Facts might be sacred, but statistics are somewhat more pliable.

As my colleague Chris Giles revealed this morning, the introduction of global accounting standards in the UK this autumn is set to propel Britain up the savings ratio rankings.

We don’t know yet whether this means Britain’s reputation as a spendthrift nation is on the way out, but there is little doubt statistical changes can shape the way we think about countries.

1. Italy’s 1987 “Il sorpasso”

How do you measure the black economy? Well, when Italy took its first stab at it in 1987, its economy grew by 18 per cent overnight, overtaking Britain in the international rankings and prompting celebrations in Rome.

Italy’s GDP figures today are still adjusted to take account of the notoriously large size of the shadow economy. Estimates put it at between 20 and 25 per cent of its total GDP, compared to an average among industrial countries of some 15 per cent. Read more

Falling inflation, galloping house prices, rising retail sales and growing business confidence are all feeding into expectations for strong economic growth in the UK this year.

With the first quarter GDP numbers due out later this month, expect a tidal wave of discussion and comment about the completeness of the UK recovery. But a timely new paper from the Office for National Statistics offers a good reminder of why GDP on its own is a poor measure of economic well-being.

Take GDP itself as a starting point.

It is calculated without reference to the size of population, so while the headline number has re-bounded, when you consider population growth the picture looks a lot less rosy.

Per person, it has barely budged since 2008. On the official budget forecasts, UK economic output will have risen 8 per cent between the two general elections, per capita gross domestic product is predicted to have increased by only 3.8 per cent. But until this gap narrows, families are unlikely to feel better offRead more

by Andrew Jack

From trade embargoes to arms blockades, sanctions have long been an extension of conflict by non-military means. Since the start of the twenty-first century, there has been growing use of “targeted” sanctions that draw on intelligence to pinpoint individuals for travel bans or asset freezes. The United Nations, the European Union and the US have announced a wide series of measures, while other organisations including the African Union and individual countries have also issued them with varying degrees of success.

There is fierce debate about the effectiveness of sanctions, with at least two organisations seeking to assess their mixed impact. Our interactive graphic draws on the global analysis by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Targeted Sanctions Consortium, based in Switzerland. Read more

Business users breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday after the UK’s statistics authorities announced they have decided against scrapping the 200-year-old census. They plan instead to replace paper forms mailed to households with an online questionnaire. Read more

Martin Stabe

Banks have paid more than $100bn in legal settlements with US regulators since the financial crisis, data compiled by FT reporters shows.

 Read more

(c) Getty Images

Anyone who spends time in the capital, where flocks of cyclists are a feature of life, will nod in recognition at the news that the number of people cycling to work in London has doubled over the last decade.

But what’s less known is how far this increase has been driven by the gentrification of inner London. House prices have soared in London’s poorest urban boroughs as 20-somethings and families have stayed in London, rather than moving out to suburbia.

Local authority Change in average house price 2001-2011 Change in people cycling to work 2001-2011 IMD ranking (1=most deprived)
Tower Hamlets 76.5% 251.8% 1
Hackney 111.7% 231.8% 2
Southwark 97.6% 163.6% 3
Islington 95.5% 159.0% 6
Haringey 97.8% 147.5% 11

(Source: ONS, Land Registry) Read more