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Last autumn all the talk was of the impact of a plunging sterling exchange rate and the UK’s struggle to find new export markets. According to most observers it was time to ‘rebalance’ the economy towards a more export-lead model of growth. George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, talked of “a Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers”.
The plan was for a revival in manufacturing and exports, driven, at least in part, by a weaker pound. Sterling had fallen by 30% during the financial crisis, but since early 2013 the pound has climbed back, appreciating by 10% in trade-weighted terms.
What impact might this have?read more...»
All exam boards require candidates to have an understanding of the Balance of Payments and Exchange Rates. In this session we will focus on the causes of the UK’s Balance of Trade (aka Current Account) deficit, what we can do about it, and how an exchange rate depreciation should affect an economy, and has affected the UK post financial crisis.read more...»
Preferential market access to China is providing an important growth-enhancing outlet for African exporters that find it difficult to break into industrialised countries’ markets. But there remain dangers that current export structures and national capacity constraints may further entrap Africa given its comparative advantage in primary resources and China’s comparative advantage in manufacturing products.read more...»
Here is a good applied example of how fiscal policy can be used to help improve the UK's net trade position. Export finance is often a problem especially for small and medium sized businesses looking to expand beyond the domestic economy to new export markets. Improving the trade position is a key aspect of re-balancing the economy and make the recovery more sustainable.
More on the implications of the UK’s massive current account deficit. Geoff has put together almost everything you need on the topic here, and he points out that the main implication is a net leakage from the circular flow of income, reducing AD and weakening multiplier effects.
A current account deficit is not necessarily a disaster; after all, imports are good too, sustaining our standard of living and is partly a reflection of the demand for intermediate goods our economy needs to stay efficient.
I’m going to pick up on the the statement that there is nothing wrong with a trade deficit. It simply means that a country must rely on foreign direct investment or borrowed money to make up the difference.read more...»
This is a great learning aid, especially if you've not come across it before. If you're trying to understand exchange rates, you often end up wondering which countries have overvalued exchange rates (that should, ideally, depreciate in value) or those that are undervalued (where appreciation would probably help).
The idea is so simple - find a product that's available in most countries, produced to a standardised design, and that serves as a reasonable 'basket of goods' capturing a range of price data for the economy you're looking at. By this measure, the countries with expensive Big Macs have overvalued exchange rates and cheap Big Macs means an undervalued exchange rate.read more...»
Which of these brands are British?
- Newcastle Brown
- Aston Martin
- Rolls Royce
- Branston's pickle
- Land Rover
- HP sauce
- PG Tips
- John Smiths bitter
- Sarson’s vinegar
- Rowntree Mackintosh
Two cartoons to illustrate two key issues: Britain doesn't export enough (especially goods) and so has a large current account deficit.
That's not to say that the UK doesn't have significant exports markets - but where?read more...»
It isn’t supposed to be like this. The 'upside' of the recession and financial crisis was a steep depreciation in the value of sterling. That should have made our exports cheaper and imports dearer, thereby helping the UK to close its huge current account deficit. But as the graph above shows, it just hasn’t happened.read more...»
This revision presentation highlights the key opportunities and threats faced by firms outside China looking to do business in and with China. It also provides examples of businesses that have succeeded in China and those that have struggled!
A fully editable and printable version of this presentation is included in our AQA BUSS4 2014 Toolkit on China which is being published on 8 November 2013.read more...»
UK immigrants who arrived since 2000 are less likely to receive benefits and less likely to live in social housing than UK natives. What’s more, over the decade from 2001 to 2011, they made a considerable positive net contribution to the UK’s fiscal system, and thus helped to relieve the fiscal burden on UK-born workers.
The positive contribution is particularly evident for UK immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA – the European Union plus three small neighbours): they contributed about 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits over the period 2001-11.
These are the central findings of a comprehensive analysis of the fiscal consequences of immigration to the UK, published today by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London.read more...»
A huge reminder about the shifts in economic power arrived with the news about the development of Hinkley C nuclear power station.read more...»
