Oral conversational topics on business English language

Recommendations about use of a text material and work with expressions. Rules of learning and a pronunciation of texts taking into account articles, prepositions and forms of verbs. The list of oral conversational topics on business English language.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
Вид методичка
Язык английский
Дата добавления 15.02.2011
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Київський національний економічний університет

Криворізький економічний інститут


до вивчення усних розмовних тем

з ділової англійської мови

для студентів IV курсу фаху “Міжнародна економіка”

Кривий Ріг 2003

Методичні вказівки до вивчення усних розмовних тем з англійської мови для студентів курсу фаху МЕ. - Кривий Ріг, КЕІ КНЕУ. - 2003р.,- 55 с.

Авторський колектив: ст. вик. Братанич О.Г.

викл. Дмитрієв Д.Ю.

викл. Бреддік Дж.

Студенти 4 курсу:

Артем'єва С.

Сербіна Я.

Старикова Г.

та інші

За заг. редакцією: завідувача кафедри, д.п.н., проф. Скидана С.О.

Рецензент: к.п.н., доцент Соловйова Н.Д.

Відповідальний за випуск: проф. Скидан С.О.


In using the textual material one should at the outset carefully read and try to understand, using the dictionary where necessary. One should not try to translate every sentence into Russian rather one should try to understand the situation in which various expressions are used as well as to pay attention to the context. However, instances which the author considers hard to understand are pointed out. Having understood the meaning of an expression related to the topic the student learns it completely by heart with the articles, prepositions, verb - forms and so on.

In order to use a word, its form must first be learned; and making the new word part of one's vocabulary may require a great deal of practice to gain fluency in speech and rapid understanding. The emphasis therefore, should be on learning to use words rather than merely on grasping their meaning. One bit of general advice: fluency in language depends to a very large degree on the expression model that one may be able to think of in a specific situation. Sentence or utterances that one has learnt in connection with a specific situation are likely to suggest themselves again as models if you are in similar situation.

Sentences and utterances learned without being associated with anything are not likely to occur to you again. It is thus quite helpful and important to learn to associate utterances with situation.

One should, of course, get into the habit of thinking of possible foreign language utterances in situations in which one may find oneself.

O.G. Bratanich

marketing - a). the theory or practice of presenting, advertising and selling things; b). the division of a company that does this. provide - to make smth available for smb to use by giving or lending it. utility - the quality of being useful possession - the state of having, owning or controlling smth. need - circumstances in which smth is lacking on necessary, or which require smth to be done; a necessity. anticipate - to what is going to happen or what will need to be done and take action to prepare for it in advance. function - a special activity or purpose of a person or thing. purchase - the action or process of buying smth. flow - the flowing movement of smth; a continuous stream of smth. accomplish - to succeed in doing smth; to complete smth. successfully; to achieve smth.


оral conversational topic еnglish text

When asked to define marketing, most people will say "to advertise a product" or "to sell a good". It's true that selling and advertising are parts of marketing, but there is much more. Marketing provides utility or the value that comes from satisfying human needs. Consumers use utility in many different circumstances in their everyday lives. For instance, we have the right to possess a product or service in exchange for money, which is called possession utility. Also, consumers use utility when they can buy a product or service when they want it, and also at a location where they would like to buy it. The former is called time utility and the latter is referred to as place utility. Production helps us to differentiate between what consumers want by providing form utility or a product produced, and task utility or a service given. Simply put, marketing provides time, place, and possession utility, and guides decisions about what goods and services should be produced to provide form utility and task utility. There are basically two different variants to defining marketing. Micro-marketing focuses on activities performed by an individual organization, and macro-marketing focuses on the economic welfare of a whole society. Both are important when trying to understand what is marketing. The first, micro-marketing, is the performance of activities that seek to accomplish an organization's objectives by anticipating customer or client needs and directing a flow of need-satisfying goods and services from producer to customer or client. Let's take a look at this definition. To begin with, marketing applies to both profit and non-profit organizations. All organizations have some kind or "audience" or "market" that they are trying to satisfy. The point is that all organizations need to practice good marketing techniques to accomplish their objectives and reach their goals. Furthermore, a very important goal of marketing is to identify customers' needs, and meet those needs the best way that organization knows how. If the marketing function has done this, than the product or service will assuredly sell itself In addition, marketing should focus on those needs that were identified, not with production. Marketing should anticipate those needs, and then determine the products or services to be developed. While this sounds like the marketing function leads business activity, this is false. Marketing should direct, not lead other business functions such as accounting, production, and financial activities toward the overall goals of the firm. Finally and most importantly, marketing builds a relationship with customers. A purchase does not mean the end of marketing related activities, on the contrary, it is only the beginning to a long, lasting relationship with customer, and should always look for ways to keep a customer coming back. As all marketers know and understand, it is easier and less costly to keep a customer once they have them, than it is to find them in the first place. This is why relationship marketing is so important. The second, macro-marketing, is a social process that directs an economy's flow of goods and services from producers to consumers in a way that effectively matches supply and demand and accomplishes the objectives of society. Here the emphasis is on the whole system, not the individual organization. Different producers in a society have different objectives, resources, and skills. Likewise, not all consumers share the same needs, preferences, and wealth. So, macro-marketing effectively helps to match supply differences with demand differences, while trying to accomplish a society's objectives. Thus, we can say marketing has two different definitions, dealing with two different levels of the economy.


