Monthly Archives: November 2013

Emily Cadman

News this week that Repsol looks increasingly likely to accept a settlement from Argentina’s government over the forced nationalisation of its YPF subsidiary, makes a new paper from Chatham House on clashes over mineral contracts very timely.

The report suggests there is a clear correlation between rising oil prices and the number of disputes in the extractive industry (think oil, minerals and metals).

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Releasing market-moving data in full at an appointed hour ought to be a non-negotiable obligation of any government statistics agency. Yet it is a task that often proves too much for the Office for National Statistics. Official data are published by newswires at 9.30am on the day of release but there is often a delay before the same information appears on the agency’s website.

This week the UK Statistics Authority, which oversees the work of the ONS, rightly insisted that everyone should be able to access official data on equal terms. An obvious solution would be to fix the ONS website. Yet the UKSA also floated a more drastic proposal in which the ONS would no longer release reports in full on the morning of publication, instead dribbling out the numbers over the course of a day.

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Emily Cadman

A deal with cash-strapped Ukraine was originally supposed to be the centerpiece of today’s “Eastern Partnership” EU summit in Lithuania. But last week Ukraine froze plans to sign the EU integration agreement in favour of overtures from Russia.

The trade deal with the EU was expected to stimulate much-needed investment flows to Ukraine and exports via the removal of trade tariffs. But as this was contingent on reforms, benefits were likely to be longer term. A deal with Russia on the other hand – potentially a lowering of the price at which the country imports gas – could give a short term fillip to the economy.

Here is why Ukraine’s economy desperately needs a boost.

1. Reserves

First, and most crucially, is the question of Ukraine’s falling foreign exchange reserves.

As of October, foreign reserves stood at $20.6bn, down $6bn in the last year and only just covering three-months worth of imports – a level seen as the danger zone by many economists. And even under the most benign scenario projected UniCredit modeled this August see reserves falling further: Read more

There is a myth that the London Olympics were delivered within budget. This claim was used recently by David Cameron, the British prime minister, to win support for the proposed high-speed rail line to Birmingham.

The principal relevant facts are these. The first detailed specification of what was needed for London to host the games was drawn up in 2002 by Arup. The report by the engineering and planning consultancy put the cost at £1.8bn, much of it to be privately financed. An extended assessment was then commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport from PwC. The financial consultancy’s 2003 report estimated the total cost at £3.1bn, requiring a public subsidy of £1.3bn. The balance would be recovered from the private sector and from asset sales after the games. According to PwC’s risk assessment, the probability that the taxpayer would need to provide as much as £2bn was less than 5 per cent.

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Last year’s cold winter saw the number of excess winter deaths jump by nearly a third, according to official data.
The Office for National Statistics estimates that there were 31,000 excess winter deathsin England and Wales in 2012/13, a rise of 29 per cent on the previous year.

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Market-sensitive data on economic growth, inflation and employment could be “drip fed” into the public domain because the Office for National Statistics’ website regularly failed to publish them at 9.30am.

Britain’s regulator of statistics has proposed that only the headline number for the most important economic statistics should initially be available online, with the full data sets published an hour later.

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By Andrew Jack and John Burn-Murdoch

The good news is that we are living longer. Among OECD nations, average life expectancy exceeded 80 years in 2011. There is a strong link to income but also to the structure of national health systems. The biggest outliers are Russia, Norway and the US, with below average life in relation to GDP per capita. Read more

By Andrew Jack

The global sales of prescription medicines is starting to accelerate and will reach $1 trillion next year, according to new estimates from IMS.

The data shows slowed growth since the 2008 financial crisis, when the loss of lucrative patents on drugs pushed down prices for drug companies just as the economic slowdown imposed austerity measures by governments and squeezed incomes by individuals paying out of pocket for healthcare. Read more

British graduates today are saddled with debt and have starting salaries below those of the pre-recession cohort. To make matters worse, those who secure a highly sought-after job in central London will struggle to find an affordable room to rent unless they move out to the suburbs and take on a lengthy commute.

Find out how affordable different properties are at different salary levels across London using the interactive map below, which was made using data provided by Hometrack.

Emily Cadman

The new radio series from Sir Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, is an entertaining, accessible look at Britain’s social history – and one that readers of this blog will probably find rather interesting.

(c) Financial Times/Shaun Curry

Sir Andrew opens the first episode declaring “It is about us, not governments”, and that is the theme running through the series. With a mixture of single statistics, and interviews he tries to build a picture of changes in the life of ordinary British people, rather than looking at policy.

With each episode clocking it at around 15 minutes, and the timeframe running from medieval times to the current day, the programme aims for historical sweep, rather than contemporary analysis. Read more

Emily Cadman

After five years of historically low interest rates across the US, UK and eurozone, Wednesday’s vastly improved job forecast from the Bank of England raised the prospect of a return to more normal monetary policy.