Britain's exports of whisky have been growing strongly in recent years helped by a lower pound and fast-rising demand from whisky drinkers in emerging markets. Whisky exports set to rise to £4.5bn by 2017 even though sales to traditionally strong markets in the European Union have stalled because of persistent recession in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy. This Channel 4 news report looks at the experiences of two whisky producers - one a small-scale manufacturer and the other the giant Diageo to consider prospects for UK exports as a way of strengthening the recovery,read more...»
He's back but he's still angry! In this latest version of The Angry Economist, our favourite curmudgeonly analyst wants to know students' opinion on George Osborne's economic policies - no wonder his blood pressure has risen!
This simple Powerpoint resource is aimed at getting your students to analyse and evaluate economic policies - 8 of the Chancellor's policies are presented and the Angry Economist randomly picks a macro-economic objective to consider. All you have to do is get 8 volunteers from your class to do the analysing - a great 10 minute activity whilst revising for the up-coming macro exams at either GCSE, AS or A2 level.
Here is a list of the policies the Angry Economist wants students to look at (you may wish to recap on them before you start the activity):
- Reduce Government debt
- Increased number of private sector jobs
- Increased allowance before Income Tax needs to be paid
- Cut Corporation Tax
- Set up Regional Growth Fund
- Funding Lending Scheme
- Deregulating some planning rules
- Frozen Council Tax
Of course, the beauty of this resource is that you can change any of these policies to whatever you want them to be.
Click on this link to download the Angry Economist 2.
PS. Click on this link to have a look at the original Angry Economist.
New figures from the OECD find that overseas development aid fell by 4% in real terms in 2012, following a 2% fall in 2011. Aid payments have dropped in large party because many governments of developed countries are embroiled in fiscal austerity and choosing to cut aid as a result. The OECD data shows too that there is also a shift in aid allocations away from the poorest countries and towards middle-income countries.
Here's a 5 to 10 minute activity for your post-Easter classes on macro-economic objectives - The Angry Economist! The design is very loosely based upon the 'Angry Bird' game.
You will need up to 8 volunteers to answer the 'Angry Economist's' questions.
Each student can choose a Government policy named on-screen and then the Angry Economist randomly chooses a macro-economic objective. The student has to to apply their knowledge and understanding of their chosen policy to the macro-economic objective shown.
The screen encourages the student to analyse and evaluate their own answer.
Use this link to access the resource. Give it a go!read more...»
This 10-question revision quiz focuses on the balance of payments.read more...»
Aggregate Demand may be stimulated by an increase in exports. Ha-Joon Chang, Author of the best seller, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism considers reasons in a short article for The Guardian why this hasn't happened after Sterling had fallen against other major trading economies. " Compared with ...2007, the pound has been devalued about 30% against the dollar, 50% against the yen, and 20% against the struggling euro. Yet despite the huge incentive to export created by such devaluation, Britain is still running trade deficits because it has lost the productive capacity to respond."
It may help students consider plausible policies to reduce its trade deficit, a macroeconomic goal overlooked in arguments over fiscal and monetary policies to control inflation or output. Finally it may aid evaluation, how different are the most pressing short and long term macroeconomic challengers facing UK governments.
Link to most trade figures.
Dan Martin is curating a scoop.it board focusing on useful articles for IB students who cover aspects of the Balance of Payments. Check it out by clicking on this link
Here is a selection of visualisations from the MIT Media Lab Observatory of Economic Complexity - these cover changes in export patterns for a small cluster of developing and developed countries. What are the most notable and perhaps significant changes that students can identify?read more...»
I am launching into a short course in international trade, balance of payments and links to economic development issues. The standard fare is inescapable and there will be plenty of opportunity to cover theories of comparative and competitive advantage, evaluate the costs and benefits of protectionism and look at key trends in the balance of payments, terms of trade and capital accounts for developed and developing countries.
