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I am setting my AS macro students an essay this week evaluating the economic effects of five years of ultra-low monetary policy interest rates. Tom White blogged about this a day or so ago (click here) linking to an excellent article in the Guardian. It is a great way for students to deepen and broaden their understanding and awareness of recent developments in the UK economy.
Teaching colleagues covering monetary policy might want to use the data charts on interest rates contained in the PowerPoint file shown below.read more...»
There’s been lots of media coverage of a recent anniversary: it was five years ago in March 2009 that the Bank of England took the dramatic step of cutting interest rates to their lowest level in more 300 years. And there they have stayed - with some predicting they will stay low for a while longer yet.
How about a quick bit of analysis (why the Bank took the move) and then some evaluation? I’m suggesting an evaluation based on a recent Guardian article. Has it been a good move? Well – it depends – on who you are, for a start.read more...»
Gains from international trade, the history of European economic integration, fiscal and monetary policy, the launch of the €uro and the 2008 financial crisis are all clearly animated and explained in this superb video. In just over 12 minutes it explains the problems of the €urozone and the threats and challenges it still faces. Definitely one to watch for the closing stages of an A2 macro course.read more...»
He might have only had his feet under the Governor's desk for 8 months but BOE Governor Carney has announced changes to the role of the MPC for a second time as forward guidance has been overhauled.
Forward Guidance Mark II began yesterday as the Forward Guidance Mark I didn't really go as planned, approaching the 7% threshold for unemployment way too quickly for the BoE's comfort. The following video clips discuss some of the issues from yesterday's announcement. Big debate about whether the new Forward Guidance is more fuzzy than it is forward.read more...»
This is a superb article from the Economist for A2 macro students wanting to understand more about the fragility of a large cluster of emerging economies.read more...»
My A2 macro students are now looking at some fascinating macro policy challenges facing a range of countries. This week they choose one from two set assignments.
The first offers them an opportunity to analyse some of the causes of high inflation in India and consider how much of a threat it is to India's continued growth and development.
A second assignment looks at Abenomics in Japan and whether it can lift the Japanese economy out of over two decades of slow growth and deflationary pressures. I am hoping that there will be some interesting insights allied to good A2 macro analysis as students crack on with their independent research.
Download the assignment sheet below and I have added in some suggestions for further reading on the two topicsread more...»
On the 1st January 2014, Latvia became the 18th country to enter the single currency Euro area, joining Estonia who adopted the Euro four years ago. How will it affect the economy? Are the forecast benefits greater than the costs and risks? Here are some resources on the issue:read more...»
The euro should either be dismantled in an orderly way or the leading members should do what is necessary to make it growth- and employment-friendly as fast as possible. That is the central message of Nobel laureate Professor Sir Christopher Pissarides, when he delivers his inaugural lecture as the first Regius Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics.
Professor Pissarides was once a passionate believer in the benefits of European monetary union. He now thinks that either the euro should be dismantled or the direction of economic policy dramatically reversed so as to promote growth and jobs and avoid creating a lost generation of educated young people.
‘We will get nowhere plodding along with the current line of ad hoc decision-making and inconsistent debt-relief policies’, he will say. ‘The policies pursued now to steady the euro are costing Europe jobs and they are creating a lost generation of educated young people. This is not what the founding fathers promised.’
The co-recipient of the 2010 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences will outline what needs to be done to bring Europe back to life:read more...»
Getting out of our slump is challenging economics policy makers.read more...»
Although A level specifications have not changed for some years the introduction of quantitative easing (QE) programmes by central banks such as the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve in the US has meant that A level students have had to become familiar with it as an instrument of monetary policy. With short term interest rates almost at zero and banks still very risk averse, the monetary authorities have in recent years embarked on QE in an attempt to inject liquidity into the financial system to boost lending in recession hit economies.read more...»
This is an updated revision presentation on aggregate demand in the UK economy - designed for AS macro students. Revision notes on aggregate demand can be found here. Click here to take a revision quiz on aggregate demand.read more...»
