Friday, October 10, 2014

The New UK Minimum Wage in current and PPP exchange rates compared to US Minimum Wage.

The UK has different minimum wages for different age groups and for those who are classified as "apprentices".

Th numbers below are from the website.

The wages are in current, nominal British Pounds Sterling.  I highlighted the 2014 rate that took affect this month (October).

For comparison to the US minimum wage of $7.25 here are the conversions in current market exchange rates and in the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) exchange rate.  Go HERE for an excellent explanation of PPP, if you need it.

Economists, in general, prefer the PPP exchange rate because it more accurately measures the actual purchasing power of currencies and is less volitile than the market exchange rates that can flucuate for transient reasons.

Current Market Exchange Rates (1 British Pound Sterling exchanges for $1.61 US dollars).

   21 and over: 6.50 Pounds X $1.61 = $10.47
   18-20 : 5.13 Pounds X $1.61 = $8.26
   Under 18: 3.79 Pounds X $1.61 = $6.10
   Apprentice: 2.73 Pouns X $1.61 = $4.40

Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) (1 British Pound Sterling exchanges for $1.36--source OECD)

   21 and over: 6.50 Pounds X $1.36 = $8.84
   18-20 : 5.13 Pounds X $1.36 = $6.98
   Under 18: 3.79 Pounds X $1.36 = $5.15
   Apprentice: 2.73 Pounds X $1.36 = $3.71

In either measure, the minimum wage for those over 21 in the UK is higher than the US minimum wage.

However, below that level using PPP the effective minimum wage falls below that of the US. US teens are "better off" in terms of the wage (I am NOT factoring in other benefits or costs  that exist--just comparing the absolute wage rate).

When reading media accounts of the differences in Minimum Wages around the world it is important to know if they are reporting in actual exchange rates or in PPP.

As you can see, it makes a BIG difference.

NOTE: Here is a link to an entry I did like this for AUSTRALIA.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

China vs the US in GDP measurement. I try to explain it using actual vs PPP exchange rates.

China reported its Gross Domestic Product to be 56.88 trillion Yuan in 2013. I am going to assume this is "Nominal GDP", not adjusted for inflation, but I do not know that for certain.  I got this from a Chinese newspaper Zinhuanet HERE.  On January 1st of 2014 the official exchange rate was 1 Renminbi (Yuan and Renminbi are used interchangeably, sort of) exchanged for $.16529 US cents.

So, putting the GDP in Yuan in dollar terms at the market exchange rate we would take 56.88 Trillion Yuan multiplied by $.16529 and that would equal $9.4 Trillion US dollars.

At the end of 2013 the US Real GDP was $16.768 Trillion dollars (Nominal dollars)

Either way you figure it US GDP is about $7 Trillion more than China's using current (Jan 1, 2014) market exchange rates.

What about many/most economists preferred measure of exchange rates: the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)?

According to theWorld Bank, the PPP exchange rate (2011 is the latest calculation) is 1 Renminbi exchanges for $.28 US cents.

If we take 56.88 Trillion Yuan and multiply by $.28 US cents, the PPPexchange rate, we get $15.926 Trillion US dollars, about $800 million shy of the US GDP at the end of 2013.

The big picture here suggests the Yuan is UNDERVALUED relative to the US dollar.  Instead of the actual market exchange rate where $1.00 US dollar "buys" 6.04 Yuan (or 1 Yuan buys $.16529 US cents) it should buy only 3.57 Yuan ( or 1 Yuan buys $.28 US Cents) based on PPP.

In other words, the dollar should be weaker (depreciate) and the Yuan should be stronger (Appreciate).

But it is not, hence the difference in nominal GDP's based on actual exchange rates as compared to PPP.

I hope that makes some sense. Quite the difficult concept to walk through!

Depreciation and Small businesses in Japan. My example.

Here is a nice article on how swings in currency exchange rates are having an adverse affect on small businesses in Japan. Here is an excerpt and below that I do a simple example to show how this works in "real life".  Exchange Rates MATTER!

Data Show More Smaller Companies Succumbing to Weak Yen

"The failed businesses, many of them small, were struck by the higher costs of imported materials such as fuel, minerals and food as the exchange rate shifted from less than ¥80 per dollar two years ago to as high as ¥110 in recent days.(*emphasis mine).
Hit hardest was the transportation industry, including trucking companies, which saw 81 companies go bankrupt. The number of insolvencies totaled 44 in manufacturing, 41 in wholesale and 19 in services, the research company said."

I am a Japanese small business-person.  I produce a "widget" that sells for $100 Yen in Tokyo.

Assume half the cost of producing and selling one widget comes from inputs I must import from the US--50 Yen. Prior to the weakening of the Yen against the dollar, one US dollar exchanged for 80 Yen or, inversely, one Yen exchanged for 1.3 US cents.

So, for me to purchase my inputs from the US I took 50 Yen and sold them for 1.3 cents each for a total of 6.5 US cents. Remember, this is half the cost for me to produce and sell the widget. This means the price for my widget, in US currency, is 13 US cents.

Now, the exchange rate moves to one US dollar exchanges for 110 Yen or, inversely, one Yen exchanges for .9 US cents (9/10ths of a cent/penny).  The Yen does not "buy" as much US currency as it did before.  So I am going to have to give up MORE Yen in order to pay for the 6.5 US cents worth of inputs I need.

How many Yen do I need at the exchange rate of one Yen buys 9/10th of a cent to get 6.5 US cents?

YEN ("X") Times .09 US cents = 6.5 US Cents.  Solve for YEN "X" and you get 72.22 Yen.

Through no fault of my own, events beyond my control, my cost of production using US inputs has increased from 50 Yen to 72.22 Yen, a 44% increase.