This time, in an attempt to freshen things up I am starting by looking at the work of Cesar Hidalgo and Richard Hausman at the MIT Media Lab and the Observatory of Economic Complexity. I first came across their work whilst reading Tim Harford's last book Adapt. They are mapping vast amounts of trade data from across the world to explore the extent to which export complexity, dynamic advantage and per capita incomes are connected. The data visualisations are tremendously interesting and I will be asking my Year 13 students to explore their site and choose some data of their own that sheds light on revealed comparative advantage in the world economy.read more...»
Exporting goods and services overseas provides a welcome injection of demand into the circular flow and helps to sustain more robust and balanced growth for the economy. The recent record for British exports is mixed, there are several sectors performing strongly (automotives and creative services for example) but the figures suggest that our exports to fast-growing emerging economies are not as strong as they could be.
In this prize-winning essay, James Richardson answers this question set by Professor Danny Quah from the London School of Economics
‘Global imbalance from the Rise of the East shows only that the
East is big enough to be culpable but not mature enough to be responsible.’
The unprecedented growth of the East has, in economic terms, defined the decades either side of the millennium. Led by China, which has enjoyed average real annual GDP growth of between 8% and 10% over this period  and which, according to Jim O’Neill, is now economically significant enough to be included in the G7 , Asia has propelled itself to the forefront of the economic scene. Indeed, the continent now accounts for 5 of the 20 largest economies by GDP , and projections by Jim O’Neill’s team at Goldman Sachs suggest that China could overtake the USA as the largest economy in the world ‘as early as 2027, perhaps even sooner.’  The Rise of the East, then, is as undeniable as it is impressive, but is it sustainable?
My A2 students have been researching and writing about the economics of natural resource curses - some of their perspectives are provided below.read more...»
The Chinese renminbi is not yet as recognisable as the US dollar or the Euro but with China's continued growth and rising influence as a major global economic power, their domestic currency is becoming more widely used when settling accounts in trade in goodsand services. In this new Financial Times video Denise Law explores the benefits of using renminbi in trade even though the renminbi is not yet fully-convertible in world foreign exchange markets.read more...»
Many lower-income developing nations still relying on specializing in and exporting low value added primary commodities. The prices of these goods can be volatile on world markets. When prices fall, an economy will see a sharp reduction in export incomes, an adverse movement in their terms of trade, risks of a higher trade deficit and a danger that a nation will not be able to finance investment in education, healthcare and core infrastructure.
The rise in foreign currency reserves is largely the result of China’s enormous trade surpluses but also the consequence of intervention in currency markets by the Chinese central bank. To manage the value of the exchange rate it buys dollars and sells Yuan. China uses a large slice of their currency reserves to finance overseas investment including the role of Sovereign Wealth Funds to invest in developed and emerging countries including many in Africa. A rise in foreign currency reserves increases the money supply and has led to a surge in domestic lending including much money pumped into property developments.
A recent estimate valued Chinese foreign currency reserves at $3.2 trillion. In 2010, nearly two-thirds of China’s reserves were held in US dollar assets such as bonds, equities, money on deposit in US banks and property. But recently there are signs that Chinese investors have been diversifying away from the dollar.read more...»
Production and export of a caffeine-free tea produced in a tiny part of South Africa is threatened by the impact of climate change which is causing increased variability in rainfall. This short news piece illustrates the challenge of climate change and the importance of the crop of a unique tea called Rooibos which has helped create a multi-million dollar a year industry in the Western Cape of South Africaread more...»
A revision blog on UK overseas trade in servicesread more...»
Last week I attended a very interesting lecture at the LSE on the Eurozone crisis, given by Leszek Balcerowicz, a Polish economist who is former chairman of the National Bank of Poland and Deputy Prime Minister.
The following blog outlines his thoughts, but also includes useful links to articles to read.
Using the crisis as a case study will hugely benefit A2 students as it encompasses many of the topics covered in the syllabus.
Following on from Ben Christopher’s article, a BBC Radio 4 interview with Andrew Balls, an investment fund manager, and younger brother of The Shadow Chancellor on the possibility of a Grexit - Greek exit from the Euro.read more...»
