The BNZ publish a report entitled “NZ at a Glance” which summarises the current state of the NZ economy. Here are some of the main points:
GDP – Construction is the main driver of growth over the next couple of years – mainly residential. Net exports is likely to take a hit as import penetration starts to build with as the economy recovers. GDP is forecast to increase to 3.6% in 2014 from 2.9% in 2013.
Unemployment – the current rate is 6.2% and the labour market is tightening with the increase in economic activity. Forecast to fall to 5.2% by March 2015. Tighter labour market will mean higher wage growth but also because of higher inflationary expectations as the economy recovers.
Inflation - quite subdued and the annual rate has been 1% or less over the last four quarters. A strong NZD, weakening commodity prices and low inflation globally are conspiring to offset domestic-demand driven price increases. Low inflation also becomes self-fulfilling to the extent that it moderates inflation expectations and price-setting behaviour elsewhere.
Current Account - The current account deficit appears to be stabilising in a 4.0% to 5.0% of GDP range. This is thanks largely to a resurgence in the commodity prices of the goods that New Zealand exports. This is a welcome development to the extent that it may appease nervous rating agencies for a year or so.
The New Zealand economic expansion is gaining in momentum. The rebuild of Christchurch is now building up a head of steam and this is supporting increasingly widespread confidence. Very low interest rates and a booming housing market are playing their part too. Eventually this will necessitate a response from the central bank but while annual inflation remains below 1.0% (and set to stay there for a while) it suggests that any such response might be some time in coming. Meanwhile, the NZD remains supported by money printing elsewhere and the relative strength of the economy here.
Just published on their website, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand has prepared a short video explaining inflation. The video, featuring the Bank’s Head of Economics, John McDermott, explains how inflation is measured and how it manifests itself in everyday life. It also explains the importance of maintaining price stability. Well worth a look.
The media last week were championing the fact that America most-cited benchmark, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (consists of the biggest 30 companies on Wall Street), had surpassed the peak that it reached prior to the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. Although the DJIA has doubled since March 2009 the American economy has only grown over the same period by 7% in real terms. Ultimately there is no real correlation between GDP growth and stock market returns The Economist stated main reason for this is that central banks worldwide have been forcing down the returns on Government bonds hoping to get investors to put money into more risky assets and therefore restore confidence amongst businesses and consumers.
Do the figures stack up?
Although the DIJA has hit a record high numerically, has inflation been factored into the calculation? If you look at the real figures (adjusted for inflation) the Dow Jones is approximately 9% below where it was in October 2007. Therefore the purchasing power of your shares in October 2007 is greater than that of today.
In real terms DIJA would be around 12,900 instead of the peak of 14,253.77 on Tuesday 5th March.
Justin Lahart in the Wall Street Journal stated last week that when you included the dividends earned (with investments in the DIJA) over the past five and half years and if they were reinvested the DIJA would be at 16,000. Adjusting for both inflation and dividends would put the DIJA around 15,000 – up approximately 5%.
Another consideration that he alluded to was that the DIJA doesn’t really reflect how well the average stock is doing. Companies with high market capitalisations like Apple are worth more than others also stocks like International Business Machines are worth more than others. Therefore stocks with the largest weightings have tended to weigh on the DIJA. If you put all stocks on the same footing since DIJA’s old record, and the index would have performed much better. The equal-weighted DIJA now stands at 16,683.44 which is 2,518.91 points higher than its 2007 high of 14,164.53 – see graph below.
Nouriel Roubini wrote a piece on the Project Syndicate site focusing on the costs of QE. After three rounds of QE one wonders about its effectiveness. Roubini came up with 10 potential costs.
1. QE policies just postpones the necessary private and public sector deleveraging and if this is left too long it can create a zombie economy – institutions, firms, governments etc lose their ability to function.
2. Economic activity in the circular flow may become clogged with bond yields being so low and banks hoarding liquidity. Therefore the velocity of money circulation grinds to a halt.
3. With more money in the economy this implies a weakening of the currency but this is ineffective if other economies use QE at the same time. QE becomes a zero-sum game as not all currencies can fall simultaneously. QE = Currency Wars
4. QE leads to excessive capital to emerging markets. This can lead to a lot of extra liquidity and feed into domestic inflation creating asset bubbles. Furthermore an appreciation of the domestic currency in emerging markets makes their exports less competitive.
