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MTR wins London CrossRail Operating Franchise

Monday, July 21, 2014

An important part of the CrossRail project has been decided with the news that the £1.4bn contract to run the new Crossrail service through London from 2018 has been awarded to Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation.

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Shareholder activism at the Royal Mail

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shareholder activism regarding executive pay is covered in this article from the Guardian. Note too the emergence of TNT Post as a competitor in the cities for final mile delivery of business and household mail - the mail market is becoming more contestable.

The Royal Mail's latest market report is an interesting read for those who want to study market dynamics in more details - for example the continued growth (but high contestability) in parcels contrasted with a trend decline in the volume of letters sent through the post - click here for the 2014 market overview: http://ar2013-14.royalmailgroup.com/overview/marke...

Calculation time! CMA recommends banks provision of current accounts should be investigated

Friday, July 18, 2014

Today’s announcement that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are recommending that the High Street Banks’ provision of current accounts should be investigated for lack of competition may not surprise many. The case study may be valuable when looking at competition in oligopolistic markets and a report can be found from this link.  The BBC take on the story can be found from this link.

I also thought it offered a chance to do some calculations! Given my current theme of bringing the new levels of assessment of numeracy and quantitative methods in the 2015 specifications of A level economics ever increasingly to the attention of our teaching community, where better to do some number work than when looking at market share in the banking industry!

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Price Cap introduced for the UK Payday Loans Market

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has announced direct interventions in the market for payday loans - the high cost short term loans market which has expanded rapidly in recent years led by businesses such as Wonga. The decision is the result of a detailed assessment of the industry which had flagged up a number of market failures.

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Universities, Business and the UK Economy

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Here is a short video featuring Mike Kitson from Cambridge University explaining the role universities play in knowledge exchange with businesses

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Dropbox and the failures behind it

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

According to some sources, Dropbox was the 37th online storage solution to be developed for the web - but despite early failures and late entry it has emerged as the cloud storage product of choice for over 300 million people. The firm is now estimated to be worth about £5.9bn.

This BBC article looks at the background to the story. Article can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27579790

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Contestable Markets - A New Retail Landscape

Monday, July 07, 2014

Here is a short FT background video on the challenges facing established food retailers in the UK. The supermarket is under pressure. They face competition from both hard discounters and upmarket retailers. The FT's Andrea Felsted visits Romford, on the outskirts of London, to examine how supermarkets are adapting to their new retail landscape. The Guardian's articles in changing competition in the food retail sector provide some excellent background pieces - click here to access: http://www.theguardian.com/business/supermarkets

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Paul Ormerod: Innovation, Job Losses and Living Standards

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Here is your starter for ten. What do the Uber app and David Ricardo have in common? Ricardo, I hear you ask. Scarcely known outside academic economics, he ranks equal with Adam Smith and Keynes as the greatest ever British economist. His classic Principles of Political Economy was published in 1816. He made millions of pounds on the stock market, at a time when a million was a vast amount of money.

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​Disruptive technology: Uber

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Technology always disrupts markets. It provides dynamic efficiency improvements, creates new markets, destroys old ones, and in some cases destroys monopolies and in others, creates new monopolies.

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Unit 3 Micro: Should Tesco be broken up?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The supermarket giant Tesco is under increasing pressure! Tesco is Britain’s biggest retailer (it has 29% of the UK groceries market) and the biggest private-sector employer, and it runs about 7,000 stores worldwide. But it is facing significant commercial challenges from discount retailers such as Aldi and Lidl and seems to be squeezed in the middle as other shoppers look for the value proposition in stores such as Waitrose. Their recent trading figures made for sorry reading. For the three months to 24 May 2014, Tesco said like-for-like UK sales including VAT and excluding petrol fell 3.7%.

