4.0 the Ability to Spend

© 1999-2020, Douglas A.Ruby (06-10-2020)

Say's law stated that "Supply creates its own Demand" in which the income earned producing a certain quantity of goods and services should be sufficient to purchase and identical quantity of those same products. However in a complex economy with sticky prices and wages, financial sectors in various stages of development, political institutions that fail to promote certainty and optimism, and strong international linkages and dependencies -- this law may not always hold. The ability to spend on the output of an economy may not be identical to the ability to produce that output.

4.0.1 Aggregate Expenditure

We measure the ability to spend by adding up the four broad expenditure categories defined by the methods of national income accounting consumption expenditure 'C', investment expenditure 'I', government expenditure 'G' and net-export expenditure 'NX':

Aggregate Expenditure (AE) = C + I + G + NX

Each of these expenditure categories are affected by other exogenous variables like interest rates, exchange rates, taxes and expectations.

4.0.2 Consumption Expenditure

Of the four components of aggregate expenditure, consumption expenditure C is the largest contributing to between 60% and 70% of total expenditure. For this reason, we often start our analysis with this particular component. This category of expenditure includes private spending on durable goods (automobiles, electronic goods, appliances, ... ), non-durable Goods (food, clothing, books and magazines,...), and services (housing, health-care, education, entertainment,...).

Special attention must be given to the service component of consumption expenditure for several reasons. First, services represent the largest component representing at least 50 percent of this type of spending. Second, services include housing services measured directly by rents being paid from tenant to landlord, in the case of rental housing, or indirectly as imputed rent that an individual would pay to himself in the case of owner occupied housing. In the latter case the homeowner acts as both tenant and landlord with no actual payment changing hands but imputed expenditure being included in the services category to reflect the value of the housing services received from the owner-occupied home. Third, services, unlike durable and some non-durable goods, are difficult to accumulate as inventory. Thus any changes in the demand for services (due to changing preferences or the general level of economic activity) must be immediately matched with changes in production. This is not always an easy task in any economy.

Consumption expenditure decisions are strongly influenced by household disposable (after-tax) income, household wealth, savings needs and plans, confidence in the future direction of the economy, and interest rates (in the case of durable-goods purchases).

4.0.3 Investment Expenditure

Investment expenditure I represents a smaller share of the total but tends to be the most volatile component leading to the cyclical behavior of aggregate expenditure. This category of expenditure includes fixed nonresidential investment (factories, machines, transport equipment), fixed residential investment (new houses and apartments), and business inventories . Often the volatility in investment results from fluctuation in inventory levels due to changing expectation about business conditions.

Fixed residential and nonresidential investment refers to the creation of income-producing assets. Assets that will generate net-benefits (benefits minus costs from housing services) in the case of owner-occupied housing or generate profits as part of the production process. These net-benefits and profits depend on the expected revenue or gross benefits generated by the asset as well as the costs of acquiring, maintaining and replacing these assets.

Demand for output produced by the asset will directly affect the revenue generated. Strong demand based on preferences, optimism, purchasing power, or demographics will lead to the desire for more investment expenditure.

Acquisition costs include both the purchase price of the asset and the borrowing costs involved both which are highly sensitive to changes in interest rates. Higher interest rates lead to higher borrowing costs and thus lower net-benefits or profits such that the level of aggregate investment expenditure may be reduced. Maintenance and replacement costs depend on the useful life of an asset and its rate of depreciation. Assets that wear out very quickly or become obsolete in a short period of time have higher costs with the same effect as rising interest rates. Because of the sensitivity of investment decisions to changing interest rates, this category of expenditure is easily affected by monetary policies and activity in the financial sector of an economy.

4.0.4 Government Expenditure

Government expenditure G is a reflection of the fiscal needs and policies of the public sector in a given economy. This type of expenditure might be in reaction to the demand for public goods and services by private households and businesses through voting or other types of political activity. In addition, government expenditure could be used as a deliberate policy tool (fiscal policy) to increase nominal incomes in the hope of stimulating economic activity.

4.0.5 Net Export Expenditure

Finally, Net export expenditure NX reflects the international linkages based directly on service and merchandise flows across borders in addition indirectly reflecting capital flows into and out of a particular country. Merchandise flows are sensitive to domestic income levels and preferences for foreign-made goods. In addition these flows are influenced by exchange rates which determine the domestic price of goods and services produced abroad. Capital flows depend on interest rate (yield) differentials among nations as well as exchange rates which affect the domestic price of a foreign asset both at the time of purchase of that asset and at the time of sale.

As we will see in the following sections, specific spending components may be defined by broad functional relationships:

Ct = f{income (Yd), wealth (W), taxes (T) , and interest rates (r)}

It = f{interest rates (r), capital productivity and longevity, and income (Yt)}

Gt = f{fiscal policies, budgetary needs and borrowing constraints}

NXt = Exports - Imports = f{exchange rates (e.r.), interest rates (rdomestic,rforeign), domestic and foreign income (Ydomestic,Yforeign)}

As noted above, interest rates and exchange rates are affected by activity in the financial sector of the economy. This activity may include changes in monetary policy as administered by central banking authorities and changes in expectations of future economic activity, inflation, and credit risk.

One important and influential variable is the aggregate price level which can have strong effects on the purchasing power of nominal incomes. the impact of changes in the price level will be introduced with our discussion of Aggregate Demand.

Concepts for Review:
  • Aggregate Demand
  • Aggregate Expenditure
  • Business inventory investment
  • Consumption expenditure
  • Cyclical behavior (of Aggregate Demand)
  • Disposable Income
  • Durable Goods
  • Fiscal Policy
  • Fixed non-residential investment
  • Government expenditure
  • Income-producing Assets
  • Investment expenditure
  • Monetary Policy
  • Net-Export expenditure
  • Non-durable Goods
  • Residential investment
  • Say's Law
  • Services
  • Wealth

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© 1999-2020, Douglas A.Ruby (05-20-2020)