1. What kind of utility do you know?

2. What is the difference between micro- and macro- marketing?

3. What is included in definition “marketing”?

4. What goal of marketing can you call as a very important one?

5. How does marketing build a relationship with customers?

6. How do both micro- and macro- marketing connect with two levels of economy?

7. What other business functions should marketing direct?

8. How could the producers foresee the consumers' needs?

9. What is the main goal of marketing as a whole?

marketing concept - an idea for a product, especially a new one marketing orientation - when a business concentrates on designing and selling products that satisfy customer needs in order to be profitable production-oriented business - when a business bases its ability to make profits on the high quality of its product, rather than on customer's needs customer satisfaction - a feeling of happiness or pleasure with what customer has got or what customer achieved bottom-line - the figure showing a company's total profit or loss trade-off - a balance between two situations in order to get an acceptable result


What does the marketing concept mean? Simply put, it means that an organization aims all its efforts at satisfying its customers to achieve profit. Without satisfied customers, a company is without money, and is bankrupt. While this concept seems rather simple, it has not always been applied. This implies a production-oriented business or making whatever products are easy to produce and then trying to sell them. Firms interested in this method think of customers existing to buy the firm's output rather than of firms existing to serve customers and the needs of society. On the other hand, well-managed firms have replaced this production orientation with a marketing orientation. This means trying to carry out the marketing concept. Instead of just trying to get customers to buy what the firm has produced, a marketing-oriented firm tries to offer customers what they need. Three basic ideas are included in the definition of the marking concept: customer satisfaction, a total company effort, and profit, not just sales, as an objective. To begin with, customer satisfaction guides the whole system. Every business function is influenced by the customer the company is trying to satisfy. For instance, the finance department looks to purchase production equipment that will increase the quality of a product, and increase the overall position of the companies profit at the same time. Without customer satisfaction's influence each business function would be working separately toward different goals, thus operating individually and against total unity. Furthermore, teamwork among all managers of a firm is an essential element, because the output from one department may be the input to another. Sometimes departments tend to build walls around themselves in order to protect their own interests. This narrow way of thinking only leads to the customer not receiving enough attention, resulting in a breakdown of the marketing concept. By adopting the marketing concept all departments are provided with a guiding force. It acts as a philosophy for the whole organization, not just an idea that applies to the marketing department. Finally, profit is the bottom-line measure of the firm's success and ability to survive. It is the balancing point that helps the firm determine what needs it will try to satisfy with its total, however costly, effort. Sometimes it may cost more to satisfy some needs than any customers are willing to pay, or it may be much more costly to try to attract new customers than it is to build a strong relationship with-and repeat purchases from-existing customers. This is why firms use profit as the means for survival and success of the marketing concept. In addition, the marketing concept is related to social responsibility and marketing ethics. The marketing concept is so logical that it's hard to argue with it. Yet, when a firm focuses its efforts on satisfying some consumers, to achieve its objectives, there may be negative effects on society. This means that marketing managers should be concerned with social responsibility- a firm's obligation to improve its positive effects on society and reduce its negative effects. Being socially responsible sometimes requires difficult trade-offs. For example, if a firm produces a product that emits harmful chemicals that result in poor environmental standards, should the firm be responsible for the clean up? Also, should all consumers needs be satisfied? For instance, everyone knows that cigarettes cause serious health problems, so should a firm knowingly keeping producing them just because there is a demand for them? These questions and others help us look into how the marketing concept is applied to society.