Is there a case for breaking up Tesco and getting the business to re-focus on what it does best? Two journalists from the Financial Times argue it out in the video below:

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Transport Economics: The Return of Trams - Benefits and Costs

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Trams have been experiencing a revival in a number of towns and cities in the past few decades. Edinburgh is the latest city to invest in trams, and hopes they will boost local economy. But do the benefits outweigh costs? Manchester, Sheffield, Blackpool, Nottingham, Newcastle and Croydon have all installed trams / light rail and others are considering investment. 

The Edinburgh trams at running (at last) but the jury will remain out for a long time about their net impact on economic activity, traffic congestion and the broader health of Edinburgh and the local environs.

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Unit 3 Micro: Ban on Eurotunnel ferry service confirmed by CMA

Friday, May 30, 2014

An important judgement from the newly established Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). They believe that competition is best served by having three major cross-channel service operators - namely EuroTunnel (rail) and two ferry operators.

The CMA has ruled against EuroTunnel being able to cross-subsidise the loss-making MyFerryLink on the Dover to Calais service because in doing so, it is likely to lead to the market exit of a rival provider and ultimately cause higher prices for consumers.

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Unit 3 Micro Business Economics Revision Guide

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Until the 3rd of June we are making available in streamed format the Unit 3 Business economics revision companion - a superb resource for AQA and ExExcel in particular

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World of Business: Focus on Business Pricing

What do prices mean and how are they set. A recent BBC World of Business podcast explored this and other issues.

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Quick revision of Key Phrases - the ‘Usual Suspects’ revision activity

Monday, May 12, 2014

Looking for a quick activity to help test revision of some of the key economic terms needed for the up-coming exams?  Here's a nice little test of knowledge that can either be used as an in-class activity or for individual students to use to test their own revision.

Called 'The Usual Suspects', students are given one minute to identify the definitions of as many key phrases from the micro and macro curriculum as they can.  Each phrase is shown alongside 4 possible definitions (from the wider pool).  Students must identify which is the correct answer.  If an incorrect answer is given, the student has to click to remove a 'bar' to allow them to continue with the test.

60 key phrases are included with each of the two resources below, so the activity can be run several times.  Who can get the highest score in one minute!

Click on this link for the macro version of the activity.

Click on this link for the micro version of the activity.

Economics Exam Technique: Thoughts on Improving Your Economics Papers

Friday, May 09, 2014

Here is a streamed presentation covering sone "Thoughts on Improving Your Economics Papers"

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UK Income and Wealth Inequality - A New Film

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Income and wealth inequality in the UK are higher than most people think they are and higher than they think they should be. These are among the messages of a new online infographics film:

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Cost Benefit Analysis - The Crossrail Project

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Here is a streamed version of a revision presentation on the Crossrail project, a good example to use when teaching transport economics and the main principles and issues governing a cost benefit analysis approach to infrastructure investment appraisal. It is designed for use with AS and A2 economics students.

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Unit 3 Micro: Revision on the Private Finance Initiative

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Here is a short revision presentation covering aspects of the Private Finance Initiative - which figures on unit 3 for EdExcel micro economics

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Unit 3 Micro: Tanzania’s cola wars

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tanzanian cola producers are taking on Coca Cola and making headway in the battle for market share. Despite economic growth, there is a fragile middle class vulnerable to changes in world commodity prices and unstable employment and wages. This opens up an opportunity for indigenous food and drinks manufacturers who might be able to supply products at a lower price harnessing environmental aims such as recycling the majority of plastic bottles used.

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Test your knowledge on AS Macro Diagrams (Day two)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Here is the second in our series of resources aimed to testing student knowledge of the key diagrams for their upcoming exams.  Today's files are related to AS Macro diagrams.

The two files are aimed at teachers or students in the run up to their exams and assume that they have been covered previously.

Click here to download a Powerpoint file to use in class as a scrolling test (with accompanying music).  The test lasts 4 minutes and then teachers can reveal the answers one at a time.

Click here to download a document file that tests the same diagrams but in a static document format for either teachers to use in class or for students revising for their exams.

