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Measuring the Impact of the Internet on Retailing
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Julian Gough, World Economics, December 2017
The internet has radically changed the purchasing of goods and services leading to a rapid expansion of online retailers and a decline of many traditional shops on the high street. The UK is the leading nation in Europe in terms of online sales, after a remarkable change in consumers’ spending patterns, with a value of £67bn in 2017, 18% of total retail sales. Economists have neglected retailing as a subject area, perhaps reflecting the complexity of its operations, but it is possible to construct a model of retailing by adapting the conventional marginal theory of the firm. Online retailing has benefits—the ability to view, compare and choose products at competitive prices on screen, pay online with fast home delivery—and costs—the disappearance of small local shops with after-sales service.
Using Price-Adjusted Income Data to Measure Regional Income Inequality Across the UK
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Julian Gough, World Economics, March 2018
Data for gross disposable household income for each region of the UK are published annually by the Office for National Statistics. The latest provisional data available are for the year 2015. The annual data for household income are in nominal terms only—i.e. they do not allow for differences in prices between regions of the UK, which distorts the results. A reliable deflator to correct the nominal data for differences in inter-regional price levels was derived from the regular survey of prices for calculating the Retail Prices Index, augmented by a special survey of prices of goods and services. When allowing for price level variations between nominal and real household income in different regions the greatest impact is on London. In real terms, household incomes in London are 6% lower than in nominal terms, amounting to a reduction of about £12.4 billion.
Dissecting China’s Property Market Data
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Meiping (Aggie) Sun, World Economics, March 2016
This paper analyses Chinese property market data to evaluate recent trends in the market and to make prognoses for the future. It considers whether or not the existence of high prices and at the same time an enormous rise in residential supply in terms of floor space under construction means that there is a ``bubble'' in China's property market which may burst, similar to what happened in Japan in the early 1990s. Evidence that the price of new homes moves almost perfectly with sales of new residential floor space rather than with completed floor space suggests that the housing market is behaving normally and follows mini boom and bust cycles like other industries. The analysis finds that there are low maintenance costs for buyers after purchase due to the lack of annual property tax and negligible depreciation of bare-shelled housing units which limits the risk of default. Although recently developers are under pressure to raise more revenue mainly due to high interest-rate borrowing from shadow banks, the author considers that the probability of a systemic collapse of housing market is minimal given existing taxation systems, easing monetary policy and the continuing urbanization process.
Deflation? What Deflation? Statistical Origins of Japan’s Declining Price Levels
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Masanaga Kumakura, World Economics, June 2015
Although Japan’s CPI is often criticized for potential upward bias, it deals with improvements in the quality of individual goods in ways that make the statistical inflation rate much lower than actual price changes. Moreover, the quantitative importance of this effect has risen progressively since the early 2000s due to increased weights of technology-intensive electronic products and changes in the method of adjusting their prices for quality improvement. Once this artificial effect is taken into account, it becomes questionable that Japan’s recent deflation has been so serious as to justify the adventurous monetary policy currently implemented by its central bank.
Data Manipulation of Inflation Statistics Artificially Raises Real GDP
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Christopher Balding, World Economics, June 2014
Baseline Chinese economic data are unreliable. Taking published National Bureau of Statistics China data, three problems appear. First, base data on housing price inflation are manipulated. Second, the NBSC misclassifies most Chinese households as private housing occupants. Third, the NSBC applies a straight 80/20 urban/rural private housing weighting. To correct for these manipulative practices, I use third party and related NBSC data to correct the change in consumer prices in China between 2000 and 2011. I find that using conservative assumptions about price increases, the annual CPI in China should be adjusted upwards by approximately 1%. This reduces real Chinese GDP by 8–12% or more than $1 trillion in PPP terms.
Understanding Commercial Property Price indexes
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Mick Silver, World Economics, September 2013
The type of database used for the measurement of commercial property price indexes (CPPIs) dictates the potential weaknesses in the resulting indexes and limitations of the methods available for measuring the indexes. Two major types of data are appraisals of the value of properties and recorded transaction prices. The former is based on expert judgement and may have problems of smoothing and lagging transaction prices. The latter is based on actual transactions and may have sample selectivity bias and limited sample sizes for these heterogeneous properties. These issues are examined.
Currency Valuation and Purchasing Power Parity
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Jamal Ibrahim Haidar, World Economics, September 2011
This paper aims to highlight key limitations of The Economist magazine’s Big Mac Index (BMI). The Economist markets the BMI as a tool to determine valuation of currencies. This paper shows that the BMI is a misleading measure of currency valuation for economies whose markets are structurally different from the benchmark currency countries.
House Price Indices: Does Measurement Matter?
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Mick Silver, World Economics, September 2011
A key factor in understanding the global recession is movements in residential property price indexes (RPPIs). Of concern is that more than one national RPPI is often compiled and disseminated for a country, each differing in regard to their methodology, and thus results. Key methodological issues include the: (i) use of stocks or flows and values or quantities for weights; (ii) method of enabling constant quality measures; (iii) coverage in terms of geography, type of housing and financing; and (iv) valuation of prices. The paper outlines such issues by way of three case studies: the United Kingdom, the United States and the Russian Federation.
Indian Wholesale and Consumer Price Indices
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, September 2011
The Central Statistics Office of the Government of India launched a new Consumer Price Index (CPI) which will start producing consumer price inflation estimates from January 2012. The creation of the new index is a delayed response to the findings of the National Statistical Commission which found deficiencies in the existing systems of price data collection and the compilation of indices. Until relatively recently there have only been piecemeal changes in the system of measuring inflation in India with the Reserve Bank of India and various government departments relying mainly on a Wholesale Price Index to shape policy. The emergence of volatile inflationary pressures in recent years have seen greater urgency in the process of revising the methods by which price indices are measured in India culminating in the discontinuation of some indices, major overhauls in the methods of construction of others and the launch of the new all India CPI. This paper will review the main price indices published in India highlighting some of their main statistical and economic strengths and weaknesses and will discuss both the proposed and the actual changes that have been made.