1. What does the marketing concept mean?

2. What is the difference between production and marketing orientation?

3. Which orientation is more profitable for the firm? Why?

4. What basic ideas are included in the definition of the marketing concept? What is the most important of them? Why?

5. How can the work of the whole organization be influenced by adopting marketing concept?

6. How can we determine whether the firm is successful or not? What is the index of the firm's success?

7. In what way is the marketing concept related to social responsibility?

8. Should marketing managers be responsible for the negative effects caused by the marketing concept on the society?

9. In what way should the marketing managers solve the problem of satisfying consumer's needs and reducing the negative effects of the marketing concept at the same time?

strategy - the process of planning smth or carrying out a plan in a skilful way. target - an object that a person tries to hit in shooting practice or in certain sports. price - an amount of money for which smth may be bought or sold. place - a particular area or position; a natural or proper position for smth. promotion - advertising or some other activity intended to increase the sale of a product or service. image - a general impression that a person, an organization, a product, etc. gives to the public; a reputation. distribution - the way smth is shared out or spread over an area. brand name - the name given to a particular product by the company that produces it for sale. public relations - the work of presenting a goal image of an organization to the public, esp. by providing information.


Marketing strategy planning means finding attractive opportunities and developing profitable marketing strategies. The marketing concept is the guiding force used when a firm develops the best strategy. There are two defining parts to a marketing strategy, the target market and the marketing mix. Both play a key role in the outcome of a firm's success in a marketing. A target market is defined as a fairly similar group of customers to whom a company wishes to appeal. When determining a target market, a firm must be very specific about whom they will target. Based on certain characteristics such as income, age, job, living habits, physical characteristics, etc. will a firm find the best group of customers and be the most successful in their efforts. Market-oriented firms use the target marketing approach while production-oriented firms use a mass marketing approach. Target marketing says that a marketing mix is tailored to fit some specific target customers. In contrast, mass marketing vaguely aims at everyone with the same marketing mix. Mass marketing assumes that everyone is the same, and considers everyone a potential customer, thus spending great amounts of wasted time and money to try and sell a product or service. A marketing mix is the controllable variables the company puts together to satisfy this target group. Using a marketing mix, a firm answers what, where, how, and how much. These are made up of the four Ps or product, price, place, and promotion

PRODUCT = the goods or the service that you are marketing

A 'product' is not just a collection of components. A 'total product' includes the image of the product, its design, quality and reliability - as well as its features and benefits. In marketing terms, political candidates and non-profit-making public services are also 'products' that people must be persuaded to 'buy' and which have to be 'presented and packaged' attractively. Products have a life-cycle, and companies are continually developing new products to replace products whose sales are declining and coming to the end of their lives.

PRICE = making it easy for the customer to buy the product

Pricing takes account of the value of a product and its quality, the ability of the customer to pay. the volume of sales required, and the prices charged by the competition. Too low a price can reduce the number of sales just as significantly as too high a price. A low price may increase sales but not as profitably as fixing a high, yet still popular, price.

As fixed costs stay fixed whatever the volume of sales, there is usually no such thing as a 'profit margin' on any single product.

PLACE = getting the product to the customer

Decisions have to be made about the channels of distribution and delivery arrangements. Retail products may go through various channels of distribution:

1 Producer --> end-users (the product is sold directly to the end-user by the company's sales force, direct response advertising or direct mail (mail order))

2 Producer --> retailers --> end-users

3 Producer --> wholesalers/agents --> retailers --> end-users

4 Producer --> wholesalers --> directly to end-users

5 Producer --> multiple store groups / department stores / mail order houses --> end-users

6 Producer --> market --> wholesalers --> retailers --> end-users

Each stage must add value to the product to justify the costs: the person in the middle is not normally someone who just takes their 'cut' but someone whose own sales force and delivery system can make the product available to the largest number of customers more easily and cost-effectively. One principle behind this is 'breaking down the bulk': the producer may sell in minimum quantities of, say, 10,000 to the wholesaler, who sells in minimum quantities of 100 to the retailer, who sells in minimum quantities of 1 to the end-user. A confectionery manufacturer doesn't deliver individual bars of chocolate to consumers: distribution is done through wholesalers and then retailers who each 'add value' to the product by providing a good service to their customers and stocking a wide range of similar products.

