Automotive industry hardest hit by supply-chain disruptions

Of the industries that have been most effected by the supply chain disruptions the car industry has taken the biggest hit with 52% of automotive supply-chain managers saying that disruption from COVID-19 to supply was very significant. The reasons for the automotive problems are:

Production stoppages – 48%
Trade restrictions – 24%
Access to raw materials – 12%

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit the problems associated with the shortage of semiconductors could have been avoided. Automotive producers cancelled orders of semiconductors at the start of the COVID-19 as they assumed that their spare capacity could meet the demand. Although the industry realised their mistake the allocation of semiconductors was mopped up very quickly by other sectors. The consumer electronics industries boomed as more people worked from home and spent income normally prioritised for leisure activities to other forms of entertainment. Access to raw materials was a major disrupter of other sectors – healthcare and food. With people in lockdown there was a considerable demand for food with eating out not a viable alternative.

East v West
It seems that more traditional supply chains (West) that have been developed over many years have been harder hit than more recent supply chains (East). Regionalisation has been the focus in North America and Europe but less so in Asia. Smaller companies are now localising their supply chains as COVID has been the catalyst to rethinking strategies with a renewed focus on flexibility.

Source: DISRUPTION, DIGITISATION, RESILIENCE: The future of Asia-Pacific supply chains. The Economist Intelligence Unit. 2021

A2 Revision – Oligopoly and the kinked demand curve – download

With the A2 Essay paper tomorrow I thought something on the kinked demand curve might be useful. I alluded to in a previous post that one model of oligopoly revolves around how a firm perceives its demand curve. The model relates to an oligopoly in which firms try to anticipate the reactions of rivals to their actions. As the firm cannot readily observe its demand curve with any degree of certainty, it has got to estimate how consumers will react to price changes.

In the graph below the price is set at P1 and it is selling Q1. The firm has to decide whether to alter the price. It knows that the degree of its price change will depend upon whether or not the other firms in the market will follow its lead. The graph shows the the two extremes for the demand curve which the firm perceives that it faces. Suppose that an oligopolist, for whatever reason, produces at output Q1 and price P1, determined by point X on the graph. The firm perceives that demand will be relatively elastic in response to an increase in price, because they expects its rivals to react to the price rise by keeping their prices stable, thereby gaining customers at the firm’s expense. Conversely, the oligopolist expects rivals to react to a decrease in price by cutting their prices by an equivalent amount; the firm therefore expects demand to be relatively inelastic in response to a price fall, since it cannot hope to lure many customers away from their rivals. In other words, the oligopolist’s initial position is at the junction of the two demand curves of different relative elasticity, each reflecting a different assumption about how the rivals are expected to react to a change in price. If the firm’s expectations are correct, sales revenue will be lost whether the price is raised or cut. The best policy may be to leave the price unchanged.

With this price rigidity a discontinuity exists along a vertical line above output Q1 between the two marginal revenue curves associated with the relatively elastic and inelastic demand curves. Costs can rise or fall within a certain range without causing a profit-maximising oligopolist to change either the price or output. At output Q1 and price P1 MC=MR as long as the MC curve is between an upper limit of MC2 and a lower limit of MC1.

Criticisms of the kinked demand curve theory.
Although it is a plausible explanation of price rigidity it doesn’t explain how and why an oligopolist chooses to be a point X in the first place. Research casts doubt on whether oligopolists respond to price changes in the manner assumed. Oligopolistic markets often display evidence of price leadership, which provides an alternative explanation of orderly price behaviour. Firms come to the conclusion that price-cutting is self-defeating and decide that it may be advantageous to follow the firm which takes the first steps in raising the price. If all firms follow, the price rise will be sustained to the benefit of all firms.

If you want to gradually build the kinked demand curve model download the powerpoint by clicking below.
Oligopoly

AS & A2 Revision – How PED varies along a demand curve

Been doing some more revision sessions on CIE AS economics and went through how the elasticity of demand varies along a demand curve. Notice in Case A that the fall in price from Pa to Pb causes the the total revenue to increase therefore it is elastic – the blue area (-) is less than the orange area (+). In Case B the opposite applies – as the price decreases from Pa to Pb the total revenue decreases therefore it is inelastic – the blue area (-) is greater than the orange area (+). In Case C the drop in price causes the same proportionate change in quantity demanded, therefore there is no change in total revenue – it is unitary elasticity.

