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Australian National Accounts – strong growth but unbalanced and fragile

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest March-quarter 2018 National Accounts data yesterday (June 6, 2018). The results were very interesting and shows how vulnerable the Australian economy is despite the relatively strong growth that was recorded. Total growth for the quarter was a healthy 1 per cent which led to an annual growth rate of 3.1 per cent. That is close to our long-term trends. The standout contributor was exports. The National Accounts data indicates that the Australian economy continues to ride the terms of trade cycle. There was a sharp boost in our terms of trade in the March-quarter 2018, which drove export revenue up sharply. At the same time, household consumption expenditure continued to moderate as high levels of debt and flat wages growth impact. Domestic demand was weaker as a result. The boost to exports is volatile while the moderation in consumption is now structural and this means that the current overall growth trajectory is fairly fragile despite the stronger growth in the March-quarter overall. I expect household consumption expenditure to remain subdued while the path that exports will take is much more uncertain. Overall, this is not a balanced growth outcome.

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Travelling mostly today …

I am travelling most of today and into remote regions to do some fieldwork so I do not have time to write anything substantial. I am researching various issues while in transit and will resume normal services tomorrow when I discuss minimum wages. Then, next Monday’s blog post will discuss the issue of bond spreads, which has been in the news in the last few weeks with the Italian situation. Further, there have been claims that the ECB is deliberately manipulating Italian bond purchases to drive up the spread against the German bund and thus place further pressure on the Italian political mess. Some have argued that by fomenting a sense of crisis in Italy (the rising bond spreads), the ECB has been supporting conservative forces horrified at the prospect of a Euro-skeptic government. It is a little more complex than that but I will write about that in detail next Monday.

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Oh Scotland, don’t you dare! – Part 2

This is Part 2 in my two-part series analysing the 354-page report from the Scottish Growth Commission – Scotland – the new case for optimism: A strategy for inter-generational economic renaissance (released May 25, 2018). In Part 1, I considered their approach to fiscal rules and concluded, that in replicating the rules that the European Commission oversees as part of the Stability and Growth Pact, the newly independent Scotland would be biasing its policy settings towards austerity and unable to counter a major negative shock without incurring elevated levels of unemployment and poverty. In Part 2, I focus specifically on the currency issue. The Growth Commission recommends that Scotland retain the British pound, thereby surrendering its independence. Moreover, while it is part of the United Kingdom, the British policy settings have to consider the situation in Scotland. Once it leaves, it will still be bound by British fiscal and monetary settings but those settings would be designed to suit the remaining British nations. So if the British government continues with its austerity obsession, Scotland would be forced to endure that end. Hardly, the basis for an independent nation with progressive aspirations.

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Oh Scotland, don’t you dare! – Part 1

The 354-page report from the Scottish Growth Commission – Scotland – the new case for optimism: A strategy for inter-generational economic renaissance (released May 25, 2018) – could have been published by the IMF given its adherence to the flawed neoliberal macroeconomic framework that that institution imposes on everything. It is too generous to call the Growth Commission’s work ‘analysis’ – a series of unfounded assertions with logical extrapolation from that flawed basis is more accurate. If Scotland were to create an independent nation on the basis of the ‘blueprint’ outlined in the Growth Commission’s Report then it would soon be heading into a mediocre oblivion – a future where it would be unable to effectively counteract the fluctuations of non-government sector spending and a future where fiscal policy was forced to be pro-cyclical. Scotland would end up another failed austerity state. This is Part 1 of a two-part series where I examine the Report and its implications. In Part 2, I will examine the currency issues in more detail. I hope to be in Scotland in early October as part of my next speaking tour of Europe – more details later.

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The Weekend Quiz – June 2-3, 2018 – answers and discussion

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

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