Consumer, Producer and Housing Prices in October 2019

November 21st, 2019
Bottom line: Both the CPI (Consumer Price Index) and the MPPI (Manufacturing Producer Price Index for the Domestic Market) rose in October, in line with expectations. However, the underlying trend has decisively changed over recent months: the annual rate of increase in the CPI, which had begun to rise in late 2017 (from negative levels), peaked around 1.5% in mid-2019 and has since declined to around 0.5%. 

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November 20th, 2019
Bottom line: Much of what is happening in the economy is not good, in some cases plain bad. But the underlying trends are distorted in the quarterly GDP data by huge volatility from one quarter to the next, caused by swings in vehicle imports. Looking beyond this “noise”, it becomes clear that growth is driven only by private consumption – which is weakening – and government spending. Exports and investment are both negative factors, and even the sluggish growth of imports is bad news. In short – and despite the seemingly strong ‘headline number’ – there are increasing grounds for concern.

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Services exports data for August and for January-August 2019

12th November 2019
Bottom line:  Service exports continued their steady expansion in August, in line with the trend in 2019 to date. The main driver is exports of high-tech services as a whole, but the most dramatic rise has been in the sale of start-ups. On the other hand, growth in the exports of non-high-tech sectors has been sluggish and, in some cases, slightly negative.

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Budget data for January-October 2019

November 10th, 2019
Bottom line:
Budget data for October were still slightly distorted by the impact of the Jewish holidays (Sep. 30 –Oct. 21) on tax collection and government spending. Nevertheless, ten months into the fiscal year, the general picture is very clear. The deficit has stabilised at the high level of 3.6-3.8% of GDP, thanks to government expenditure being contained at the levels determined in the adjusted 2019 budget. On the other hand, revenue growth is sluggish and looks to be weakening.

The immediate issue is whether December will see a surge in government spending, as usually happens towards the end of the fiscal year. More importantly, from January the absence of a functioning government will leave fiscal policy in a vacuum and make budget management very difficult.

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Budget data for January-September 2019

October 24th , 2019
Bottom line:
The budget data for September are significantly distorted – as is often the case — by the incidence of the Jewish holidays, which this year began on September 30 and continued through October 21.  As a result, both inflows of revenues and outflows of spending are distorted, but in different ways. Offsetting distortions will occur in October, and only by taking the two months together or, better, by focusing on the January-October data, can the underlying developments by identified.

The review of the monthly data by the Accountant-General’s division highlights these distortions and provides estimates of the undistorted data. The general conclusion arising is that the trends apparent throughout 2019 are still in force. The following are a few specific data points that are relevant, despite the distortions.

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September 16, 2019
Bottom line: April-June 2019 saw one of Israel’s largest-ever quarterly current account surpluses. This was achieved despite falls in the value of trade in both goods (smaller deficit) and services (smaller surplus), from the record levels posted in both of these in the first quarter of 2019. The key to the large surplus was the $600m surplus on primary income – highlighting the trend underway in this area in recent years, from deficit to surplus. I expect this to continue.

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