UK: eloitte Monday Briefing: What To Read This Christmas

Last Updated: 17 December 2013
Article by Ian Stewart
  • We are launching our Christmas reading list today. Our six choices offer an eclectic and thought-provoking break from the rigours of Christmas. All are available free and online.
  • The search for new drugs is an expensive and risky process. No wonder pharmaceutical companies hope to be rewarded well when they discover a new drug. But how do companies price a good whose demand does not change with price? This article in the MIT Technology Review provides an insight into the process that prices drugs such as the cystic-fibrosis-fighting Kalydeco at $294,000 a year:
    http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/520441/a-tale-of-two-drugs/
  • These ten charts have, according to this Harvard Business Review article, "changed the way we think". They range from a bar chart of senior managers' worst flaws (the top one being "failure to develop others") to the sharply declining number of successful coups in Africa:
    http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/12/10-charts-from-2013-that-changed-the-way-we-think/
  • This short article examines different cultural perceptions of time and punctuality. In North America, for instance, people tend to apologise if they are 10 minutes late for a meeting. But in the Arab world the author finds that people feel compelled to apologize if they are more than 20 minutes late:
    http://nautil.us/blog/for-billions-of-people-wasting-time-makes-little-sense
  • Celebrity autobiographies are a booming industry. But do celebrities really find the time to write 300-page books on their lives? Many use the services of ghostwriters adept at translating a few hours of interviews into several chapters of lucid prose. Who are these anonymous authors and how lucrative is their trade? This article in the Priceonomics blog examines the history and economics of the ghost-writing business:
    http://priceonomics.com/the-ghostwriting-business/
  • The recent publication of the Scottish Government's plans for independence has focussed attention on monetary policy in an independent Scotland. This article compares the SNP's plans to continue to use the pound with the nineteenth century Austro-Hungarian monetary union:
    http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.in/2013/11/a-history-lesson-for-scotland.html
  • This article from Slate Magazine examines how diners tend to order simpler, cheaper drinks and food to avoid the embarrassment of mispronouncing less familiar items on the menu or stumbling as they specify complex combinations. The author claims that reducing the scope for embarrassment, for instance, by allowing customers to order on-line, can raise revenues substantially:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_enlightened_manager/2013/12/complicated_pizza_
    orders_the_outsized_role_embarrassment_plays_in_consumer.html

MARKETS & NEWS

UK's FTSE 100 ended the week down -1.7%, its sixth straight week of losses.

Here are some recent news stories that caught our eye as reflecting key economic themes:

KEY THEMES

  • Average annual earnings for full-time employees rose 2.2% in the year to April 2013, whilst prices rose by 2.4% on average – the fifth successive year that wage rises failed to keep pace with inflation
  • TV adverts for payday loans have risen lenders from just 17,000 in 2009 to 397,000 in 2012, an increase of 64% every year, according to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.
  • Ireland became the first eurozone member state to officially leave its international financial rescue programme
  • Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, said the Bank would act if needed to prevent the UK housing market growing at "warp speed"
  • Tesco Bank announced that it plans to launch a personal current account product next year
  • Job vacancies are growing at the fastest rate since 1998 in the UK according to survey data from research firm Markit
  • The UK's manufacturing sector expanded at a monthly rate of 0.4% in October
  • The US House of Representatives passed a two-year bipartisan budget plan that would end a number of automatic spending cuts on federal agencies
  • General Motors has said it will pull out of manufacturing in Australia by 4 years' time, with the US car manufacturer partly blaming the strong Australian dollar and high labour costs for its decision
  • Kano, a London-based computer programming start-up, attracted over $1m in pledges in 2 weeks on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter
  • The Japanese stockmarket, the Nikkei, rose to its highest level since late 2007
  • Google became the first major online ad network to charge clients only if their adverts have been seen
  • ScottishPower scrapped plans for a £5.4bn offshore wind farm, saying waves were too big, the seabed was too hard, and that it had discovered of hundreds of basking sharks in the area
  • Two houses in China were damaged by falling pieces of a government rocket, prompting calls for an insurance scheme to cover future damage from the country's ambitious new space program
  • The Emoya Luxury Hotel and Spa near Bloemfontein in South Africa offers a "Shanty Town" experience, with a dozen small shacks of wood and corrugated metal, advertised as "ideal for team building" – thinking outside a box

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