PROMOTION = presenting the product to the customer

Promotion involves the packaging and presentation of the product, its image, the product's brand name, advertising and slogans, brochures, literature, price lists, after-sales service and training, trade exhibitions or fairs, public relations, publicity and personal selling. Every product must possess a 'unique selling proposition' (USP) -the features and benefits that make it unlike any other product in its market"

These four crucial variables are the foundation of the marketing strategy of any for profit or not for profit organization that uses the marketing concept and drives for success. The customer is not included in the marketing mix, but the customer is the target of all marketing efforts with the four Ps surrounding it. All four Ps are needed in a marketing mix. In fact, they should all be tied together. All four characteristics contribute to one whole. When a marketing mix is being developed, all decisions about the Ps should be made at the same time. That's why the four Ps are arranged around the customer, to show that they are all equally important. A marketing strategy sets a target market and a marketing mix. It is the overall scheme of a firms efforts in a market, however a marketing plan goes further. A marketing plan is a written statement of a marketing strategy and the time-related for carrying out the strategy. First, it details what marketing mix will be offered, to whom the strategy is directed toward, and for how long. Second, it forecasts what company resources, shown in costs, will be needed at what rate. Third, it determines what results are expected shown in sales and profits perhaps monthly or quarterly, customer satisfaction levels, and the like. The plan should also have some control features for whoever is carrying out the plan to see if things are going well or not. Having a plan greatly increases that the marketing strategy will succeed, and the customer will be satisfied.


1. What does marketing strategy planning mean?

2. There are two defining parts of a marketing strategy: the target market and the marketing mix. How would you characterize them?

3. Why do they play a key role in the outcome of a firm's success?

4. What components does marketing mix include and how can they influence the product's position on the market?

5. What is the difference between definitions “marketing concept” and “marketing strategy”?

6. What channel of distribution do you think is more effective? Why?

foreign exchange - money in a foreign currency currency - the system of money used in a country rate - a fixed charge, payment or value risk - the possibility of meeting danger or of suffering harm or loss to distinguish - to recognise the difference between people or things bond - a certificate issued by a government or a company acknowledging that money has been lent to it and will be paid back with interest. portfolio - a set of investments owned by a person, bank, etc. to convert - to change from one form or use to another equity - the value of the shares issued by a company; the ordinary stocks and shares that carry no fixed interest adverse - not favourable, contrary, opposing, harmful


The foreign exchange market is a market for converting the currency of one country into that of another country. An exchange rate is simply the rate at which one currency is converted into another. Without the foreign exchange market international trade and international investment on the scale that we see today would be impossible; companies would have to resort to barter. The foreign exchange market is the lubricant that enables companies based in countries that use different currencies to trade with each other.

The rate at which one currency is converted into another typically changes over time. Currency fluctuations can make seemingly profitable trade and investment deals unprofitable, and vice versa.

In addition to altering the value of trade deals and foreign investments, currency movements can also open or shut export opportunities and alter the attractiveness of imports. While the existence of foreign exchange markets is a necessary precondition for large-scale international trade and investment, the movement of exchange rates over time introduces many risks into international trade and investment. Some of these risks can be insured against by using instruments offered by the foreign exchange market, such as the forward exchange contracts

Thus, the foreign exchange market serves two main functions. The first is to convert the currency of one country into the currency of another. The second is to provide some insurance against foreign exchange risk, by which we mean the adverse consequences of unpredictable changes in exchange rates. To explain how the market performs this function, we must first distinguish among spot exchange rates, forward exchange rates, and currency swaps.


When two parties agree to exchange currency and execute the deal immediately, the transaction is referred to as a spot exchange. Exchange rates governing such "on the spot" trades are referred to as spot exchange rates. The spot exchange rate is the rate at which a foreign exchange dealer converts one currency into another currency \// on a particular day.


The fact that spot exchange rates change daily as determined by the relative demand and supply for different currencies can be problematic for an international business. To avoid this risk, the U.S. importer might want to engage in a forward exchange. A forward exchange occurs when two parties agree to exchange currency and execute the deal at some specific date in the future. Exchange rates governing such future transactions are referred to as forward exchange rates. For most major currencies, forward exchange rates are quoted for 30 days, 90 days, and 180 days into the future.


A currency swap is the simultaneous purchase and sale of a given amount of foreign exchange for two different value dates. Swaps are transacted between international businesses and their banks, between banks and between governments when it's desirable to move out of one currency into another for a limited period without incurring foreign exchange risk. A common kind of swap is spot against forward.


A capital market brings together those who want to invest money and those who want to borrow money. Those who want to invest money are corporations with surplus cash, individuals, and non bank financial institutions (e.g., pension funds, insurance companies). Those who want to borrow money are individuals, companies, and governments. In between these two groups are the market makers. Market makers are the financial service companies that connect investors and borrowers, either directly or indirectly. They include commercial banks and investment banks.

