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
Once the US presidential campaign is finished and the election won, the victorious candidate could be forgiven for thinking that the hard work has been completed. Whatever the state of the economy, the voters have chosen their set of policies and all that is needed now is to begin implementing them.
But the economy that the (re-)elected candidate thinks he is set to inherit may turn out to be quite different by the time of his inauguration. Read more
Labour productivity continues to fall in the UK, today’s latest ONS release shows.
Output per hour dropped by 0.2% in Quarter 3, 2012, compared to the previous quarter. This means a fall of over 2% compared to the same period last year and over 3% compared to the pre-crisis period. This is a particularly striking drop considering than in the five years before the financial crisis labour productivity rose by over 12%.
The reasons for this remain rather a puzzle. And a look at other European countries confirms that the UK is unusual. But it’s not unique. Most core European countries had a drop in productivity levels compared to those in the US. But their performance varied considerably during the last few years of economic crisis, as this chart highlights … Read more
Chinese exports grew less than expected in November, fueling fears of a further economic slowdown. But exports from western inland Chinese regions have never grown so fast as in 2012, beating export growth rates of the rich industrial coastal regions.
Chinese export growth declined to 2.9 per cent in November from 11.6 per cent in October. On a rolling 12-month sum exports grew at an annual rate of 7.9 per cent in November, a figure well below the more than 30 per cent growth of the late 2010 and early 2011 and marks a 28-month record low. But not all regions in China experienced the same slowdown.
The Treasury’s long-awaited review of the Private Finance Initiative has been released as part of today’s Autumn Statement. It contains some pretty damning findings – and some interesting proposals for the years ahead.
Firstly, it’s ditching the much-maligned name “PFI”. Instead, from now on we will have “PF2″. Get used to it. Here are some of the other interesting points in the report. Read more
Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, has written up a paper on Swedish school reforms, which you can download here. I thought it was worth using to quickly flag up two important statistical public policy points.
The context to this is that Sweden has, since the early 1990s, allowed private (including for-profit) institutions to enter the school system – and parallels are often drawn between it and the ongoing reforms of England’s school system. This paper, as Fraser rightly says, comes to the view that increasing the volume of private schools in an area is associated with improved results. Mikael Lindahl and Anders Böhlmark say:
If we transform our estimates to standard deviation (S.D.) units (using the variation across all individuals) we find that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of independent-school students has resulted in 0.07 S.D. higher average educational achievement at the end of compulsory school.
(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Two sets of impending economic data are likely to hit the headlines in the last days of the US presidential campaign: the first estimate of GDP for the third quarter of the year, out on Friday October 26, and the employment situation report for October, published on Friday November 2, four days before the election.
After the release of labour market data for September, President Obama’s camp made much of strong growth in hiring, up 114,000 compared with August, and a fall in the unemployment rate from 8.1 per cent to 7.8 per cent, taking the rate back to where it was when the president took office in 2009. Mitt Romney’s campaign countered that, if not for people exiting the labour market, the rate would be in double figures. Read more
No one should be under any doubt. Jill Matheson, the national statistician, is consulting on changing the mathematical formula underpinning the venerable retail price index because the Office for National Statistics wants it changed. Consultations are not launched when experts think the status quo is fine.
At the heart of the issue is the realisation that the RPI formula is deficient and out-of-date. Continuing with the current method is the equivalent of Britain still thinking a 1970s Austin Allegro is cool, while the rest of the world is driving the latest Mini.
For market traders, economists, and data geeks alike, Friday is one of the highlights of the month – non-farm payrolls day.
For the uninitiated this is the release of data on US jobs growth over the previous month – more properly called the Employment Situation report - published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, usually on the first Friday of the month following the data (i.e Friday’s new data will be for August).
It is undoubtedly the most eagerly awaited monthly data by world markets and has attained a totemic status, perhaps beyond its real importance. Morning trading volumes are slim in European markets on the day of release as they await the afternoon release time (8.30am Eastern Time in the US).
Why do non-US markets care so much? Well if China continues to grow at current levels then the US will surrender its status as the world’s largest economy in the next decade (and probably in the current decade if measured in purchasing power parity terms). For now though, the US remains the bellwether of the world economy, accounting for a fifth of global output.
Should we care as much as the markets seem to? How important are these numbers? What should we be looking for? Read more
Iran's weightlifters Behdad Salimikordasiabi and Sajjad Anoushiravani took gold and silver in the men's +105kg
As expected, the US and China topped the conventional Olympic medal tables (however you chose to sort them). But by merely achieving the expected, the sporting superpowers appear much farther down the FT’s weighted medal table, which ranks countries by how much they exceeded pre-Games expectations.
Our table benchmarked nations performance against macroeconomic factors known to affect Olympic performance, such as GDP and population.
Great Britain’s 29 gold medals and 65 overall was enough for third place on the FT table as well as the conventional table – an impressive feat given the handicap our methodology imposed on it by taking into account the host-nation advantage. Here’s a look at some of the other nations that can leave London extremely happy, having greatly exceeded expectations. Some of them may surprise you. Read more