Double dip recession: time to panic?

April 27th, 2012 by eoghan

Figures this released by the ONS on this week show that the UK has officially entered a recession; the second recession the UK has suffered in three years. David Cameron has said that these figures were very disappointing while Ed Miliband has called them catastrophic. But how catastrophic is a double dip recession for the UK? There are a number of reasons to doubt the media’s, and some politicians, doomsday predictions.
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The benefits of studying economics

March 21st, 2012 by eoghan

Why Study Economics? is a website that encourages students from all educational backgrounds to study economics as their first degree. It also provides information to teachers and parents.

Where can students study economics? Over 95 departments across the UK offer an Economics degree. Some of these are straight (‘single’) Economics degrees. Normally they are simply called Economics, but sometimes they are more specialist, e.g. Agricultural Economics or Business Economics. Other degrees combine Economics with another subject (‘joint degrees’). The titles of these joint degrees includes: Economics and Management; Economics and Finance; Economics and Philosophy; Economics and Accounting; Economics and Business; Economics and History; and Economics and Politics.

What will economics students do at university? Most economics students will experience a generic first year at university which builds a solid foundation. The most important modules for a first-year economics student are Introductory Microeconomics, Introductory Macroeconomics and Quantitative Methods for Economics (statistics/mathematics). The concepts taught in these three modules will be used throughout an economics undergraduate degree. In their second, and particularly third, year at university, economics students will have a number of optional units. Students will be able to specialise in Development Economics, Managerial Economics, Labour Economics, Monetary Economics and so on. If students are on a joint degree they will have modules in their other subject in all three years, some of which will be compulsory. Students on either single or joint economics degrees may also be able to do an optional module in another subject area such as a modern language.

“Until studying a course like economics not a lot of people are aware of how the world works, including industries, businesses and governments. You realise that it’s very important to be educated in this type of thing even if it gets to the stage where you become annoyed with family and friends for moaning about taxes!”

The workload at university is generally heavier than at A-level. Students can expect around 10 – 15 hours of contact time a week, consisting of a mixture of lectures and tutorials/seminars/workshops. In addition to this, students will be expected to put in a minimum of 20 hours per week of independent study. The number of contact hours will normally fall between years one, two and three but the amount of independent study will rise (at least it should do!).

Why do students enjoy economics? Economics is the perfect combination of numbers and words, problems and essays, calculations and interpretations. It is both an art and a science subject. Students have the opportunity to build models which give insights into the real world, and then to critique these models on the basis of their assumptions. There is rarely a right answer in economics but any argument put forward must be backed up by quantitative evidence. Students ultimately enjoy economics because it allows them to employ and develop analytical and evaluative skills.

“My decision to pursue an Economics degree has been the single most valuable investment I have made to date.  It sharpened my ability to critically assess information, deliver disciplined and well structured arguments and become a more confident team player.”

What do students need to have studied to read economics at university? Read the rest of this entry »

What Cavemen Can Teach Us About Property Rights

March 7th, 2012 by richard

Economic history is a bit of an unloved child within economics. Once at the centre of the subject it has fallen by the wayside in the rush to be scientific of recent years. Indeed most undergraduate courses no longer teach any economic history as a core subject and many don’t offer any option whatsoever. So why am I going on about economic history? Well, it turns out it’s very interesting indeed…

A Scientist for Every Issue

What sparked my interest in economic history was actually a book which had very little to do with the past. Read the rest of this entry »

Gateway article

February 27th, 2012 by eoghan

For any economist seeking a job, check out page 36 of this issue of the Gateway

Demand and Supply

February 3rd, 2012 by eoghan

Ever wondered why demand and supply are so important? Wonder no more …

Career paths for an economist

January 25th, 2012 by eoghan

Part 1 – The private sector

What are the opportunities available to students studying economics? If you are in the second or final year of your economics degree and interested in securing an internship or graduate job you will be faced with a bewildering array of options. To give yourself the best chance of securing a role you must focus on applying to one industry and know that industry like the back of your hand. Submitting applications across a variety of industries should be avoided because it is not time effective. Below is a list of sectors that seek to employ economists every year. This list is by no means exhaustive but it should give you an idea of where to focus your time and efforts.
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Spanish default? Never!