Remember where MR = 0 – PED = 1 on the demand curve (AR curve). A particularly popular question at A2 level is ‘where on the demand curve will a profit maximising firm produce at?’. As MC = MR above zero the imperfect firm always produces on the elastic part of the demand curve.

A2 Revision: Keynes 45˚ line

With the Cambridge A2 exam coming up here is a revision note on Keynes 45˚ line. A popular multi-choice question and usually in one part of an essay. Make sure that you are aware of the following;

Common Errors:
1. C and S are NOT parallel
2. The income level at which Y=C is NOT the equilibrium level of Y which occurs where AMD crosses the 45˚ line.
To Remember:
1. OA is autonomous consumption.
2. Any consumption up to C=Y must be financed.
3. At OX1 all income is spent
4. At OB consumption = BQ and saving= PQ
5. Equilibrium level of Y shown in 2 ways
a) where AMD crosses 45˚ line
b) Planned S = Planned I – point D

Remember the following equilibriums:
2 sector – S=I
With Govt – S+T = I+G
With Govt and Trade – S+T+M = I+G+X

AS Economics Revision – Transition Economies

With the CIE AS essay paper on Monday next week here are some notes on the issues confronting transition economies – this topic is in Unit 1 of the syllabus. What have been the formidable challenges facing eastern European countries (command) embracing capitalism? Here are some thoughts as well as an informative video from the IMF:

  • In planned some goods are provided free but not in a market economy
  • Corruption – widespread in communist countries in eastern Europe – Oligarchs
  • Inflation ↑ – privatised firms began to charge prices that reflected high costs
  • Lack of entrepreneurial experience
  • Rising unemployment as owners of businesses try to make them more efficient.
  • Labour relations – Poor as workers are in a new environment – Job security?
  • Consumer sovereignty – some industries decline/expand
  • Resources – surplus and shortage
  • Self-Interest – fewer merit goods and more demerit goods
  • Time Gap before framework of government controls can be developed
  • Expansion of industry – potentially for greater externalities
  • Old/disabled – vulnerable with the change of government role
  • Welfare system – limited support for unemployed etc. will take time to develop
  • Provision of public services – disruption to police and other public services
  • Moral Hazard – the state insure workers against risks of losing their job

How to write AS and A2 essays in Economics

With the AS exam going ahead here in NZ I thought it appropriate to put post some revision material over the next few days. Here is another mindmap on economic systems (market economy) which could be useful as an essay plan. I have also attached a document on writing Economics essays – goes through the important aspects of what Cambridge are looking for – Knowledge, Application, Analysis and Evaluation. Click below:

Source: CIE A Level Revision – Susan Grant

AS Revision – Tariffs and Protectionism

Just completed a 3 day CIE AS Revision Course.  I talked about Tariffs and Protectionism which is in Unit 4 of the AS course and how it can be a popular ‘Discuss’ question in the essay paper (Paper 2). However you will be expected to know this at A2 level also. Remember the following reasons for barriers to trade:

Why Protectionism?
a) Safeguard home country employment
b) Correct balance of payments disequilibria
c) Prevent labour exploitation in developing countries (or other political – not economic – goals)
d) Prevent Dumping
e) Safeguard infant industries

Below is useful mindmap that I use for revision of the topic.

Source: CIE A Level Revision – Susan Grant

Evergrade and China’s dependency on building stuff.

Since the economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping over 30 years ago the Chinese economy has relied on investment growth to drive its economy. The World Bank has estimated that China’s annual growth rate over the last ten years has averaged approximately 9.8% of which expenditure on investment accounts for 6-8%. For future growth China cannot be dependent on this model of investment growth as, not only is it unsustainable, but the carbon footprint will become increasingly intolerable.

Between 1995 and 2010 China’s average growth rate was 9.9% but total investment in infrastructure and real-estate projects rose on average by 20% each year accounting for approximately 42% of GDP. In 2018 as a % GDP (5.57%), China’s average infrastructure spending in 2018 was 10 times higher than that of the United States and significantly higher than anywhere else in the world. What also has been increasing China’s investment rate is the declining efficiency of investment capital which is reflected in its high incremental capita-output ratio – annual investment divided by annual output growth.

Too much supply
With the increased investment by companies too, there is an issue with overproduction in which producers tend to look to international markets as domestic demand has been exhausted. This assumes that the international market for goods and services is buoyant, but the impact of global financial crisis in 2008 resulted in surplus products, lower prices and falling profits. As with many developed countries, China has expanded credit in order to maintain demand, but this can lead to a repeat of what caused the crisis originally.