Changes to key interest rates by central banks have a significant impact on economic activity during periods when the economy is expanding. Unfortunately, they seem to have virtually no effect during recessions – the time when the stimulus of monetary policy is most needed.
These are the central findings of research by Professor Silvana Tenreyro and Gregory Thwaites, published by the new Centre for Macroeconomics at the London School of Economics.read more...»
Robert Nutter examines the use of "forward guidance" as a relatively new part of monetary policy in this recent article from econoMAX:read more...»
The Focus Circle is quickly becoming one of our most popular teaching & learning activities and here is a version that comes ready-made for a lesson macroeconomic policy.
In the Focus Circle, students are shown up to 4 topic areas (categories) inside. Around the Focus Circle are up to 18 words/ phrases which belong to one or more of the different categories. Students select 1 of the topic areas and decide which of the key words/ phrases belong inside the Focus Circle (words that are specifically related to that topic area).
So, is currency intervention a supply-side policy? Is "forward guidance" part of fiscal or monetary policy? Can your students define the words or phrases they select? Can they provide an example to back-up their selection.
The possibilities for an engaging and effective lesson are endless...read more...»
SOME people are never satisfied. The evidence is mounting that the UK economy is now on the path to recovery. But to those who denied the possibility of any economic revival at all under the policies of “austerity”, this is simply not good enough. It is the wrong kind of recovery, they say. Fuelled by debt-based personal spending, unsustainable house prices, another crash, the doom-mongering litany more or less writes itself.read more...»
The new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said last week that interest rates will not be raised until unemployment falls below 7 per cent, a process he thinks will take three years. The battle of Austerlitz in 1805 was one of Napoleon’s greatest victories, leading to his complete domination of Continental Europe. In the aftermath, the Prime Minister, Pitt, famously pronounced ‘Roll up that map of Europe, it will not be wanted these next ten years’.read more...»
The Governor of the Bank of England has announced a change in the handling of monetary policy for the UK economy. Although the inflation target remains the same (CPI inflation of 2%) and the Bank remains committed to maintaining price stability as their main macroeconomic objective, they have decided to introduce forward guidance in the setting of policy interest rates. This takes the Bank of England closer to the approach to setting interest rates taken by the United States Federal Reserve.
Download this chart
What is forward guidance?
Forward guidance means that interest rates will stay at their historic low level of 0.5 per cent and monetary policy in general will remain expansionary until the unemployment falls below seven per cent. More here from the BBC news website.
However, that link could be put aside if the inflation rate threatens to rise above 2.5% in the medium term. Another wind-check to this system is that if the Financial Policy Committee judges that the UK economy is in danger of experiencing another credit boom then the Monetary Policy Committee will also re-visit their decisions on interest rates.
According to Ed Conway from Sky News "The UK inflation target remains in place - in theory - but in practice it has become significantly less important." Developments in the labour market and real output growth are likely to become more significant in helping to shape the future path of policy interest rates and whether monetary policy is expansionary, contractionary or neutral in its effects on the wider economy.
Sky news - Forward Guidance, a Monetary Policy Gamble
Anatole Kaletsky (Reuters): Carney at the Bank of England confirms the end of monetarism and return of neo-Keynesian demand management
With the unemployment rate currently at 7.8% of the labour force and predictions from the Bank that the jobless rate may take between two to three years to drop to the 7% way-marker, we can expect the period of exceptionally low monetary policy interest rates to remain with us well into 2015 and possibly 2016. This is not good news for savers struggling to find any kind of interest rate that at least matches the current rate of CPI inflation.
Governor Carney's response to this is to argue that what the economy needs most is a return to growth - in his words an economy growing sufficiently quickly to achieve "escape velocity". The current recovery has been the weakest for decades and real GDP remains below the peak achieved before the Global Financial Crisis took hold.read more...»
The GDP growth figures announced last week for the second quarter of this year have sent most people away on their holidays in a cheerier mood than last year. The recent weather has certainly helped. But gloomy clouds may hover over the exclusive settings of Tuscan villas and beach houses in Martha’s Vineyard, where bien pensant commentators and so-called Keynesian economists ritually gather for the summer.read more...»
