The UK economy has finally recovered. Today’s estimate by the Office for National Statistics of gross domestic product for the second quarter takes output (adjusted for inflation) to a new high, above the level of the first quarter of 2008*.
Hurrah. But, although welcome, this is nothing to celebrate. The government will not be ordering church bells to be rung. That the sum total of everything produced in the economy is only now returning to the levels of six years ago is astonishing. To give some context, the recession and recovery have lasted about nine months longer than the second world war. Read more
Does knowing more about finance lead to making better investment decisions?
It might if you believe a working paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research, published yesterday. By matching records from an unnamed company’s pension scheme and responses to a survey asking some basic questions about finance, they “find that risk-adjusted annual expected returns are 130 basis points higher for the most financially knowledgeable employees.” The questions used in the survey can be found in the quiz below. Read more
The Office for National Statistics has, for the first time, included estimates of the impact of prostitution and illegal drugs in the national accounts. By the ONS’ reckoning they add about £10bn to the British economy.
Estimates of anything to do with the black economy are always going to be uncertain at best, but the statistics available are pretty interesting. Read more
Before a measure of inequality can be calculated there are some questions that need to be answered: Chiefly, equality of what? Living standards? Wealth? Income? Or, perhaps, opportunity?
And what do you include? Is income measured before tax and benefits, or after? Do you include public goods in measures of living standards? How do you account for public assets and debts in wealth?
And who are the relevant people? The whole world or one country? Do you include students and children or just adults of working age?
The level of inequality measured will always depend on how these questions are answered.
The British Wealth and Assets survey, released today, provides measures of inequality in private wealth (so not including public debts and assets) between different households.
And households come in different shapes and sizes.
Individuals who are married or widowed are the most likely to live in a wealthier household. Whereas those who are separated, divorced or single are the least likely.
Wage growth has risen by more than inflation for the first time since 2010 and employment has grown by the largest amount for 24 years, according to figures released by the ONS today.
Given this context its worth taking a look at the performance of Britain’s labour market since the 2008 financial crisis.
1. Despite lacklustre GDP growth employment has been steadily increasing since 2010. Read more
By Paul Hodges
The toy industry is going through difficult times as Lex highlighted recently. Profits at Toys R Us have halved since 2009, whilst Mattel is suffering due to poor sales of Barbie dolls. A dismal Christmas at the UK’s Mothercare led the departure of its chief executive. Read more
The New York Times asked yesterday whether Americans with a car in the driveway, a flat-screen television and a computer with an Internet connection can be described as “poor”.
In the United States, material goods – televisions, computers and cars – are at their most affordable in ten years, all having steadily dropped in price since 2005.
However, the cost of items that have traditionally helped pull Americans out of poverty – education, childcare and healthcare – have become far more expensive. Families’ everyday expenses also remain under strain from a steady increase in the cost of food and little change in the price of housing.
What would the same analysis of the cost of living look like in the UK?
We created a UK version of the chart in the New York Times’ story, using real prices calculated from the British consumer price index. The story was pretty similar:
The recovery in the world’s leading economies is strengthening, according to the Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery, the Brookings Institution-Financial Times index of the global economy.
Explore the index with this interactive graphic. You can read more analysis from Eswar Prasad, Karim Foda, and Arnav Sahu on the Money Supply blog.
The March 19 Budget will be delivered against a background of broad economic positivity, but that tone may not sit well with everyone. Since George Osborne’s speech this time last year, fortunes have been mixed: the labour market has been slow to pick up in the East Midlands, the north has been hit by job closures and production of transport equipment has fallen.
Elena is a 26 year old Italian woman with a degree in child psychology who has been working in London as a nursery teacher for nearly a year. She moved to the UK after months spent looking in vain for a job in Tuscany, a region where the unemployment rate, at 7.9%, is well below the Italian average of 11.3%.
But Elena is not counted among more than 16,000 Italians that moved to the UK, according to official statistics updated for the FT by the Italian Ministry of Interior. These numbers are based on the registry of Italians living abroad (AIRE). Elena has a vague knowledge of this register but decided not to sign up for fear of losing important rights and services (including healthcare) in her home country. 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.
Aberdeen’s economy is booming. The gateway to Britain’s offshore oil and gas reserves, it has long helped to buoy up Scotland’s economy. And now with a wider economic recovery kicking in, it’s acting like Viagra on the area’s house prices.
Property values in Aberdeen and the surrounding area grew faster than anywhere else in the UK in 2013, according to new data produced by estate agents Savills exclusively for the FT.
Aberdeen has even outpaced last year’s hotspot, Elmbridge in Surrey. Read more
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
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
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
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.
What caused it? Read more
Britain’s official statistics agency, in its analysis of how median income households have fared over time, has found a small consolation for those on the eastern side of the Atlantic. While UK income inequality is rising, middle-earners’ incomes are more closely related to economic growth than in the US.
The Office for National Statistics used inflation-adjusted data from the US Census Bureau and International Monetary Fund that cover the years 1984 to 2008. It found that US median equivalised disposable income grew at less than half the rate of its GDP per person. For example, by 2008 – the latest year for which data are available – US GDP per person had grown by 55.3 per cent while median incomes had only grown by 26.1 per cent since 1984. Read more
The number of self-employed in the UK rose by 60 per cent between 2011 and 2012 and now accounts for about 14 per cent of all people in employment.
This is a striking contrast with the rest of the OECD countries where the proportion of self-employed is generally declining. In 2011, there were between 2 and 5 percentage points fewer self-employed in South Korea, Turkey, Portugal, Japan and Italy than six years before. Most of the other OECD countries reduced their proportion of self-employed even if more slowly. Read more
Berlusconi, the billionaire former Italian prime minister pledged to reimburse Italians €4bn for an unpopular property tax. This is probably the first time he has promised to give money back, but it is definitely not the first time he has pledged to cut taxes.
Berlusconi lavished promises of tax cuts periodically throughout the past decade, but he failed to translate them into reality, even when he was in power from 2001 to 2006 and again from 2008 to the end of 2011.
In fact, according to the OECD the average income tax rate increased in Italy across all types of households, whereas it was reduced in most other OECD countries. Read more
How much do parents value a safe environment, green spaces and a good education for their children? Such things are priceless – except that, of course, they are not. The best things in life may be free, but buying a house in the vicinity of the best things in life is expensive.
Economic researchers use house prices like a movie jewel-thief uses an aerosol spray. The aerosol isn’t important by itself, but it reveals the otherwise invisible laser beams that will trigger the alarm. The house prices aren’t necessarily of much direct interest, but indirectly they reveal our willingness to pay for anything from a neighbourhood free of known sex offenders to the more familiar example of a popular school. Read more