Evergrande
Corporate sector debt in 2011 was 108% of GDP but this increased to over 160% in 2020. Most of the debt been brought about by new development including housing. This sounded alarm bells as the return on this investment will take a lot longer than planned when you consider that the occupancy rate of apartments is approximately 25%.

But an even more important reason behind the continued insistence on superblock planning is the reliance of Chinese city governments on land lease revenue. Sincethe tax-sharing reform of 1994, cities have been obliged to fork over an enormous percentage of their tax revenue to the central government. In order to generate enough revenue to cover social services and other costs, cities have come to rely heavily on China’s land-lease mechanism that allows the city to rent parcels of land to private developers for a period of 70 years. Thoughts from the Frontline

Evergrande and similar building developments have maintained social order and geared the revenue that officials have wanted. Capitalism with Chinese characteristics?

Unfortunately this building boom has led to many Ghost Cities in China where apartments lay empty and have done so for many years. Below you can see what one developer did when he ran out of money in 2013 – the empty towers were imploded in Kunming this year.

Final thought

In a response to changes in both domestic and international economic developments, China will need to create a new growth model and ensure that development is based on improved quality and performance. An integral part of this development is to support and guide the private sector and ensure that it can enjoy an equal chance of success in competing against government-run organisations. By enlarging domestic demand and science and technological innovation there is more likelihood of acquiring a sustainable economic model that is not dependent on infrastructure development, housing and export markets.

Source: Thoughts from the Frontline – Xi’s Changing Plan. John Mauldin – 2-10-21

Stephanie Kelton – TED Talk

Recent TED talk by Stephanie Kelton on Modern Monetary Theory – MMT – in which she makes the case to stop looking at government spending as a path towards frightening piles of debt, but rather as a financial contribution to the things that matter — like health care, education, infrastructure and beyond. “We have the resources we need to begin repairing our broken systems,” Kelton says. “But we have to believe it’s possible.” The table below looks at the difference between mainstream monetary policy and modern monetary policy.

What determines the Neutral Rate of Interest?

Central Banks have often used the term ‘the neutral rate’ which refers to a rate of interest that neither stimulates the economy nor restrains economic growth. This rate is often defined as the rate which is consistent with full employment, trend growth, and stable prices – an economy where neither expansionary nor contractionary measures need to be implemented.
The neutral interest rate is the rate of interest where desired savings equal desired investment, and can be thought of as the level of the OCR that is neither contractionary nor expansionary for the economy.

OCR > Neutral Rate = Contractionary and slowing down the economy

OCR < Neutral Rate = Expansionary and speeding up the economy

This neutral rate dictates when the RBNZ end their tightening or loosening cycle. If the neutral rate is seen to be 3% it is the expectation that the RNBZ will increase the OCR to 3%. The graph below shows the difference between the estimated neutral rate and the OCR. Note that:

2008 – positive gap as RBNZ trying to bring inflation under control – contractionary level
2019 – the gap narrows and monetary policy becomes less stimulatory as the neutral of the OCR is likely lower.

What determines the neutral rate of interest in an economy?

Supply of loanable funds (people who save money) and Demand to borrow money – neutral rate generates a level of savings and borrowing that delivers the economy to maximum sustainable employment and inflation – 2% in NZ but with Policy Target Agreement of 1-3%.
Potential growth rate of an economy – if people expect more growth = higher incomes = higher borrowing = upward pressure on neutral rates. Economists tend to look at the production function and how much we can produce in the long-run therefore impacting aggregate supply. With higher potential growth rates investment spending is expected to increase and with it interest rates.
Population growth – strong population growth = larger labour force = larger national output which supports the neutral rate of interest.
Age and life expectancy – higher life expectancy increases the amount that people save during their working years. If consumers buy now rather than later = potentially either lower saving rates and/or higher borrowing = neutral rate of interest rises.
Superannuation / retirement age – burden of funding retirees fall on a smaller working age population. This could require higher taxes which leads to less spending putting downward pressure on interest rates.
Debt – with low mortgage rates, debt servicing have been at record lows. People have therefore borrowed a lot money and now have high level of indebtedness levels. Therefore higher mortgage rates mean that consumers disposable income will be reduced.
Government debt – COVID-19 has led to increased government spending and bigger budget deficits. New Zealand economy is probably as sensitive to higher interest rates and an increase in rates by the RBNZ will be very influential, limiting how far interest rates have to rise. And with households and the Government already loaded up on debt, future borrowing capacity is now reduced, which will put downwards pressure on interest rates too.
Overseas investment – as New Zealand comes a more attractive place to invest it increase the supply of loanable funds to New Zealanders. The investment will also strengthen the dollar which make exports less competitive but imports cheaper. Global capital flows mean that we can’t get too far out of sync with other advanced economies – as long as global neutral rates continue their relentless move south, so too will New Zealand’s.

