Category Archives: Profits

8/6/21: This Recession Is Different: Corporate Profits Boom


Corporate profits guidance is booming. Which, one might think, is a good signal of recovery. But the recession that passed (or still passing, officially) has been abnormal by historical standards, shifting expectations for the recovery to a different level of 'bizarre'.

Consider non-financial corporate profits through prior cycles: 

Chart 1 above shows non-financial corporate profits per 1 USD of official gross value added in the economy. In all past recessions, save for three, going into recession, corporate profit margins fell below pre-recession average. Three exceptions to the rule are: 1949 recession, 1981 recession and, you guessed it, the Covid19 recession. In other words, all three abnormal recessions were associated with significant rises in market power of producers over consumers. And prior abnormal recessions led to subsequent need for monetary tightening to stem inflationary pressures. Not yet the case in the most recent one.

The second chart plots increases in corporate profit margins in the recoveries relative to prior recessions. Data is through 1Q 2021, so we do not yet have an official 'recovery' quarter to plot. If we are to treat 1Q 2021 as 'recovery' first quarter, profits in this recovery are below pre-recovery recession period average by 2 percentage points. Again, the case of two other recessions compares: the post-1949 recession recovery and post-1980s recovery are both associated with negative reaction of profits to economic cycle shift from recession to recovery.

Which means two things:

  1. Market power of producers is rising from the end of 2019 through today, if we assume that 1Q 2021 was not, yet, a recovery quarter (officially, this is the case, as NBER still times 1Q 2021 as part of the recession); and
  2. Non-financial corporate profits boom we are seeing reported to-date for 2Q 2021 is a sign not of a healthier economy, but of the first point made above.
In effect, some evidence that Covid19 pandemic was a transfer of wealth from people to companies that managed to trade through the crisis. 

11/12/15: Irish National Accounts 3Q: Post 4: Domestic Demand

In the previous posts of the series, I covered Irish National Accounts 3Q: Sectoral Growth results;  year-on-year growth rates in GDP and GNP; and quarterly growth rates in GDP and GNP.

Now, let’s look at the Domestic Demand.

Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services rose 3.63% y/y in 3Q 2015 in real terms, posting a stronger growth than in 2Q 2015 (+2.91%) and in 3Q 2014 (+1.11%). Over the last four consecutive quarters, growth in Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services averaged 3.36%. All of this is strong and encouraging, as Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services is one of the few figures still remaining in the National Accounts that are unpolluted by the MNCs activities and as such is a significant reflection of the strength of the real economy.

Despite the rise in 3Q 2015, current level of Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services remains 7.85% below pre-crisis peak levels.

Still, in 3Q 2015, Personal Expenditure on Goods & Services contributed EUR779 million to y/y growth in GDP and GNP, which is up on EUR616 million growth contribution in 2Q 2015 and on EUR236 million growth in 3Q 2014.

Expenditure by Government on Current Goods & Services fell in 3Q 2015 (down -1.38% y/y or -EUR94 million). This compares to growth of 1.82% y/y in 2Q 2015 and 3.23% growth in 3Q 2014. Over the last four quarters, Expenditure by Government on Current Goods & Services growth averaged strong 3.95% - faster than growth in Persona Consumption.

As with Personal Consumption, Government Expenditure is still down on pre-crisis peak levels, in fact, it is down more than Personal Consumption at -13.1%.

Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation continued to post literally unbelievable readings in 3Q 2015, rising 35.8% y/y, compared to 34.2% increase recorded in 2Q 2015 and to 10.1% rise in 3Q 2014. 3Q 2015 y/y growth figure was the highest on record and there is a clear pattern of dramatic increases over 4Q 2014, 2Q 2015 and 3Q 2015, with last four quarters average growth rate at 24.9% implying that Irish economy’s capital stock should be doubling in size every 3 years. This is plain bonkers and is a clear signifier of distortions induced into the Irish economy by the likes of Nama, vulture funds and MNCs.

Based on our official accounts, whilst building and construction (including civil engineering etc) added only EUR44 million to GDP in 3Q 2015, Fixed Capital Formation jumped by EUR3.1 billion over the same period of time.

Still, even with this patently questionable accounting, Irish Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation remains 11.8% below pre-crisis peak levels.

