Category Archives: Irish economic growth

10/9/15: 2Q 2015 National Accounts: External Trade

In the first post of the series covering 2Q national Accounts data, I dealt with sectoral composition of growth, using GDP at Factor Cost figures.

The second post considered the headline GDP and GNP growth data.

The third post in the series looked at the Expenditure side of the National Accounts, and Domestic Demand that normally more closely reflects true underlying economic performance,

Now, consider extern trade.

  • Exports of Goods and Services were up 13.56% y/y in 2Q 2015 previously having risen 14.17% y/y in 1Q 2015. Over the last 4 quarters, growth in exports of goods and services averaged 14.2% y/y.
  • Most of growth in exports of Goods and Services is accounted for by growth in Goods exports alone. These rose 16.36% y/y in 2Q 2015 after rising 16.86% y/y in 1Q 2015. Average y/y growth rate in the last 4 quarters was 18.38%. In other words, apparently Irish exports of goods are doubling in size every 4 years. Which, of course, is simply unbelievable. Instead, what we have here is a combination of tax optimisation by the MNCs and effects of currency valuations on the same.
  • Exports of Services also grew strongly in 2Q 2015, rising 10.34% y/y, having previously grown 10.94% in 1Q 2015 and averaging growth of 9.94% over the last 4 quarters. Again, these numbers are beyond any reasonable believable uptick in real activity and reflect MNCs activities and forex valuations.
  • Imports of Goods and Services rose 16.9% y/y in 2Q 2015, an increase on already fast rate of growth of 15.46% in 1Q 2015. Unlike exports side, imports side of goods and services trade was primarily driven by imports of services which rose 21.8% y/y in 2Q 2015 (+20.7% y/y on average over the last 4 quarters) as compared to 9.0% growth y/y in imports of goods (+13.5% y/y on average over last 4 quarters).

As the result of the above changes,

  • Trade Balance in Goods and Services fell in 2Q 2015 by 1.8% y/y, having previously recorded an increase of 7.4% y/y in 1Q 2015. Combined 1H 2015 trade balance is now up only EUR399 million on same period 2014 (+2.26%).
  • Trade Balance in Goods registered 26.9% higher surplus in 2Q 2015, and was up EUR6.206 billion in 1H 2015 compared to 1H 2014 (+28.4%). Trade Balance in Services, however, posted worsening deficit of EUR5.584 billion in 2Q 2015 against a deficit of EUR2.174 billion back in 2Q 2014. Over the 1H 2015, trade deficit in services worsened by EUR5.806 billion compared to 1H 2014 (a deterioration of 136% y/y).


  1. Irish external trade continued to show strong influences from currency valuations and MNCs activities ramp up, making the overall external trade growth figures look pretty much meaningless. 
  2. Overall Trade Balance, however, deteriorated in 2Q 2015, which means that external trade made a negate contribution to GDP growth. 
  3. Over the course of 1H 2015, the increase in overall Irish trade balance was relatively modest at 2.26% with growth in goods exports net of goods imports largely offset by growth in services imports net of services exports.

Stay tuned for more analysis of the National Accounts.

10/9/15: 2Q 2015 National Accounts: Domestic Demand

In the first post of the series covering 2Q national Accounts data, I dealt with sectoral composition of growth, using GDP at Factor Cost figures.

The second post considered the headline GDP and GNP growth data.

Here, let's consider the Expenditure side of the National Accounts, and most importantly, Domestic Demand that more likely reflects true underlying economic performance, removing some (but by far not all) tax activity by the MNCs.

As before, I will be dealing with y/y growth figures throughout the post.

Remember: Final Domestic Demand is a sum of Personal Expenditure, Government Expenditure, and Gross Fixed Capital Formation. Adding to that change in stocks gives us Total Domestic Demand, while adding net exports to Total Domestic Demand and subtracting outflows of factor payments to the rest of the world gives us GDP.