A report out today from McKinsey attempts to quantify the impact of years of ultra lose monetary policy has been on the winners – and losers. Whilst there are few surprises in the report, it does attempt to put numbers on the winners and losers.

Unsurprisingly, it is governments that come out on top. The consultancy estimates that between 2007 and 2012 the US, UK and eurozone governments collectively benefited to the tune of $1.6tr from lower borrowing costs and the increased profits from central banks.

For consumers though it is a mixed bag. Read more

Kate Allen

By Kate Allen, Callum Locke and Martin Stabe

House prices in the UK are a perennial topic of interest. But different indices measure house prices in different ways, causing confusion among home-owners, who can’t be sure whether their house price is going up or down.

This has become particularly noticeable in recent years as the indices readings have diverged.

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The Office for National Statistics has just published October 2013 inflation figures. These show the consumer price inflation rate falling from 2.7 per cent in September to 2.2 per cent last month, a much greater fall than the average of economists’ expectations of a drop to 2.5 per cent. The discredited retail price index, which is still used to uprate index-linked government bonds, rail fares and other utility bills fell from 3.2 per cent in September to 2.6 per cent. The essential news and context comes in the following five charts.

1. Inflation falling faster than Bank of England expected

The BoE produces quarterly inflation forecasts. In the third quarter, its economists’ central forecast was that CPI inflation would stand at 2.8 per cent. It came in at 2.7 per cent, which was well within the normal margins of error. The early indication of the fourth quarter with inflation falling to 2.2 per cent in October, is considerably below the BoE’s 2.9 per cent central forecast. Again, this reading well within the margin of error. The bank estimated a 17 per cent probability inflation would lie between 2 per cent and 2.5 per cent this quarter, showing just what an imprecise science short-term inflation forecasting is.

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Emily Cadman

Beneath Wednesday’s headline estimation the UK’s population will rise by just under 10 million over the next 25 years is a trove of data set to be picked over by statisticians.

Whilst the Office for National Statistics stresses the numbers are not forecasts and do not predict the impact of future policies, the numbers form the basis for a host of policy calculations – notably in health, education, housing and pensions. Here are a few of the key underlying trends: Read more

Industrial production and manufacturing figures for September were published by the Office for National Statistics this morning. They showed manufacturing picked up in September a little more than the statisticians had expected when they estimated third quarter economic growth, but not enough to trigger a revision to the 0.8 per cent initial growth estimate. The following five charts add some detail and put the figures in context.

1. Manufacturing still has a long way to recover

For all the talk of the “March of the makers“, manufacturing remains over 8 per cent below the economy’s 2008 peak and even further below the peak of manufacturing output which was reached in November 2000. Production, which also includes coal mining, oil and gas extraction, electricity, gas and water supply and sewerage has performed even worse since 2008, mostly due to the decline in North Sea oil and gas extraction.

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Kate Allen

He calls it the biggest story of our lifetime – and he’s on a mission to make sure that everybody knows it.

Hans Rosling – rockstar data wrangler, global stats icon, Swedish health professor – will use a one-hour BBC TV programme on Thursday to try to convince us we don’t know what we think we know about the world.

This vital truth: the global population boom is fizzling out. “This is a fact that media have missed. It has failed to communicate,” Rosling told the FT.

The rate of growth of the world’s population accelerated sharply over the past half a century, leading to much rhetoric about over-population and exhaustion of the planet’s resources.

But, as Rosling will argue in tomorrow night’s programme, the world’s population is set to plateau by the end of the century. All that Malthusian rhetoric about the population timebomb? Redundant. Read more

Emily Cadman

Can social media data give useful real-time information during the progress of natural disasters? A group of academics thinks it could.

Researchers from Warwick University in the UK looked at pictures uploaded to Flickr during the lead-up and aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As the two graphs below show, there was a strong correlation between the number of pictures taken and atmospheric pressure.

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Twitter is going public and has been valued at up to $17.4bn, but that could be low as the company could be trying to achieve a large IPO pop once its shares start trading. But what do you think it is worth? What assumptions would you need to make to arrive at this conclusion?

Enter your projections for Twitter’s sales growth, profitability, capital expenditures, terminal growth rate and cost of equity in our IPO calculator below to see how key assumptions affect the potential market value of the social networking firm’s offering. You can then share your valuation with others.

Chinatowns gif

Gentrification and commercial developments are breaking up Chinatowns in US and British cities, squeezing Chinese communities out of the vibrant neighbourhoods that grew up around earlier generations of migrants.

The changing demographics of New York City further highlight this pattern, with Asian communities having sprung up in Flushing and Queens, where they were traditionally focused in Lower Manhattan.

The animated maps above show decadal changes in the spread of localised Chinese and Asian communities in London, New York and San Francisco, created using data from the 2001 and 2011 editions of the UK census and the US censuses of 2000 and 2010. Read more