5. QE can lead to asset bubbles in an economy where it is implemented. It is especially prevalent when you’ve had an aggressive expansionary monetary policy (1% in USA after 9/11) already present in the economy for many years prior.
6. QE encourages Moral Hazard – governments put off major economic reforms and resort to a band aid policy. May delay fiscal austerity and ill discipline in the market.
7. Exiting QE is important – too slow an exit could mean higher inflation and assets and credit bubbles are created.
8. Long periods of negative real interest rates implies a redistribution of income and wealth – creditors and savers to debtors and borrowers. QE damages pensioners and pension funds.
9. With QE excessive inflation accompanied by slow credit growth, banks are faced with very low net interest-rate margins. Therefore, they might put money into riskier investments – remember the sub-prime crisis, oil prices up $147/barrel
10. QE might mean the end of conventional monetary policy. Some countries have discarded inflationary targets and there is no cornerstone for price expectations.
Recent growth and inflation figures spell bad news for the Brazilian economy. You would normally associate inflation as a consequence of higher growth rates but this looks like potential stagflation – stagnant growth and inflation. Although it is not as threatening as the stagflation era of the 1970’s, one wonders how the economy will get on hosting the World Cup and the Olympics games. You would have thought with these forthcoming events that economic growth would be generated with the huge infrastructure development required.
I have being going over the theory behind the output gap and here is an explanation – written a few years ago. Probably not so applicable to the economic environment today
Just as Messrs Friedman and Phelps had predicted, the level of inflation associated with a given level of unemployment rose through the 1970s, and policymakers had to abandon the Phillips curve. Today there is a broad consensus that monetary policy should focus on holding down inflation. But this does not mean, as is often claimed, that central banks are “inflation nutters”, cruelly indifferent towards unemployment.
If there is no long-term trade-off, low inflation does not permanently choke growth. Moreover, by keeping inflation low and stable, a central bank, in effect, stabilises output and jobs. In the graph below the straight line represents the growth in output that the economy can sustain over the long run; the wavy line represents actual output. When the economy is producing below potential (ie, unemployment is above the NAIRU), at point A, inflation will fall until the “output gap” is eliminated. When output is above potential, at point B, inflation will rise for as long as demand is above capacity. If inflation is falling (point A), then a central bank will cut interest rates, helping to boost growth in output and jobs; when inflation is rising (point B), it will raise interest rates, dampening down growth. Thus if monetary policy focuses on keeping inflation low and stable, it will automatically help to stabilise employment and growth.
Back into after the summer break in New Zealand – and to start the academic year a very amusing presentation by the only economics stand up comedian.
It was presented at the 2013 American Economic Association Humor Session by Yoram Bauman, a young environmental economist at the University of Washington. Bauman wavers between different opinions – the economics of hell and heaven. In the afterlife he talks about burning joss paper as an ancient Chinese practice which passes on money to those family members that are deceased. He also talks about massive increases in M4 as a major contributor to hyperinflation.
From the Australian Markets Weekly:
The Chinese indicators released on Sunday showed further signs of recovery, with better than expected outcomes for industrial production and retail sales. Industrial production rose 10.1%yoy in November (median 9.8%) from 9.6%, continuing to trend
higher after the 3-year low of 8.9% seen in August. Retail sales were up 14.9%yoy in November (median 14.6%) from 14.5%. Meanwhile inflation was subdued, up just 0.1% in November and 2.0%yoy (median 2.1%), meaning the PBoC has room to stimulate the economy further if growth unexpectedly slows again.
Part of the Cambridge A2 syllabus studies Macro Economic conflicts of Policy Objectives. Here I am looking at GDP, Unemployment, and Inflation (improving Trade figures is another objective also). The objectives are:
* Stable low inflation with prices rising within the target range of 1% – 3% per year
* Sustainable growth – as measured by the rate of growth of real gross domestic product
* Low unemployment – the government wants to achieve full-employment
New Zealand Growth, Jobs and Prices — 3 Key Macro Objectives Inflation, jobs and growth
1. Inflation and unemployment:
From the graph above you can see that low levels of unemployment have created higher prices – demand-pull inflation. Also note that as unemployment has increased there is a short-term trade-off between unemployment and inflation. Notice the increase in inflation in 2010-2011 as this is when the rate of GST was increased from 12.5% to 15%. Also today we have falling inflation (0.8% below the 1-3% band set by the RBNZ) and unemployment in on the rise – 7.3%
2. Economic growth and inflation
With increasing growth levels prices started to increase in 2007 going above the 3% threshold in 2008. This suggests that there were capacity issues in the economy and the aggregate supply curve was becoming very inelastic. In subsequent years the level of growth has dropped and with it the inflation rate.