Commercial banks perform an indirect connection function. They take deposit from corporations and individuals and pay them a rate of interest in return. They then loan that money to borrowers at a higher rate of interest, making a profit from the difference in interest rates. Investment banks perform a direct connection function. They bring investors and borrowers together and charge commissions for doing so.


A Eurocurrency is any currency banked outside its country of origin. Eurodollars which , account for about two-thirds of all Eurocurrencies, are dollars banked outside or the United States. Other important Eurocurrencies include the Euro, the Euro-yen, and the Euro-pound. The term Eurocurrency actually a misnomer, since a Eurocurrency can be created anywhere in the persistent Euro-prefix reflects the European origin of the market. The Eurocurrency market is significant because it is an important, relative source of funds for international businesses. From small beginnings, this is mushroomed.


There is no international equity market in the sense that there are international currency and bond markets. Rather many countries have their own domestic equity markets in which corporate stock is traded. The largest of these domestic equity markets are to be found in the United States, Britain, Japan, and Germany. Although each domestic equity market is still dominated by investors who are citizens of that country and companies incorporated in that country, developments are internationalising the world equity market. Investors are investing heavily in foreign equity markets as a means of diversifying their portfolios.


Bonds are an important means of financing for many companies. The most common kind of bond is a fixed-rate bond. The investor who purchases a fixed-rate bond receives a fixed set of cash payoffs. Each year until the bond matures, the investor gets an interest payment and then at maturity he gets back the face value of the bond.

International bonds are of two types: foreign bonds and Eurobonds. Foreign bonds are sold outside the borrower's country and are denominated in the currency of the country in which they are issued.

Eurobonds are normally underwritten by an international syndicate of banks and placed in countries other than the one in whose currency the bond is denominated For example, a bond may be issued by a German corporation, denominated in U.S dollars, and sold to investors outside the United States by an international syndicate of banks. Eurobonds are routinely issued by multinational corporations, large domestic corporations, sovereign governments, and international institutions, they are usually offered simultaneously in several national capital markets, but not in the capital market of the country, nor to residents of the country, in whose currency they are denominated. Eurobonds account for the lion's share of international bond issues.


1. How would you explain the currency fluctuations?

2. What is the necessary precondition for large-scale international trade and investment?

3. The foreign exchange market serves two main functions. What is their essence?

4. What is the difference between spot exchange rate and forward exchange rate?

5. What are the main participants of swap operations?

6. What is the difference between commercial and investment banks?

7. What types are international bonds divided into?

8. How would you characterise foreign bonds and Eurobonds?

9. What is the principle of the international capital market activity?

10. Who is each domestic equity market dominated by?

budget - an estimate or plan of the money available to smb. and how it will be spent over a period of time revenue - income, esp. the total annual income of a state or an organisation to approximate - to estimate or calculate smth fairly, accurately management - the control and making of decision in a business or similar organisation assumption - thing that is thought to be true or certain to happen, but is not proved forecast - a statement that predicts smth with the help of information flexible - easily changed to suit new condition objective - a thing aimed at or wished for, a purpose inventory - a detailed list esp. of goods, furniture or jobs to be done to compile - to collect information and arrange it in a book, list, report, etc.


A budget is a financial plan. Specifically, a budget sets forth management's expectations for revenues and, based on those financial expectations, allocates the use of specific resources throughout the firm. You may live under a carefully constructed budget of your own. A business operates in the same way. A budget becomes the primary basis and guide for financial operations in the firm.

Budgeting is the principle activity in the planning function that all managers of successful firms must do in order to meet desired results. Just as managers use forecasts to approximate income from sales, they must also forecast the future availability of major resources, including people, raw materials, energy, and money. Techniques for forecasting resources are the same as those employed to forecast sales: hunches, market surveys, time-series analysis, and econometric models. The only difference is that the manger is seeking to know the quantities and prices of goods that can be purchased rather than those to be sold. A very close relationship exists between budgeting as a planning technique and budgeting as a control technique. During the planning phase of management, firms forecast future allocations of resources for business activities. After the organization bas been engaged in activities for a time, actual results are compared with the budgeted (planned) results and may lead to corrective action. This is the management function of controlling.

The budgeting process is complex in nature, derived from the management's objectives for the organization to the final financial budgeted balance sheet formulated. Sales forecasts play a key role in the budgeting process. It consists of a forecast of quantities sold and forecast of dollar income expected. All other budgets are related to it either directly or indirectly. The production budget, for example, must specify the materials. labour, and other manufacturing expenses required to support the projected sales level. Similarly, the marketing expense budget details the costs associated with the level of sales activity projected for each product in each sales region. Administrative expenses also must be related to the predicted sales volume. The projected sales and expenses are combined in the financial budgets, which consist of pro forma financial statements, inventory budgets, and the capital additions budget.

