The UK Department for Transport is under fire over the cancellation of a deal to award a rail franchise, because of “technical flaws” in the bidding process.
The incident brings the British railway system back into the headlines, where it has often been because of contested fare rises. Complaints about the railways may be something of a national sport, but according to a survey published last month by Eurobarometer, the European Commission body that analyses public opinion, people in the UK are more satisfied with their national and regional rail system than most of their European counterparts. Read more
The US has shown a turnround after data released by the Institute for Supply management showed an index rise in manufacturing after three months of consecutive contraction. However, there are doubts whether the positive trend will continue in the the near future for the US, whereas for India, Russia and Turkey, the expansion seems more robust.
In India, manufacturing output in September expanded at a faster rate than in August, with its order book rising and new export orders increasing for the first time since June. Rising demand has also helped Turkey, in addition to new business from abroad, after a fall in output in July and August. Read more
Ever feel you’ve read all there is to read about China’s growth as a world manufacturing power? Well, did you know that China now has almost complete control of the world’s umbrella market?
China exported over $2.4bn of umbrellas, walking-sticks and whips in 2010, over three quarters – and rising – of global export share.
Tension between China and Japan over the East China Sea is threatening to disrupt the strong trade relationship between the two countries.
In July Japan exported a higher value of goods to China than to Europe or to north America. It also imported a higher value of goods from China than from north America and Europe combined, and about the same amount as from the rest of Asia combined. Read more
The employment rate in the UK rose to 71.5 per cent in the three months to July 2012, the highest since the end of 2009. Labour market conditions have been fairly positive in recent months despite the economic slow-down, portraying a much milder picture of the current economic crisis than GDP figures do.
The difference between the promising employment data and the bearish economic figures could be partially explained by the fact that the headline employment data do not capture elements of the labour market such as inactivity rates and forms of non-full labour utilisation, including part-time workers that were not able to find a full-time job (‘involuntary part-time workers’).
According to OECD data, the UK has had a particularly fast upsurge of involuntary part-time workers, rising from 1.5 per cent of all employed people in 2004 – well below the average share for Europe or the OECD – to nearly 4 per cent last year, above both regions. The UK still has a lower proportion of involuntary part-time workers than peripheral European countries including Italy, and lower than Japan, but it is above most continental European countries including France and Germany and it is higher than that of the US.
By Valentina Romei and Rob Minto
Another month of disappointing China trade data: on Monday, overall Chinese exports increased just 2.7 per cent in August from a year earlier, and imports dropped 2.6 per cent. Export growth was higher than July’s worrying 1 per cent, but it’s still far from the double-digit growth that was once the norm. Read more
Italian exports to non-EU countries reached over €17bn in August, almost 10 per cent more than the same month last year. The data released today by the Italian national office of statistics reveal a growth trend largely driven by the Asian markets, the US and Japan.
Export growth to non-European markets contrasts with a stagnating or contracting trend of Italian exports to Europe since the start of this year and an underperforming trend over the last decade.
But not all regions contributed in the same way to the export rise. In the first quarter of this year Tuscany, Sicily and Emilia Romagna were among the largest contributors. In Tuscany, the export growth to non-European markets grew at an annual rate of nearly 20 per cent, while the exports of the islands to the same markets were around 50 per cent bigger than the same period the previous year.
But as the chart below shows, this is not a new trend.
For those who have had the chance to see them, the luxurious sun beds where fresh cocktails are promptly supplied to the indulging tourists in island resorts can seem like paradise. But the contrast with the poverty of local residents across many of these islands gives rise to the question of what impact tourism has on raising the level of national wealth?
So on a raining Wednesday in London, here is a look at the differing fortunes of some top holiday destinations:
The chart above shows how the GDP per capita in each island as a proportion of that of the US has changed since 1995 (unless otherwise specified) together with the change over the same time period in the number of tourists as a proportion of the population. Read more
Whilst the slowdown in China’s headline rate of growth has been extensively covered, what deserves more careful attention is its regional component.
This chart shows the economic growth rate in Q1 2012 of the various Chinese regions and their relative importance, sourced from China’s National Bureau of Statistics.
The growth of smaller regions was more volatile and was generally faster than for larger regional economies. Tianjin – a metropolis in northern China along the coast that boasts the highest GDP per capita in the country – had an impressive double digit growth, but its impact on the national number was fairly limited as it accounts for just above 2 percent of national production. Read more
With the focus on today’s UK GDP numbers showing the UK is technically back in recession after the economy shrunk 0.2 percent in the first quarter, it is worth remembering another important aspect of GDP – levels.
The most recent IMF World Economic Outlook shows clearly that three of the G7 economies Japan, the UK and – more drastically – Italy have never managed to go back to pre-crisis levels of GDP.
GDP growth rebased
Why does this matter? Well it isn’t until pre-crisis levels of GDP are reached it can be meaningfully said economies have returned to some sort of normality (my colleague Keith Fray has written more about this) Read more
Markets promptly react to flash releases of economic indicators and large sums of money are lost or made based on zero-point-something percentage points of GDP growth. But, in the excitement of new economic data, it is worth remembering how data is subject to frequent and quite substantial revisions.
Notoriously, in 2010 Japan’s most watched economic indicator was drastically revised downwards, slicing off a full 3.5 percentage points from the annualised growth rate first reported for the third quarter of 2009, prompting soul searching about the quality of Japanese economic data. But revisions occur across many countries and not only after the flash releases.
An OECD database of the various edition of the monthly publication of the Main Economic Indicators (MEI) shows how widespread the issue is. Read more