3. Economic Growth and Unemployment
Usually you find that with increasing levels of GDP growth unemployment figures tend to gravitate downward. This was apparent between 2006-2008 – GDP was positive and unemployment did fall to approximately 3.6%. However from 2009 onwards you can see that growth has been positive but unemployment has also started to rise.
With the Cambridge A2 exam on Wednesday here are some revision notes on inflation and a diagram that I have found useful. As well as cost-push and demand-pull inflation remember:
In recent years more attention has been paid to the psychological effects which rising prices have on people’s behaviour. The various groups which make up the economy, acting in their own self-interest, will actually cause inflation to rise faster than otherwise would be the case if they believe rising prices are set to continue.
Workers, who have tended to get wage rises to ‘catch up’ with previous price increases, will attempt to gain a little extra compensate them for the expected further inflation, especially if they cannot negotiate wage increases for another year. Consumers, in belief that prices will keep rising, buy now to beat the price rises, but this extra buying adds to demand pressures on prices. In a country such as New Zealand’s before the 1990′s, with the absence of competition in many sectors of the economy, this behaviour reinforces inflationary pressures. ‘Breaking the inflationary cycle’ is an important part of permanently reducing inflation. If people believe prices will remain stable, they won’t, for example, buy land and property as a speculation to protect themselves.
The New York Times recently reported that the Japanese authorities are once again trying to stimulate a rather moribund economy with injecting more money into the circular flow.
* A ¥11 trillion is to be added to an asset buying programme
* The Bank of Japan will supply banks with cheap long-term funds in the hope of stimulating borrowing.
* Base interest rate to stay at 0-0.1% – see graph below
* These measures will stay in place until inflation has reached at least 1% – Bank of Japan forecast of this figure is March 2014.
There has been some return to growth with the reconstruction after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. However global demand has declines and the issue of territory with China hasn’t helped – Japanese goods are not being favoured by Chinese consumers. Japan’s deflationary decade hasn’t been helped with a contracting population and monetary policy needs to be accompanied by government fiscal policy as private sector companies don’t have the confidence to invest in major expansions. To this end the government have thrown money at the economy to the tune of ¥422.6 billion (in the form of government spending) but this is already twice the size of the Japanese economy. A strengthening yen hasn’t helped matters as exporters find their products uncompetitive.
Some figures for September show that the Chinese economy is tentatively starting to come out of its slowdown.
Exports rose to 9.9%
GDP for Q3 rose by 7.4%
CPI – 1.9%
The CPI figure is encouraging in that it gives the Peoples’ Bank of China plenty of room to ease monetary policy if they need to as the Inflation target rate is 4%. They have also pumped an additional US$42.15bn into the economy in order to stimulate growth. According to the National Australia Bank (NAB) the use of these measures appears to be the preferred method of monetary easing ahead of the start of the Communist Party Congress which starts on 8 November, where a new leadership team is set to be installed. The installation of the new leadership team could pave the way for a cut to the reserve requirement ratio and for fiscal stimulus. Many commentators envisage a soft landing for China.
Coming from Ireland I took a keen interest in the book entitled “Understanding Ireland’s Economic Crisis” edited by Stephen Kinsella and Anthony Leddin. It is a series of papers written by Irish academics which focuses on the causes of the largest destruction of wealth of any developed economy during the 2007-2010 global financial crisis. One paper on “The Phillips Curve and the Wage-Inflation Process in Ireland” lent itself to the Unit 6 of the A2 CIE syllabus. Remember the Phillips curve:
Bill Phillips, a New Zealander who taught at the London School of Economics, discovered a stable relationship between the rate of inflation (of wages, to be precise, rather than consumer prices) and unemployment in Britain over a long period, from the 1860s to the 1950s. Higher inflation, it seemed, went with lower unemployment. To the economists and policymakers of the 1960s, keen to secure full employment, this offered a seductive trade-off: lower unemployment could be bought at the price of a bit more inflation.