Potential defaults in the Euro zone have been in the news again. In Portugal, the ruling coalition parties and the main opposition Socialists have been unable to agree on a European Union-led bailout plan after days of talks. Yields on the country’s 10 year bonds have approached 7 per cent, compared to the 1.5 per cent in Germany. There has been some improvement this week on the news that an early general election has been avoided, but yields still remain over 6 per cent.read more...»
John Kay looks at the lack of evidence for the effect of quantitative easing as a driver for economic growth. He is excellent on some of paradoxes of the impact of QE on the macroeconomy of countries where it has been tried.
The main effect of QE according to Kay is to boost asset prices and the one certain consequence of this is that those who have assets - such as homeowners and stocks and shares - will benefit.
We strongly recommend that ambitious students take a look at some of the other articles written by John Kay - check out his web site by clicking this linkread more...»
In its annual assessment of the U.K. economy, the IMF called on the UK to invest in skills and infrastructure and increase banking sector competition in order to foster growth and achieve a sustainable recovery.
The report can be found here and contains plenty of relevant background information on the current situation facing the UK - here is a selection of quotes from their summary
Cambridge economist Mike Kitson argues here that the Euro Zone will eventually collapse after a number of difficult years. As pressure again mounts in the Eurozone leading Cambridge economist Michael Kitson says the euro might 'stagger on' for a few more years but eventually it will disintegrate. Policy makers have been papering over the cracks in the Eurozone and causing major problems for many member countries which are trapped by tight fiscal rulesread more...»
Here is an interesting report on the rise of digital currencies. Bitcoin, a decentralised, virtual currency, is gaining increasing interest from investors and entrepreneurs. The currency is not controlled by a government or a central bank and is traded on the internet.
In this short news video, the FT's Maija Palmer reports from a Bitcoin conference on where the currency is heading including the use as a person to person medium of exchange. In technology savvy cities in the USA, there is no a bitcoin ATM that allows people to swap standard currencies for bitcoin credits. Will retailers latch on to the new currency?
Regulators seem wary about what Bitcoin is and how it might be used, fearing for example the use that might be made of anonymous and untraceable digital currencies for illegal money laundering by terrorist organisations.
With the help of animators from Cognitive Media, the BBC's Stephanie Flanders considers the record of Sir Mervyn King who has been the Governor of the Bank of England throughout the financial crisis - click here
The Guardian's editorial on his tenure at the Bank can be found here
IT’S not all fun and games at the Co-op Bank. Just over a month ago, the bank was serious about acquiring 632 branches from Lloyds. Now its debt has been downgraded six notches to junk status, and veteran HSBC banker Niall Booker has been brought in as replacement chief executive after Barry Tootell resigned.
Inquests have begun, and it is only human nature to look for a scapegoat other than the large amount lost on the bank’s new IT system. Management has delved into its hat, and, hey presto, here is the old Britannia Building Society, merged with the Co-op in 2009. It is, we are solemnly told, the bad debts on the Britannia’s commercial property portfolio which are the problem.
The headline on the BBC website this afternoon is "Pound falls after surprise dip in inflation". It is important that students taking the A2 economics papers next month are able to give current figures for the macroeconomic indicators, so they should take note of today's CPI inflation figure for April, which is down to 2.4% from 2.8%.
They should also note the reasons - weaker commodity prices and oil in particular, with petrol and diesel prices contributing half of the drop in inflation. Slow earnings growth is also expected to contribute to the outlook for inflation remaining closer to the 2% target than it has been since the end of 2009 - which also suggests that the remaining inflation is not due to demand-pull pressures, but to cost-push.
But can they explain why and how the announcement of a lower rate of inflation has led to a weaker pound? It is not enough, in an essay, simply to state that this cause-and-effect has taken place; in order to gain good marks for analysis, it is essential to trace the process by which one leads to the other. This article from Reuters should give the clues that they need to fill the gaps on the table below ...