Outlook
With the COVID-19 lockdown, increasing levels of debt amongst households and business and record low interest rates there is an expectation the RBNZ will increase the OCR. But with the OCR at such a low level already the RBNZ is running out ammunition if it wishes to stimulate the economy through conventional monetary policy.

Source: NZ Insight: Neutral interest rates – 20th August 2021 – ANZ Bank

A2 Economics – Wage Price Spiral and the Long Run Phillips Curve

Part of the CIE A2 macro syllabus focuses on the wage price spiral which relates to the Phillips Curve. Here are some excellent notes that I picked up from Russell Tillson in my early days teaching at Epsom College. As from previous posts, the Phillips Curve analysed data for money wages against the rate of unemployment over the period 1862-1958. Money wages and prices were seen to be strongly correlated, mainly because the former are the most significant costs of production. Hence the resulting curve purported to provide a “trade-off’ between inflation and unemployment – i.e. the government could ‘select’ its desired position on the curve.During the 1970’s higher rates of inflation than previously were associated with any given level of unemployment. It was generally considered that the whole curve had shifted right – i.e. to achieve full employment a higher rate of inflation than previously had to be accepted.

Milton Friedman’s expectations-augmented Phillips Curve denies the existence of any long-run trade off between inflation and unemployment. In short, attempts to reduce unemployment below its natural rate by fiscal reflation will succeed only at the cost of generating a wage-price spiral, as wages are quickly cancelled out by increases in prices.

Each time the government reflates the economy, a period of accelerating inflation will follow a temporary fall in unemployment as workers anticipate a future rise in inflation in their pay demands, and unemployment returns to its natural rate.

The process can be seen in the diagram below – a movement from A to B to C to D to E

Friedman thus concludes that the long-run Phillips Curve (LRPC) is vertical (at the natural rate of unemployment), and the following propositions emerge:

1. At the natural rate of unemployment, the rate of inflation will be constant (but not necessarily zero).

2. The rate of unemployment can only be maintained below its natural rate at the cost of accelerating inflation. (Reflation is doomed to failure).

3. Reduction in the rate of inflation requires deflation in the economy – i.e. unemployment must rise (in the short term at least) above its natural rate.

Some economists go still further, and argue that the natural rate has increased over time and that the LRPC slopes upwards to the right. If inflation is persistently higher in one country that elsewhere, the resulting loss of competitiveness reduces sales and destroys capacity. Hence inflation is seen to be a cause of higher inflation.

Rational expectations theorists deny Friedman’s view that reflation reduces unemployment even in the short-run. Since economic agents on average correctly predicted that the outcome of reflation will be higher inflation, higher money wages have no effect upon employment and the result of relations simply a movement up the LRPC to a higher level of inflation.

Covid-19 and matchday revenue of the 10 richest football clubs

It is always good to read Deloitte’s Football Money League annual publication and I was particularly interested to see what impact Covid-19 had on the revenue streams of the top 10 highest revenue generating clubs. It is estimated by Deloitte that this year’s Money League will have missed out on over €2 billion of revenue across the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons. This is primarily driven by matchday revenue – ticket and corporate hospitality sales.

Matchday business operations are the foundation for a club and they also help to dive other aspects of their business model. Although fans will want to return to grounds to support their team it remains uncertain how and when clubs can return to pre-Covid-19 revenue levels. One has to think more about the clubs in the lower divisions as the vast majority of their revenue is from spectators through the gate.

The table and chart below shows the top 10 highest revenue generating clubs in 2020. They also compare the matchday revenue between 2019 and 2020 and the difference expressed as a percentage. All but Tottenham Hotspur have experienced a decrease in matchday revenue with Juventus experiencing the biggest percentage fall – 36%. Tottenham was the only club in the Money League top ten to record an increase in matchday revenue. Despite the impact of the pandemic, matchday and commercial revenue grew to €107.7m (up 16%), demonstrating the revenue generating potential that Tottenham has unlocked through its new stadium. This was the largest amount of matchday revenue generated by any of the Premier League clubs in the year ending June 2020. Juventus and Manchester City generated much lower level of matchday revenue relative to other clubs – Juventus generated €42.3m (down 36%) and Manchester City €46.7m (down 24%).