A short glossary of some international trade and balance of payments key terms for AS macroread more...»
Here is an update on the UK trade / current account of the balance of payments figures for 2011. Has there been a noticeable improvement in our trade performance given the 25% depreciation of sterling in recent years? Which parts of the trade accounts have improved? What are some of the key underlying trends? Follow the charts and the brief commentary on each.read more...»
A sovereign wealth fund is a government or state run investment fund usually created by super-normal profits from natural resources such as oil, gas or minerals. Here is some brief background on them:read more...»
New data suggests that the rapid growth of exports from China is once again slowing down. This Reuters business news video (2 minutes) provides some useful background information on the recent downturn in export and import volumes and mentions that rising imports and a shrinking trade surplus may help the Chinese to rebalance their economy and perhaps provide a demand stimulus for exporters from struggling European countries.
That said the continued weakness of many EU countries will make it difficult for Chinese exporters to maintain sales and employment. During the global recession of 2008-09 millions of workers in Chinese manufacturing industry lost their jobs prompting many to return to their rural homelands in search of work and income.
* Which industries in China are likely to be most affected by a reduction in the growth of exports?read more...»
Before you read this blog please have a look at another blog written by our good friend Mark Johnston from New Zealand. Students of China and the US economy will find it fascinating!
There are good grounds for no longer calling China an emerging economy - it has arrived! The multiple significance of the rapidly-growing Chinese economy is plain for all to see but for Britain, only a small percentage of our exports of goods and services go there and this must change if Britain is to fully engage with and benefit from the rising might of the Chinese consumer. This article from the Daily Mirror provides a non-technical but clear explanation of the growing purchasing power of newly wealth Chinese, thousands of whom are flocking to western shopping malls to buy premium brands. Chinese foreign exchange reserves are also being used to buy up real assets - last week we heard that a Chinese sovereign wealth fund is set to buy nearly 9% of Thames Water.read more...»
Joseph is 29 years old and makes a living selling vehicle parts in the dusty trucker town of Igawu in Southern Tanzania. When he approached me during my breakfast and flashed 2 fresh $100 bills, I was naturally interested to know where they came from. I offered him a ride north to find out…read more...»
Here is a selection of short video clips that I use when teaching competitive advantage in markets and when introducing the factors that determine the competitiveness of UK producers in global markets. The focus here is on the UK economy but I will add some more videos to the blog as I work my way through this teaching topic.read more...»
Pete Davies from Greenhead College attended a superb talk by Martin Wolf CBE (Financial Times) at Leeds Business School last week. The focus was on the Great Convergence between developed and emerging economies, and Peter kindly took some excellent notes from the talk which will be of great use to teachers and students covering this key globalisation / development topics. They can be downloaded below as a word file - many thanks to Peter for making them available through the blog!
Food prices are now rising by up to 10% a year in Britain and Europe and a new forecast from the United Nations predicts that prices can be expected to rise at least 40% in the next decade. Whilst conventional theories of changes in supply and demand conditions can be used to explain some of the increase in food prices, many economists are concerned that speculation by hedge funds and other investors has amplified the natural volatility of prices driving food prices away from fair values and contributing to a huge rise in global food poverty and hunger. These days, cocoa, fruit juices, sugar, staples, meat and coffee are all now global commodities, along with oil, gold and metals.
Is this the moment to legislate to limit the scope for speculative activity in food markets? The video below provides an excellent introduction to speculation in food markets - it features Neil Kellard, Professor in Finance at the University of Essexread more...»
UK overseas trade is in the news today with the release of a batch of figures showing a record level of UK exports - see BBC news - UK trade deficit cut by higher exportsread more...»
This short video report from Will Ross for the BBC from the island of Lamu, considers a number of economic concepts.read more...»
If you are teaching the economics of commodity prices and coffee in particular - this resource - will appeal strongly to your visual learners! The Guardian Pictures web site has a quite stunning set of photos of Kenyan coffee producers - growers who are hoping that rising world prices will bring respite after years of difficulty including volatile crop yields, poverty prices and incomes and a long term decline in investment.
