Economics

Keith Fray

US President Barack Obama (L) greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R) following the third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012 (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

(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At the heart of the issue is the realisation that the RPI formula is deficient and out-of-date.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.

Keith Fray

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

Martin Stabe

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

Britain’s traditional measure of inflation, the retail price index, is broken and needs fixing. The error goes back decades, has cost taxpayers billions, is still costing the exchequer about £1bn a year and has resulted in the rise in living standards being underestimated. Few errors in statistical compilation are quite this serious.

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By guest contributor Paul Hodges

I suggested in an earlier post that chemical prices were an excellent leading indicator for the health of the global economy. The data highlighted that firms were finding it difficult to pass through crude oil related price increases. In turn, this was a warning that both the global and Chinese economies might be slowing faster than generally supposed. This caution since seems to have been amply justified.

Thus a new initiative by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) deserves watching. The ACC is the trade body for the US chemical industry, and it has developed a new Chemicals Activity Barometer which aims to provide early warning of changes in the wider US economy.

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