  • In 2Q 2015, Personal Expenditure on Goods and Services rose 2.83% y/y, having previously risen 3.71% in 1Q 2015. The rate of growth in 2Q 2015 was, therefore, slower than in 1Q, but faster than in 2Q 2014 (2.28%). Overall, Personal Expenditure added EUR599 million to the economy in 2Q 2015 compared to the same period in 2014, a drop in positive contribution from EUR784 million added in 1Q 2015. Nonetheless, the figures for Personal Expenditure are healthy.
  • Net Expenditure by Government on current goods & services rose 1.73% y/y in 2Q 2015, which marks a slowdown on 5.45% rate of growth recorded in 1Q 2015. Rate of growth recorded in 2Q 2015 was also lower compared to 2Q 2014 when Government expenditure rose 3.92% y/y in real terms. This marks 2Q 2015 as the first quarter since 1Q 2013 in which Government expenditure rose slower than Personal expenditure.
  • Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation posted a massive 34.2% rise y/y in 2Q 2015, compared to already rapid growth of 9.2% recorded in 1Q 2015. It is worth noting that these figures include investments by MNCs tax-registered in Ireland (e.g. tax inversions et al) and vulture funds and other foreign investors' purchases of domestic assets. Over the last 4 quarters, Gross Domestic Fixed Capital Formation growth averaged 18.44%. This line of expenditure contributed EUR2.977 billion to GDP growth in 2Q 2015 and in H1 2015 total contribution was EUR3.781 billion.
  • As the result of the above, Final Domestic Demand rose 10.07% y/y in 2Q 2015 - a massive rate of increase, especially compared to 5.34% growth recorded in 1Q 2015 and 6.4% growth recorded in 2Q 2014.

However, despite all the Nama sales and vultures investments, tax inversions and organic growth, Irish Final Domestic demand remains below the levels attained prior to the crisis, albeit the gap is now at only 5.62%:

Chart below shows the extraordinary uplift in Gross Fixed Capital Formation:

We have no idea what drove this uptick, but were Gross Fixed Capital Formation growth running at 1Q 2015 pace in 2Q 2015, this line of expenditure contribution to GDP would have been EUR2.175 billion lower, and overall GDP growth would have been less than 2.1% y/y instead of 6.7%. This just shows how volatile Irish figures are and how dependent they can be to a single line change of unknown nature.


  1. Overall, Irish economy posted moderate growth in Personal Expenditure and Government Expenditure in 2Q 2015. Slightly negative news is that growth in 2Q 2015 was slower in these two categories than in 1Q 2015.
  2. Gross Fixed Capital Formation posted an unprecedented rate of increase y/y rising 34.2% in 2Q 2015. There is absolutely no clarity as to the sources or nature of this growth, especially considering that traditional investment areas of Building & Construction have been growing at just 1.5% y/y in 2Q 2015. Stripping out growth in this area in excess of 1Q 2015 already rapid expansion would have generated much lower, more realistic growth figure for GDP and for Domestic demand.
  3. Final Domestic Demand expanded strongly on foot of Fixed Capital Formation, rising 10.1% y/y in 2Q 2015 almost double the 5.3% rate of growth recorded in 1Q 2015.
  4. One area of potential concern is the impact on Domestic Demand (via Gross Fixed Capital Formation) from the MNCs activities via MNCs inverted into Ireland. There are multiple examples of such inversions across various sectors all having potential implications on how we treat investment by such firms in National Accounts. Another area of concern is treatment of capital investments by some financial firms, such as aircraft leasing firms and, increasingly, vulture funds and REITS.

Analysis of external trade flows is to follow, so stay tuned.

10/9/15: 2Q 2015 National Accounts: GDP and GNP Growth

In the previous post covering 2Q national Accounts data, I dealt with sectoral composition of growth, using GDP at Factor Cost figures.

Here, consider the headline GDP and GNP growth data.

First, year on year figures:

