Kate Allen

Global markets are holding their breath in anticipation of today’s vital monetary policy announcement by the US Federal Reserve.

Fed governor Ben Bernanke must decide whether to begin to ease back on its third programme of quantitative easing. The market expectation is for the Fed’s open markets committee to take a fairly timid step into the brave new world of tapering. Read more

Kate Allen

by Kate Allen and Sarah Mishkin

Apple’s simultaneous product launch in California and Beijing was the latest sign that the global brand is attempting to push into Asian markets.

But Apple’s foray into China has not so far been an unmitigated success. In fact, the brand seems to be struggling to seize the market.

Why is this? Here are six key points about the Chinese mobile market that might help to explain. Read more

Kate Allen

One of the most striking aspects of today’s data from the latest British Social Attitudes survey is the change in people’s opinions about mothers who work.

The proportion of people who believe women who work don’t damage their children has risen sharply since 2006, the last time the question was asked. More than three-quarters of people now support working mothersRead more

Kate Allen

An entertaining theory doing the rounds is that today’s surprisingly poor nonfarm payrolls numbers are due to a recent shutdown of porn studios in Los Angeles.

It’s certainly an interesting idea – and it’s true that there was a dramatic drop in the number of jobs in the motion picture industry in August. Read more

The census a beacon for statisticians and historians for more than 200 years – will be scrapped under proposals to be unveiled this month, prompting fears that policy making will suffer from the loss of valuable social data.
A consultation by the Office for National Statisticswill outline two options for replacing the census, which has been in operation in England and Wales since 1801.Politicians have complained in recent years that the census – carried out every 10 years – is too expensive. In 2011, it cost £480m and employed 35,000 people. Read more

Kate Allen

US economic growth has been revised upwards to 2.5 per cent. A pretty impressive rate, given that the UK is currently stagnating at just 0.7 per cent. On the other hand, it looks less impressive when compared to China’s booming 7.6 per cent (even though, for China, that’s a slowdown).

But wait a minute. Economists across the land are howling in pain at this jumble of misinterpretation. These rates aren’t comparable at all – because they’re all measuring different things. Read more

Kate Allen

The number of working-age households in the UK has fallen for the first time since data collection began nearly 20 years ago, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Household growth has been fairly steady over the past two decades, with the overall population continuing to grow, and this is the first time figures* have actually dropped. Pressures such as low real wage growth and rising housing costs have created economic constraints in recent years which could help to explain the dramatic shift.

UK households

In particular, the numbers of single-person and lone parent households have fallen, hinting at housing affordability pressures. The number of couples with dependent children (under 18s) rose year-on-year, suggesting that families may be staying together rather than separating. Read more

Emerging markets have been pummelled since May when talk of the US Federal Reserve reducing its asset purchase programme began. Worries that the end of cheap money would raise borrowing costs and reverse the massive inflows that emerging markets had enjoyed since western central banks introduced extraordinary measures in 2009, has taken its toll particularly on markets that suffer from current account deficits. Central banks of emerging markets have started to act to shore up their currencies and confidence, but how do these economies stack up against each other in terms of economic health, and which ones are more vulnerable?

Kate Allen

The rupee is tumbling once more – and for those with long memories, this all looks rather familiar.

In 1991 investors deserted India as turbulence descended: prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and what’s now known as the Balance of Payments Crisis gripped the country.

The episode was enough to put a serious dent in the country’s booming economic growth.

India GDP

What caused it? Read more

Kate Allen

House prices in Britain may be booming once more.

But unlike the bubble of the last decade, this one is very narrowly focused. In fact, it’s really only London that’s seen any growth since the previous national average house price peak in 2008.

Good news for Londoners. But they should put down the champagne: in fact, most of them haven’t benefited that much at all.

Most areas have seen some price growth since 2008. But there are just a handful of stand-out winners. And – yes, even in London – some people have actually seen their house prices fall.

London winners and losers

The clearest winners are the two historic cities: London and Westminster. Yes, prices there really have soared since 2008. The average house price in Westminster topped £1m for the first time last year and is now at £1.3m; up from £746,000 five years earlier.

Perhaps more surprisingly, two rather more down-at-heel boroughs, Southwark and Hackney, are also seeing booming prices. They’ve even managed to push perhaps the most desirable borough of them all, Kensington & Chelsea, into fifth place. Read more

Kate Allen

by Kate Allen and Roger Blitz

Usain Bolt lines up in Moscow for this weekend’s athletics World Championships as red-hot favourite for the 100m sprint title.

This chart shows all the official International Association of Athletics Federation times run by men in the 100m in under 10 seconds. It has become a relatively common achievement in the past few decades, but Bolt is a phenomenon, head and shoulders above every runner in the history of the sport – even those later disqualified for having taken performance-enhancing drugs.

 Read more

Kate Allen

Last month, in advance of a report on 14 hospital trusts with relatively high death rates, it was widely reported that there had been 13,000 “unnecessary” deaths.

But, as a leading academic points out in today’s British Medical Journal, this demonstrates an epic lack of understanding of the concept of an average.

The 13,000 figure is the difference between the actual number of deaths in the 14 hospitals compared to the “expected” level. But what some writers failed to understand is that the “expected” level equated to the national average. As a result much of the coverage was seriously misleading, according to David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge. Read more

Kate Allen

It’s the big demographic story you haven’t even heard of – or is it?

Since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition came to power in May 2010, British people have been leaving the country in droves.

The number of British emigrants has risen from 128,000 to 154,000 in the past three years, while those returning to Britain has fallen from 96,000 to 79,000. The consequence is that British net migration has more than doubled.

British migration

But hold fire – all is not what it seems.

The change in emigration numbers is within the margin of error – it’s not statistically significant. In layman’s terms, that means the variations are random noise, not a meaningful change.

Let this be a clear warning: you may not know what you think you know. Read more

Kate Allen

Thirty new peers have been appointed to the British House of Lords. The second chamber of the UK’s legislative system, the unelected body is the second-largest legislative body in the world, after the National People’s Congress of China.

Both of the UK’s Houses of Parliament fall into the top ten. Read more

The US economy has gained some pounds.

The national accounts have undergone their most extreme methodological makeover in years and the results not only show that the world’s largest economy is bigger than previously understood, but the 2008-09 Great Recession was not as deep either. Read more

Kate Allen

Potentially historic elections are about to take place in Zimbabwe.

Former opposition leader and current prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai will be seeking to oust longstanding president Robert Mugabe, with whom he has jointly ruled for the past five years. Read more

Kate Allen

It’s a boy!

Britain is in the throes of Royal Baby Mania as it celebrates the birth of Prince William’s first child – a son, and future heir to the throne. What effect will the naming choice of new parents William and Kate have on the rest of the country? Read more

What’s the world’s most popular tipple?

It’s likely you won’t even have heard of it, let alone tried it. The world’s biggest-selling brands of spirits come from emerging markets – but they face increasing international competition, according to new research. Read more

Kate Allen

“No, I don’t mind working, but I do mind dying”, the Detroit blues singer Joe Lee Carter sang in 1965. The song exemplified the bustle – and tensions – of a burgeoning industrial city. Carter was working on the production line at Ford’s Rouge plant at the time.

Unfortunately for today’s inhabitants, there hasn’t been much opportunity to work in Detroit in recent years – and there has been all too much chance of dying. Read more