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After a month of silence from the Bank of England as a result of purdah – the constitutionally imposed pre-election quiet period for public bodies – front row seats for Wednesday’s inflation report are at a premium. Read more
In bitesized form, here is a checklist of what we do – and don’t know about the man who would be prime minister’s plans: Read more
Fancy yourself a fully paid up chart and data nerd? Well the Bank of England is looking for you.
To publicise the launch of a more open research agenda, the BoE is offering a £5,000 prize to the best data visualisation using one (or more) of six datasets it has added to its website.
Of course, potential entrants could be keeping their ideas top secret, but by far the dataset attracting most initial interest was the three centuries of macroeconomic research data, which makes a whole treasure trove of long run data – such as wages and prices from 1661 to 2012 – available to the general public.
Politicians of all hues will be looking more closely – and more nervously – than normal at the official public sector borrowing figures out this morning.
This is Chancellor George Osborne’s last chance to get a substantial tax bump in the public finances before the election to achieve the deficit reduction he’s put at the heart of his political programme.
So far this year the government has borrowed nearly the same as the previous one, despite strong economic growth. It is banking on getting a big boost from self-assessment taxes this month, which could give Mr Osborne considerably more room to manoeuvre at the Budget.
If the uplift doesn’t come in strongly, in the biggest month of the year for receipts, it will become nearly impossible for the government to meet this year’s borrowing targets and fuel concerns there has been a structural decline in income tax receipts.
1. Self- assessment income tax receipts
The Treasury has been banking on January being a bumper month for income tax receipts, because of the behavioural changes around the dropping of the top rate of income tax.
In the spring of 2013, a number of higher-rate taxpayers moved their income from the 2012-13 tax year into the 2013-14 tax year to take advantage of the cut in the higher rate of income tax from 50 to 45p. Read more
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The Bank of England is studiously non-party political. But with the UK economy – and the cost of living – centre stage in an election campaign that is steadily ramping up, the central bank’s quarterly inflation report on Thursday will be more closely scrutinised than usual. Read more
How well is Britain’s economy doing? The default answer has always been to look at GDP – which is why legions of city analysts are anxiously hunched over their screens at precisely 9.30am every quarter.
But over the past decade there has been widespread acceptance that this headline number doesn’t adequately describe whether most people are in fact feeling better off. Read more
The central banks might be keeping us guessing, but businesses have no doubts where they first expect interest rates to rise.
Forty-nine per cent of respondents to the latest FT/Economist Global Business Barometer said that the US Federal Reserve would be the first to raise rates, with the Bank of England a distant second with a 14 per cent share. Read more
Are you a wealth accumulator, making good progress or burdened by debt? New research from think-tank the Smith Institute attempts to put a human face on all those distributional graphs of wealth inequality.
The report, published on Wednesday, calculates that property ownership in the UK, having risen dramatically in the last century, has peaked at 67 per cent of households and is likely to fall to 60 per cent by 2025. Read more
What to do about British manufacturing? There is hardly a politician in the country who hasn’t called for the sector to get a boost. But the Office for National Statistics is set to stress today that popular perceptions manufacturing is disappearing from the UK are wide of the mark.
New analysis, to be presented by ONS chief economist Joe Grice at a conference on the changing shape of manufacturing, will focus on the sector’s move up the value chain despite an unquestioned reduction in employee numbers. Read more
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With housing never off the front pages, you’d expect housing statistics to be an area Britain would excel.
It turns out that isn’t quite the case.
Last November, in response to demands for a measure of inflation which included the costs of housing services associated with owning, maintaining and living in one’s own home, the ONS introduced a new index called the CPIH.
It used a measure called rental equivalence – the rent someone could expect to pay to live in an equivalent home – as a proxy for the costs faced by the owner.
But today, less than a year later, the UK Statistics Agency announced it has stripped the CPIH of status as an national statistic (the top rank of official statistics)* due to methodological concerns (PDF). Read more
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 off. Read more
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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.
||Change in average house price 2001-2011
||Change in people cycling to work 2001-2011
||IMD ranking (1=most deprived)
(Source: ONS, Land Registry) Read more
Turmoil, panic, retreat: it’s not been a pretty start to the year for emerging market currencies and stock markets. Here, in seven charts, is the story of 2014 so far.
1. The equity context
As the base of the turmoil is the reverse of the post-crisis trend in capital flows, which began last summer on talk of the Fed taper. Money is leaving the emerging markets and returning to Europe. EPFR Global, which tracks investment flows, estimates that emerging market equity outflows hit $12.2bn in January.
News that Lloyds has raised to an eye-watering £9.8bn its provisions to cover claims over the mis-selling of payment protection performance (PPI) is a reminder the issue is far from over for UK banks.
The big five high street banks have set aside just under £20bn to date to cover both compensation and the associated administrative costs of assessing claims. Lloyds is by far the worst hit of the major UK banks, but the sums set aside by the others are still substantial.
If you follow a certain section of the internet, over the last day your news feed has probably been buzzing with obscure clues to cryptography, William Blake’s poetry, transcendentalism and of course Cicada images.
If not, you’d be forgiven for wondering what this is all about.
So what is it this all about?
Back in January 2012, on one the biggest websites you’ve probably never heard of, there was a clue. The /x/ (paranormal) board of 4chan, an anarchic image posting forum, featured an image, with simple white on black text declaring:
And so the first trail began. An elaborate rabbit warren of a hunt using codes and ciphers and requiring knowledge of philosophy and, cyber punk among much else to follow the clues – which included posters stuck to telegraph poles around the globe. Read more
What would the UK capital look like if you mapped its amenities only using open data? This image, created as a piece of art work for the London Open Data Summit, offers one answer.
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).
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.
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
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 deaths
in England and Wales in 2012/13, a rise of 29 per cent on the previous year.