  • As noted earlier, GDP at factor cost rose 6.52% y/y in 2Q 2015, having previously expanded 6.77% y/y in 1Q 2015. This means that sectoral growth slowed down slightly in 2Q 2015 compared to 1Q 2015, although the slowdown was not very large. Still 2Q 2015 growth was faster than 2Q 2014 growth (6.31%). These are good news. In 2Q 2015, GDP at constant factor cost contributed EUR2.833 billion to overall GDP and over the course of 1H 2015 cumulative y/y contribution was EUR5.576 billion.
  • Taxes rose 5.13% y/y in 2Q 2015, having previously grown at 8.06% y/y in 1Q 2015. There is quite a bit of seasonal and within-year timing variations in these series, so we can look at 1H 2015 effects instead. 1H 2015 cumulative taxes contribution to GDP was EUR687 million, which EUR995 million contribution over 1H 2014.
  • Subsidies made a positive contribution to GDP growth (or rather - less negative) in 1Q 2015 of EUR58 million, followed by a positive contribution in 2Q 2015 at EUR83 million. Overall, subsidies reduction (subsidies enter as negative into GDP) was EUR141 million in 1H 2015 compared to 1h 2014a swing of EUR321 million in terms of GDP growth in 2015-2014 compared to 2014-2013 periods.
  • GDP at constant market prices rose 6.67% y/y in 2Q 2015, down on 7.17% growth recorded in 1Q 2015. So GDP growth was fast in 2Q, but slower than in 1Q. Surprisingly, to some media observers, GDP growth in 2Q 2014 was also higher at 7.0% as compared to 2Q 2015.
  • Outflows of profits abroad (MNCs expatriation net of Irish companies repatriation of profits from abroad) jumped in 2Q 2015, moderating overall GNP growth. In 2Q 2015, net factor income for the rest of the world reached EUR8.039 billion compared to 1Q 2015 at EUR7.383 billion and 2Q 2014 at EUR7.013 billion (more on this later).
  • As the result, Irish GNP at constant market prices grew strong 5.28% y/y in 2Q 2015, which is nonetheless well below 8.07% growth recorded in 1Q 2015 and below blisteringly high rate of growth of 10.71% recorded in 2Q 2014. Over 1H 2015, GNP expanded by EUR5.2 billion compared to H1 2014, but this growth was slower than the rate of growth recorded in H1 2014 compared to H1 2013 (+EUR5.469 billion).

Again, given markets' surprise at Irish growth (compared to market expectations), here is a chart with a simple polynomial trend in GDP and GNP growth rates:

As chart above shows, both GDP and GNP growth surprised to the downside on trend, not to the upside. Which, again, begs a question: what models are being used to forecast Irish economic performance?

Now, consider GDP/GNP gap:

In 2Q 2015 GDP/GNP gap in Ireland stood at 18.95% - the highest since 2Q 2013 and well above the period average, as illustrated in the chart above. Net factor income outflows ratio to GDP was 15.94% - also the highest reading since Q2 2013. Both, higher gap and higher ratio signal (imperfectly) MNCs activity acceleration built into Irish growth figures, albeit we cannot connect these gaps to specific quarter when activity was actually registered.

Table below summarises y/y growth rates in 2Q 2015 and 1H 2015:

Table below summarises q/q growth rates in 1Q 2015 and 2Q 2015, as well as 2Q 2014:


  • GDP at constant prices rose 1.87% q/q in 2Q 2015 which marks a marginal slowdown on 1Q 2015 growth of 2.13%. 
  • GNP at constant prices rose 1.91% in 2Q 2015 compared to 1Q 2015, reversing the loss of 0.17% recorded q/q in 1Q 2015. Which is also a good outrun.
  • In annual growth terms, however, both GDP and GNP came in with slower growth y/y in 2Q 2015 than in 1Q 2015. That said, growth in GDP was very high at 6.67% y/y and growth in GNP was solid and more realistic 5.28% y/y,
  • Headline figures, therefore, reflect strong performance, but as noted in the previous note, much of this performance is driven by MNCs-dominated sectors activity.

Stay tuned for the expenditure side of the National Accounts in a later post.

10/9/15: 2Q 2015 National Accounts: Sectoral Growth Analysis

So Irish National Accounts data for 2Q 2015 was released today. Brace yourselves for series of blog posts here and a torrent of congratulatory waffle across the media.

Starting, as I always do, with sectoral composition of growth, using GDP at Factor Cost figures. All referenced here are in real terms (inflation-adjusted) and seasonally unadjusted so we can look at what matters most: annual rate of growth (y/y).

And we are off:

