Thursday, July 1, 2010

Economics 01/07/2010: Recovery or a triple dip?

So the recession is over… or it just went into a triple dip… you have a say.

Today’s QNA for Q1 2010 showed a 2.7% increase in real GDP compared with the final quarter of last year. This brings to an end eight consecutive quarters of economic contraction – the longest recession of all advanced economies to date.

What happened? Have you felt that warm wind of spring back in March and decided that it is time for Ireland Inc to start upward march to renewed prosperity?

Err… not really. What did happen was a simple trick: Deflation took out a bite out of the price level adjustment, as nominal GDP grew a fantastically unnoticeable and statistically indifferent from zero 0.0956%. Yes, that’s right, less than one tenth of one percent. Take a snapshot: in Q1 2010, our MNCs-led exporting economy was better off than in Q4 2009 by a whooping €37 million, while our domestic economy shed another €2,199 million. Don't know about you, I feel so much richer today than back in December 2009...

One has to be sarcastic about the Government that needs a massive deflation to generate economic growth. Industry gains - again driven by MNCs manufacturing - are clearly not supported by domestic services and construction.
Oh, and subsidies-reliant sectors - Government and Agriculture - are going relatively strong. Clearly CAP is recession proof - per chart below - with Agriculture up 84% on Q4 2009. Investment continues to compress: capital formation down 14% qoq, and 30% yoy. And that’s gross! Government spending was down a paltry 0.9% qoq or €96 million – a clear slowdown in deficit reduction efforts. Give it a thought, we will be borrowing this year some €17bn - not accounting for banks alone. At the current rate of Government spending contraction, Q1 2010 reductions in public spending (net!) will cover just 10% of our annual interest bill on one year worth of borrowing!
Consumer spending contracted further by 0.2% supported from hitting much greater decline numbers by services spending and, potentially, 2010 registration plates fetish. Remember, total retail sales are down more than 6% in Q1 2010. Added support to consumer spending was winter freeze, which was a boost to the likes of state-owned ESB and Bord Gas – carbon footprint notwithstanding, good news for state monopolized energy sector.

Time for champagne, then? Perhaps not quite vintage variety yet, but some bubbly? I am afraid not.

There’s another trick to the data: Net exports boomed – as we imported fewer things to consume, invest and use in future production, while Ireland-based MNCs booked on massive profits. So massive in fact that net increases in transfers of profits abroad were literally bang on (take few euros) with net increase in our trade balance.

This has to be the fakest ‘recovery’ one can imagine.

Before charts, illustrating the above, few more points. Services exports were particularly strong (good news):
  • volume of goods exports rose 2.4% yoy in Q1 2010,
  • volume of services exports was up 9.5% yoy.
Services – the Cinderella of our external trade policies – now account for 46% of total exports.

As MNCs-driven economy steamed ahead, domestic economy continued to contract -0.5% in Q1 2010, in qoq terms. Profits expatriation by the MNCs reached €7.9bn in Q1, up from €7.1 in Q4, and GDP/GNP gap widened to over 20% in quarterly terms.

Should things stay on this 'recovery' course, by the end of this year some 26% of our entire economy's output will be stuff that has nothing to do with our economy. That would put us on par with some serious banana republics out there as an offshore centre. And not that I, personally mind. It's just fine that companies book profits via Ireland Inc. The problem is when we, the natives, start believing the hype that our GDP generates.

Seeing much of a recovery anywhere?

And a more detailed look at exports and imports - the causes of our today's celebration:

As I have pointed out many times before, our MNCs need imported components, goods etc in order to generate exports. So as imports fall, two things come to mind:
  1. A serious concern that lower imports might reflect slowing down of MNCs-led exporting; and/or
  2. A serious concern that our consumers (dependent on imports) are still running away from our retail sector.
You be the judge as to what really goes on, but either way, this is not a good omen. The 'recovery' might be a Pyrrhic victory.

At any rate, you'd need a microscope to notice that we are out of a recession in the chart below:
But you can clearly see what's going on on that side of economy which generates jobs, pays our bills and actually translates into our standards of living (aside from Government stuff, that is):

Welcome to an MNCs-led recovery, then:
If it doesn't feel like much of a boom, then don't listen to anyone saying 'We've finally turned the corner'. Or be warned it might be a dead-end alley, or worse a brick wall...

1 comment:

brim4brim said...

While I wouldn't disagree with anything you've said here, I would like to comment that I believe the government is hoping that a rise in GDP and exports by multi-nationals will feedback into the local businesses in Ireland as many service these large multi-nationals which is why companies like Dell pulling out was such a problem for the area.

It is IMO a kind of artificial indigenous industry we have created as we have found out that when the MNC move away, these companies close soon after and that isn't much use as what we sorely need to develop is our indigenous industries that can survive on their own trading with other businesses here and exporting their own goods.

We simply don't have enough of these kinds of businesses.