This link takes you to yesterday's (Day one) blog for the AS micro equivalent.

Unit 3 Micro: Business Objectives, Costs, Revenues and Profits

Monday, April 14, 2014

This blog entry brings together some of our revision resources on these crucial aspects of the theory of the firm. Scroll down below for revision notes, presentations and online quizzes for your to check your understanding.

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Unit 3 Micro: Some Key Diagrams for Business Economics

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Here is a selection of key diagrams for the Unit 3 business economics course

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The ‘SLAP the examiner’ evaluation tool for Economics

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Here at tutor2u, we like our acronyms to help students remember key phrases.  We're particular fond of any acronym that helps students remember how to structure paragraphs for more complex, evaluative answers that they have to give as part of their examination answers (search this site for WEESTEPS, BEESHATECOD and TWEEP).

Here's another such acronym (hat-tip to Paul Hoang, from Sha Tin College in Hong Kong for showing us this acronym), called 'SLAP the examiner' aimed at evaluation. I guess that this one has the advantage of containing only 4 letters(!).

The acronym stands for: 

S Stakeholder perspectives
L Long term vs short term implications
A Advantage and disadvantages of policy recommendations
P Priorities of the government or economy.

Click on this link to download a nice single sheet reminder of the acronym which has been applied to a couple of economics questions.

Normative statements - using E-Cigarette newspaper reports to look at normative statements

Friday, April 04, 2014

I'm sure that introducing the concept of normative statements is something that most Economics' teachers introduce early in the curriculum to show the dangers of expressing opinions without evidence.  It's a tricky balancing act that we have to play - as students start to write longer, evaluative pieces we are keen for them to make reasoned arguments that don't sit on the fence but warn them of the dangers of starting to rant.

I thought that the two reports included on the document here might prove an interesting activity.  The file contains two reports into a possible plan from the Welsh Assembly to introduce a ban on the smoking of E-cigarettes in public places (akin to the current ban on smoking of 'traditional' cigarettes) in Wales.  The articles are interesting in their own right in explaining the reasons behind such a plan and as an example of Government intervention to solve a possible market failure (although one of the articles clearly identifies E Cigarettes as a solution to a market failure itself).

You could also ask students to read through the two articles and answer the following questions:

  1. Which of the two articles appears to offer more opinion-based evidence than the other?
  2. Highlight any words or phrases that indicate a value judgement rather than evidence-based reporting.
  3. Based upon your own reading and picking up on journalistic styles, have a guess which newspaper each article was published in.

The answer to this final question is in the 'read more...' section of this blog.

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Unit 3 Micro: Energy firms face competition inquiry

Friday, March 28, 2014

The big six energy firms in the UK - who account for more than ninety per cent of suppliers to UK household, commercial and industrial consumers - will be subject to another investigation by the competition authorities.  

A report by regulator Ofgem has called for an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which could take nearly two years to complete - effectively pushing the issue into the long grass well beyond the date of the next election. 

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Unit 3 Micro: Royal Mail - Industry Extracts

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Here is a selection of short extracts on the Royal Mail and the changing structure of the industry. I have been using them when teaching Unit 3 business economics - it strikes me as an excellent case study for revising lots of parts of the course. I have added some links below to recent media coverage of Royal Mail stories.

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UCAS and Oxbridge - Delving into Management

A number of students have been asking me about suggested reading for and introductions to the study of management as they look ahead to a UCAS application in the autumn. Here are some thoughts.

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Unit 3 Micro: Pop Up Shops on the Underground

Saturday, March 15, 2014

In recent times, pop up shops (retail outlets available on very short term leases) have grown in popularity. In part this has been because of the increase in vacant retail space during and in the aftermath of the last recession. But increasingly other organisation are thinking about using their locations as opportunities to attract small retailers and/or retail start-ups. 

