The visible hand in economics

Archive for the ‘Macroeconomics’ Category

I see there is some talk of compulsory redundancy payments after this sad story.

Now even though it would be nice if those people hadn’t been left high and dry after all their years of commitment, it is important that we try to get an objective idea about the costs associated with the scheme.
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I have no doubt that my views here will be contentious – but they need to be put forward nonetheless.

I think that Treasury (or some mix of part of Treasury and IRD) should function at arms length in the same way as the Reserve Bank, and that they should set tax rates in the same way that the RBNZ sets interest rates.

Now, let me discuss why.

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Yesterday I said that I thought the Bank’s speech on bringing down the price level was ridiculous. Not only is asking for a decline in prices a strange thing for a central bank to do, the mentioning of “oil companies” was slightly off the mark – given that they have slashed prices in the face of falling crude oil (although to be fair the Bank was just asking them to keep going – it was the Dom Post that exaggerated it – or maybe I was being generous!).

Now I am going to defend it.

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Over at Financial Armageddon they state that:

Analysts naturally factor in the number of people who are out of work when they try to figure out future consumption patterns. But there is more to it, of course. People who are afraid they might lose their job are just as likely to economize or clamp down on spending as those who have no real choice in the matter. In fact, some might say that changes in the attitudes and behavior of the 85-95 percent (depending on which statistics you believe) of those who are employed matter much more than the financial wherewithal of those who aren’t

Now this implies that analysts don’t look at the feeling of those who are employed and as a result will not expect as sharp a fall in consumption. However, as an analyst I can say that we do pay attention to this fact – which is why we put such a weight on the unemployment rate when we forecast.
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With the official cash rate set to fall even further later this week, shares become relatively appealing when compared with other financial instruments, such as bonds and term deposits.

The old adage of ‘buy low, sell high’ seems fitting, given the battering shares the world over have taken in the past while. The NZX and Dow Jones industrial averages, for example, are both down around a quarter from their respective values six months ago.

But just when is the market ‘low’?

I don’t know! If I did, I’m sure I’d be a lot wealthier than I am. However, I thought it would be useful to write a blog entry to stimulate discussion and debate on what TVHE readers are picking for the sharemarket:

  1. Is now a good time to buy?
  2. What industries/companies would you consider investing it?
  3. What factors are influencing your decisions to invest, or not?

I look forward to hearing our readers’ views on the current state of the sharemarket.

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According to a recent book by Christian Broda and David E. Weinstein (Prices, Poverty, and Inequality: Why Americans are Better Off Than You Think) (ht Marginal Revolution) growth in income inequality was less pronounced in the US because of changes to the quality and cost of goods that “poor” people purchased.

This indicates to me that a tiered consumer price index could be a useful thing.  Currently the household economic survey (HES) provides an annual tiered income measure (where we see the average income of different income deciles).  However, this nominal measure is not particularly useful if the change in prices experienced by different groups are very diverse.

As a result, a similarly tiered CPI measure (so a CPI for each income decile) would actually give us a much better way to figure out change in “real income” and thereby a fairer measure of the distribution of real income – which is something we care about.

Surely the HES has a measure of purchases by different income groups.  As the CPI is broken down into different products it should be possible to take these weights and come up with a loose set of indicies that represent the price inflation faced by different income declines shouldn’t it?

Over at Robert Reich’s blog, there is a discussion stating that now is the time for rising government spending in the US based on the “fact” that the government is the “spender of last resort” and that the economy has plenty of spare “capacity” (ht Mark Thoma at Economists View).

We have discussed fiscal policy before, and will discuss it again tomorrow. Now, I agree with chunks of this logic, but I feel that there is one gapping hole – the behaviour of prices!

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