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As Iraq appears to be descending into all-out sectarian war, the implications for the oil-dependent economy are huge. Iraq is Opec’s second-largest crude exporter, so markets are already feeling a little jittery, sending crude oil to its highest since September on Friday. Here are five charts showing how Iraq’s economy has developed since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and where its vulnerabilities lie. Read more
Those hoping for a rapid pickup in UK productivity shouldn’t hold their breath.
That’s the message from a new Bank of England paper which suggests the UK’s dismal figures are more likely to be the result of “persistent effects” from the financial crisis, rather than temporary, cyclical factors which will fade away as the economy recovers.
Just under half (around 6 to 9 per cent) of the UK’s productivity gap can be explained by the hypothesis that the crisis resulted in underlying damage to the UK’s productive capacity:
Institutional weaknesses are mainly to blame for Greece’s dire trading performance, with exports around a third smaller than they should be, according to a new paper from staff at the European Commission.
Aside from being the world’s largest shipping nation, Greece sits at the cross road between three continents and on one of the world’s busiest sea routes.
Yet, researchers estimate its exports are approximately 33 per cent lower than would be expected based on the size of the Greek economy, its trading partners and its geographic position. The Commission staff dubs this “the puzzle of the missing Greek exports.” Read more
It’s crunch time for the European Central Bank. After more than six months of jawboning, pretty much every seasoned ECB watcher thinks the governing council is finally going to ease monetary policy on Thursday.
Disappointing growth, worryingly weak inflation, and the rise of anti-establishment parties in the European Parliamentary elections have only added to the sense that rate-setters must do something to stave off the threat of deflation and help stimulate lending in the real economy. What can we expect from the ECB and how will it work? Read more
Andrew Levin, a Fed staffer who worked extensively on Janet Yellen’s communication reforms when she was vice-chair, sets out a set of principles for central bank communications in a paper at today’s Hoover central banking conference.
He calls for press conferences after every Fed meeting and a quarterly, Bank of England-style monetary policy report. Mr Levin is currently at the IMF but this a direction many Fed officials want to go.
Here are Mr Levin’s principles, with my highlights in bold, and comments in italic: Read more
Professor Thomas Piketty has given a more detailed response to the Financial Times articles and blogs on his wealth inequality data in Capital in the 21st Century (here, here, here and here). He says it is “simply wrong” to suggest he made errors in his data.
There are a few things on which we agree. First, the source data on wealth inequality is poor. I have written that it is “sketchy” and Prof Piketty says it is “much less systematic than we have for income inequality”. Second, it would have been preferable for Prof Piketty to have used a more sophisticated averaging technique than a simple average of Britain, France and Sweden to derive an estimate for European wealth inequality. Third, the available data suggests a broad trend of reduction in wealth inequality during most of the 20th Century. Read more
French academic Thomas Piketty has issued a detailed response to criticism by the Financial Times of his work on inequality, saying it is “simply wrong” to suggest he made errors in his data.
The best-selling author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which has ignited an international debate on trends in inequality, said “the corrections proposed by the FT to my series (and with which I disagree) are for the most part relatively minor, and do not affect the long run evolutions and my overall analysis”. Read more
Ever since the Financial Times wrote articles pointing to data problems in Professor Thomas Piketty’s best-selling book, there has been quite a heated reaction online and in print. In this post, I will give what I hope are some more relevant details, address a few misunderstandings and reply to some of the very legitimate questions that have been raised over the past few days.
For those that do not like lists, I apologise because this is something of a long list. Read more
The European Central Bank is not exactly renowned for stoking inflation. At 0.7 per cent, price pressures are now less than half its target of below but close to 2 per cent — something that the governing council has done nothing to correct over the past six months.
That did not stop Paul Krugman today telling the ECB to raise its target even higher. The Princeton professor was standing only meters away from Mario Draghi, in Sintra at an event that the eurozone’s monetary authority hopes to become its own version of the US Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole.
As hard sells go, this is right up there. Read more
Professor Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century has data on wealth inequality at its core. His data collection has been universally praised. Prof Piketty says he has collected,
“as complete and consistent a set of historical sources as possible in order to study the dynamics of income and wealth distribution over the long run”
However, when writing an article on the distribution of wealth in the UK, I noticed a serious discrepancy between the contemporary concentration of wealth described in Capital in the 21st Century and that reported in the official UK statistics. Professor Piketty cited a figure showing the top 10 per cent of British people held 71 per cent of total national wealth. The Office for National Statistics latest Wealth and Assets Survey put the figure at only 44 per cent. Read more
I am happy to see that FT journalists are using the excel files that I have put on line! I would very much appreciate if you could publish this response along with your piece.
Let me first say that the reason why I put all excel files on line, including all the detailed excel formulas about data constructions and adjustments, is precisely because I want to promote an open and transparent debate about these important and sensitive measurement issues (if there was anything to hide, any “fat finger problem”, why would I put everything on line?). Read more
The importance of small and medium-sized enterprises as engines of job creation is a well-established economic fact. In countries such as Italy and Spain, SMEs account for 70-80 per cent of the workforce, and for a similar proportion of all newly created jobs.
Much less is known, however, about which kinds of SMEs are better at boosting employment. The SMEs universe is varied, but distinguishing between them is essential for governments to direct their economic policies in an effective way.
A study published this week by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development analyses in painstaking detail a database including SMEs from 18 countries over ten years. Its main finding is that among all SMEs, it is the youngest companies that contribute the most to boosting employment. Read more
This morning’s dovish inflation report press conference dampened market expectations of an early rate rise. Here are some of the reasons the Bank believes there is still someway to go before a rate rise is needed:
1. Labour market slack Read more
In Threadneedle Street tomorrow, the Bank of England has some big questions to answer in its inflation report. How much slack does it think remains in the labour market? How is monetary policy likely to respond to falling estimates of spare capacity? And how much can the BoE rely on macroprudential tools in lieu of raising interest rates?
This post addresses the first question from which the other two follow. The answer for people who do not like spider-web diagrams is that not much slack remains in the labour market, at least if you believe the BoE’s analytical methods.
For context, Britain’s central bank said in February there is little spare capacity within companies, so the slack in the economy relates to unemployed and underemployed people. It has moved away from unemployment as the sole indicator of slack to a more holistic approach, one it first considered last August when it first used the spider-web diagram (top) in the chart below.
In this pentagon, the BoE said all five different indicators of labour market slack it considered for Q1 2013 were roughly one standard deviation higher than the 1992 to 2007 trend. In percentage terms, this finding equates to the BoE saying that the labour market at the start of 2013 was in a position where it had been historically stronger about 84 per cent of the time and weaker only about 16 per cent of the time. Read more
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