What are the costs of a higher average rate of inflation? With CPI inflation staying persistently above target over much of the last six years, to what extent has this undermined UK macro performance? Or has a little extra inflation and an ultra-loose monetary policy (0.5% base rates and £375bn of quantitative easing) been a price worth paying to avoid an ever deeper recession and depression?
"The high retail price inflation seen in recent years has outpaced earnings and eaten into household spending power. Ongoing relatively high inflation will continue to impact consumer spending, especially with unemployment unlikely to fall quickly. The effect on consumer spending will vary between different demographic groups and product sectors, causing companies to revisit their offerings."
Here is the link to the Ernst and Young report - click hereread more...»
Here is a streamed (and downloadable) presentation on policies to cut unemployment in the UK economy.read more...»
The credit crunch is widely regarded to have started during 2007 and is certainly not over yet! Indeed the period of severe constraints on credit availability and rising borrowing costs most notably for smaller businesses has now lasted longer than the Second World War. It represents a major barrier to sustained and hopefully more robust economic recovery. This short streamed presentation looks at the importance of the credit squeeze on the UK economy.
A number of new government policy initiatives have been introduced but doubts persist about their effectiveness. Underneath the surface new forms of business finance are taking shape including peer to peer lending and the rise of retail bonds issued by a number of businesses.read more...»
Introducing The Government Game - tutor2u's new Economic Simulation game that is just perfect for revising for AS & A2 Macroeconomic Policy topics!
How Britain escaped from the travails of the Great Depression and achieved 4% a year growth in the years from 1933 to 1937 has important lessons for today’s policy-makers, according to research by Professor Nicholas Crafts, presented at the Economic History Society’s 2013 annual conference.read more...»
It is now over four years since the Bank of England cut their policy interest rate to 0.5%. The Bank along with other central banks has seemingly moved away from changes in interest rates to policies aimed at manipulating the base supply of money in the economy / financial system. Others are focusing on managing the exchange rate. Monetary policy has undergone big changes in recent years as this revision note explains.read more...»
When is the right moment to start tightening monetary policy by gradually raising interest rates? Some macro economists believe that in the UK, the Monetary Policy Committee has already delayed the first upwards nudge in policy interest rates for too long with the result that inflation has remained persistently above target for most of the last five years. Others argue that fundamental economic weakness makes the recovery fragile and vulnerable and that raising interest rates now is the wrong option.
Check out some key macro charts here
An increase of one percentage point in the interest rate that a firm faces during a financial crisis increases its chances of failure by more than five percentage points. Young firms, firms with high bank dependency and firms that don’t export are particularly vulnerable to changes in their debt-servicing costs.
These are among the findings of research by Alessandra Guariglia, Marina-Eliza Spaliara and Serafeim Tsoukas, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2013 annual conference. The study looks at a large data set of mainly private-held firms in the UK tracked over several years.
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...»
Economic commentators love their acronyms and abbreviations - they come in handy when reaching character capacity limits on a tweet and also for students fighting the exam clock to complete a timed essay. Two new ones have come to my attention in recent days. What does ZIRP and PLOG mean to you?read more...»
This 10-question revision quiz focuses on the role of monetary policy.
Useful graphic from The Guardian showing Government Revenues and Spending - helps to put some perspective on some of the announcements.
Politicshome's live Blog showing that hell hath no fury like pressure groups scorned, with plenty of useful links to early comments on The Budget.
Evening Standard's coverage here, it managed to pre-empt the Chancellor's statement.
With Evening Standard-like speed, please follow this link for a short set of questions about today's Budget.
Robert Peston has an interesting piece on his BBC blog, considering what the UK's GDP growth would look like if it was possible to extract what he calls the 'bad bits' - financial services and North Sea oil and gas extraction - both of which are in serious decline. He suggests that we have been too dependent on these two sectors, and that both are now in serious decline. In particular, that the global financial services industry is now protecting itself by becoming much more national and less internationally interconnected, so that the City - as the world's most open and global financial centre - has therefore suffered.
The Bank of England has held short-term interest rates very close to zero for several years, with devastating consequences for the incomes of millions of frugal people. The Bank’s latest wheeze suggests that savers pay the banks for the privilege of holding their money. The Bank has pumped hundreds of billions of pounds into the economy through quantitative easing.