Notice the following:
1987: – 17% unemployment with over 3% inflation
1988-99: – unemployment falls to 5% and inflation 1.5%
1999-2000: – inflation increases from 1.5% to just over 7%. This increase was largely due to expansionary fiscal policy (demand-pull inflation) and capacity constraints that led to higher costs of production (cost-push). This led to a classic Phillips Curve situation as unemployment was at 4% and the unexpected increase in inflation had caused workers to ask for higher wages. With the low rate of unemployment their bargaining position was very strong.
2001-2004: – during this period we see the typical Phillips Curve wage-price spiral. When there is an unexpected rise in inflation this is accompanied by inflationary expectations and Ireland saw a dramatic upsurge in nominal pay awards. As demand-pull inflation fed into cost-push Irish inflation remained relatively high over the next 3 years.
2005-2008: – with unemployment still around 4% wages continued to rise significantly as inflation remained around the 5% level.
2008-2011: the global financial crisis hits the world economy and unemployment in Ireland hits 15% in the space of 2 years. Meantime the trade-off with inflation starts with the CPI reaching over -6% at the end of 2009. More recently we see inflation getting up to 3% with the rate of unemployment increasing at a diminishing rate.
Although economic indicators are improving in Ireland there is still a long way to go before they can be more confident about its outlook.
It is important that you are aware of current issues to do with the New Zealand and the World Economy. Examiners always like students to relate current issues to the economic theory as it gives a good impression of being well read in the subject. Only use these indicators if it is applicable to the question.
Indicators that you might want to mention are as follows:
The New Zealand Economy
The New Zealand economy expanded by 0.6 percent in the June 2012 quarter, while economic growth in the March quarter was revised down slightly to one percent. Favourable weather conditions leading to an increase in milk production was a significant driver of economic growth over the June quarter. The current account deficit rose to $10,087 million in the year ended June 2012, equivalent to 4.9 percent of GDP. Higher profits by foreign-owned New Zealand-operated banks and higher international fuel prices were factors behind the increase in the deficit during the year. Unemployment is currently at 6.8% but is expected to fall below 6% with the predicted increase in GDP. Annual inflation is approaching its trough. It is of the opinion that it will head towards the top end of the Reserve Bank’s target band (3%) by late next year.
The Global Economy
After the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) the debt-burdened economies are still struggling to reduce household debt to pre-crisis levels and monetary and fiscal policies have failed to overcome “liquidity traps”. Rising budget deficits and government debt levels have become more unsustainable. The US have employed the third round of quantitative easing and are buying US$40bn of mortgage backed securities each month as well as indicating that interest rates will remain at near zero levels until 2015. Meanwhile in the eurozone governments have implemented policies of austerity and are taking money out of the circular flow. However in the emerging economies there has been increasing inflation arising from capacity constraints as well as excess credit creation. Overall the deleveraging process can take years as the excesses of the previous credit booms are unwound. The price to be paid is a period of sub-trend economic growth which in Japan’s case ends up in lost decades of growth and diminished productive potential. The main economies are essentially pursuing their own policies especially as the election cycle demands a more domestic focus for government policy – voter concerns are low incomes and rising unemployment. Next month see the US elections and the changing of the guard in China. In early 2013 there is elections in Germany. The International Monetary Fund released their World Economic Outlook in which they downgraded their formal growth outlook. They also described the risk of a global recession as “alarmingly high”.
The recent job summit called by Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) focused on the strength of the NZ dollar and the impact it is having on manufacturing jobs in the New Zealand economy. This has been area that the opposition parties have targeted especially the Greens. Although a weaker dollar would make exports more competitive there are concerns about the mechanism used to achieve. Certain procedures to reduce the value of a currency have been well documented. They are as follows:
1. Quantitive Easing – printing money.
You need to look no further than the US economy to to see what has been the impact of 3 rounds of QE. Although the US dollar fell after QE1 in late 2008 a lot of could be said to have been caused by the collapse of Lehman Brothers and others around that time. QE2 in November 2010 correlated with the fall in the US dollar but again some have indicated that this was a result of the US economy being energised by the Federal Reserve and therefore it was safe to buy risky investments (US dollar seen as safe). You don’t have to look for another example where QE has had a limited impact – Japan since 2001. Here the Japanese authorities have found that QE has seen the Yen strengthen.
