The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Glenn Stevens has one picture he wants you to look at

One...And only one:

"When the terms of trade are high, the international purchasing power of our exports is high. To put it in very (over-) simplified terms, five years ago, a ship load of iron ore was worth about the same as about 2,200 flat screen television sets. Today it is worth about 22,000 flat-screen TV sets– partly due to TV prices falling but more due to the price of iron ore rising by a factor of six. This is of course a trivialised example – we do not want to use the proceeds of exports entirely to purchase TV sets. But the general point is that high terms of trade, all other things equal, will raise living standards, while low terms of trade will reduce them...

To give some perspective on how important this is, let me offer one back-of-the-envelope calculation. The export sector is about one-fifth of the economy. The terms of trade are at present about 60 per cent higher than their average level for the 20th century, and about 80 per cent higher than the outcome would have been had they been on the 100-year trend line. This means that about 12–15 per cent of GDP in additional income is available to this country's producers and/or consumers, each year, compared with what would have occurred under the average or trend set of relative prices over the preceding 100 years (all other things equal). That will continue each year, while the terms of trade remain at this level...

It does not take much imagination to see that an event of this magnitude is expansionary. Incomes are higher – in some cases a lot higher – and, absent some offsetting force, some of that will be spent. So it has always proved in the past. Moreover, if, as seems very likely, these prices prompt a build-up in investment to supply more of the commodities concerned, there are further expansionary effects. Even applying significant discounts to stated investment intentions, as the Reserve Bank staff have done in their forecasts, there is likely to be a further significant rise in business investment over the next few years, from a level that is already reasonably high as a share of GDP. On all the indications available, we are living through an event that occurs maybe once or twice in a century."