Fourthly, the structure of restrictions to industrial output growth is beginning to change. As expected, “internal effective demand” is now at the top. It is considered to be a restriction by 45% of enterprises (a 9-points growth on Q 3, and a 19-points growth on the absolute low registered in Q 2007). The second place in the rating is held by the lack of circulating assets. As the two-thirds of industrial enterprises rely on credits for replenishing these assets, the shrinkage of credits have increased the proliferation of this restriction by 8 points over the quarter, and by comparison with the absolute low – by 12 points. As a result, there was a dramatic drop (by 13 point over the quarter) in the provision of enterprises with stocks of raw and other materials: presently, only 63 % of enterprises have normal stocks thereof – their worst showing for the past 11 quarters. The situation is further aggravated by the emergence of nonpayments. In industry, the number of the reported occurrences of nonpayments almost doubled over the quarter (from 12 to 21 %). It is true that by now this restriction has managed to ascend only to the fifth place, but it should be remembered that in the beginning of this year it was in the 8th and 9th places.
That the restriction known as “lack of qualified personnel” is in the third place (with 41 %) causes some optimism in the existing circumstances. Over the previous seven quarters, this factor was registered five times to hold the first place, and two times - the second place. In other words, the managers of enterprises still consider workers as a sufficiently valuable resource; they fully understand that under conditions of rapid degradation of the system of specialized education, accompanied by devaluation of higher education, even mass dismissals of personnel in other sectors of the economy will not make it possible for them, should the need arise, to rapidly find qualified workers and engineers. Although “pressure from the competing imports” is sharing the fifth place with “nonpayments” and “low demand for exports”, its proliferation in the Russian processing industry has declined to 21% after having reached its historic high (31%) in the previous quarter. This can be safely attributed to Russian producers’ moderating their price ambitions and to their recently started attempts at costs-cutting.
So far, the process of Russian enterprises being sucked into crisis has not been very intensive. A number of indicators suggest a certain probability that Russian industry might succeed in getting over the crisis easier than expected.
Firstly, enterprises are sufficiently cautious in managing their stocks of finished products. The balance of their estimates remains within the limits of the range of values which have become typical in recent months. The overstocking of warehouses for finished industrial products is not something to worry about as yet.
Secondly, nothing suggests for the moment that Russian industry is currently experiencing, or will experience in the neatest future, any large-scale dismissals of personnel. For a considerable proportion of enterprises, personnel-related problems (see above) are still blocking the way to increasing output.
The estimates of the current numbers of personnel carried out by enterprises in relation with the expected changes in demand also inspire optimism in the emerging critical situation. In October 2008, % of Russian industrial enterprises were of the opinion that they did not have enough personnel (against 26 % in July and 24 % in April), while 10 % of enterprises believed that they had redundant personnel (against 9 % in July and 5 % in April). Despite the expected changes in demand, the majority of producers (62 % against 65 % in July and 70 % in April) consider the existing numbers of personnel to be adequate.
The oncoming crisis has brought about one indisputable “advantage” – a change in the pricing policy of manufacturers. In October, the available data, both basic and cleared of seasonality, indicated zero-growth of prices. The last time Russian industry had experienced this phenomenon in August 1998. A sharp fall in prices is registered in metallurgy, while the rest of the industries have reduced growth-intensity to a minimum. The former trend survives for the moment only in the chemical industry.
Forecasts and expectations The only thing that prevents Russian industry from being completely immersed by the crisis is the hopes that demand (and, naturally, supply) would rise due to state interventions. This optimism will certainly vanish if enterprises do not get money from the budget and if the life-saving credits do not materialize. At present, forecasts of growth in demand are positive only after having been cleared of seasonality, while initial balances have become markedly negative (i.e., there are significantly more forecasts of a decline in sales than those of their growth). And this situation is typical of all the industries without exception.
