In January 2011, Chinese growth accelerated to 9.8% as industrial production and retails sales picked up. As the second largest economy, this very high growth is hardly surprising, but it has caused concern for another key macroeconomic variable: inflation. Figures show that inflation climbed to 5.2% in March from a year before and the billionaire investor George Soros has said it is ‘somewhat out of control’. High property and food prices have contributed to high and rising inflation and this has led to the government implementing tightening measures within the economy.
In March, growth in property prices did finally begin to slow, according to the survey by the National Bureau of Statistics. Prices of new built homes had risen in 49 out of 70 Chinese cities in March from the previous months, but this was down from 56 cities in February. A property tax has also been implemented in cities like Shanghai and the minimum down payment required for second-home buyers has risen in a bid to prevent speculative buying. Bank reserve requirements have also been increased for the fourth time, after an increase in the interest rate at the beginning of April. The required reserve ratio for China’s biggest banks has now risen to 20.5%.
The situation in China is not the only country causing concern. Inflation in emerging markets is a growing concern, especially for the richer nations. The Singaporean finance minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said:
“When inflation goes up in emerging markets, it’s not just an emerging market problem, it’s a global inflation and possibly interest rate problem … We have learned from painful experience in the past few years that nothing is isolated and that risk in one region rapidly gets transmitted to the rest of the world.”
He has said that inflation in emerging markets needs addressing to ensure that it does not begin to threaten the economic recovery of other leading economies. The following articles consider the latest Chinese developments.
New home price growth dips amid government tightening BBC News (18/4/11)
China growth may cool in boost for Wen’s inflation campaign Bloomberg Business (14/4/11)
China steps up inflation fight with bank reserves hike Independent, Nikhil Kumar (18/4/11)
China raises bank reserves again Reuters (17/4/11)
China’s economy ‘is just too hot’ says Peter Hoflich BBC News (18/4/10)
Top G20 economies face scrutiny over imbalances AFP, Paul Handley (16/4/11)
Inflation in China poses big threat to global trade Global Business, David Barboza (17/4/11)
Chinese inflation to slow to 4% by year-end: IMF AFP (17/4/11)
Chinese economic growth slows but inflation soars Guardian, Tania Branigan (15/4/11)
- What type of inflation is the Chinese economy experiencing? Explain your answer using a diagram.
- To what extent will the minimum payment on second homes and the property tax help reduce the growth in Chinese property prices?
- Why is there concern about high inflation in emerging markets and the impact it might have on other countries?
- How could the inflation in China hurt the economic recovery of countries such as the UK?
- How will the increase in the banks’ reserve requirements help inflation?
- Is high Chinese growth and high inflation the relationship you would expect to occur between these macroeconomic objectives? Explain your answer.
GDP (or Gross Domestic Product) measures the value of output produced within a country over a 12-month period. It is this figure which we use to see how much the economy is growing (or shrinking). We can also look at how much different sectors contribute towards this figure. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant change in the output of different sectors, as a percentage of GDP, within the UK economy. In particular, the contribution of manufacturing has diminished, while services have grown rapidly.
However, there is one specific area that is making a growing contribution towards UK GDP and is expected to see acceleration in its growth rate by some 10% annually over the next few years: the internet. Although the internet is not an economic sector, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) said that if it was, it would be the UK’s fifth largest sector and according to a report by Google, it is worth approximately £100 billion per year to the UK economy. Furthermore, it is an area in which the UK is one of the leading exporters. The emergence of the internet has transformed industries and individual businesses and the trend looks set to continue. The report by Google found that some 31 million adults bought goods and services online over the past year, spending some £50 billion.
What are the benefits for businesses of internet shopping and does it have an impact on the retail outlets on Britain’s highstreets? The answer is undoubtedly yes, but is it good or bad? What does the emergence of this new ‘sector’ mean for the UK economy?
UK net economy ‘worth billions’ BBC News (28/10/10)
UK’s internet industry worth £100 billion report Guardian, James Robinson (28/10/10)
’Nation of internet shopkeepers’ pumps £100 billion into economy Independent, Nick Clark (28/10/10)
UK internet is now worth £100bn to UK economy Telegraph, Rupert Neate (28/10/10)
Google at 10 BBC News, Success Story, Tim Weber (4/9/08)
Britain’s £100bn internet economy leads the world in online shopping Guardian, James Robinson (28/10/10)
How the internet is transforming the UK economy The Boston Consulting Group October 2010
United Kingdom: National Accounts, The Blue Book 2009 Office for National Statistics 2009 edition
- What is the UK’s GDP? How does it compare with other countries and how has it changed over the past 10 years?
- How does internet provision contribute towards growth? Think about the AD curve. Illustrate this on a diagram and explain the effect on the main macroeconomic objectives.
- Is there a problem with becoming too dependent on this emerging sector?
- How has the internet and online environment helped businesses? Think about the impact on costs and revenue and hence profits.
