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CPI inflation has slipped well below the lower limit of the Monetary Policy Committee's target, to 0.5% - that is far lower than it fell during the recession, and the lowest level since May 2000. So, as Mark Carney prepares his letter to the Chancellor to explain how this has happened, and what the Bank of England intend to do about it, the BBC have published an article which examines why we need some inflation. It is one of those articles which is truly useful - probably more so than a text book as it is based on real, current context. Highly recommended to AS students learning about inflation for the first time, and A2 students who need to revise the basics.read more...»
Japan has suffered years of persistent deflation, and needs expansionary policy to change that. But they also have the highest public debt of any of the developed countries, at just under 230%, and need contractionary policy to change that. How are they to manage such a difficult trade off?read more...»
The current recovery has been different in the United States. Though unemployment has fallen from 10% to 6.1%, labour-force participation has not increased. In fact, it has declined to its lowest level since 1978. This is controversial. Some economists say long-term structural factors, mainly aging, explain most of the recent drop in the labour force. Others argue that short-term, cyclical factors are mostly to blame: workers are sitting out the job hunt, waiting for better opportunities.
What about the effects?read more...»
This is an excellent podcast to introduce year 12 students to the importance of controlling inflation and the perils of deflation.read more...»
The Russian central bank has raised their main policy interest rate by 0.5% to a new level of 8% in a bid to control inflationary pressures in the Russian economy.read more...»
New Bank of England research adds further weight to the view that central bank asset purchases (‘quantitative easing’ or QE) can affect government and corporate bond yields. In particular, the study, which is published in the May 2014 issue of the Economic Journal, finds evidence that QE works by reducing the supply of government bonds remaining in the private sector – what are known as ‘local supply effects’.read more...»
Just in time for the unit 2 exam, and in good time for unit 4 students, this week's Deloitte Monday Briefing looks at the reasons behind the rapid recovery of growth in the UK. The Monday Briefing always makes very good reading, and often features analysis which is written with great clarity by Ian Stewart, their Chief Economist in the UK - to subscribe and receive an email every week, visit www.deloitte.co.uk/mondaybriefing
Below, I have copied much of this week's briefing with a little additional comment to emphasise the role of monetary and fiscal policies, and to look forward in order to consider how these may be evaluated in order to assess the contribution they may make in the near future.read more...»
In remarks made when launching the new quarterly inflation report (May 2014), the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has signaled that policy interest rates set by the MPC are likely to remain at historically low levels for some time to come. The first rise in rates is probably less than a year away and some economists have penciled in early New Year 2015 for a rate hike. But what are some of the arguments for raising interest rates now?read more...»
England's odds of winning the World Cup are about 30-1 - which reflects a rather low level of confidence that we have a realistic chance. However, the Governor of the Bank of England seems to think that a safer bet would be to back the recovery of the UK economy, judging by Mark Carney's launch of the latest Inflation Report yesterday. He likened the path the economy has to follow to that of England's task in Brazil, and said that the Bank's priority was to steer the economy through the opening rounds, all the way to victory.read more...»
In recent months the external value of the pound has been rising quite strongly. Indeed it has outperformed a cluster of other countries even though we have seen a rise in the UK's current account deficit on the balance of payments. Stephanie Flanders, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, talks to the Financial Times about the sterling's out-performance and what impact the strong pound is likely to have on the UK economy.read more...»
The BBC's Robert Peston looks at the broader issue of heavy debt in the UK economy and whether it is holding back economic growth.read more...»
Here is an extract from a recent speech by Charlie Bean at the Bank of England - the full speech can be found here: www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Docume...
For the economic recovery to be both sustained and sustainable we really want to see three things happenread more...»
We have considered the three key areas of macroeconomic policy – monetary policy, fiscal policy and supply-side policies.
In the longest essay questions on data response papers examiners often ask students to consider how effective these are when they are used to manage the economy. How can we judge whether the performance of the economy is improving as a result of them? In this session we will remember how to assess macroeconomic performance, think about some of the issues with measuring growth, and focus on ways to evaluate the effectiveness of different policiesread more...»
One of the most significant roles of a modern government is to ensure that the economy performs to its full capacity. The government has to consider the performance indicators like inflation, unemployment and economic growth and devise policies to achieve their aims. In this session we will consider the options that fall into the fiscal and monetary policyread more...»
The new IMF report on the global economy published in April 2014 includes a focus on the currency regimes chosen by emerging market countries. An increasing number of central banks have switched from free-floating exchange rates to managed currency regimes - perhaps because they want to make more active use of the exchange rate as an instrument of monetary policy.read more...»
The nominal exchange rate is a key adjustment tool to help countries avoid traumatic balance of payments crises. And when a country is in a crisis, external adjustment is delayed and more difficult under a pegged exchange rate regime. These are the central findings of research by Atish Ghosh and colleagues, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2014 annual conference.read more...»
The UK’s official inflation benchmark, the Consumer Prices Index, slid to 1.7 per cent in February – the lowest for more than four years. What are some of the main factors causing inflation to fall below target?read more...»
I thought it worthwhile sharing my resources which I have been collecting for students (and teachers alike). I have been promoting them on Twitter (@Economics_KSF) through scoop.it but for those of you not on there, the link for the scoop.it boards are here:read more...»
Year 12 economist Tim Rawlinson considers some of the macroeconomic effects of five years of ultra low policy interest rates set by the Bank of England.read more...»
Money, so it is said, makes the world go around. And to some extent it does. But it's not one of the functions of money that I teach in my lessons. The nature of money is fascinating and there are plenty of books that look at the subject, not least Philip Coggan's "Paper Promises: Money. Debt and the New World Order" or Felix Martin's "Money: The Unauthorised Biography". If we start from the premise that money is "anything generally accepted in payment of a debt" then this leads us into interesting territory.read more...»
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...»
The concept of the 'output gap’ is central to mainstream macroeconomics. It is not merely of academic interest.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has a specific requirement to estimate the output gap, which it defines formally as “the difference between the current level of activity in the economy and the potential level it could sustain while keeping inflation stable”.
The output gap is a key consideration for central banks around the world including the Bank of England. If output is well below its potential, nominal interest rates should be kept low, to try to stimulate the economy. And a large output gap should keep cost and price inflation low. Prices are hard to put up in a depressed economy.
See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23145755 for a discussion of the changes made to the policy of forward guidance.read 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...»
We’re very used to the idea of monitoring inflation, measuring it, and worrying about the consequences of it. But like any good answer that requires an element of balance, it’s worth noting that too little inflation can be a problem too.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...»