Transport for London is one such example. TfL owns more than 1,000 retail properties and this week TFL has signed a deal with Appear Here, an ‘online property agency’, to allow pop-up shops and restaurants in its tube stations. Consider the business potential for this kind of retail investment. Old Street is earmarked for this experiment - it is just a short walk from Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch - the home of hundreds of emerging tech start up businesses.

Unit 3 Micro: Merger of Chiquita and Fyffes

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A mega merger is creating the world’s largest banana company - it has been announced that Chiquita of the USA and Dublin-based Fyffes will be merging to form a giant banana distribution company.

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Price Regulation in Industries

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Regulation of prices through price capping has been a feature of regulation of the utilities in the UK for many years – although this is now being phased out as most utility markets have become more competitive.

Price capping systems

  • Price capping is an alternative to rate-of-return regulation, in which utility businesses are allowed to achieve a given rate of return (or rate of profit) on capital.
  • In the UK, price capping has been known as "RPI-X". This takes the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index and subtracts expected efficiency savings X. So for example, if inflation is 5% and X is 3% then an industry can raise their prices on average by only 2% per year
  • In the water industry, the formula is "RPI - X + K", where K is based on capital investment requirements designed to improve water quality and meet EU water quality standards. This has meant increases in the real cost of water bills for millions of households in the UK.

Advantages

Capping is an appropriate way to curtail the monopoly power of “natural monopolies” – preventing them from making excessive profits at the expense of consumers

Cuts in the real price levels are good for household and industrial consumers (leading to an increase in consumer surplus and higher real living standards in the long run).

Price capping helps to stimulate improvements in productive efficiency because lower costs are needed to increase a producer’s profits.

  • The price capping system is a tool for controlling consumer price inflation in the UK.

Disadvantages

Price caps have led to large numbers of job losses in the utility industries

Setting different price capping regimes for each industry distorts the price mechanism

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Unit 3 Micro: Facebook Buys WhatsApp

Friday, February 21, 2014

In a bold move in the continuing battle between Facebook and Google to dominate the next phase of digital / mobile growth, Mark Zuckerberg's listed business has agreed an £11bn acquisition of WhatsApp - a deal to be paid in a combination of cash and shares.

The total value of the deal is staggering high for a business that employs just over 50 people.

  • The price Facebook is paying for WhatsApp is more than ten times what Google spent on YouTube
  • It is more than 20 times what Facebook paid for Instagram
  • The $19bn paid for WhatsApp works out at $40 for each of its 450m users!
  • The $19bn deal to buy WhatsApp is more than 10% of the annual value of Ukranian GDP

What are some of the justifications for such a mega-priced deal?

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Unit 3 Micro: Monopolistic Competition

Saturday, February 15, 2014

This is an updated revision presentation on aspects of monopolistic competition in markets

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Behavioural Economics: Rory Sutherland on Valentine’s Day

Watch this short six minute video to learn how London cabbies are a lot like the ideal boyfriend. Rory Sutherland on excellent form again! In six minutes he discusses sunk costs, commitment devices, human capital, information failures and price discrimination in restaurants on Valentine's Day. 

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Government underestimates the amount of student loans that are likely to be paid back

Friday, February 14, 2014

According to a report published by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, the Government are currently underestimating how many students will actually pay back their university loans over the coming decades.  Currently, the Government estimates that between 35 and 40% of loans to Higher Education students are never paid back - the Committee believes that the rate on non-repayment is much higher and reflects a weakness in the loan collection method.  The primary reason for non-repayment is that student details get lost over a period of time particularly if the graduate moves and works abroad or was an EU citizen who has returned to their own country.  The method of using the income tax registration process as a way of locating former students has been criticized for not being an effective method of collecting information.  It is estimated that the shortfall could be as much as £80 million by 2042.