January 17th, 2012 by richard

A house of cards

Unless you have been living in a hole for the last year then you have probably heard that the European financial system is in a bit of a mess. Put simply, the countries of the Euro-zone have borrowed quite a lot of money. Some of the people that governments have borrowed this money off of have become less than convinced that the euro-zone countries pay it back. As a result debt holders have been selling a lot more than buying, which has forced the price/value of these loans down and interest rates up. All-in-all, not too pretty.

The question most people are asking, is how likely is it that the cost of debt gets so high for a country (say Italy), that it will have no choice but to default on its debt. This is a very hard question to answer.

So turning to the other side of the story, what happens if a country defaults? I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at one of the more colourful periods in financial history, the Spanish Bankruptcies. Read the rest of this entry »

Why charts are awesome

December 2nd, 2011 by richard

I was originally going to write a bit on the crisis in Europe. However, when I started looking for the chart that sparked off the idea, I stumbled upon The Economist’s Daily Chart section (you can see it here).

Essentially the lovely people over at The Economist publish a chart every day on pretty much everything. Not only are they extremely shiny, they are also usually both topical and interesting. They even have an advent calender!

So apart from all of the eye candy, just why are graphs so awesome? I think they allow you to summarize a huge amount of what’s going on in just a small area. Not only that but they can be great tools on which to frame a discussion. Here are some charts that I found particularly interesting:

1. European Borrowing and Lending

This graph shows how much banks have been able to raise in the bond markets. Put simply, how much extra cash they have managed to get invested into their business. Investors in exchange for providing this money now, get a rate of return on what is called a bond. The graph firstly shows that banks are having major issues in getting more cash, which they need to meet the new Basel Rules*. Secondly it shows that investors are unwilling to issue these bonds unless they are covered. A covered bond is a bond which is linked to an asset proportional in value to the bond issued. So if the bank cannot pay the bond interest then the investors can take control of the asset to get their money back. Fundamentally this graph shows just how little liquidity and how much paranoia is driving the behaviour of European banks.

*(Basel 3 is the latest set of guidelines issued for global banking. Passed after the financial crisis they required banks to keep a far greater proportion of their assets as cash, the kind of money you carry around in your pocket everyday, as opposed to investments, say mortgages)

2. Bribery and Corruption

This graph shows perceived corruption within the public sector on the Y-axis against a survey-based score for how likely private companies are to engage in bribery on the X-axis. A higher score suggests bribery is less common. It is worth noting that the companies Bribe Payers Index is the likelihood of companies using bribes when doing business in foreign countries. There are some interesting results here. Italy and Turkey rank as the most corrupt amongst the OECD (developed) countries. Hong Kong has one of the least corrupt administrations in the world, despite being part of the China which ranks quite poorly on this scale. Perhaps unsurprisingly the Russian oligarchy is bringing up the rear amongst the major economies.

3. Dangerous Places

When it comes to crime it is often very difficult to make comparisons between countries, partly because the chance of a crime being reported differs greatly across cultures. One of the better measures to get around thus problem are murder rates, as murders tend to be reported. It seems that less developed countries have higher murder rates. Rather surprisingly while Mexico hasn’t topped the chart, they didn’t even make the top ten. Afghanistan has a lower homicide rate than the USA. Quite whether this makes Afghanistan a safer country would be hard to believe.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/charting-fundamental-cash-supply-demand-dilemma-europe

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/11/bribe-payers-index

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/10/homicide-rates

Disclaimer: All of the charts here are reproductions from the websites linked above.

Money

November 30th, 2011 by eoghan

Ever wondered where all the money in the world is and where it is spent? Have a play with this amazing map to find out: http://xkcd.com/980/huge/

A little bit on correlation

November 16th, 2011 by richard

If you ask a philosopher for his thoughts on economics or any other social science you are likely, amongst some long words and even longer sentences, to hear the time honed phrase that correlation does not imply causation. If you have not heard it before then you can forgive yourself. Very few economics courses will even mention it, let alone go into any detail. Yet this little statement may be one of the most important problems faced by economists, and in many ways is the single largest problem we will face. So what is it?
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