Posts Tagged ‘GDP’

Queensland flood good for economy, says lousy economists

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

A couple of days ago, we saw this article reported in the mainstream news media: A meagre upside, admittedly, but Queensland rebuild will boost GDP.

Oh dear!

Is the mainstream news media so gulliable and stupid that they can’t recognise the opinions of fools dressed up as ‘respectable’ economists? If the Queensland flood will ultimately benefit Australia by? boosting the GDP, why don’t we all do this: evacuate say, Sydney and bomb the hell out of it and surely, the rebuilding of Sydney will boost Australia’s GDP big time and bring great prosperity?

To understand why these economists are fools, consider this essay by Frederic Bastiat in 1850,

In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause – it is seen. The others unfold in succession – they are not seen: it is well for us, if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference – the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, – at the risk of a small present evil.

What did those fools fail to see?

You see, the rebuilding of Queensland after the flood will consume money and resources from the Australian economy. Tradesmen have to come in to repair broken homes, engineers have to rebuild destroyed infrastructure, household durable goods have to be imported and so on. Those fools can only see that this will boost Australia’s GDP. But what they fail to see is that as a result, these same money and resources cannot be used on other sectors of the economy. The result is a net loss to the Australian economy.

For example, suppose a bridge is destroyed by the flood. Engineers have to come in to rebuild that bridge. Now, consider the case that there’s no flood. These same engineers could be deployed to build a new bridge instead. So, with the flood, we have only one bridge. Without the flood, we have two bridges.

In Australia’s case, we all know that the mining industry grappling with the shortage of skills to build mining infrastructure in order to dig more metals to sell more to China. The last thing they want is for those skills to be redirected to the rebuilding of Queensland. Elsewhere, the Federal government’s nation building projects would most likely have to be postponed to make way for the rebuilding of Queensland.

It is true that more engineers and workers will have to work harder in the coming months to repair and rebuild. That in itself may boost the final GDP number. But it is a fallacy to think that a boosted GDP number implies greater prosperity for Australia. In reality, a boosted GDP number means that the economy has to work ‘harder’ to repair, replace and rebuild what was lost. That makes Australia less prosperous despite the boosted number.

Forecasting GDP figures from Internet transactions

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

GoldMoney. The best way to buy gold & silverRecently, we received an email from the guys at the Consumer Metrics Institutes (and we have NO affiliate relationship with them other than mutual favours of mentioning each other on our web sites). They have a very interesting methodology of data collection on the demand-side of the US economy. You see, the GDP data that comes out of the government data office are always backward looking by a few months. Worse still, they are always revised. As Consumer Metrics Institutes wrote,

… many ‘leading’ economic indicators are published, but few (if any) are sufficiently ‘leading’ to be meaningful to investors. In fact, many ‘leading’ indicators use the prior month’s equity market results as a key component of their indexes. Investors may find their last month-end account statement more timely.
To remedy this, the Consumer Metrics Institute has developed (and is continuing to develop) techniques for monitoring ‘up-stream’ economic activities on a daily basis.

What the guys at Consumer Metrics Institutes do is that they collect data based on real-time US consumer Internet transactions (see this document for more information).

Of course, their metrics are not perfect and they are aware of some potential biases. For those who are interested in statistics, you may want to look into that here.

One question we asked them is this: how do they capture the consumers’ purchase right at the transaction level on a web site? Their answer was,

Unfortunately I can’t comment, since obviously the only way to do that is to keep a very low profile. We have been working on the methodology for a long time, and we have been facilitated by a lot of sloppy coding at the? commerce sites.

We like their style! 😉

We remember some of our readers (“Anon”) express their belief that the US GDP figures will soon show contraction (i.e. a double-dip) as the stimulus money are withdrawn from the economy. Here, is what the data from Consumer Metrics Institute shows:

Consumer Metric Institute's Daily Growth Index vs BEA's Quarterly GDP over the past 4 years

Consumer Metric Institute's Daily Growth Index vs BEA's Quarterly GDP over the past 4 years

Assuming that their data is more forward indicator than BEA’s figures, we will see the lagging GDP shrink in the second quarter of 2010.

Fingers crossed!

How big is the credit bubble in China?

