Monday, May 05, 2008

Economic Indicators

Aside from all the usual economic indicators - GDP, inflation rates, employment numbers, FTSE, etc. - there are a range of other ways to gauge the state of the economy.

One financial journalist I read came up with the 'skip index' as a means of judging the health of the property market. He routinely monitors the number of builders skips outside properties in his street and uses it as a means of determining whether activity in the market is increasing or declining.

I liked that idea since it is likely to preempt more scientific measures, as renovating a property and selling it can take several months, after which there is then another few months delay until the statisticians compile their numbers.

Recently I've spotted a couple of new indicators of my own. One with a degree of science/rationality. One more of a gut feel.

The more rational one is in the new car market. I've been inundated with flyers from companies offering progressively juicier financing options on new cars.

The standard seems to be 0% interest over three years with a 35% deposit required.

This isn't a new game for the manufacturers. They want to shift stock but don't want to damage their brands by cutting prices, so they dress a price cut up as something else.

Particularly in the midst of a credit crunch where loans are becoming scarcer it makes sense.

However a recent offer from Renault really got my attention.

0% over three years, with a TEN percent deposit required. Or, to put it another way, put £750 down on a base model Renault Clio to drive it out the showroom, and pay it off over three years with no interest charged!

That's practically giving it away, and as clear an indication as anyone should need that the economy is in a bit of a pickle.

That's the 'big ticket' picture, but my less scientific, more intuitive analysis is from a much lower price range.

Recently I've bought a real range of stuff off a whole range of websites. Clothes, shoes, shaving products, plumbers rods (don't ask!), food supplements.

I'm definitely a bit of a 'long tail' shopper but the unifying factor across all the purchases is they are dispatching super fast.

Either a lot of web-based companies simultaneously upped their logistics game, or the oft forecast consumer slowdown is underway. I know which option my money is on.

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