2. RBNZ enter the foreign exchange market and buy NZ dollars with currency reserves
This has been tried before with little success – equilibrium is restored at pre-intervention levels and the venture has proved very costly. Furthermore, there is the specter of inflation to contend with in years to come. The currency value has been more influenced by which stage of the business cycle the NZ economy is sitting at. In the 1990’s the Bank of Japan has spent billions of dollars trying to stop the appreciation of the Yen against the US dollar. The Swiss National Bank had to spend the equivalent to 70% of its GDP buying euros to cap the Swiss franc.
3. Drop the Reserve Bank’s Official Cash Rate (OCR)
When an economy’s interest rates are relatively high compared to other economies there is the incentive to park your currency where you get higher returns i.e. borrow from Japan at near 0% and investing in Australia at 5%. However lower interest rates doesn’t necessarily mean a lower exchange rate – the Reserve Bank of Australia has dropped rates from 4.75% to 3.25% over the last couple of years but the Aussie dollar hasn’t moved. This is most likely due to the mining boom.
4. Contractionary Fiscal Policy
As Don Brash (Former RBNZ Governor) stated in the NZ Herald, the best way of reducing the value of the NZ dollar would be for the government returning to a surplus by reducing government spending and increasing taxes. This would take money out of the circular flow and therefore reduce aggregate demand. With inflation nearing the bottom of the target range the RBNZ would be forced to reduce the OCR and ultimately the NZ dollar without the threat of inflation.
Getting the exchange rate down is a very complex task and it seems that the foreign exchange market doesn’t punish negative figures of economic indicators i.e. high inflation. I suppose a increase in the value of the NZ dollar is due to our desire to fund our spending from overseas borrowing.
Here is a series of 6 cartoons from the Open University about economic concepts – I got this link from Mo Tanweer of Oundle School in the UK. They are very well done and make for good revision with the forthcoming exams. Below is one on The Invisible Hand. To view all 6 click on the link -
Open University 60 second adventures in economics.
With industrial production down and significantly less pressure on inflation the Chinese authorities are in a good position to throw some more fuel on the fire. The National Australia Bank reported that China’s Industrial Production for July rising by 9.2%yoy, down from 9.5% last month and below the median forecast of 9.7% – see graph below.
However this growth is not bad when you think of other primary producing countries. Furthermore the CPI rose by only 1.8% this year (July yoy) and down from 6.5% in 2011 so there is little pressure in this area.
The worry for China is their trade balance which has dipped. This was very disappointing export growth coming in with a rise of 1% over the past year, down from 11.3% last month and way below the median forecast of 8.0%. There was a big fall in exports to Europe, down by 16.2% over the past year (-1.1% in June). Exports to Italy are down by 35.8%. There was also a significant pull back in exports to the USA rising by 0.6%, down from 10.6% in June. Exports to the rest of Asia were better but have slowed everywhere. For Australia, exports rose by 8.5% yoy, down from 18.6% yoy last month. Meanwhile, imports slowed to 4.7%, from 6.3% last month and below the market forecast of 7%. Imports from Australia into China fell by 9.7%yoy, down from a rise of 1.7% for June.
Here is a clip from Nial Ferguson’s Ascent of Money that I used in my AS class today. It explains the hyperinflation problem that Argentina experienced in the late 1980′s – early 1990′s and reminds us of the dangers of inflation. Anyone who thinks that you can solve a financial crisis by printing money might be interested in the Argentinian experience.
With Dr Alan Bollard coming to the end of his second 5 year term as Reserve Bank Governor, there will be a little uncertainty as to the monetary policy outlook under Graeme Wheeler the governor-designate until a new policy targets agreement is finalised in the next few months. Grant Cleland from the Parliamentary Library produced a neat summary of the policy targets agreement since the signing of the Reserve Bank Act in 1989.
