Monthly Archives: July 2012

By guest contributor Paul Hodges

I suggested in an earlier post that chemical prices were an excellent leading indicator for the health of the global economy. The data highlighted that firms were finding it difficult to pass through crude oil related price increases. In turn, this was a warning that both the global and Chinese economies might be slowing faster than generally supposed. This caution since seems to have been amply justified.

Thus a new initiative by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) deserves watching. The ACC is the trade body for the US chemical industry, and it has developed a new Chemicals Activity Barometer which aims to provide early warning of changes in the wider US economy.

 Read more >>

Martin Stabe

We launched the FT’s economically-weighted medal table on Sunday night.

Rather than ranking the table in the conventional format – gold medals followed, where equal, by silver medals and finally bronze medals – we are ranking counties by their performance against a benchmark developed from four economic models. These predict success on the basis of socioeconomic factors that have been shown to contribute to Olympic performance historically.

Even on our weighted measure, China leads with its 12 medals, representing 4.6 more than would be expected at this stage of the games. Italy’s seven medals place its over-achievement to date hundredths of a percentage point behind. Great Britain, by contrast, is near the foot of our table, underachieving by 2.8 medals so far. Read more >>

The Olympics are finally here and the web is awash with interactive graphics and visualisations.

Here are the ones it’s worth taking a second look at:

Dressed for a world record?
This is a must-view for swimming fans. The invention of slick, hi-tech bodysuits enabled a series of world records to be broken, but since the suits were banned in 2010 few records have been beaten. The Washington Post looks at the evolution of Olympic swimwear and tracks this against world records in each swimming discipline. Read more >>

Martin Stabe

Over the next two weeks, the Olympic “medal table”, ranking nations according to the number of gold, silver and bronze medals their athletes have collected in London will be widely reported.

But there will be few surprises: The United States, China and Russia will almost certainly top the table, followed by the smaller wealthy countries. Great Britain will most likely fare better than usual, because the host nation usually does.

Population, GDP per capita, past performance and “home advantage” appear to have a strong relationship to nations’ Olympic success, a common-sense observation that has long been demonstrated by social science.

Substantial academic literature, stretching back to the 1950s, has been produced by economists, sociologists and political scientists using statistical techniques to relate nations’ macroeconomic conditions to their Olympic performance, and forecasting upcoming games.

Typically, these take the form of regression analyses that use historical macroeconomic data as independent variables to account for participating countries’ medal share at the Olympics.

During the London games, the FT will use three four such models as a benchmark to rank our medal table according to teams’ ability to outperform models that account for their size, wealth and other socioeconomic factors: Read more >>

Chris Cook

The new higher education fee structure, beginning in 2012, will allow universities in England to levy fees up to £9,000 a year.

This table shows each institution’s minimum,  maximum, and average fees, according to figures released on Thursday by the Office for Fair Access, along with the expected number of undergraduates it will have in 2012-2013. Read more >>

Kate Allen

On the face of it, the ONS’s loss of nearly half a million people in its mid-year population estimates would seem like a bad news story for the statisticians. But counter-intuitively the omission is a positive sign.

The 2011 Census found that there were 56.1m people in England and Wales, up from the ONS’s extrapolated estimate of 55.6m. Nearly half of the error is a hangover from the previous Census in 2001. At that time the ONS managed to lose a staggering 1m people, most of whom were accounted for in a post-Census review. The remaining 209,000 have been added back into this year’s Census, marking probably the final major adjustment to 2001’s flawed data. Read more >>