Monday, July 27th, 2009

In our previous article, we wrote of the credit growth in China. Today, we will show you the size of the total debt in China:

Chinese loan growth

Click on the graph for a full-size image

The Chinese total private debt to GDP ratio is 123% in January 2009. By June 2009, it is 146%. Currently, Australia’s total private debt to GDP ratio is south of 165% of GDP.

No wonder China could achieve such a spectacular ‘recovery!’

Time-wasting public discussions

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Sometimes, we despair at the kinds of politicians we have in Australia (and by extension, the rest of the liberal democratic world). Recently, the Opposition frontbencher Andrew Robb accused the government’s Treasury department of “manipulating” figures when it made a forecast of 2% economic growth. That 2% is only 0.5% more optimistic than the RBA’s forecast of 1.5%.

To us, this is just nitpicking and exaggeration for the sake of playing the role of Opposition. As a result, some time are wasted during parliment time to address this issue. Can you believe that our dear politicians are sniping at each other while the nation is facing a serious economic problem that can turn out to be a serious recession (or maybe even a depression)?

All because of different methodologies used to make forecasts.

In the days to come, there will be a lot more public discussion on whether Australia will experience two consecutive quarters of negative growth or not (called a “recession”). Again, this will be a complete waste of time and energy. The US is already facing a major economic crisis and yet, there are some resistances in calling it a ‘recession’ (technically).

Here, as investors, we don’t really care whether Australia will hit technical recession next year. As we explained before in Example of precisely inaccurate information,

The price index is a very important number. It is used to derive real GDP growth from the nominal GDP growth. From the growth (or contraction) of real GDP, we can then define when an economy is technically out of (or in) recession.

Now, if the price index is a logically invalid number (let alone accurate), then how accurate will real GDP growth figures be for capturing the growth of output of an economy? If this figure is inaccurate, then how accurate will it be for defining when an economy is technically in recession? In that case, how useful will it be to be so precise in defining the exact point for which the economy is in technical recession?

By the time it is absolutely clear that Australia will fall into recession, it is already too late to change your investment plans accordingly. In fact, the Australian stock market has already factored in a significant recession. The smart money has already pulled out of stock market and sold down the Australian dollar.

Therefore, whenever you hear from the mainstream news media about stock prices falling because of “worries” of recessions, you know straight away that such stories are not written by investors for investors. You will save yourself a lot of time by skipping such stories.

For us, we are more worried about the long-term implications of bailouts, rescues, pump-priming, printing of money and so on.

Australia’s money supply & credit growth in April 2008

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Continuing from Australia?s money supply growth in March 2008, we will report on the growth of Australia?s money supply for April 2008. In that month, Australia?s broad and M3 money supply has reach yet another record high of AU$1089.4 billion and AU$1003 billion respectively (see What is money? on the explanations of the various measures of money). Between April 2007 and April 2008 (i.e. the year-to-date), Australia?s M3 money grew by 20.4%. The year-to-date growth for March 2008 and February 2008 was 21.1% and 21.6% respectively. No doubt, Australia’s money supply is still growing to record highs. But there seem to be some tentative indications that the growth is slowing since January 2008.

Credit growth is also exhibiting the same behaviour. While total credit reaches a record high of AU$1826.9 billion in April 2008, its year-to-date growth was slowing since January 2008.

The data for May and June 2008 is not out yet. If we see a sustained deceleration in both money supply and credit growth, this will mean that Australia is moving towards deflation, which is very bad for asset prices.

Australia’s money supply growth in March 2008

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Today, we will continue from Australia?s monetary growth update?February 2008 and report on the growth of Australia’s money supply for March 2008. In that month, Australia’s broad and M3 money supply has reach yet another record high of AU$1080.8 billion and AU$992.2 billion respectively (see What is money? on the explanations of the various measures of money). Between March 2007 and March 2008 (i.e. the year-to-date), Australia’s M3 money grew by 21.1%. The year-to-date growth for February 2008 and January 2008 was 21.6% and 23.2% respectively.

From the news media, you can read a lot of reports that Australia’s credit growth (and hence, has a relationship on the money supply growth) has slowed down due to the string of interest rates hikes and slowing economy. Well, the fact remains that credit growth is still growing, although growing at a slower pace. We can argue that it is still growing too rapidly.

Think about this: if real GDP growth is growing at 3% per year while the M3 money supply grows at 21.1%, guess what will happen to price inflation? Hint: take a read at Cause of inflation: Shanghai bubble case study.