The first episode of a 3-part series, Made in Britain, was shown on BBC 2 last night, and was a really useful hour for economics (or business) students. It examined how and why Britain has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs over the last two or three decades in the low-value part of the sector, with some film of outsourcing shot in China as well as plenty of archive material from this country, but argued that the move to high-end, low scale manufacturing has become Britain’s area of comparative advantage in industrial manufacturing. This included Evan being taken for a test drive in the new McLaren sports car, which was clearly an amazing experience - watch the clip to see his reaction! And this surely emphasises the Economic Importance of Manufacturing to the UK economy - see below! Sadly this episode is not to be broadcast again, but is available on i-player for another 22 days and is thoroughly worth watching. I will certainly be setting the recording machine for the next two programmes, on Mondays at 9.00 on BBC2 - episode 2 is to focus on how innovation can help keep Britain ahead in the global economy.read more...»
I was looking through my old O level economics class notes a few days ago and in there was a really neat table showing the make up of the balance of payments. Students and teachers of a certain vintage will have no difficulty remembering the vital distinction we were taught to make between visible and invisible trade and this has stayed with ever since - I was well taught! UK newspapers today carry obitiuaries for William Clarke, the doyen of London’s financial journalists and a man thought to be the progenitor of the idea of “invisible trade” and the importance of it to economic growth.
Invisibles were (and remain!) exports of services – as opposed to exports of physical goods. The publication of “Britain’s Invisible Earnings” in 1958 marked an important moment for understanding the importance of services in contributing to aggregate demand and employment. Over fifty years later we need reminding of the significance of service exports. Britain is the second largest exporter of services in the world economy and the annual trade surplus in services makes a major contribution to the current account of the balance of payments. Here is a link to William Clarke’s obituary in the Independent written by Hamish McRae.
Students who want to be able to quote current data and trends in the UK economy could do worse than spending some of their revision time picking out the highlights from the Bank of England’s Agents Summary of Business Conditions, published today.
There is plenty of opportunity to find evidence which can be used to back up evaluative arguments in macroeconomics papers here.
1/ Growth in domestic markets is sluggish at best, but investment in the export sector looks better, probably driven by the rise in exports to emerging markets, Germany and the US.
2/ The service sector looks far from buoyant, with so much spare capacity that investment intentions are low and recruitment in consumer services is down.
3/ Unsurprisingly, import and raw material prices are driving a need to pass on cost push inflation to buyers, although many found that their power to pass on price increases to consumers was very limited, in spite of widespread awareness of the increase in costs - reflecting fears that price elasticity is very high at the moment.
Stephanie Flanders has posted a very useful blog examining Eurozone growth, and whether the UK can best be compared to France and Germany or to Greece, Portugal and Spain. She starts with Ed Balls rejection of the Chancellor’s habit of likening the position of the UK economy to those of the southern states which are struggling so badly at present; the Shadow Chancellor believes a better comparison would be with our traditional competitors in northern Europe.read more...»
Tim Harford’s piece in the New York Times today is a stunning visualisation of what economists term revealed competitive advantage - if you have a few moments please do read through it - superb for understanding the inter-connections between trade performance and structural changes in output, jobs and investment.
“Economies change in structure over time, moving from simpler goods to scarcer, more valuable ones. Countries rarely make radical structural changes. Instead, they generate capabilities gradually, and new industries usually develop from existing ones. Unfortunately, some industries — oil extraction, say, or fishing — do not naturally lead to anything new without a huge leap.”
Here is an essay plan on this question: Assess the extent to which a rise in imports may affect macroeconomic performance (25 marks). Like many macro questions, the focus is on the longer-term performance of the economy – this requires a brief explanation at the start of the answer – e.g. economic growth, unemployment, inflation and material well-being. The essay plan can be downloaded using the link below:
Here is a revision note on the economics of twin deficits. Twin deficits refer to a situation where an economy is running both a fiscal deficit and also a deficit on the current account of the balance of payments. The revision note is available for download as a pdf file.