- What explanation is there for the change in the structure of the UK economy that we have seen over the past few decades.
- Will internet shopping ever replace the ‘normal’ method of shopping? Explain your answer.
Oil affects our everyday lives. Whether it’s to heat your house, to run your car or to work out production costs, the price of oil is important. Commodity prices are determined by the interaction of demand and supply and oil prices are no different. As demand and supply for products and for oil itself change, so will the price of oil. However, any changes in the price of this valuable commodity will also have effects on macroeconomic variables, such as inflation. From a high of $147 (£90) per barrel in July 2008, it fell to $30 by the end of the year. But since then it doubled to reach $60 by May and has been around the $70 mark since.
How have these fluctuations affected the economy? Should more be invested in extraction? Extracting oil is an expensive process and requires huge investment, which is problematic given the current recession and various funding issues. The following articles consider this problem, as well as the impact it is likely to have on our economic recovery.
Total issues oil shortage warning BBC News (21/9/09)
Crude price ‘shock’ is next threat to recovery The Independent (22/9/09)
Oil prices slide on demand fears BBC News (21/9/09)
Pound drops as UK stocks fall for first time in seven days Oil-price.net (22/9/09)
Oil prices tumble amid worries over weak demand Channel News Asia (22/9/09)
Oil price touches high for 2009 BBC News (21/8/09)
FTSE soars over surge in oil prices The Press Association (21/9/09)
Oil price data can be found at:
Brent Spot Price (monthly) Energy Information Administration.
Note: you can select daily, weekly, monthly or annual data, and data for other oil markets too. Data can be downloaded to Excel.
- How is the price of oil determined? Why is it so volatile? How is price elasticity of demand relevant to your answer?
- Over the coming ten years, which factors are likely to affect (a) demand for oil (b) supply of oil?
- Explain whether the price of oil is likely to rise faster or less fast than general prices.
- How do changes in the price of oil affect the government’s macroeconomic objectives and its policy decisions?
- Explain why the price of oil is such an important consideration for firms
The post below considered the pound and now we look closer at some other international currencies and their movements. The pound has fallen, but what about the euro and the US dollar? What about the Japanese yen and the Australian and New Zealand dollars? How are the different currencies inter-related and how do they affect the various macroeconomic objectives? The following articles look at some of the recent movements in currencies. Consider these in relation to economic theory about exchange rates and government policy.
Pound plumbs five-month euro low BBC News (21/9/09)
Australian, N.Z. Dollars fall for third day as commodities drop Bloomberg (21/9/09)
Dollar ready to rise as greenback fades Brisbane Times (21/9/09)
Pound slips on Bank of England warning Times Online (21/9/09)
Canada’s dollar declines for second day on drop in commodities Bloomberg (21/9/09)
Yen firms versus European majors, hitting a 2-day high against pound Forex news (18/9/09)
Data on exchange rates can be found at:
Statistical Interactive Database – interest & exchange rates data Bank of England
- What have been the general trends in some of the main international currencies?
- The pound has fallen against the euro and the dollar, but what does this mean for the UK economy? And what about the USA and the rest of Europe?
- In the current climate, consider whether a fixed or floating exchange rate would be better for the economy.
- How do changes in exchange rates affect the government’s macroeconomic objectives?
Economic growth is normally seen as the most important long-term macroeconomic objective. Without economic growth, so it is argued, people will be unable to achieve rising living standards. But, according to Nicholas Stern, Professor of Economics and Government at the London School of Economics, former head of the Government Economic Service, former World Bank chief economist and author of the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, countries will need to reconsider making growth the goal of their societies.
Speaking to students at the People’s University of Beijing, Lord Stern warned that unless substantial cuts were made in carbon emissions, the effects of global warming would have devastating effects on people’s lives. As the Stern report stated, “Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms.” The implications are that countries must making cutting carbon emissions a priority and must reconsider their growth strategies. In his speech he said that “Beijing should shift the economy away from heavy industry, manufacturing for exports and other high-emission activities. Instead, it should focus more on domestic consumption, service industries and low-carbon technology.”
So should countries rethink their economic objectives? Is economic growth either a necessary or sufficient condition for an increase in human welfare? Read the articles and then consider the questions below.
World must help China shift to clean growth-Stern Reuters (11/9/09)
Stern Truths: Some Parts of China Have Western-Style Emissions Wall Street Journal (11/9/09)
Stern: Rich nations will have to forget about growth to stop climate change Guardian (11/9/09)
Stern words in Beijing Hot Topic (New Zealand) (13/9/09)
- Are the objectives of economic growth and tackling gobal warming necessarily incompatible?
- What would a low carbon growth strategy look like?
- What would you include in the opportunity costs of maintaining a high growth strategy compared with switching to a lower carbon, lower growth one?
- Consider whether economic growth is (a) a necessary condition; (b) a sufficient condition for a growth in the wellbeing of the human race.