The production plans of the majority of enterprises also envisage a reduction in output. It is true that for the time being this majority is not overwhelming in relation to enterprises planning to increase their output. All the same, such a ratio between the plans has been registered by surveys for the first time since October 1998. Therefore, the only thing the elimination of seasonality demonstrates in this case is a decline in optimism (i.e., it seems that output would grow, though certainly not as intensively as before). But it should be remembered that production plans worse than the present ones (after the elimination of seasonality) also date back to October 1998.
Foreign trade N. Volovik The slowdown in world economic growth and the growth rates of the economies of Russia’s main partners in trade so far had no impact on the dynamics of Russia’s foreign trade sector. This country’s high dependence on the import of certain items of agricultural products and foodstuffs may trigger a food crisis in Russia.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects a significant drop in the activity of the world economy in a situation of the most dangerous financial shock on developed markets since the 1930s. According to the IMF’s forecasts, by the end of 2008 the global growth rate will plummet, while in the second half of the year 2009 there will be a slight growth. The growth rates in developed economies will be close to zero at least till mid-2009, whereas those in the countries with emerging and developing markets will drop to levels much lower than in not so distant past.
Fig. 1 Main indices of Russian foreign trade (billion USD) Май Май Май Май Май Май Май Май Май Сен.
The worsening foreign economic situation, which is the result of declining oil prices and the continuing slowdown in world economic growth so far has not been reflected by the foreign trade indices of the Russian Federation. The RF foreign trade turnover, estimated on the basis of the balance of payments, in August 2008 amounted to 72.6 billion USD By comparison with July it dropped by 5 %, while having risen on August 2007 by 42.1 %.
The volume of Russian exports in August 2008 was 45.6 billion USD, which is by 46.6 % higher than in August 2007. The export of goods to the far abroad amounted to 38.9 billion USD (by 47.7 % more than a year earlier), and that to the CIS countries – to 6.8 billion USD (growth by 41 %).
The volume of imports into the RF in August 2008 was 27 billion USD, which is by 34.5 % higher than in August 2007. The import of goods from the far abroad amounted to 23.1 billion USD (by 34.% more than in August 2007), and that from the CIS countries – by 3.9 billion USD (growth by 34.%).
The positive balance of Russia’s foreign trade in August 2008 was equal to 18.5 billion USD, or by 66.7% higher than a year before.
In August the foreign economic situation on world commodities markets was still favorable. However, the period of active price growth was over by mid-June 2008. Since growth of Russia’s balance of trade on the whole resulted from the increased positive balance of raw materials, which occurred simultaneously with the increased negative balance of trade in machinery and equipment, in the nearest future the balance of payments can be expected to become worse. The balance of foreign trade operations will be decreasing until it becomes equal to zero and negative.
The dynamic of Russian exports, as before, was determined by global oil prices, which in August became much lower than their historic high achieved in mud-July (147.27 USD per barrel), but still higher than last year. In August 2008 the price of Brent was 118.3 USD per barrel, which is by 64.1 % higher than in August 2007, but by 15 % lower than in July 2008. The mean price of Urals was 111.USD per barrel, having risen on August 2007 by 1.6 times, but decreased by comparison with July 2008 by 14.0 %.
In August the quotations on the London Metal Exchange (LME) were displaying a downward trend.
The growing stocks in the LME’s licensed warehouses were the evidence of decreasing demand in developed countries. The drop in the average world prices of some non-ferrous metals on the LME in August 2008 against July 2008 was as follows: nickel - by 7.8 %, copper – by 9.1 %, aluminum – by 9.5%. By comparison with August 2007 the price of copper went up by 1.8%, the price of aluminum – by 10.5%, while the price of nickel decreased by 32.7 %.
In September – October the prices of Russia’s main export commodities began to plummet. Thus, the Reuters/ Jefferies CRB Index, which reflects the price trends of 19 commodities, dropped during the period between 29 September and 3 October by 9.9 %. This was the greatest downward change of the value of this index since 1956.