Most firms compile yearly budgets from short-term and long-term financial forecasts. There are usually several budgets established in a firm:

An operating budget

A capital budget

A cash budget

A master budget

Forecast data are based on assumptions about the future. If these assumptions prove wrong, the budgets are inadequate. So the usefulness of financial budgets depends mainly on the degree to which they are flexible to changes in conditions. Two principle means exist to provide flexibility: variable budgeting and moving budgeting. Variable budgeting provides for the possibility that actual output changes from planned output. It recognizes that variable costs are related to output, while fixed costs are unrelated to output. Thus, if actual output is 20 percent less than planned output, it does not follow that actual profit will be 20 percent less than that planned. Rather, the actual profit varies, depending on the complex relationship between costs and output. Furthermore. moving budgeting is the preparation of a budget for a fixed period (say, one year), with periodic updating at fixed intervals (such as one month). For example, a budget is prepared in December for the next 12 months, January through December. At the end of January, the budget is revised and projected for the next 12 months, February through January. In this manner, the most recent information is included in the budgeting process. Premises and assumptions are constantly being revised as management learns from experience.

In addition, budgets can sometimes lead companies to overlook critical variables such as quality and customer service. Often, their decision-making process is based solely on numbers and dollars, and wrong moves can turn into lost profit. To combat this companies set up guidelines that include the necessity to plan first, budget later: budget for managers, not accountants: measure output, not input; and design budgets to protect against dispute between departments.

Budgets are an important activity crucial to a managers' success in maintaining the bottom line of a company. Without them, it would be the equivalent to walking through a mine field without sight. Eventually, you're going to be blown out of the way by competing firms.


1. What is a budget and what is it based on?

2. Why do sales forecasts play a key role in the budgeting process?

3. What are the components of the budgeting process?

4. How many kinds of budgets do you know? What are they?

5. Describe the two principle means providing flexibility: variable budgeting and moving budgeting.

6. Is there any difference between a budget and a financial plan?

7. What is the importance of making a budget?

to destock - to cut or use stocks to annualize - to calculate over a period of year to shrink - to become smaller in amount, size, or value to slide into recession - to gradually start to experience decrease in economy and employment economic slowdown - time or period when economic development gets slow


Almost single-handed, French consumers, who in the third quarter of this year spent an annualised 5% more than in the previous three months, kept the euro area's economy afloat. Among the three largest economies, which account for 70% of euro-area GDP, only France looked healthy, growing by 0.5%. Italy managed just 0.2%; Germany's economy, poorly for a year, actually shrank. As a whole, the euro area grew by a mere 0.1%.

Do not expect the French to keep it up, though. Consumption fell by 0.4% in October, and rising unemployment will probably keep spending in check. Nor is anybody else likely to take up the running. The European Commission reckons that, of the ten euro-area economies for which it forecasts quarterly GDP, only Spain and Finland will grow by more than 0.25% in the fourth quarter. The odd two out, Greece and Luxembourg, may well do better, but all four together make up less than one-seventh of the euro area's GDP.

The three biggest economies, and with them the euro area as a whole, are probably now shrinking, along with America and Japan. Whether the euro area's contraction will last for more than one quarter is unclear. Yet even optimists expect only slow growth in early 2002.

The best hope for revival lies in a reversal of the forces that have aggravated the euro area's slowdown. Rising prices, first of oil and then of food, ate into real incomes and depressed spending. The prices of oil and other commodities have since fallen fast, and the effects of foot-and-mouth disease and BSE are due to drop out of the inflation figures. Some economists think that inflation, now 2.4%, will fall to 1% or less in 2002. As well as boosting real incomes, falling inflation (or the expectation of it) ought to create more room for the European Central Bank (ECB) to cut interest rates below today's 3.25%.

In both France and Germany, inventories were run down in the third quarter, so there is not much more destocking to be done. Germany's construction industry, in decline for two years and a huge drag on growth at the start of 2001, almost stopped shrinking in the third quarter. The euro's weakness against the dollar and the yen should help exports.

That's the good news. Much else is amiss, notably America's slide into recession. This has hurt exports, but it has not reduced the euro area's trade surplus, since imports have been squeezed just as hard. Indeed, says Dieter Wermuth of Tokai Bank in Frankfurt, Germany is seeing a "trade miracle": exports actually rose in the third quarter, while imports fell. The trade balance had a big positive effect on Germany's GDP figure; feeble domestic demand clobbered the total.

