, life practically comes to a standstill. Why is this not the case in countries such as Norway? Well, one way of looking at it as that they’re used to it and have tried and tested methods of dealing with it and the investment to match. As we suffer from these severe conditions only once in a while, any significant investment in improving our ability to deal with it could be considered a waste of money.

However, many businesses affected by the snowy conditions will certainly not see it this way. Transport links have been disrupted: roads closed; trains stopped; airports closed; tunnels blocked and sports fields unplayable. The worst affected city centres have been deserted and retailers have subsequently suffered. Even if shoppers had made it to the shops, they may have found many of them closed, as staff struggled to make it in to work across the country. Office workers were being advised to work from home where possible and off-duty medical staff that could make it in to work were covering for those that couldn’t. Even emergency services were said to be going out only to life threatening situations.

Small businesses are suffering from declining sales, as deliveries cannot be made. Farmers too are facing major problems. Thousands of livestock are being frozen to death and many animals are without food, as farmers simply can’t get to them, suffering from snow drifts that have been up to 4 feet deep across Scotland. These are the worst conditions that some areas in Scotland have experienced in 50 years and they’re expected to continue for some time. Cattle farmers in the UK are also facing wasting thousands of litres of milk, as lorries find they cannot access the farms. This could simply mean pouring all this milk down the drain.

Estimates suggest that this cold winter could cost the UK economy £14.5bn in total from lost business. Daily costs will be about £690 million – certainly something that we don’t need in the current climate – financial that is! The following articles look at some of the problems faced across the UK. Read them and then think about the questions below.

Hundreds stranded as Eurostar train breaks down in channel tunnel again Mail Online, Peter Allen (7/1/10)
UK snow freezes transport links and thousands of schools (including video) Guardian, Peter Walker and Steven Morris (6/1/10)
Snowed in, out of pocket. Store staff face a wage freeze Guardian, Caroline Davis and John Stevens (6/1/10)
Livestock being frozen to death in their thousands Scotsman, Frank Urquhart, Alastair Dalton and Mark Smith (7/1/10)
Heavy snow damages business for hospitality industry Big Hospitality, Becky Paskin (6/1/10)
UK’s snowy winter could cost the economy £14.5bn Metro Reporter (7/1/10)
Business leaders criticise school closures BBC News (7/1/10)
Snow puts business continuity plans to the test Computer Weekly, Warwick Ashford (7/1/10)
Freezing weather will cost Welsh economy £25m a day Western Mail, David James (7/1/10)
Snow brings chaos – and beautiful scenes Cotswold Journal (7/1/10)
Local firms count the cost as the big chill continues Belfast Telegraph (7/1/10)
Is snow actually good for the economy? BBC Magazine, Anthony Reuben (15/1/10)

Businesses affected by bad weather BBC News (8/1/10)


  1. How have businesses been affected by the snow? Is opportunity cost relevant here?
  2. How is a cost of £14.5bn calculated? (See the article from Metro Reporter.)
  3. What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against more investment in techniques and equipment to combat these type of conditions?
  4. Why are pay freezes a possibility for some staff? Illustrate and explain the likely effects of this policy.
  5. Some shops have seen record sales in this snowy weather, with their shelves completely empty. Which shops would you expect to be in these circumstances and why? (See news item, A new concept for you – Thermal elasticity of demand)
  6. Which sector of the economy do you think will be the worst affected and why? Which sector’s losses are likely to have the biggest consequences for the UK economy?

“As snow sweeps the country, the UK has coped in the way it usually does – with surprise, confusion and chaos.” Not only have the transport authorities in many areas struggled to cope, but individuals too have been caught out. Many have rushed to stock up on things such as blankets, fires, de-icing equipment and warming foods.

But why does Britain cope worse than many other countries? Should more resources be diverted into keeping roads, airports and rail lines open? And how have individuals responded? How much have they stocked up on a range of cold-weather items and why? The linked article looks at these issues?

Why can’t the UK deal with snow? EU Infrastructure, Timon Singh (6/1/10)


  1. Does it make economic sense for the UK to invest relatively little in snowy-weather infrastructure?
  2. How should a local authority decide whether or not to (a) buy an additional gritting lorry; (b) increase its stock piles of grit? How would risk attitudes affect the decision?
  3. Why might a lower proportion of people get to work in the recent snowy weather than in equivalent weather 20 years ago?
  4. How might you define a ‘thermal elasticity of demand’ for a product, where the determinant of demand is the temperature?
  5. What factors determine the thermal elasticity of demand for a product? How is the short-term elasticity likely to be different from the longer-term elasticity and why?
  6. What would you need to include in measuring the full social costs to the economy of the cold spell?