Source: Deloitte’s Football Money League 2020
Source: Deloitte’s Football Money League 2020

A2 Multiple-Choice Revision – the Multiplier

Below is a type of question which has been quite popular in the last couple of exam sessions. I have changed the data from the original CIE question.

The table shows the values of selected macroeconomic variable over a two-year period.

What is the value of the multiplier?

A. 3 – B. 4 – C. 6 – D. 12

From the data both years are in equilibrium
Year 1 NI = 3800  –  Injections = 260+160+200 = 620 Withdrawals = 300+140+180 = 620
Year 2 NI = 4600  –  Injections = 360+210+250 = 820 Withdrawals = 350+210+260 = 820
 
The increase in injections has been 200 but the increase in NI has been 800 (4600-3800) – therefore the multiplier is 4 – (4 x 200 = 800).

The Multiplier
Consider a $300 million increase in business capital investment. This will set off a chain reaction of increases in expenditures. Firms who produce the capital goods that are ultimately purchased will experience an increase in their incomes. If they in turn, collectively spend about 3/5 of that additional income, then $180m will be added to the incomes of others. At this point, total income has grown by ($300m + (0.6 x $300m). The sum will continue to increase as the producers of the additional goods and services realise an increase in their incomes, of which they in turn spend 60% on even more goods and services. The increase in total income will then be ($300m + (0.6 x $300m) + (0.6 x $180m). The process can continue indefinitely. But each time, the additional rise in spending and income is a fraction of the previous addition to the circular flow.

The value of the multiplier can be found by the equation ­1 ÷ (1-MPC)
You can also use the following formula which represents a four sector economy
1 ÷ MPS+MRT+MPM

Source: CIE A Level Revision Guide – Susan Grant

Veblen goods and how to own part of a Birkin Bag

Online trading site Rally Rd has introduced an opportunity to part own various luxury items. For instance you could become part owner of a $61,500 Birkin Bag or top of the range Lamgourghini car. Rally Rd acquire the most noteworthy items from collections and individuals all over the world and make them into “a company”. They then split it into equity shares and open an “Initial Offering” where investors can purchase shares & build a portfolio. After 90 days, investors have the chance to sell shares in-app or add to their position on periodic trading days (through registered broker dealers).

The market for investing in fractions of items otherwise seen as collectibles — and largely reserved for the wealthiest people — has seen an uptick in interest during the pandemic as people spend more time at home. Although there is a potential return on the investment you never get to see your Birkin Bag or Lambourghini. Shares are traded until the owner of the marketplace sells the asset.

Are Birkin Bags Veblen Goods?

Conspicuous consumption was introduced by economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his 1899 book The Theory of the Leisure Class. It is a term used to describe the lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In the mind of a conspicuous consumer, such display serves as a means of attaining or maintaining social status.

Economists and sociologists often cite the 1980’s as a time of extreme conspicuous consumption. The yuppie materialised as the key agent of conspicuous consumption in the US. Yuppies didn’t need to purchase BMWs or Mercedes’ cars for example; they did so in order to show off their wealth. This period had its origins in the 1930’s with Austrian economists Ludwig von Mises and Fredrick von Hayek – the latter being the author of “The Road to Serfdom”, in which he said that social spending rather than private consumption would lead inevitably to tyranny. Margaret Thatcher (UK Prime Minister 1979-1990) and Ronald Reagan (US President 1981-1989) believed in this ideology and cut taxes and privatised the commanding heights in a move to a free market environment.

So-called Veblen goods (also as know as snob value goods) reverse the normal logic of economics in that the higher the price the more demand for the product – see graph below

Over the last three decades conspicuous consumption has accelerated at a phenomenal level in the industrial world. Self-gratification could no longer be delayed and an ever-increasing variety of branded products became firmly ingrained within our individuality. The myth that the more we have the happier we become is self-perpetuating: the more we consume, the less able we are to tackle the myth.