Under section 9 of the Reserve Bank Act 1989, before the appointment or reappointment of a Reserve Bank Governor, an agreement setting out specific policy targets has to be signed between the Treasurer and the Reserve Bank Governor. There have been nine Policy Target Agreements signed to date. The first PTA was signed in March 1990 between the Minister of Finance, Hon David Caygill and the Reserve Bank Governor, Dr Don Brash. It set the policy target of achieving an annual inflation rate of 0 – 2 percent by the year ended December 1992.
The following table shows the policy targets agreements signed to date, the signatories, and the inflation policy target within each of them. In December 1996, the policy target for annual inflation changed to a 0 – 3 percent inflation target band. In September 2002, this inflation target band was amended to an inflation target band of 1 – 3 percent on average over the medium term.
The latest Policy Target Agreement was signed in December 2008. It was similar to the previous PTA signed in May 2007, but included a change to the Government’s economic objectives as part of the Price stability section of the agreement. The wording for this section from the last two PTAs are shown below:
May 2007 Policy Targets Agreement – “The objective of the Government’s economic policy is to promote sustainable and balanced economic development in order to create full employment, higher real incomes and a more equitable distribution of incomes. Price stability plays an important part in supporting the achievement of wider economic and social objectives”.
December 2008 Policy Targets Agreement – “The Government’s economic objective is to promote a growing, open and competitive economy as the best means of delivering permanently higher incomes and living standards for New Zealanders. Price stability plays an important part in supporting this objective”.
The Producer Price Index (PPI) measures the changes in prices charged by businesses “at the factory gate” for the goods they produce. They are an alternative measure of inflation. Ultimately retailers and distributors will pass on these prices to their customers.
In New Zealand producer price indices divide into two strands: output prices and input prices. Output prices are the “factory gate prices” charged to customers. Input prices are the cost of materials and fuel that manufacturers bear.
In the US, the PPI divides into three: finished goods, intermediate materials and components, and raw materials. The PPI for finished goods is typically the statistic that the media focuses on. Other countries sometimes calculate it differently. Some countries include agriculture as well as manufacturing in the sphere of producer prices. By definition services are not included.
Like the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and its variants, the PPI derives from a basket weighted according to the relative importance of the industry concerned. The basis for the weighting is the value of an industry’s production and how big or small it is in the overall scheme of things. If the widget industry accounts for 5 per cent of GDP, then any changes in the prices it charges its customers will have a 5 per cent weighting in the PPI. Data on prices comes from monthly surveys with recipients selected by means of a stratified random sample. The sample is updated periodically to reflect changes in industrial structure and technology. The index is effectively an average for the month in question. It is usually published about 10 days after the end of the month it covers.
In general terms, the closer the statistic to the final customer, the less volatile it is. So prices of raw materials – including fuel, commodities, feedstock chemicals and materials used in manufacturing – are the most volatile. Prices of intermediate goods and components are less volatile, and prices of finished goods the least volatile. Why is it important for you? One reason stands out. The PPI can be an indicator of future consumer price inflation. But to view it just in this light is an oversimplification – really like comparing apples and pears. This is because the PPI includes capital goods as well as consumer goods, which the CPI does not. Consumer price indices typically also include services, which PPI figures exclude. Having said that, sustained increases (or decreases) in the PPI may be an indicator in general terms that inflationary (or deflationary) pressures are building up.
If so, and though the statistic itself may seem remote from our normal daily lives, it may produce economic policy moves that have a more direct impact on our collective pocket – such as rising interest rates and tighter credit. Conversely, weak PPI data, together with other factors, may encourage the central bank to relax monetary conditions and cut interest rates to attempt to produce a revival in the economy. Recent trends in the PPI have suggested that deflation is more of a risk than inflation.
One problem that policymakers have to contend with is that some components of the PPI – especially input prices – are very volatile on a month-by-month basis. So the interpretation of the figures, and any policy measures that may be taken, needs to take this into account. For this reason too, seasonal adjustment of PPI numbers, though undertaken in the official statistics, is not held to be particularly satisfactory.
In short, PPI indices contain quite a lot of useful information, but much of it is not glamorous or neatly packaged into a number that analysts and commentators can relate to easily. The result is that some of the detail tends to get lost. Commentators are often quick to trumpet any change in any inflation rate as news, even if it is not.