All these policies are open to question. For example, quantitative easing has many critics amongst distinguished monetary economists.
Despite this, the actions of the Bank are deemed to be a Good Thing, for the Bank is independent. The decisions of its experts are untainted by the touch of mortal, corrupt politicians. Yet just how expert is its expertise?
It’s not often you read such a clearly set out, even-handed article on macroeconomic policy, so this relatively lengthy piece was interesting in itself as its writer appears to deal relatively equally with both sides of the big austerity debate. But you really have to take notice when the writer is the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable.
Tomorrow's Financial Times leads with a headline, "Osborne to hand Carney powers to kick start the economy." Budget to alter Bank of England's remit...Loser Monetary Policy."
Stephannie Flanders, the BBC's Economics Editor, considered if the UK's present monetary policy with its use of Quantitative Easing had played a part in pushing up share prices and wondered if other unorthodox measures would be effective to deal with a stagnating economy.
Vince Cable the Business Secretary provides an outline in The New Statesman of the economic problems the current coalition government has faced, how monetary, fiscal and supply side measures might be used to stimulate the UK economy in response to what he calls the long economic stagnation of post-crisis Britain.
The FT implies that The Chancellor is not wholly convinced by arguments from Vince Cable to boost growth with a new programme of infrastructure spending on schools, roads and housing, funded by extra borrowing. The arrival of Mark Carney at The Bank of England may signal a sea change in how monetary policy is used to stimulate the economy, breaking with the 2% inflation targeting approach. The MPC may be encouraged to focus on targets for inflation and employment. Some of The Committee's members support more quantitative easing whilst The Deputy Governor Paul Tucker said the idea of negative interest rates should be considered.
Link to coverage of Cameron's Speech http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/mar/07/david-cameron-rules-out-extra-borrowing
The Economist wades in with an analysis of why the slump in consumer spending has contributed to a flatlining economy with low or barely perceptible growth. Household saving has increased to c.7%. Falls in real wages, coupled with rising 'administered prices' of gas and electricity have also helped lower consumption. But the cycle of higher costs and prices isn't helped when Sterling depreciated by 6% in the course of the New Year.
The loss of triple A status on UK government bonds has intensified the demands for a Plan B. So-called Keynesians demand an increase in both public spending and the public sector deficit.
What might Keynes himself have said about the current situation? Lacking a Ouija board, I am unable to communicate directly with the great man himself. But we can get a very strong hint from the title of the first major work which Keynes published when confronted with the 1929 financial crash. It is the Treatise on Money. His most famous work was not published until 1936, when the Great Depression was well and truly over. Its full name is the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.read more...»
Paul Tucker, The Deputy Governor of The Bank of England has stated in evidence to The House of Commons' Treasury Select Committee that negative interest rates should be considered as a monetary policy instrument to stimulate the UK's Economy. In their discussions with the MPs, other members of the Bank's MPC implied that they were not inflation-rate nutters, and that other means of stimulating or managing the economy were being considered.
What a day for aficionados of monetary policy, lots to get your teeth into. Analysis of the nature of inflationary targets, both in Japan and the UK, a bit of conflict between the present Governor of the Bank of England and his recently appointed successor and to top it all off, criticism of the current Governor by a former member of the MPC.read more...»
As Tom White writes, you may have thought zombies were only ever in horror movies, but some economists are increasingly talking about an invasion of ‘zombie’ companies in the UK economy, threatening to obstruct a return to stronger GDP growth...read more...»
An updated glossary of key terms for AS macroread more...»
As the sun rises on another year will the headwinds be favourable for Britain or are we facing up to another year of stresses and strains? Here is a brief commentary and overview of some of the key macroeconomic data for the UK economy together with some links to external articles and videos on economic prospects for Britain as we head in 2013.read more...»
In this 60 second summary, David Mitchell explains that Bill Phillips' curve historically described an inverse relationship between the rate of unemployment and the rate of wage (and therefore price) inflation - but since his analysis became popular the relationship has changed.read more...»