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Perfect Competition vs Monopoly Essay Guide

Monday, February 10, 2014

A quick but informative guide on how to structure an essay evaluating perfect competition and monopoly. For more videos, click here

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Energy companies charge cash-paying customers more - market failure and Government intervention

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

If you attended the recent tutor2u revision conferences for up-coming micro-economic exams (look out for the macro workshops and combined micro and macro to come in March) you will have seen how fuel-pricing was used as an example of market failure, government intervention strategies and government failure.  

Fortunately, the energy market is a gift that keeps giving to us in the economics world (every cloud has a silver lining) as a report out today (see this link for the BBC version of the story) indicates that Parliament is about to intervene to try and stop the energy companies charging more to customers who pay by cash rather than by direct debit (£114 per year, according to the report).

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Game Theory - The Hotelling Model of Spatial Location

Monday, February 03, 2014

Here is a really well produced and clear visual explanation of the Hotelling model of spatial location. As two competitive cousins vie for ice-cream-selling domination on one small beach, discover how game theory and the Nash Equilibrium inform these retail hot-spots. A good short video to use when teaching or learning about game theory.

For more ....Tutor2u's Introduction to Game Theory

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Superbowl Adverts - Has the Viral Video Trumped the Big Event?

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The cost of a thirty second advertising slot at the annual Superbowl final is immense. This year advertisers are paying $4 million dollars for a 30 second advertisement during America's largest televised event. But big hits on the social web often produced at a tiny fraction of the cost challenge the conventional view that mega bucks spent reaching a TV audience remains a viable way of using the marketing dollars. This short news video from the Financial Times is a useful reminder of the importance attached to brand advertising by some of America's biggest consumer products.

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Unit 3 Micro: Perfect Competition Summary

Friday, January 31, 2014

Here is an updated revision presentation on aspects of perfect competition - A2 economics revision notes can be found here

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10 Questions on Business Objectives

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic business objectives

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10 Questions on Contestable Markets

Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic contestable markets

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10 Questions on Economic Efficiency

Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic economic efficiency

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Unit 3 Micro: Profit Satisficing and Profitability Factors

Here is an updated revision presentation on satisficing as an alternative to profit maximisation and also some of the factors affecting the profitability of a business such as Stagecoach plc - A2 economics revision notes can be found here

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Government looks to abandon use of Microsoft Office to save money

It was announced yesterday that the Government is planning to abandon its use of expensive software such as Microsoft Office (see article in the Guardian here) partly as a way of reducing costs but also as a means of breaking some of the software company's 'oligopolistic' stranglehold on the market.

As well as offering an example of Government policy to combat market failure, this story gives us a little insight into the issue of contestability in the software industry.

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Does Facebook have a Future?

So farewell, then, Facebook! That is the conclusion of a highly technical paper by two Princeton researchers, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, which received a lot of publicity in the press last week. The authors conclude that “Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017”.

read more...»

Unit 3 Micro: Revenues and Profits

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Here is an updated revision presentation on short run revenues and profits for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found here

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Unit 3 Micro: Short Run Costs of Supply

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Here is an updated revision presentation on short run costs for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found here

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Unit 3 Micro: Fixed and Variable Costs

Monday, January 27, 2014

Here is an updated revision presentation on fixed and variable costs for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found here  

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Capping Bonuses for Bankers - Unintended Consequences

Friday, January 24, 2014

Capping seems to be all the rage at the moment. We read of capping electricity and gas prices, capping welfare payments for families ... and now a proposed cap on bonuses for bankers is being put forward by the EU and by the Labour Party. 

In this article, Tim Harford cuts to the chase and highlights the contradictions in the EU blanket policy on capping bankers' bonuses. It is a good example of a policy where the unintended consequences include the probably that banking salaries would rise still further.

Under the EU proposal, a cap on rewards would limit payouts to banking executives to annual pay - or twice that only if shareholders approve.

Further reading:

BBC - banking bonuses - how much do they matter?

BBC Hard Talk:  Adair Turner on the effect of a bonus cap on bank salaries

read more...»

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