Welcome to Economy in Digits, my new weekly segment that briefly covers significant economic indicators released in the past 7 days. Initially, I didn’t want to write a post for every single indicator that makes the headlines. That would mean that I would have to bombard this blog with post after post of statistical data, which is not why I created this blog. I created it in order to inform my readers about significant global issues AND also keep it interesting and enjoyable at the same time. However, economic indicators are significant and sometimes we receive data that hints where a nation’s economy is headed. Thus, I decided to sum up indicators released in the prior week in a single post.
In the United States, November industrial production, which measures output in the utilities, mining and manufacturing sectors rose 1.1% from the prior month. That was the biggest increase over the last year and brought total US industrial output to its pre-recession levels. The manufacturing sector increase 2.9% from a year earlier thank to rising automobile sales. Meanwhile, the utilities sector expanded by 3.9% due to increased demand in the winter for heating and output in the mining sector increased by 1.7% as several oil rigs that were closed last month due to tropical storm Karen reopened. The graph below depicts total US industrial output for the last 10 years.
Again in the United States, 3rd quarter GDP growth rates, was revised upward from its initial figure of 3.6% to 4.1% from a year earlier.The revision came mostly due to the adjusted increase in consumer purchases. The graph below depicts quarterly US GDP growth rate over the past 10 years.
Both the industrial production and the revised GDP figures prove that the American economy is hastening on the road to recovery. The fact that these figures are coming out shortly after a period of fiscal instability is also impressive. However, we also have to see the effects tapering of QE by the FED will have on the economy.
Despite the push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to devalue the Yen and drive exports up, Japan’s trade deficit increased as exports fell by 0.2% and imports rose by 3.5% month on month. When a nation devalues its currency, its exports are supposed to increase and its imports are supposed to decrease. However, there are two possible reasons for Japan’s widening trade deficit. The first reason is due to a concept in economics called the J-Curve, which states that devaluing a national currency will initially increase the trade deficit because trade contracts set in place cannot be adjusted during the short run. Once old contracts are expired or cancelled, new trade agreements will be made given the devalued currency. Another possible reason for Japan’s trade deficit is that Japan closed almost all of its nuclear power plants following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Thus, Japan imports almost all of its energy now. A devalued currency means that Japan must now pay more to import its energy from abroad.
In the UK, inflation fell to 2.1% from 2.2% last month due to steady food and energy prices, which bring the figure to its lowest since November 2009. Just two days later, it was also announced that the unemployment figure in the third quarter fell to 7.4%, down from 7.7% in the second quarter. Following the recession, the Bank of England promised to leave interest rates at record low levels until unemployment dropped to 7% and promised to bring inflation down to 2%. Over the past few years, it was failing to achieve both targets. But these two indicators prove that the UK economy is improving and is nearing its twin targets. If inflation and growth follow the same trajectory, we could see a hike in interest rates by the BOE sometime in 2014.
In India, wholesale inflation increased by 7.52% from a year earlier, compared to a 7% increase in October. The expected rate by a survey of economists was 7%. Inflation is becoming a serious issue in India where consumer prices also increased by 11% last month from a year earlier. An even bigger problem is that inflation is being coupled with a slowdown in growth. The RBI predicts India’s economy will expand 5 percent in the 12 months through March 31st, the same pace as the last fiscal year, which was the weakest in a decade. If the RBI hikes interest rates to battle inflation, they will reduce the GDP growth rate even further. High inflation and weak growth can only mean one thing. STAGFLATION
That is all for this week. Tune in next Saturday for the upcoming week’s economic indicators.
“Economics is a subject that does not greatly respect one’s wishes”