With all three components of Final Domestic Demand still under pre-crisis peak levels performance, Final Domestic Demand ended 3Q 2015 some 7.0% below pre-crisis peak. However, Final Domestic Demand did post strong growth, rising 10.2% in 3Q 2015 compared to 3Q 2014, with rate of growth in 3Q basically consistent with 10.1% expansion recorded in 2Q 2015, and up strongly on 3.1% y/y growth recorded in 3Q 2014. Over the last four quarters, Final Domestic Demand growth rate averaged 8.35%.

However, virtually all of growth in Final Domestic Demand was accounted for by Fixed Capital Formation - the only component of the Domestic Demand that is impacted by the MNCs. In 3Q 2015, growth in Final Domestic Demand stood at EUR3.782 billion, of which EUR3.098 billion came from Fixed Capital Formation side.

One additional point is worth making with respect to the expenditure side of Irish National Accounts in 3Q 2015. In last quarter, EUR497 million (or 37.6% of total GNP growth y/y) came from the expansion in the Value of Physical Changes in Stocks. This is not insignificant. In 3Q 2015, compared to 3Q 2014, Personal Expenditure in Ireland contributed EUR779 million, while Changes in the Value of Stocks contributed EUR497 million. Absent this level of growth in stocks, Irish GNP would have been up only 3.43% y/y instead of 5.5% and taking into the account last four quarters average changes in Stocks, the GNP would have been up just 2.8%. In other words, quite a bit of Irish GDP and GNP growth in 3Q 2015 was down to companies accumulating Physical Stocks of goods and services, sitting unsold.

A key observation, therefore, from the entire National Accounts series is that one cannot talk about Irish economy ‘overheating’ or ‘running at its potential output’ anymore: all three headline growth figures of GDP growth (+6.84% y/y in 3Q 2015), GNP growth (+5.50% y/y) and Domestic Demand growth (+10.23% y/y) are influenced significantly by MNCs and post-crisis financial and property markets re-pricing. In the surreal world of Irish economics, the thermometer that could have told us about economy’s health is simply badly broken.

Stay tuned for analysis of Irish External Trade figures next.

10/12/15: Irish National Accounts 3Q: Post 3: Quarterly GDP and GNP Growth

In the first post of the series, I covered Irish National Accounts 3Q: Sectoral Growth results (

The second post covered year-on-year growth rates in GDP and GNP (

Now, consider quarterly growth rates analysis.

While things were bustlingly rosy for GDP and GNP based on year-on-year growth figures, the picture is much more mixed when it comes to quarterly growth rates.

Firstly, GDP at constant factor costs rose 1.43% q/q in 3Q 2015, down from 2.4% growth recorded in 2Q 2015 and on 2.54% growth recorded in 3Q 2014. In so far as this reflects sectoral activity, this slower 3Q 2015 growth is hard to interpret.

Taxes at constant factor costs actually fell 1.49% q/q in 3Q 2015, having risen just 0.37% q/q in 2Q 2015. 2014 3Q contraction was much sharper at 6.65%.

GDP at constant market prices rose 1.37% q/q in 3Q 2015, once again posting slower rates of growth than in 2Q 2015 (+1.89%) and in 3Q 2014 (+2.06%). The current rate of q/q growth in GDP was the slowest in 3 quarters, but remains significant (above 1.33% average for the period of 1Q 2013 - 3Q 2015.

GNP surprised to a downside, falling 0.81% q/q in 3Q 2015, having previously posted growth of 1.35% in 2Q 2015 and having expanded 2.71% in 3Q 2014. In fact, 3Q 2015 is the worst quarter-on-quarter growth result for GNP since 4Q 2013 and the second quarter of negative growth over the last 4 quarters (previous one was in 1Q 2015 at -0.24%).

Over the first three quarters of 2015, GNP growth averaged 0.1%, which compares poorly to 1.97% average for the first three quarters of 2014 and 3.21% average growth posted for the first 3 quarters of 2013, and ditto for 2012.

The key takeaways here are:

  1. Q/Q GDP growth remains robust, but is now the lowest in 3 consecutive quarters;
  2. Q/Q GNP growth has turned negative once again in 3Q 2015, posting the worst reading for any quarter since 4Q 2013.
  3. Meanwhile, net factor income outflows to the rest of the world are booming, hitting (on seasonally adjusted basis) the highest level since 4Q 2011 and the second highest level on record. 

