Monthly Archives: March 2012

Chris Cook

New Hefce data show England is experiencing the start of a market in undergraduate places with a very sudden shock. Read more

Emily Cadman

It’s perhaps no surprise that today’s UK ONS paper, a component of its measuring national wellbeing programme appears to show a nation unhappy with its work life balance, with 48 per cent reporting low satisfaction rates. It has become someone of a truism that long-hour-working Britons are unhappy with their lot. But are they really?

The most interesting part of the release is the apparent disconnect between individuals’ attitudes when they assess their work and leisure satisfaction levels separately and together.


Somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied(%)

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By Paul Hodges

Chemical prices might not be the first forecasting indicator that springs to mind, but over the recent economic crisis benzene in particular has highlighted economic shifts well before more traditional metrics.

Benzene’s 40 million tonnes of global sales are a key raw material for a very diverse group of end-products, including polystyrene cups, nylon clothing and carpets, pesticides and dyes. Equally, as it is produced from crude oil, benzene provides a highly-sensitive barometer of consumer reactions to changing energy prices.

A key metric is its price premium to naphtha (its oil-based feedstock). The chart above shows this metric since the crisis began in (using ICIS pricing data).

• Typically, the premium has found a floor at $150/tonne
• But it collapsed during October 2008, remaining very weak until February 2009
• The depth of the downturn was also demonstrated by the premium becoming a discount
• It then staged a sharp recovery, which took it back above the $150/t level
Therefore, benzene highlighted, well ahead of other indicators, both the downturn in the wider economy and the equally sudden upturn. Its recent performance therefore merits close attention. Read more

Chris Giles

Find out how your living standard compares.

Select the range of years that contains your date of birth and watch as the graphic draws the spread of UK household incomes for people of your generation.

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Chris Cook

One curiosity which is often overlooked in social policy discussion is who actually pays which taxes. Today, the Chancellor said that his reforming Budget would create:

A tax system where millions of the lowest paid are lifted out of tax altogether

He is referring to the policy of raising the income tax threshold towards a target of £10,000. But it is a mistake to say people below that line will be “out of tax”. Here is a graph, based on table 14 of this ONS document, showing how the tax burden varies.

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Martin Stabe

The Business Bellwether, run jointly by the Financial Times and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, canvassed the views of company secretaries from the FTSE 350 on a wide range of issues.