The Economist 1843 bi-monthly magazine had a very good article on Hermès’s Birkin handbag (named after Jane Birkin, an Anglo-French actress who spilled the contents of a overfull straw bag in front of Jean-Louis Dumas, Hermès’s chief executive) and how it has become one of the world’s most expensive – prices start at $7,000; in June Christie’s Hong Kong sold a matte Himalayan crocodile-skin Birkin with a ten-carat diamond-studded white-gold clasp and lock for $300,168. The rationale for its expense is that it is hand crafted and can take up to 18 hours to complete although the production cost is estimated to be around $800.

One would think that this would be a Veblen Good – a good in which the higher the price the more demanded. However there are a couple of ways that the Birkin handbag is not.

1. The bag is not all that conspicuous as although most people can identify Gucci, Louis Vuitton or Chanel, a Birkin is not so easy to find. In fact it is an inconspicuous but expensive bag. This theory was explained in the article “Signalling status with luxury goods: the role of brand prominence” from the Journal of Marketing (2010). It divided the high income earners into two groups;

Parvenus – who want to associate themselves with other high income groups and distinguish themselves from those who do not have material wealth.

Patricians –  who want to signal to other people in their high income bracket and not to the masses. They are of the belief that more expensive luxury goods aimed at them will have less obvious branding than cheaper products made by the same company. This was achieved with smaller logos for more expensive items and larger ones for cheaper goods which are aimed at the masses. People who cannot afford the luxury items will buy the big logo items (louder products) and this is where the counterfeiters have a field day.

2. Normally producers of Veblen goods should raise the price till the point where the demand curve starts to follow it normal shape – downward sloping from left to right. However with Birkin they maintain its exclusivity not by raising the price but by limiting the supply. Unlike other Veblen goods you just can’t walk into a shop and buy a Birkin bag – you have to place an order and wait for it to arrive. But you would wonder why they don’t sell more and make more money? It is a supply constraint – limited availability of high-quality skins and craftspeople to make them – it takes two years training. Hermès suggests, Birkins are mined, not simply made.

Commercial Reasons to limit supply of Birkins

Rationing by supply rather than price does make good commercial sense for the following reasons:

1. It gives Hermès a buffer as if demand drops, sales will not.

2. It creates excess demand for the bags, which overflows into demand for other Hermès products – wallets, belts, beach towels etc.

3. Profitability in the short run would reduce its exclusiveness as the main buyers of the bags would eventually be those concerned with social climbing. Therefore the rich may lose interest in the bags and so will those that aspire to be like them.

However I not sure Hermès actually want you to buy their amazingly expensive bag.

Should we stop consumption?

Geoffrey Miller is his book – Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behaviour – examines conspicuous consumption in order to rectify marketing’s poor understanding of human spending behaviour and consumerist culture. His thesis is that marketing influences people—particularly the young—that the most effectual means to show that status is through consumption choices, rather than conveying such traits as intelligence and personality through more natural means of communication, such as simple conversation. He argues that marketers still tend to use naive models of human nature that are uninformed by advances in evolutionary psychology and behavioural ecology. As a result, marketers “still believe that premium products are bought to display wealth, status, and taste, and they miss the deeper mental traits that people are actually wired to display—traits such as kindness, intelligence, and creativity.

The recent global downturn with Coivd-19 has sent out a few mixed messages. Firstly there has been the reduction in consumption as people’s credit lines have dried up but there are those that believe that you should spend more to maintain growth and employment in the economy. With household budgets being very tight smarter consumption rather than less consumption has been advocated by Geoffrey Miller. He refers to this as more ethical consumption where the production of produce does not involve the abuse of natural resources or the exploitation of people or animals.

A2 Revision: Multiple-Choice question on shape of Total Cost curve

Web

With the CIE A2 Economics papers next month, a popular question concerns the point on the Total Cost curve when MC, AVC, and ATC are at their lowest point. In the graph note the corresponding points on the Total Cost. They usually ask you where on the Total Cost line is the lowest point on the MC curve/AVC curve etc.

Remember:
MC cuts ATC and AVC at their lowest points. The firm will supply where the price is greater than or equal to MC. Thus the individual firm’s supply curve consists of the firm’s MC curve, but only the portion above AVC . The reason for this is that where P=AVC the firm will shut down operations because they are barely covering avoidable costs.