America's recession is feeding through to GDP in other ways. Weakening exports are knocking domestic demand, through lower orders to suppliers and cuts in investment. Second, European companies have become more exposed to America through foreign direct investment: the American affiliates of European multinationals doubled their sales in the 1990s, which are now equivalent to almost 9% of euro-area GDP. An American slowdown means less profit, less investment and lower employment--in Europe as well as in the United States.

Third, America's troubles are sapping Europe's confidence. That has been much clearer since September 11th: Germany's IFO index of business confidence dipped again in October, after plummeting in September. The link between spirits in the two big economic regions is more than a couple of months old. The European Commission says that, between 1995 and 2001, the correlation between confidence indices in the euro area and America has been almost 0.9, with America just eight or nine months ahead. Where American businesses and consumers lead, Europeans seem to follow closely behind.

On top of this, there are domestic weaknesses to worry about. Unemployment, which kept falling in the early stages of the downturn, is now expected to rise. The ECB has so far been slow to cut interest rates, and may remain slow in future. The scope for loosening fiscal policy, especially in Germany, is small: next year's deficit will probably be close to the limits set by the euro area's stability and growth pact, which Germany's finance minister is determined not to violate. Salvation in an American recovery, then? Not only. If rising inflation dragged Europe down, falling inflation should help pull it up. With luck, the fourth quarter will be as bad as it gets for the old continent. But don't bet on it; and expect a slow climb back up.


1. What is the annual growth rate of the euro-area?

2. Which are the three biggest economies of the euro-area?

3. What dynamics of inflation is expected in the current year?

4. Are European companies becoming more exposed to America? In what way?

5. What are domestic weaknesses of the major European economies?


JUST as public opinion is apparently warming to the idea of joining the euro, relations between Gordon Brown and the European Commission have soured. The cause of the dispute is a ticking-off from Brussels about the chancellor's fiscal plans. This is no ordinary disagreement. It goes to the heart of whether Britain can both join the euro and maintain the drive to improve public services.

At first sight, the row between Mr Brown and the commission looks more theatrical than real. The commission says that Britain is failing to meet the rules of the stability pact by planning to run a budget deficit. This runs counter to the pact's stipulation that member states--both in and out of the euro area--should keep their budgets "close to balance or surplus over the medium term". For the moment, that does not much matter, since fines can be levied only on euro members.

But if Britain were to join the euro, say in 2004, the stability pact would become

highly relevant. Up till now the main focus of debate on whether Britain could make a success of euro membership has been about monetary policy. The principal question that the chancellor's five tests seek to answer is whether Britain could live with interest rates set by the European Central Bank. Underlying this is the worry that the British economy differs so much from the rest of the European Union (EU)-for example, through a housing market especially responsive to changes in interest rates that a one-size-fits-all monetary policy will prove harmful.

The latest row, however, highlights a different question--whether a one-size-fits-all fiscal policy set in Brussels will prove damaging. One criticism of the pact is that it makes little sense for countries to limit their fiscal freedom now that they have surrendered control over interest rates and exchange rates within the euro area. That applies to any euro member state. But there are two particular reasons why Europe's stability pact could prove especially problematic for Britain.

The first is that Britain's public infrastructure is exceptionally run-down compared with the rest of Europe. Government investment is much lower as a proportion of GDP than in most European countries. After a long period of neglect, culminating in Labour's first term of office, there is an urgent need to remedy matters. That is why Mr Brown plans to double net public investment's share of GDP to 1.7% by 2003-04 and then to sustain this level of spending. He wants to finance most of the investment by borrowing, arguing that this is fairer than funding through taxation since it spreads the cost of works that will benefit people for many years to come. With debt now very low in relation to GDP, he maintains that borrowing to invest is also fiscally responsible.

But the European Commission is anxious to ensure that the EU as a whole reduces debt in relation to GDP by running balanced budgets or surpluses. A particular reason for this is concern about the future impact of Europe's ageing populations. This will lead to big increases in spending on pensions and health, resulting in likely deficits and higher debt. This could in turn undermine monetary union as the more heavily indebted countries lobby for inflationary policies to erode their debts. Hence the need to use the next ten or so years, before population ageing gathers momentum, to lower the public debt burden.

