When anyone buys assets – shares, a house, a car or whatever – one important consideration is their likely future value. But the future is uncertain. Your decision to buy, therefore, depends not just on the direct return of the asset (the rate of interest or the pleasure from using the asset) but also on your predictions about the future value of the asset and your attitudes to risk. But with the future of markets so uncertain, or at least the timing of market movements, what’s the best thing to do? The article below considers some of the issues.
The irrelevant future Investors Chronicle (6/4/09)
- Distinguish between ‘risk’ and ‘uncertainty’.
- What is meant by a ‘bear’ in the context of investing in shares? Explain why ‘intelligent bears’ would ‘leave some money in the market’.
- Faced with uncertainty, why might sticking to a simple ‘do nothing’ rule be the best policy?
- If capital markets were efficient in the strongest sense, where everyone has perfect information about the future, would people be able to make large returns on investing in shares and other assets?
According to the Nationwide building society, house prices rose in March for the first time in 16 months. Does this mean that the decline in UK house prices is over? Or is this just a ‘blip’ in a continuing downward movement? The following articles look at the causal factors influencing house prices.
UK house prices rise first time in 16 months Times Online (2/4/09)
House prices show slight increase in March Guardian (2/4/09)
Surprise bounce to March house prices Nationwide press release (2/4/09)
- Identify the factors on the demand and supply side that have caused the fall in house prices since mid 2007.
- What have been the main reasons why house prices rose in March 2009?.
- How likely is it that house prices will now continue to rise?
- What role does speculation play in the movement of house prices? What role is speculation likely to play in the next few months?
The term hyperinflation is almost an understatement when it comes to describing the level of inflation in Zimbabwe. In July 2008, inflation was estimated to be 231 million per cent. In January 2009, two estimates were made: one of 5 sextillion per cent (5 and 21 zeros); the other of 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion per cent (65 and 107 zeros). These figures are simply mind-boggling for most people living in low-inflation economies.
Commentators say that prices can double in a single day and this can render banknotes useless very quickly. In fact, local banknotes are scarcely used as people turn to overseas currencies that offer more stability. Recognising this, in late January 2009 the government officially allowed foreign currencies to be used in Zimbabwe as well as the Zimbabwe dollar.
In an attempt to stabilise the currency the Zimbabwean central bank on more than one occasion has tried dropping several zeros from the currency. But this has had little effect and in January 2009 a new series of banknotes was issued, including a Z$100 trillion note. This is unlikely to be the last issue though, but what comes after a trillion?
Zimbabwe rolls out Z$100tr note BBC News Online (16/1/09)
ZIMBABWE: Inflation at 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent IRIN News (United Nations) (21/1/09)
- Define the term hyperinflation.
- Analyse the main causes of hyperinflation.
- Discuss policies that the Zimbabwean government could adopt to try to reduce the level of inflation in the economy.
- Assess the impact of hyperinflation on the other major macro-economic targets.
- Research another instance of hyperinflation and write a brief summary of the cause(s) and the solution(s). You may find the Wikipedia entry on hyperinflation a good starting point.
Times of economic uncertainty often lead to people seeking what they consider as ‘safe havens’ for their money. Traditionally gold has been one of these safe havens. This financial crisis has been no exception and the price of gold has risen, but there has also been a rapid growth in demand for gold bullion and gold coins and dealers have found themselves besieged by people looking to protect their savings. ATS Bullion, a London gold bullion dealer, has even seen queues: something quite unprecedented for them.
There’s gold in them thar’ shops: the rush is on Guardian (2/10/08)
Austria witnesses new gold rush BBC News Online (12/10/08)
Gold rush as investors pile into bars Financial Times (3/10/08)
Market turmoil sparks gold rush to specialist funds Times Online (13/10/08)
||What the main determinants of demand for gold coins and gold bullion?
||Using diagrams as appropriate, show the changes that have taken place in the market for gold coins in recent months.
||Discuss the extent to which the supply of gold bullion is likely to keep up with the rapid growth in demand.
Oil prices have seen a relentless rise in recent weeks with much speculation that they will go over $100 a barrel in the near future. The high oil price has seen the average price of petrol go over £1 per litre in the UK, shortages and rationing in Tehran and violence in Yemen. So what is causing oil prices to rise and what impact is this likely to have on the global economy?
Tempests, truckers and tribesmen – another week in the oil market Guardian (10/11/07)
Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest, says new study Guardian (22/10/07)
The high oil price may begin to take its toll Times Online (12/11/07)
What is driving oil prices so high? BBC News Online (6/11/07)
OPEC: the oil cartel in profile BBC News Online (18/10/07)
Oil price rises after OPEC summit BBC News Online (19/11/07)
Oil markets explained BBC News Online (18/10/07)
Oil prices BBC News Online – Evan Davis blog (10/11/07)
Super-spiked The Economist (1/11/07)
The OPEC statement on oil prices BBC News Online – video link (19/11/07)
||Using supply and demand analysis, show the reasons why oil prices are rising.
||Using diagrams as appropriate, assess the likely impact of rising oil prices on the level of economic growth in the UK.
||Discuss the extent to which OPEC has been the main cause of the rise in oil prices.