A2 Economics – Natural Monopoly

Natural Monopoly-Features A natural monopoly is when one firm has the ability to supply the entire market at lower prices than two or more firms. A natural monopoly faces downward-sloping average cost (AC) for the entire range for which demand is applicable. The reason for its downward-sloping AC curve is usually that the initial investment in the infrastructure of the firm is large, but once it is in place, the marginal cost (MC) of production is low, for example hydro power. This high establishment cost is a strong barrier to entry and a natural monopoly could undercut any would-be competitor so they could not survive. Natural monopolies often involve some kind of network, for example water, gas,phone, rail.

Equilibrium Output-Natural Monopoly

The rule for maximising profit or minimising a loss (the equlibrium) for a natural monopoly is the same as any other firm. The most profitable output or smallest loss is where marginal revenue (MR) equals marginal cost (MC). Any other position will result in a smaller profit or greater loss. Therefore, the equilibrium output is at a price of Pe and quantity Qe (determined from the intersection of the marginal cost and marginal revenue curves). At the equilibrium output Qe the natural monopoly is making a supernormal profit (of $100m) and produces less than what society or consumers desire. Operating at the equilibrium output position creates a deadweight loss of BFG because consumer surplus and producer surplus are not maximised. The natural monopoly is charging a price in excess of marginal cost (P > MC), this is called mark-up pricing. At the equilibrium output in perfect competition, price and marginal cost are the same. Sellers cannot charge higher prices because they would immediately lose sales to competitors. This is called marginal cost pricing and occurs in perfect competition where at the equilibrium output position price equals marginal cost (P = MC). A natural monopoly charges more and produces less than would be the case if the firm operated as a perfect competitor. Overpricing and not operating at the allocatively efficient (socially optimum) level means that a natural monopoly can be seen as socially undesirable. However, if consumers are not subject to competitive advertising and marketing, they receive the good or service at cost and the firm carries out R & D (research and development) a natural monopoly can be viewed as socially desirable. A natural monopoly may also be seen as socially desirable because it is wasteful to duplicate the existing infrastructure, so encouraging competition is seen as undesirable. If output is below equilibrium Qe (where MR equals MC), the firm would be missing out on marginal profits because the revenue from producing the last article is greater than its cost of production, implying that the firm could increase output and increase profit. However, increasing output beyond Qe reverses the position. The firm will be making marginal losses because the revenue from one additional article is now less than the cost of its production. If increased output adds more to cost than to revenue, a firm has obviously passed the point of maximum profit (or minimum loss). Price discrimination may be practised by any monopolist. This is where they segment the market in some way, for example domestic and industrial users may be charged at different rates. A two-part tariff is a system where users are charged a fixed amount for a given time period and per unit charge for use, for example with the phone there is a line rental and a charge for toll calls. Off-peak pricing is a system of charging that results in a higher price at peak time usage than at off-peak times, for example toll calls made after 6 p.m. are at a cheaper rate.

Policies concerning natural monopoly

One way a government can regulate a monopoly is by administering price controls that do not allow a natural monopoly to operate at its preferred equilibrium output position where marginal revenue equals marginal cost. For this monopoly the equilibrium output is at a price of $7 (Pe) and quantity of 50m (Qe). The aim of price controls is to benefit the consumer with lower price and a greater quantity. Average cost pricing is a way that the government can improve resource allocation because it increases total surpluses in the market and reduces the deadweight loss that would be associated with a natural monopoly operating at its equilibrium position (MR = MC). Average cost pricing regulates the firm to charge a price equal to average costs (P = AC). In this instance the price would be $4 (Pn) and the quantity would be 80m units (Qn). The natural monopoly would no longer be maximising profits because the marginal revenue is less than marginal cost, the firm is making marginal losses on the increased output. The firm would make a normal profit instead of a supernormal profit. Normal profit is a return to the entrepreneur sufficient to keep them in their present activity. A natural monopoly regulated to a situation where price equals average cost is able to earn a fair rate of return. The net deadweight loss to society is reduced but not eliminated, the deadweight loss is now the area HKG. The natural monopoly is making a normal profit so they may lack the funds to do R & D and be less innovative, this could be viewed as a negative impact on resource allocation of fixing the price. A price set to equal average cost is more socially desirable than the equilibrium output position because consumers experience a significant increase in consumer surplus due to the lower price and higher quantity consumed. Average cost pricing has the advantage over marginal cost pricing of not having to provide a subsidy to a natural monopoly to keep the firm operating.

