Friday, December 11, 2015

11/12/15: Irish National Accounts 3Q: Post 4: Domestic Demand

In the previous posts of the series, I covered Irish National Accounts 3Q: Sectoral Growth results;  year-on-year growth rates in GDP and GNP; and quarterly growth rates in GDP and GNP.

Now, let’s look at the Domestic Demand.

Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services rose 3.63% y/y in 3Q 2015 in real terms, posting a stronger growth than in 2Q 2015 (+2.91%) and in 3Q 2014 (+1.11%). Over the last four consecutive quarters, growth in Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services averaged 3.36%. All of this is strong and encouraging, as Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services is one of the few figures still remaining in the National Accounts that are unpolluted by the MNCs activities and as such is a significant reflection of the strength of the real economy.

Despite the rise in 3Q 2015, current level of Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services remains 7.85% below pre-crisis peak levels.

Still, in 3Q 2015, Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services contributed EUR779 million to y/y growth in GDP and GNP, which is up on EUR616 million growth contribution in 2Q 2015 and on EUR236 million growth in 3Q 2014.

Expenditure by Government on Current Goods & Services fell in 3Q 2015 (down -1.38% y/y or -EUR94 million). This compares to growth of 1.82% y/y in 2Q 2015 and 3.23% growth in 3Q 2014. Over the last four quarters, Expenditure by Government on Current Goods & Services growth averaged strong 3.95% - faster than growth in Persona Consumption.

As with Personal Consumption, Government Expenditure is still down on pre-crisis peak levels, in fact, it is down more than Personal Consumption at -13.1%.

Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation continued to post literally unbelievable readings in 3Q 2015, rising 35.8% y/y, compared to 34.2% increase recorded in 2Q 2015 and to 10.1% rise in 3Q 2014. 3Q 2015 y/y growth figure was the highest on record and there is a clear pattern of dramatic increases over 4Q 2014, 2Q 2015 and 3Q 2015, with last four quarters average growth rate at 24.9% implying that Irish economy’s capital stock should be doubling in size every 3 years. This is plain bonkers and is a clear signifier of distortions induced into the Irish economy by the likes of Nama, vulture funds and MNCs.

Based on our official accounts, whilst building and construction (including civil engineering etc) added only EUR44 million to GDP in 3Q 2015, Fixed Capital Formation jumped by EUR3.1 billion over the same period of time.

Still, even with this patently questionable accounting, Irish Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation remains 11.8% below pre-crisis peak levels.

With all three components of Final Domestic Demand still under pre-crisis peak levels performance, Final Domestic Demand ended 3Q 2015 some 7.0% below pre-crisis peak. However, Final Domestic Demand did post strong growth, rising 10.2% in 3Q 2015 compared to 3Q 2014, with rate of growth in 3Q basically consistent with 10.1% expansion recorded in 2Q 2015, and up strongly on 3.1% y/y growth recorded in 3Q 2014. Over the last four quarters, Final Domestic Demand growth rate averaged 8.35%.

However, virtually all of growth in Final Domestic Demand was accounted for by Fixed Capital Formation - the only component of the Domestic Demand that is impacted by the MNCs. In 3Q 2015, growth in Final Domestic Demand stood at EUR3.782 billion, of which EUR3.098 billion came from Fixed Capital Formation side.

One additional point is worth making with respect to the expenditure side of Irish National Accounts in 3Q 2015. In last quarter, EUR497 million (or 37.6% of total GNP growth y/y) came from the expansion in the Value of Physical Changes in Stocks. This is not insignificant. In 3Q 2015, compared to 3Q 2014, Personal Expenditure in Ireland contributed EUR779 million, while Changes in the Value of Stocks contributed EUR497 million. Absent this level of growth in stocks, Irish GNP would have been up only 3.43% y/y instead of 5.5% and taking into the account last four quarters average changes in Stocks, the GNP would have been up just 2.8%. In other words, quite a bit of Irish GDP and GNP growth in 3Q 2015 was down to companies accumulating Physical Stocks of goods and services, sitting unsold.

A key observation, therefore, from the entire National Accounts series is that one cannot talk about Irish economy ‘overheating’ or ‘running at its potential output’ anymore: all three headline growth figures of GDP growth (+6.84% y/y in 3Q 2015), GNP growth (+5.50% y/y) and Domestic Demand growth (+10.23% y/y) are influenced significantly by MNCs and post-crisis financial and property markets re-pricing. In the surreal world of Irish economics, the thermometer that could have told us about economy’s health is simply badly broken.

Stay tuned for analysis of Irish External Trade figures next.

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