In other words, MNCs extraction of profits from the economy is ramping out, which is helping the Exchequer and pushes up GDP, but also is leading to GNP growth lagging that of GDP.

Stay tuned for more analysis coming up.

10/12/15: Irish National Accounts 3Q: Post 2: Annual GDP and GNP Growth

In the first post of the series, I covered Irish National Accounts 3Q: Sectoral Growth results (

Now, consider data for GDP and GNP aggregates. Starting with seasonally unadjusted data (real variables) to allow for y/y comparatives.

Taxes at Constant Factor Costs:

  • In 3Q 2015, Taxes at Constant Factor Costs rose at 6.95% y/y, having previously posted an increase of 6.04% in 2Q 2015 and a rise of 1.67% y/y in 3Q 2014. Taxes at Constant Factor Costs added EUR403 million to official GDP in 3Q 2015, a rise on the increase of EUR279 million in 2Q 2015 and a massive jump compared to the y/y uplift of EUR95 million in 3Q 2014. This clearly correlates with the data from the Exchequer and most likely is dominated by unexpected (and unexplained) growth in corporation tax receipts. 
  • Over nine months through September 2015, Taxes at Constant Factor Costs rose EUR1.129 billion (+7.05%) compared to the same period of 2014. This rise now accounts for 16.9% of the increase in GNP over the same period. 

GDP at Constant Market Prices:

  • GDP rose incredible 6.95% y/y in 3Q 2015, having previously posted growth of 6.84% y/y in 2Q 2015, both up on 3.75% growth in 3Q 2014. Year on year, 3Q 2015 rose EUR3.384 billion, which was up on 2Q 2015 growth of 3.234 billion, with both quarters posting massive uplift compared to 3Q 2014 growth of EUR1.757 billion.
  • In 3 quarters of 2015, GDP rose by EUR9.943 billion which corresponds to annual growth of 7.04% and amounts to 148% uplift compared to the rise in GNP.

GNP at Constant Market Prices:

  • -GNP rose 3.18% y/y in 3Q 2015, less than half the rate of increase in GDP. This comes on foot of the 5.5% y/y growth in 2Q 2015 and lower than 3Q 2014 growth of 3.68%. 
  • Over the 9 months through September 2015, Irish GNP grew cumulative EUR6.694 billion (+5.58%) compared to the same period of 2014. This is appreciable growth, but it is far short of the GDP expansion over the same period. 

Per chart above, both GDP and GNP continue on the upward trend, albeit at different rates of growth. This divergence is now translating into widening (once again) GDP/GNP gap. In 2Q 2015, the GDP/GNP gap stood at 18.9%. In 3Q 2015 the gap widened to 21.65% - the largest since 1Q 2012 and well above the average of 17.8% for the period from 1Q 2013 through 3Q 2015. This gap used to reflect most of the over-statement of actual economic activity due to the MNCs trading in the Irish economy, but it no longer does, as new accounting standards now push up (superficially) or investment (via R&D reclassification in recent years, and through the upcoming ‘Knowledge Development Box’) and as MNCs continue to alter their pattern of profit flows through Ireland.

The latter aspect is reflected in rising volatility of Net Factor Income Flows which rose to 17.8% as a share of GDP in 3Q 2015, the highest level since 1Q 2012.

Incidentally, Net Factor Income for Rest of the World stood at a whooping EUR9.264 billion in 3Q 2015 - the highest level on record. Over nine months through September, MNCs-driven outflows of payments from Ireland exceeded inflows of payments into Ireland by a massive EUR24.67 billion which is 15.2 percent higher than for the same period of 2014.

Here is a comparative to ponder: in the first three quarters of 2015, GNP rose EUR6.69 billion on the same period of 2014, while net outflows of factor payments out of Ireland rose EUR3.25 billion, almost 1/3 of the increase in GDP and 1/5 of the increase in GNP.

Still, it is worth noting that for all of the above caveats, based on 4 quarters rolling cumulative measure, Irish GDP is now 6.97% above pre-crisis peak and is 6.78% ahead of where it was a year ago. For GNP, current 4 quarters cumulative reading is 8% ahead of pre-crisis peak and 6.45 above last year’s reading.

Stay tuned for quarterly growth rates analysis coming up next.