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IMF report on the UK Economy

Monday, May 26, 2008

The IMF reports on the health of the UK economy in its latest Article IV Consultation and argues that imbalances in the UK economy have increased the risks facing us during turbulent global times.

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Crude will stay high

A good evaluation here from Hamish McRae of some demand and supply-side reasons why oil prices are unlikely to fall as steeply as they have in previous economic slowdowns.

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Businesses back a widening of the EU

Strong backing for a further widening of the boundaries of the EU single market is reported in the Sunday Telegraph. Students preparing for the forthcoming AQA Unit 4 paper on the Economics of the EU will find this relevant - both for the content and also for the distinctive views of different stakeholders in the EU expansion debate. Identifying value judgements in extracts is one of the key skills of the exam.

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Revision: Evaluate to Accumulate

How to Nail High Marks on Evaluation in your AS papers - a two page revision note

Revision note:
Evaluate_to_accumulate.pdf

Caravan of love

An unintended consqeuence of the credit crunch and the sharp depreciation in the value of sterling against the Euro is a rise in demand for fixed caravans in holiday parks across the UK and a jump in demand for motorhomes.

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Lower house prices and the route to happiness

There are plenty of commentators who can quash the illusion that rising property wealth brings about more benefits than costs. Few are better at the task than the economist Roger Bootle.

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Revision: Labour’s Economic Record – An Evaluation

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A personal evaluation of the Labour government’s macroeconomic record since 1997 in a two page word file - aimed at AS and A2 economists - together with a five page document containing ten supporting data charts

Revision note:
Labour_Economic_Record.pdf

Supporting charts
UK_Economy_Supporting_Charts.pdf

Myopia and alcoholism

This BBC news video reports that the number of hospital admissions linked to alcohol has more than doubled in the last 12 years.

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Robert Frank on a shaking invisible hand

One of my favourite authors writes about the failings of the invisible hand and the case for a pollution tax

“When market prices convey accurate signals of cost and value, the invisible hand promotes the common good. But prices often diverge from cost and value and, in those cases, taxes can actually help steer resources toward more highly valued uses.”

New York Times article

Two new economics books

Two new books have reached my mailbox this week and both look set to be added to my Economics reading week list for my students after their AS exams which kicks off on June 9th

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Backbone needed for a carbon tax

Tim Harford makes a case for the carbon tax as a catalyst for energy-saving innovation

“The Financial Times has been calling for a credible price to be put on carbon emissions, either through a carbon tax or a serious cap-and-trade scheme. Most economists – including this one – would agree.”

The rest of his article can be found here

Revision: Market Power

This revision note is designed for AS economists - and covers aspects of market power and regulation.

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Firm Foundations for Fair Trade

Demand for fair trade products is rising nearly twenty times faster than the growth of the UK economy amid signs that consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium price for ethical products.

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Learning Lessons from: George Soros

Friday, May 23, 2008


On Wednesday, George “The Man Who Broke The Bank” Soros returned to his alma mater to promote his new book The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means. Arguably the world’s most well-known speculator, the Old Theatre was packed with awe-filled admirers who have made the long pilgrimage despite The Match kicking off in 2 hours’ time. A member of the audience later commended him on how quickly Soros had managed to get his book published, with statistics as up-to-date as from last month. You can listen to an mp3 file of the session here.

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More on inflation

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The Economist is running with a leader on inflationary woes today.

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An economic history lesson

In an entry called ‘The Nasty Decades of the Past’ the BBC website offers a historical perspective on hard times.

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John Kay on perceptions of inflation

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Trust John Kay to make plenty of sense of the furore over whether the official inflation numbers are accurate in telling us what is happening to consumer prices

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Tariff taken to the cleaners

Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution alerted me to this neat story about the unintended consequences and costs of import tariffs

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LSE podcasts

A terrific resource for those unable to get across to the London School of Economics - the LSE podcasts are available on iTunes.

Revision: Profit Max and Revenue Max

A one page revision note on the difference between profit maximisation and revenue maximisation

Revision note:
Revision_Profit_Maximisation_Revenue_Maximisation.doc

Revision: Financing a BoP Deficit

A one page revision note designed for A2 economists on the current and capital account of the balance of payments

Revision note
Revision_Financing_BoP_Deficit.pdf

This links in with the revision presentation on the UK balance of payments which is available here

Pain at the Pumps

My diesel-powered Citroen has spent a pretty long time parked and unused in recent weeks. Save for occasional visits to the supermarket I have tried to use the car as little as possible as fuel prices have spiked higher and higher. At the margin, it makes much more sense for me to pay for a £14 return rail ticket from home to Oxford for a lunch engagement or a £90 return train journey to Manchester for the recent student workshops than sit sweating and increasingly stressed in the car for several hours getting from A to B.