As of 22 October the price of the OPEC Basket amounted to 60.82 USD per barrel (the historic low of the last year and a half), which roughly corresponds to the level of prices on 27 March 2007, when the Basket’s price was 60.37 USD per barrel.
On 24 October 2008 the OPEC decided to reduce the production of oil by 1,5 million barrels per day. However, this decision had no influence on the expectations of the market participants and did not result in growth of oil futures. The OPEC’s management declared its readiness to resort to further reduction in the quota in case the situation on the marked did not improve.
The Russian government, in order to provide support to oil companies, considerably lowered the already established export duty on oil. From 1 October its rate is 372 USD per ton instead of the planned level of 485 USD The new rate has not been calculated on the basis of the results of two-month monitoring of oil prices, contrary to the usual practice, but on the basis of the international oil prices registered between 1 and 17 September. Last time the duties were lowered in April 2007, but since June 2007 they have been constantly on the rise.
The rate of the export duty on light petroleum products from 1 October onwards was 263.1 USD per ton against 346.4 USD in August, that on dark petroleum products – 141.7 USD per ton (in August – 186.6 USD).
TableAverage monthly international prices in August of each year 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Oil (Brent), USD/barrel 18.25 12.5 20.2 29.4 25.7 27.2 29.9 42.8 61.9 71.7 72.1 118.Natural gas, USD/1 million BTE 2.121 1.858 2.8 4.437 2.91 2.999 4.888 5.212 9.533 6.593 6.309 8.Petrol, USD/gallon 0.5941 0.4128 0.6476 0.9021 0.776 0.834 0.935 1.152 1.811 2.073 1.968 2.Copper, USD/т 2481.7 1627.4 1646.6 1941.7 1499.4 1480.0 1731.0 2835.8 3800.0 7689 7510.5 7645.Aluminum, USD/ton 1563.7 1345.4 1421.1 1546.4 1374.9 1292.0 1457.0 1694.3 1868.0 2460 2515.2 Nickel, USD/ton 6737.3 4137.1 6430.8 8092.9 5554 6720.0 9365.0 13723 14894 30872 27600 Source: based on the London Metal Exchange’s data (the UK, London), and the International Oil Exchange (London).
In January - August 2008 the RF’s foreign trade, as estimated on the basis of the balance of payments, increased by 48.3 % to 522 billion USD. In the first eight months of 2008 Russia’s exports increased by 52.6% - to 331.3 billion USD, and imports – by 41.4% to 190.7 billion USD. Thus, the positive balance of foreign trade grew to 140.7 billion USD against 82.4 billion. USD in January - August 2007.
An analysis of the commodity structure of exports in the first eight months of 2008 has demonstrated that the highest growth rate is displayed by the export of fuel and energy commodities (by 166.6 % against the corresponding period of 2007); chemical products and rubber (by 150.3 %) – mainly due to the growing export of potassium mineral fertilizers (by 194,3%); machinery, equipment and means of transport (by 132.6 %); and metals and metal products (by 123.8 %). Export of foodstuffs became significantly lower due to the dramatic reduction in wheat export.
The value structure of Russian exports in January - August 2008, by comparison with the corresponding period of 2007, displayed an increased share of fuel and energy commodities - from 63.8 % to 69.8 %. The equally considerable increase in the biggest export group, associated with increased contractual prices of oil - by 1.7 times, that of petroleum products – by 1.7 times, and that of natural gas – by 1,5 times, resulted in decreased proportions of the other groups of commodities.
An increase in imports was noted in respect of the majority of commodity items. The greatest rise was demonstrated by import of machinery, equipment and means of transportation (growth by 156.%). Import of machine-building products increased due to growth of the purchases of ground means of transportation – by 1.6 times, mechanical equipment – by 1.5 times, railway locomotives – by 2 times, aircraft – by 3.3 times, and electrical equipment – by 1.3 times.
Import of chemical products and rubber increased by 39.5 %, and that of foodstuffs and the agricultural raw materials needed for their production – by 33.1 %.
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