That policy may be legitimate for the EU as a whole, but not for Britain. This is the second way in which a one-size-fits-all fiscal policy creates a particular problem because of British exceptionalism. For one thing, Britain's debt is the third lowest in the EU as a share of GDP. More important, Britain does not face the same pressures to raise public pensions as other European countries, partly because population ageing will be less intense but also because big private schemes bear much more of the strain of pension provision, and they, unlike state pensions, are funded. Worries about the adequacy of pensions have led the British government to boost poorer pensioners' income, but this will not change the broad picture.

Over the next few years, then, there is a mismatch between Britain's need for higher investment and the euro area's need for lower debt. One way round this would be to interpret the stability pact more flexibly to meet the interests of individual member states. Treasury sources say that the commission has no monopoly of wisdom in interpreting the pact and criticise the commission for a narrow, legalistic approach. The chancellor will press Britain's case at the next meeting of finance ministers on February 12th, arguing that his budgetary projections are consistent with a prudent interpretation of the stability pact. The commission does not want a confrontation but fears that allowing one exception will open the door to special pleading by other countries.

If the stability pact were to become binding--as early membership of the euro would entail--then this will create real problems for Mr Brown as he tries to find the money to pay for improvements in the public services. He has already been preparing the ground for tax increases in this year's budget. But these would have to be a lot bigger--possibly as much as ?10 billion--for Britain to comply with the pact.

Tony Blair wants Britain to join the euro. He also wants to rebuild the public services without upsetting taxpayers. Those two aims may be incompatible.

to asses - work out the (tax) to be paid by (someone) ledger - a book in which the accounts of a business are kept accrued - increased by being added to to wade through - read (something long or boring) to forge - make a copy of something written in order to deceive compliance - when someone obeys a law or rule, keeps an agreement


Some people mistakenly think of accounting as a highly technical field which can be understood only by professional accountants. Actually, nearly everyone practices accounting in one form or another on an almost daily basis. Accounting is the art of interpreting, measuring, and describing economic activity. Whether you are preparing a household budget, balancing your checkbook, preparing your income tax return, or running General Motors, you are working with accounting concepts and accounting information.

Accounting has often been referred to as "the language of business." This language finds expression in profit and loss statements, balance sheets, budgets, investment analysis, and tax analysis. Accounting information is the means by which firms communicate their financial position to the providers of capital--investors, creditors, and government. It enables the providers of capital to assess the value of their investments, or the security of their loans, and to make decisions about future resource allocations. Accounting information is also the means by which firms report their income to the government, so the government can assess how much tax the firm owes. It is also the means by which the firm can evaluate its performance, control its internal expenditures, and plan for future expenditures and income. Thus it is no exaggeration to say that a good accounting function is critical to the smooth running of the firm.

Developing and communicating accounting information is the role of the business organization's accounting system.

Accounting -- is the process of recording, classifying, reporting and analyzing financial data. And while the accounting requirements of every business vary, all organizations need a way to keep track of their money. Unfortunately, there's very little that's intuitive about accounting. Many small businesses hire accountants to set up and keep their books. Other companies use accounting software like QuickBooks, CheckMark Multi-Ledger and M.Y.O.B. Accounting and keep their accounting functions in house. Using a system of debits and credits, called double-entry accounting, accountants use a general ledger to track money as it flows in and out of a business. They record each financial transaction on a balance sheet, which provides a snapshot of a business's financial condition. Accountants record every financial transaction in a way that keeps the following equation balanced: Assets = Liabilities + Owner's Equity (Capital). Accounting is based on the periodic reporting of financial data. The basic accounting cycle includes: 1) Recording business transactions. Businesses keep a daily record of transactions in sales journals, cash-receipt journals or cash-disbursement journals. 2) Posting debits and credits to a general ledger. A general ledger is a summary of all business journals. An up-to-date general ledger shows current information about accounts payable, accounts receivable, owners' equity and other accounts. 3) Making adjustments to the general ledger. General-ledger adjustments let businesses account for items that don't get recorded in daily journals, such as bad debts, and accrued interest or taxes. By adjusting entries, businesses can match revenues with expenses within each accounting period. 4) Closing the books. After all revenues and expenses are accounted for, any net profit gets posted in the owners' equity account. Revenue and expense accounts are always brought to a zero balance before a new accounting cycle begins. 5) Preparing financial statements. At the end of a period, businesses prepare financial reports -- income statements, statements of capital, balance sheets, cash-flow statements and other reports -- that summarize all of the financial activity for that period.

International businesses are confronted with a number of accounting problems. One of these problems--the lack of consistency in the accounting standards of different countries.

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