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Revision: Floating Exchange Rates

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Since 1992 the UK has operated with a floating exchange rate – the external value of the currency has been left to market forces i.e. the supply and demand for sterling in the global foreign exchange markets. In a pure floating system, there is official target for the exchange rate and there is no need for intervention in the currency market by the central bank. The two page revision noteis available below

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Proposed reforms to the EU CAP

Good coverage of the proposed reforms to the European Union farm support policy in the Independent today - the brief details are below

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UK Balance of Payments in 2007

A revision presentation is streamed here - I will upload the presentation in powerpoint format a bit later

Striking doctors - fewer deaths

When doctors go on strike, the death rate can often fall - why is this?

 

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Revision: The NAIRU

NAIRU is an acronym for Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment - this revision note looks at the factors influencing the NAIRU for the UK economy.

Revision document
Revision_the_NAIRU.pdf

The Big Question: OPEC

The Big Question in the Independent today focuses on the role of OPEC in influencing world oil prices - well worth getting as a teaching resource and great for students wanting to top up their knowledge of the topic ahead of their exams. The article can be found here

The FT reports that “fears of a shortage within five years propelled long-term oil futures prices to almost $140 a barrel on Tuesday”

Revision: Liquidity Trap

“The liquidity trap - a situation in which conventional monetary policy loses all traction” (Paul Krugman, March 2008). In normal circumstances, monetary policy can be a powerful instrument in managing aggregate demand, output and inflationary pressures and smoothing the impact of external economic shocks. But on occasions, monetary policy can become ineffective – the liquidity trap is associated with this.

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Revision Note: Credit Crunch

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A one page revision note on the credit crunch

Revision note
Revision_Credit_Crunch.pdf

Difficult Economics Concepts and Topics!

With the exams looming you may find that there are ideas, concepts or topics that, try as you might, you cannot quite nail! We will try to help you along using the blog. If you have a topic that you are finding especially difficult, post a suggestion here and we will try to produce a short revision note on it in good time - here is the first one on public and private goods - a common topic on the market failure papers for AS economics.

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Bryn’s Economics Revision Videos

Bryn Jones runs an excellent blog (available here) and he has, with the help of his students, produced a series of ten short revision videos covering some of the key diagrams for AS economics - excellent and an ideal way of supporting your revision in the days ahead. Make straight for his You Tube site!

Stat Attack on the UK Economy

I have attached my updated revision sheet on the key UK economic indicators ahead of the exam - available for download on pdf format.

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House prices down, rents up

There is an excellent article on the BBC website for those taking the housing market paper in two weeks. Property rents are rising faster than inflation whilst house prices are falling – how can that be explained. As always, it is a combination of supply and demand factors.

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Growing demand for social housing

Forget the easy headlines about the price of luxury villas and designer flats, at the hard end of the housing market, chronic affordability problems, rising mortgage repossessions and a collapse in the supply of mortgage finance are likely to bring about a sharp spike in demand for social housing according to a new report from the Local Government Association

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Searching for new acronyms!

Ok, the NICE decade seems to be over for now (NICE stood for non-inflationary consistent expansion) but what should we replace it with?

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IMF and HSBC Economists on Global Shock Absorbers

Monday, May 19, 2008

Students revising for essays on globalisation might like to take a quick look at this new article by Charles Collyns and Krishna Srinivasan from the IMF and published in the Singapore Business Times. The article focuses on three structural changes in the balance of power and influence in the world economy which link to the reduced influence of the USA on global economic activity.

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Pay as you Go - An inconvenient truth

Are public conveniences a merit good and should they be made available free at the point of use (or need!) or is a pay as you go scheme more efficient and equitable? In case you are thinking that I am taking the pxxs, it is worth considering whether local and central government should be devoting more resources to the improved provision of public toilets across the UK.

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Contractor Incompetence

A classic example of contractor failure .... here is the view from my study of a local firm of road contractors digging up a speed table for the 2nd time having failed on two separate occasions to get the specification right.