Assuming I have little pricing power domestically because of competition and cannot raise the price, it is easy to see how small companies in Japan are under pressure. If they cannot cut costs elsewhere to off-set the currency swing, then they risk going out of business.

I hope this simple example helps you understand better how changes in exchanges rates can affect big AND small businesses.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lower gas prices and higher consumer welfare for the win.

I read the following passage at Carpe Diem (emphasis mine):
According to the Department of Energy, Americans buy 365 million gallons of gasoline every day, so every one cent drop in prices at the pump saves consumers $3.65 million per day, and $1.33 billion dollars over a year. Therefore, the 42 cent drop in prices since April will save US consumers almost $56 billion over the next year compared to what they would have paid if gas remained at $3.70 per gallon.
Think of an increase or decrease in the price of a good (or service) as a transfer of purchasing power from producer to consumer and vice versa.

When the price of something that is effectively a fixed "need" in the short term (gasoline, some food items, a utility bill, etc) changes is has a large impact on our individual welfare and consumption possibilities for other goods/servics that are more "luxuries" (by way of a very lenient definition) to us.

Those saved dollars from lower gas prices might not be explicit to us but they do appear elsewhere in the bundle of goods/services we consume on a regular basis.

I would think a good portion of that $56 billion shows up in retail spending such as food away from home, entertainment, and whatever you might buy at the Mall/Walmart after you fill up the tank.

In terms of GDP it is a wash.  Either the fuel companies get the money or you do and in turn other businesses get it when you spend it.

However, in terms of our standard of living, individually we are better off because we get to purchase other stuff with the extra money from lower gasoline prices.

This "surplus" welfare for consumers is not captured in the GDP accounting.

However, it is captured in my heart.  I LOVE MY SURPLUS!

NFL prices in 1989 and today. Nice lesson on Inflation.

I found this on Twitter (I do not have the original link).

Shows how much a Season Ticket Package for all the NFL teams cost in 1989 (or it could be 1990, it does not show) in the far right column.

I am assuming the numbers for each year are the number of season ticket packages that were sold then the percent change from 1988 to 1989.

Divide each package by 8 games and you will get the single game price.

Below is a price list for 2013. The yellow highlighted section is for average individual, single game tickets.

Compare the single game price average in 1989 (divide the season package price by 8) with the prices below.

General inflation has increase 92% since 1989 (put $1.00 in the BLS calculator for 1989)

The 1988 (season) Super Bowl Champion was the SF 49ers.

A single game ticket now costs about $84 on average ($275 for a premium ticket).  In 1989 you could get an 8 game season ticket for $250.00, for an average game price of $31.25.  Depending on how much of a break one gets today on the season ticket cost for that seat it may very well work out that a ticket to a 49ers game has kept up with inflation (more likely it has fell behind, though).  We would have to compare a comparable seat.

Have fun with your favorite team and see how much prices have increased relative to inflation.

Source: HERE

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sometimes Appreciation is not appreciated at all: The currency edtion

Companies that do business internationally care about movements in currency exchange rates.  They can affect the bottom line in a way the corporation has little control.

Latest Threat to Corporate Earnings: The Almighty Dollar
"While U.S. executives must be pleased with encouraging news about the economy—including Friday’s strong jobs report—it may prove a mixed blessing for their bottom lines. That is because American corporations, as represented by the S&P 500, aren’t that American. Over 40% of sales come from outside the country. 
The problem isn’t only the absence of similar momentum abroad, but that the U.S. increasingly looks like it will soon be on the road to higher interest rates. 
That makes the dollar relatively attractive. In just the past three months, the greenback has gained 8.4% against the euro and 7.5% against the yen, big moves in the foreign-exchange market." (Emphasis mine)
 A simple example to illustrate this.

Assume the US dollar and the Euro are trading at parity:  $1.00 exchanges for 1.00 Euro, 1.00 Euro exchanges for $1.00 (they are not, but go with it).

So, profits of 1,000,000 Euros will exchange back into $1,000,000US dollars.

The Dollar "gains" or appreciates 8.4% as the excerpt above suggests.  This means that $1.00US will exchange for 1.084 Euros and 1.00 Euro will exchange for $.923 US cents ($1.00/1.084 Euros--a simple reciprocal).

So, our 1,000,000 in profits in Euros will exchange into $923,000US dollars (1M Euros X $.923)---a loss through the exchange rate change of $77,000 US dollars.

However, there is a flip side for a European firm making profits in the US.

If they take profits of $1,000,000 US dollars and exchange it back into Euros they will receive 1,084,000 Euros---a gain of 84,000 Euros as a result of the currency change.

Exchange rate swings can be a blessing or a curse for a corporation expatriating profits. It just depends on which side of the fence you are standing on as to how you will be affected.

The War on Salmon! Smoke dope, eat almonds, kill fish.

Two articles I read this morning have the same thing in common---the plight of salmon in California due to a severe water shortage.  Nice examples of scarcity of a resource (water) and how opportunity costs arise in allocating that resource (for salmon? almonds? marijuana?).

Each article cites a different culprit for the suffering salmon (emphasis mine):

Cannabis farming in California using so much water it could wipe out salmon population, biologists warn

"Water use and other actions by the marijuana industry in the Emerald Triangle of Northern California and Southern Oregon are threatening salmon already in danger of extinction, US biologists have said."
California Drought Has Wild Salmon Competing With Almonds For Water
"The ongoing California drought has pitted wild salmon against farmers in a fight for water. While growers of almonds, one of the state's biggest and most lucrative crops, enjoy booming production and skyrocketing sales to China, the fish, it seems, might be left high and dry this summer—and maybe even dead."
Use marijuana, quench the munchies with almonds, kill salmon.

Save the salmon, but don't smoke dope and/or eat almonds.

Change the order, but the lesson remains the same:  Choices, choices...
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