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector contribution of GDP in 2Q 2015 was EUR1.341 billion (yeah, that's right… just that much). And this figure represents a decline of 1.18% y/y. Ugh… growth it ain't. But good news is, sector output grew 5.57% y/y in 1Q 2015, so for the year to-date we are still up cumulative EUR32 million in the sector (+1.44%). Still, a year ago in 2Q 2014 the rate of growth in the sector was 23.8%.
  • Industry (inclusive of Building & Construction) output contribution to GDP was EUR13,711 billion. Aha… more than ten times that of Agriculture Forestry & Fishing sector. But never mind, we don't call Ireland the Widgets Island… So the sector grew 4.36% y/y in 2Q 2015 which adds to 10.52% growth in 1Q 2015. Healthy numbers all even though 2Q was a slowdown. And a year ago, in 2Q 2014 things were even more heated - then sector grew at 14.7% y/y. But 1H figure is pretty healthy all around: up EUR1.739 billion in 1H 2014 (+7.18%).
  • Take some decomposition of growth in Industry. Transportable Goods Industries and Utilities sub-sector (aka Pharma MNCs Central) grew at a hefty rate of 11.2% in 1Q 2015 and this fell to 4.64% y/y growth in 2Q 2015. Again, sub-sector growth was weaker in 2Q 2015 than in 2Q 2014 (+14.71% y/y). However, Transportable Goods Industries sub-sector was the biggest contributor to growth in 2Q 2014 of all Industries, but more on this below. Meanwhile, Building & Construction sub-sector expanded by 4.41% in 1Q 2015 and this sub-sector managed to grow only 1.52% in 2Q 2015. For all the ink expended by irish media pushing revival of the Construction sector stories in recent months, 1H 2015 cumulative y/y growth in the sub-sector was just EUR64 million (+2.87%). Still, growth is growth, right? 
  • Distribution, Transport, Software and Communications sector (aka non-Pharma MNCs Central) was the booming one this quarter. In 1Q 2015 this sector expanded output by 9.64% and in 2Q 2015 this rose to 11.40% y/y. Yes, folks, things are doubling in this sector faster than every 7 years (pretty soon, all Beemers in the world will be made in Drogheda and all Mercs will be stamped out in Wexford). Back to numbers: this sector is now almost as large as the entire Industrial sector in Ireland at EUR12.398 billion 2Q 2015 contribution to GDP. Over 1H 2015 the sector added EUR2.335 billion in growth to the GDP, more than any other sector in the economy and its output was up 10.52% y/y.
  • Public Administration and Defence sector continued to shrink in 2Q 2015, falling 4.05% y/y after having posted a 5.45% contraction in 1Q 2015. The sector managed to subtract from GDP growth some EUR147 million (-4.74%) y/y over 1H 2015.
  • Other Services, including rents, sector was up steady 4.35% y/y in 2Q 2015 having previously grown 4.42% y/y in 1Q 2015. Over 1H 2015, compared to 1H 2014, the sector contribution to GDP expanded by EUR1.48 billion (+4.39%).

Here is a chart illustrating evolution of GDP art Factor Cost:

The above shows that GDP at factor cost grew by 6.52% y/y in 2Q 2015 down slightly on 6.77% growth in 1Q 2015, but still fast. GDP at factor cost expanded by EUR5.576 billion in 1H 2015 compared to 1H 2014 (+6.64%). Very fast. Which is good news.

Trends are illustrated in the chart below:

As chart above shows very clearly, level of GDP at factor cost came in as a slight surprise above the simple polynomial trend line, but growth rate in GDP has both moderated in 2Q 2015 compared to 1Q 2015 and came at below the trend line. Which begs a question: what are all those analysts who underestimated GDP growth use for a model?.. But never mind - forecasting Irish economy is a hazardous task.

Now, here's an interesting bit:

As the chart above shows, lion's share of growth in 2Q 2015 came in from the MNCs-dominated sectors:

  • Industry (ex-Building & Construction) contributed almost 1/5 of the entire growth
  • Distribution, Transport, Software and Communications sector (aka non-Pharma MNCs Central) contributed whooping 45%; and
  • Other Services contributed 26%.

Everything else mattered not.

The same picture, pretty much, holds for 1H cumulative growth contributions:

Summary: so what has been happening over 2Q 2015 and 1H 2015? 

  1. Yes, we have growth and fast growth at it. Mostly, it is broadly-based across various sectors. 
  2. But dominant sectors that act as two leading (by a mile) sources of growth are  Industry (ex-Building & Construction) dominated by Pharma and Chemicals, plus Distribution, Transport, Software and Communications sector, dominated by non-Pharma MNCs. Interestingly, last year, 1H 2014 growth y/y involved much shallower expansion of output in Distribution Transport Software and Communication sector (+4.62% against this year's +10.53%), which possibly signals amplified tax optimisation and exchange rates effects of MNCs activities in the sector. 
  3. Growth was much stronger in domestic sectors a year ago than in 1H 2015: Agriculture (+20.87% y/y in 1H 2014 against +1.44% in 1H 2015) and Building & Construction (+12.5% y/y in 1H 2014 against +2.87% y/y in 1H 2015) sectors.
  4. Y/Y 2Q 2015 growth was slower than 1Q 2015 across all sectors other than Distribution, Transport, Software and Communications sector. Annual contraction rate moderated slightly in Public Administration sector in 2Q 2015 compared to 1Q 2015.

We can't say much about quality of growth beyond that... But stay tuned for more detailed analysis of National Accounts data later.