The visible hand in economics

Archive for the ‘Industrial economics’ Category

So since the last post I’ve thought of a few other things I could do to get an idea of pricing behaviour.

First, lets compare the price of petrol per litre (excluding tax) to the $NZ price per barrel of oil:

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Today on Breakfast Paul Henry was stating that petrol prices are far too high, given that crude oil has fallen to $40US a barrel. His criticism was that the retail price of petrol has not fallen at the same rate as crude oil – of course this wouldn’t make much sense given that there are other cost components to the sale of fuel than just the price of crude oil.  However, I was wondering if his criticism that prices were “too high” had any merit.

Now, I don’t have any data, or any analysis to fall back on, when looking at whether the price of petrol is “fair”. However, MED does do some work on fuel prices here. Among the statistics they have a “fuel price margin” page, here. This “margin” tells us what residual is left to give to the importers, distributors, and retailers in the petrol market. Lets have a look at the graphs they provide:

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The DomPost contained an article on the potential for metering Wellington’s water supply. The question is asked: should Wellingtonians pay for their water? This issue is a hot topic, having been discussed at Kiwiblog, Infometrics and TVHE earlier this year.

Historically, water has been provided for by the various Wellington councils out of rates. Water is not currently metered, which implies that regardless of how much water each household takes, their rates do not vary. This arrangement has led many to believe water is in some way ‘free’, as they are not forced to pay for their specific usage and the cost is embodied in rates which cover many council services across many households. With water use of 400 litres per person per day in Wellington, relative to the national average of 160 litres, it appears water users here are not internalising the cost of their water usage.

Current arrangements do not allow for the pricing of scarcity. Read the rest of this entry »

This is from an email exchange between Agnitio and myself on why dairy prices rose, following his post on Fonterra’s auctions:

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I was slightly concerned when I saw the headline on stuff this morning “Nats eye bailout of big business”

If the government is saying ex ante that they will bail out big businesses I would be concerned as this has the potential to cause a moral hazard problem. This is where firms know they will get bailed out and thus make riskier decisions. The actual quotes from Bill English don’t appear the be as explicit as I originally thought they might be

“You’re in an environment when almost anything any government could contemplate doing is getting done somewhere in the world,” he said.

“There is a small chance that events that have transpired elsewhere could transpire here. You can’t ignore that and so we need to give some thought to the extreme event.”

Are quotes like this enough to give the big companies in NZ enough comfort that they will bailed out? Only time will tell….

Apparently the Aussies are blaming Fonterra’s Global Dairytrade online auction platform for lowering the price of milk.

Interesting. If the auction is simply reflecting the true value of milk then the I feel no sympathy. This quote from the manager of the auction system sums up it’s purpose

Fonterra’s global trade managing director Kelvin Wickham said the auction was all about “the international market getting a transparent price” and all global dairytrade was doing was “making it more transparent more quickly”.

As an economist that is music to my ears. On the other hand here’s the quote from the Aussies

“Given things are bleak with the economic outlook, people are holding back on purchasing to see what happens with the auction,” Ms Bills said.

“Mostly, the price doesn’t recover. It is fine to want to have a transparent price system, but why not open at the closing price? If you put a price out there for something in an auction, people see it as a reserve.

“Buyers are waiting to see the price from the auction before they make their purchase.”

So basically they want the auction setup so that it props up the price of milk, can’t say I really have much sympathy for that view….

The previous Labour government bestowed a legacy upon NZ that included the first ever review of broadcasting regulations.

Essentially the question being asked in this review is: does the current market situation warrant government intervention?

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