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Fighting Industrial Decline

Peter Day’s perennially excellent series In Business looked this week at the survival of some maverick manufacturing businesses in the UK - how are they managing to survive and thrive when large parts of what is left of UK industry continues to suffer long run relative and absolute decline?

Protecting the Natural Health Service

“Under siege from climate change, development, pollution and aggressive new farming methods, the country’s biodiversity is already significantly less rich than it was 50 years ago.” The Independent continues to promote it’s environmental agenda today with a striking front cover and leading article on the threats to the UK’s natural habitat and heritage. There is a strong economic and social case for a holistic approach to protecting and improving our natural resource base including paying farmers an income for their environmental husbandry and stewardship.

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Central Banks- Power Failure?

Tonight on BBC Radio 4 (8pm) there looks like there will be an excellent hour long programme presented by Robert Peston examining whether central banks in the west have lost their power. Have a listen, there are bound to be lots of good last minute evaluative points you can get into you answers.

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12 Must Revise Topics for A2

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A personal selection of topics that I would want to have revised thoroughly before the A2 economics exams

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Central bank impotence

David Smith writes about monetary policy in his Sunday Times column today - and there are some terrific evaluation points of use to AS and A2 students. Robert Peston is presenting a radio 4 programme on this very topic on Monday 19th.

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Of lemons and light bulbs

Saturday, May 17, 2008


In his book Everlasting Light Bulbs, John Kay dispels the myth that inventors have already came up with a light bulb that lasts forever, and at a reasonable cost. However, light bulb manufacturers have always managed to keep it under covers somehow (through bribery, blackmail or even assassination in some versions of the story!) because such a light bulb would destroy the market for light bulbs and put the manufacturers out of business.

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All hands to the pumps?

The Financial Times reports today that Saudi Arabia is stepping up crude oil production by 300,000 barrels a day. And there are signs that other members of OPEC are starting to press for an increase in OPEC oil output as prices rise above $127 per barrel and the steep rise in oil costs hurts many developing countries. This FT article provides a bit more background on some of the tensions within the cartel. Saudi Arabia is often called a swing producer within the OPEC cartel - adjusting short run production to help the cartel meet its price targets / objectives. It seems that Saudi is justifying the new boost to output on the grounds of compensating for reductions in production from other OPEC members. Goldman Sachs has raised its average price projection for crude in 2009 to $148 a barrel.

Will food prices start to fall?

Hugh Pym reports on a decline in the index of global food prices which hints that the recent upwards spiral in the cost of foodstuffs might be coming to an end. Have the underlying supply and demand factors changed? Will food producers around the world respond to the sharp rise in price to give us a supply response large enough to lower the risks of further social and economic upheaval?

Flood defences, cost benefit and opportunity cost

Money spent on flood defences both here in the UK and overseas raises plenty of interesting questions relating to the use of cost benefit analysis and the opportunity cost of public money. What are the external costs and benefits of flood defence schemes? Are flood fences a pure public good? Who should pay for them? There have been several excellent news articles and video clips on this issue on the BBC web site in recent days - here is a selection

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Canny pricing in a slowdown

Friday, May 16, 2008

There is a super feature on pricing strategies from Adam Jones’s management blog on the Financial Times web site - available here

Canny businesses are willing and able to adjust their pricing strategies to suit ever changing business consumers. The key seems to be in having good market intelligence about which consumers have a demand that is sensitive to price and those who spending on goods and services is affected more by changes in real take-home income. Deep discounting is often observed in an economic slowdown or outright recession as businesses look to shift unsold stock, maintain sales volumes and generate extra cash to tide them through the tough times. But as the FT blog points out, offering discounts to consumers can risk unleashing an unwelcome price war (which damages profit margins) and overly-aggressive discounting can ultimately damage the brand.

There is a bit more on pricing do’s and don’ts in a recession here

Dismal prediction for Zimbabwe proves accurate

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In the blog I suggested that without the hasty departure of the tyrant Robert Mugabe, things would get worse.  Back in April, the Bank of Zimbabwe had just issued a 10m Zimbabwe dollar note.  I predicted a billion dollar note in a couple of months.

Unfortunately, it’s looking like my gloomy prediction may prove true.  Today the BBC report that Zimbabwe bank issues $500m note.  That’s worth a couple of bucks.  So a billion Zim dollars is equivalent to around five US dollars. For now.

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