A natural monopoly could be required or forced to charge a price equal to marginal cost (P = MC). Marginal cost pricing results in the firm operating at the social optimum or allocatively efficient output position, in this case it is at a price of $2 (Ps) and an output of 100m (Qs). In a monopoly the average revenue curve is the market demand curve and the marginal cost curve is the supply curve for the good or service. At the new equilibrium position, the deadweight loss is zero (or eliminated) because the firm is operating where D (AR) = S (MC), the market is allocatively efficient because consumer surplus and producer surplus are maximised. At Ps Qs the natural monopoly is regulated to produce what a perfect competitor would produce and charge. However, the natural monopoly is making a subnormal profit shown by the shaded area. A subnormal profit is a return insufficient to keep the entrepreneur in their present activity, the firm would require a subsidy to continue operating in the long run. Average cost pricing and marginal cost pricing both lower the price consumers pay and increase the quantity purchased. A natural monopoly operating at the equilibrium position creates a deadweight loss, average cost pricing reduces this deadweight loss while marginal cost pricing eliminates it. With marginal cost pricing a natural monopoly makes a subnormal profit and requires a subsidy to stay in business in the long run. Average cost pricing results in a natural monopoly making a normal profit that will mean it can stay in business in the long run without the need for a subsidy. Government ownership is an option, where a natural monopoly is owned and run by the government. The government can ensure that the natural monopoly acts in the public’s best interest. In the private sector, inefficiency results in firms making a loss and leaving an industry. It is argued that state owned firms can be inefficient because there can be little incentive to be efficient and make profits. However, these enterprises today often operate along business lines and must return a dividend to the government, so they run as efficiently as any privatised firm.

Read more at: elearn Economics – https://www.elearneconomics.com/section/key_notes/48

V U Z W L recoveries and the inverted square root

Usually we talk about U V W or L recoveries but with the impact of Covid-19 there has been much mention of an inverted square root (as mentioned by George Soros in video below) in some countries as an economy tries to gain some semblance of pre-covid normality. Below is an image from the Wall Street Journal that describes each of the following recoveries: – V U Swoosh Z W L.

Probably the inverted square root sign illustrates the most likely scenario today, with some recovery of the lost GDP but not a return to the previous trajectory. This represents a surge in demand after the relaxing of restrictions but it doesn’t last and starts to plateau after a period of time. For a lot of countries a second wave of Covid-19 has meant a return to lockdown and a further dampening of demand with the economy unable to compensate for people in bars / restaurants / sports events etc. Furthermore the fear of physical proximity will keep the recovery of services subdued.

Although from 2011 the video below from the PBS Newshour shows reporter Paul Solman and Simon Johnson – former IMF economist and now at MIT. Johnson explains the different types of recoveries – L U V W shapes. Note George Soros and the inverted square root sign.

Quantity Theory of Money – you can’t have your cake and eat it

I went through this topic today in our online class – this post refers to Unit 4 of the CIE A2 Economics course and the Inflation topic at NCEA Level 2. Velocity of circulation of money is part of the the Monetarist explanation of inflation operates through the Fisher equation:

M x V = P x T

M = Stock of money
V = Income Velocity of Circulation
P = Average Price level
T = Volume of Transactions or Output

For example if M=100 V=5 P=2 T=250.   Therefore MV=PT – 100×5 = 2×250
Both M x V and P x T are equivalent to TOTAL EXPENDITURE or NOMINAL INCOME in a given time period. To turn the equation into a theory, monetarists assume that V and T are constant, not being affected by changes in the money supply, so that a change
in the money supply causes an equal percentage change in the price level.

The speed at with which money goes around the circular flow is a significant indicator as to the economic activity of an economy. Money’s “velocity” is calculated by dividing a country’s quarterly GDP by its money stock that quarter – the bigger GDP is relative to the money supply, the higher the velocity.

Recessions – dampen the velocity by increasing the attractive of a store of value. People tend to save rather than spend. E.G. The Great Depression and the GFC. See graph for US velocity of money.

Covid-19 – with the closure of a lot of businesses and people worried about job security personal savings increased to 33.6% of disposable income. Also consumers didn’t have the money to spend.

The stimulus measures and the glut of dollars could cause problems once the consumer confidence starts to become prevalent. Inflation will inevitably rise again – which is not a bad thing considering the threat of deflation that we are currently experiencing. But the major concern is if the increase in spending spirals out of control with high inflation. It seems that central banks want the velocity of money to increase to kick-start the economy but they will need to consider how to control it if it gets above the ‘speed limit’. “You can’t have your cake and eat it”.

Source: Why money is changing hands much less frequently – The Economist 21-11-20