GDP

By Eswar Prasad and Mengjie Ding

As the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers draws near and the debate about fiscal austerity continues to rage, it is time to take stock of the trajectory of debt levels in the key advanced and emerging market economies (AEs and EMs). The overall picture of government debt around the world is not a pretty one (interactive data here).

Data from the IMF’s latest Fiscal Monitor show that the level of aggregate net government debt in the world is expected to rise from $26tn in 2008 to $42tn in 2013. The ratio of world net debt to world GDP, a more relevant indicator of sustainable debt levels, shows a corresponding increase from 46 per cent in 2008 to 61 per cent in 2013.

 

Michael Steen

You still need a strong constitution or a taste for gallows humour to read most eurozone economic statistics, as today’s release of the preliminary Q1 gross domestic product growth contraction data shows.

The bloc is now in its longest recession since the birth of the single currency, beating the post-Lehman Brothers slump in duration, though not in the depth of the downturn. 

Robin Harding

We leaned heavily on the idea that sequestration is slowing the growth of the US economy in our write-up of Q1 GDP. The immediate reason to do so is the composition of growth.

Federal defence spending knocked 0.65 percentage points off total growth. Without that, the headline figure would have been an annualised 3.2 per cent instead of 2.5 per cent, bang in line with expectations. 

Chris Giles

The FT’s US economics editor Robin Harding had an excellent scoop this week on the US plans to change the calculation methodology for the national accounts in a move that will lift US GDP by 3 per cent in July. Even better, he explained that the changes to the way the US statistics authorities plan to count intangible investment and military procurement were not a unilateral act, but part of a United Nations coordinated approach. What effect would this have on Europe, I wondered.

Well, after a root around Eurostat’s website, the UK’s ONS methodology pages and some academic articles, I am really excited. The bottom line for people with better things to do is that Eurostat reckons GDP in most EU countries will also go up by about 2 to 3 per cent. The amount depends on the quantity of R&D expenditure carried out (good for Germany, Sweden and Finland, bad for Greece) and amount of military kit purchased every year (good for France and the UK). With some exceptions, every EU country has to put in place the new European System of Accounts by September 2014. But it gets even more interesting. 

Chris Giles

After almost five years of disappointing services output, Britain’s shops, restaurants, car dealerships and airlines have come to the rescue of George Osborne. They have also saved the country from deeply misleading “triple-dip” headlines, although output is still 2.6 per cent below its 2008 peak.

The preliminary estimate of gross domestic product rose 0.3 per cent in the first quarter. As my column today argued, we should not pay much attention to this figure, since the cash estimates of GDP, which come later, are more relevant to the economy’s predicament. But there are some implications of this positive surprise and I list them here in order of importance. 

Tom Burgis

Mark Carney, the incoming governor of the Bank of England, was grilled by MPs and his ECB counterpart Mario Draghi faced awkward questions. By Tom Burgis, Ben Fenton and Lina Saigol in London with contributions from FT correspondents. All times are GMT.  

Chris Giles

Britain is back in recession – gross domestic product fell by 0.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year – following a 0.3 per cent fall at the end of 2011. What should we make of the figures?

1. Is this a deep recession?

No. It is nothing like 2008-09 when output dropped 7 per cent over five quarters. In truth, as Joe Grice, chief economist of the Office for National Statistics said, the economy has been broadly flat since the third quarter of 2010. Some quarters up a bit, the others down. The level of output is now measured at an index number of 98.1 (2008=100) and it was 98.3 in the autumn of 2010. 

Robin Harding

The recession of 2008-09 keeps getting worse, even now. For the second time, the annual benchmark revisions to the GDP data have shown that the recession was deeper than previously thought. The decline in GDP is now put at 5.1 per cent rather than 4.1 per cent.

By the magic of FRED, here it is in levels (green is before the 2010 revisions, blue before the 2011 revisions, red is today): 

Chris Giles

Financial markets think Bank of England meetings on monetary policy will be a bore for almost another year. The minutes last week persuaded investors that the Monetary Policy Committee was unlikely to raise interest rates until mid 2012.

Economists are now following  in investors’ footsteps with Barclays Capital becoming the latest group of forecasters to push back their forecast of a rate rise from November 2011 to May 2012, arguing that “policy [is] paralysed by domestic double dip” fears.

As I argued in the Financial Times last week, investors have got ahead of themselves a little and the balance on the MPC is rather more delicate. It could easily tip towards a rate increase, particularly if Charlie Bean swung into that camp. Based on their recent words, here is my guide to the MPC members’ views, from the most dovish to the most hawkish.

As you can see, there is quite a delicate balance on the MPC. It could easily tip 5-4 to a rate rise. Getting a majority in favour of QE2 appears much more difficult at present. 

Chris Giles

In doing the usual due diligence on the Bank of England’s pictorial forecasts – blowing up the images on screen, getting out a ruler, measuring the YoY growth rates, estimating the skew that represents a risk-adjusted forecast and shoving all the results into a pre-prepared spreasdsheet – you can produced this horrible chart of successive Bank of England growth forecasts.

All it really shows, in the grand scheme of things, is that the Bank’s growth forecasts were pretty good before the crisis and spectacularly awful more recently.

If you strip out a lot of irrelevant information, you get the following, which I think is pretty amazing.