The Power of Price Indexes
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Raymond Cheung and Mike Waterson
World Economics, March 2011
Price indexes are the most important of all economic indicators simply because they are the tool used to calculate the real size, speed and direction of all forms of economic activity. Price indexes are compiled almost everywhere, but with major differences in method and sampling procedures. Some methods and procedures have led to significant errors. Even in the case of a country as advanced as Japan, critics have calculated that imperfections in method have led to a rate of price inflation around 1.8% per year above the level a true cost of living index would have shown. Further research undertaken by World Economics has attempted to make estimates for changes in discounting and promotional practices at the retail level. The conclusion is that, in reality, the overestimation of price changes by the Japanese CPI in recent years may well have been in excess of 2% per annum, and could have been significantly more. Different CPI assumptions change economic growth estimates dramatically. Using World Economics estimates, adding in a minimum figure for marketing and retail changes seen in recent years suggests, contrary to official data, that Japanese consumption growth exceeded that of the US.
Maddison and Wu: ‘Measuring China’s Economic Performance’
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Yuri Dikhanov & Eric V. Swanson, World Economics, March 2010
Angus Maddison and Harry Wu (2008) claim that, in 2003, China’s GDP was 73% of that of the United States on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis. Rejecting the results of the 2005 International Comparison Program (ICP), they construct their own PPP using a 1986 GDP estimate for China (Ren & Chen 1995) which they adjust upwards, and then extrapolate to 2003 using their revised growth rates for China, which they adjust downwards. This note examines the validity of their adjustments and assumptions, and finds them to be inconsistent with recommendations both from the perspective of index number theory and recommended national accounting practices. The 2005 PPP estimates from the ICP, which Maddison and Wu reject, produce a more plausible estimate of the size of China’s economy relative to that of the US (43% in 2005).
International Comparisons of GDP
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Elio Lancieri, World Economics, September 2008
The recent publication by the World Bank of PPP-GDP estimates for 2005, referred to 146 countries, seems a good occasion to reopen the long-standing debate on the use of Purchasing Power Parities. While theoretical speculations on the subject have continued, no estimates were supplied for more than a decade. The author’s alternative method for GDP estimation is based on inflationadjusted long-term exchange rates, where real GDP estimates are obtained through simultaneous equations. He describes the method in the light of his experience and compares its results for 100 countries with both ICP estimates and GDPs at exchange rates.
Measuring China’s Economic Performance
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Andreas (Andy) Jobst & Harry X. Wu, World Economics, June 2008
China is the world’s fastest growing economy and is also the second largest. However, the official estimates of the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics exaggerate GDP growth and need adjustment to conform to international norms as set out in the 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA). This paper presents and discusses the necessary adjustments. The two major contributions are new volume indices for the industrial sector and for "non-material" services. Finally, in order to measure the level of Chinese GDP in internationally comparable terms, the authors use a measure of purchasing power parity (PPP) instead of the exchange rate.
The Economics of Happiness
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Carol Graham, World Economics, September 2005
The economics of happiness is an approach to assessing welfare that combines economists’ techniques with those of psychologists, and relies on more expansive notions of utility than does conventional economics. Research based on this approach highlights the factors—in addition to income—that affect well-being. It is well suited to informing questions in areas where revealed preferences provide limited information, such as the welfare effects of inequality and of macroeconomic policies such as inflation and unemployment. One such question is the gap between economists’ assessments of the aggregate benefits of the globalization process and the more pessimistic assessments that are typical of the general public. The paper summarizes research on some of these questions, and in particular on those relevant to globalization, poverty, and inequality.
What a Consumer Price Index Can’t Do
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Ralph Turvey, World Economics, September 2004
A monthly consumer price index traces changes in the monthly cost of a year’s consumption using a sample of prices. But in some months the prices that can be sampled will temporarily exclude some of the products that were bought in the base year, Christmas trees providing a textbook example. Worse still, it becomes permanently impossible to observe prices for sampled products that have been completely superseded. There are methods for dealing with these two problems, but they leave serious and irremediable defects in the index.
Some Proposed Methodological Developments for the UK Retail Prices Index
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Mick Silver, World Economics, March 2003
The Retail Prices Index (RPI) is one of the UK’s most important macroeconomic indicators, as well as being used for indexation/adjustments for inflation to wages and benefits. This paper argues that the dynamic changes in product markets and consumers’ responses to price changes need to be incorporated into the RPI if it is to effectively measure changes in the cost of living. The quite positive and innovative work undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is acknowledged. However, the basis of the RPI, in measuring the price changes of a matched, fixed basket of goods, is considered inappropriate to modern markets. Some proposals are made.
Owner-occupiers and the Price Index
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Ralph Turvey, World Economics, September 2000
The treatment of owner-occupied dwellings in Consumer Price Indexes varies between countries and is the subject of continuing controversy. Ralph Turvey explains the alternative possible treatments and reasons for disagreement.


From Big Macs to iMacs
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Jonathan Haskel & Holger Wolf, World Economics, June 2000
The authors review recent international price comparisons to examine the veracity of claims about “rip-off Britain”. They reach three conclusions. First, methodologically, the data requirements for a meaningful price comparison are very demanding and most of the evidence does not meet these standards. Second, price differences within countries seem, in many cases, to be just as high if not higher than price differences between countries. Third, for most goods, the difference between the UK and the rest of the EU seems to be minor relative to the difference between the EU and the United States. The real puzzle is the comparatively high prices in the EU.

Displaying: 1-18 of 18