Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Commodities and Currencies

There’s quite a bit of gloom in the air these last few weeks. The plunge in oil and other commodity prices, capital pulling out of emerging markets, and currency turmoil, have people getting very worried about growth prospects next year. There doesn’t appear to be a bottom yet on oil prices, and it’s anybody’s guess where all this will end up.

In Malaysia’s case, oil price depreciation and Ringgit depreciation seems like one piling on the other – the latter is making things worse (Malaysians feel relatively poorer), on top of the drop in oil and gas revenues. But conflating the two like this is wrong. The depreciation of the currency is in fact a required and necessary result of the drop in oil prices.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

OECD: Income Inequality Harms Growth

Just a quick note – unfortunately, quick notes appear to be all I have time for these days. The OECD has released a new report on the influence of income inequality on economic growth (excerpt):

Inequality hurts economic growth, finds OECD research

09/12/2014 - Reducing income inequality would boost economic growth, according to new OECD analysis. This work finds that countries where income inequality is decreasing grow faster than those with rising inequality.

The single biggest impact on growth is the widening gap between the lower middle class and poor households compared to the rest of society. Education is the key: a lack of investment in education by the poor is the main factor behind inequality hurting growth....

Monday, December 8, 2014

Notes On Oil

I came up with some talking points for a presentation last week, and since so many people have been asking for a comment on the drop in oil prices, I thought I might as well publish them.

Why is the price of oil dropping?

Essentially, its a demand and supply imbalance. On the one hand, China has been slowing down while Europe has backslid and Japan went into technical recession after implementing a sharp increase in its consumption tax. The only two real bright spots of growth in the developed world is the US and UK, and the US has rapidly developed its domestic oil supply in the last five years. To compound this, the energy intensity of growth (how much energy is required to support a higher standard of living) has been declining for decades.