Category Archives: Irish national accounts

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.

17/5/15: Irish Merchandise Trade: 1Q 2015

Irish trade in goods statistics - the ones responsible for the tax-induced economic dizziness in the National Accounts over 2014 - are back at posting more absurd numbers.

Take a look at data through March 2015:

  • 1Q 2015 imports of goods stood at EUR14,819 million which represents an increase of 10.5% y/y and 18.6% cumulative rise over the last two years. Relative to 2000-2007 period average, Irish imports of goods are up 3.8%. These are pretty large numbers, even allowing for currency valuations. 
  • 1Q 2015 exports of goods from Ireland stood at EUR24,957.6 million, which represents an increase of 17.4% y/y. Yep, apparently Irish exports outputs are growing at a rate that implies doubling of the entire export capacity every 4 years, plus a month or so. No, seriously, folks - at this rate of building manufacturing facilities and logistics parks to accommodate all this stupendous growth, there won't be any cranes and construction crews left in the entire UK and probably none in France either. All would have been busy adding new land to Ireland.
  • Now, we can compute % change in exports per 1% change in imports as the latter are often inputs into production of the former. Even recognising that imports of goods are also growing on foot of improving domestic demand, current exports elasticity with respect to imports is the third largest - lagging behind only two out the last 25 years: 1992 and 2004. What happened back in 1992? Ah, yes, new FDI in ICT manufacturing sector pushed Irish exports by 16% y/y in one year off a low base. It took couple of years thereafter for imports to catch up with this tremendous 'value creation' by stuffing computers and software disks into boxes. And in 2004? Well, that arrived on foot of abysmal 2003, when exports sunk and trade surplus went into largest y/y decline on record. So here we have it: the miracle of Irish exports growth: more of 1992 (tax arbitrage) and less 2004 (post collapse bounce).

Now, take a look at some dizzying numbers for March:

As the above shows, March marked the third highest value of goods exports for any month on record. Year on year, imports of goods were up 14.21% in March after posting 12.08% growth in February. Meanwhile, exports of goods rose 20.85% y/y in March after posting 16.92% growth in February. Trade balance rose 32.61% y/y in March having grown 24.21% in February.

Put frankly, even Google's big data analysts would struggle connecting these numbers to any tangible reality.

Chart below shows shorter range for dynamics.