Christmas quiz - The Monday Briefing


Our Christmas quiz covers an eclectic mix of topics, many related to economics and business. The answers and a brief explanation of the factors at work are below each question.

1. The following are popular Christmas songs and carols that have had one letter from each word changed. What are the songs/carols?

    1. Solent bight
    2. Hard she gerald engels ping
    3. Pod lest he mercy gently ben
    4. Peck thy galls
    5. Toe hotly aid tie icy
    6. Me threw sings on onient ore
    7. Dairy tape if neg yolk

Answer: 1. A. Silent Night B. Hark the Herald Angels Sing C. God Rest Ye merry, Gentlemen D. Deck the Halls E. The Holly and the Ivy F. We Three Kings of Orient Are G. Fairy tale of New York

2. In recent years surging demand has led Father Christmas to move more and more toy production from the North Pole and into globally integrated, just-in-time supply chains made possible by the marvel of containerised freight. Father Christmas incurred an average $2,709 per 40ft container in shipping costs over the last five years. Approximately how much is he paying now?

    1. Twice as much
    2. Three times as much
    3. Five times as much
    4. Ten times as much

Answer: B. Three times as much – Drewry’s World Container Index, which covers the cost of shipping over eight major trade routes, was $9,051 per 40ft container on 2 December. This is actually slightly below its recent peak of over $10,000 in September.

3. In a 2019 paper, economist Joel Waldfogel of the University of Minnesota, studied the biggest ‘culinary traders’ among nations. Using restaurant (including fast food joint) listings on TripAdvisor and sales data in 52 nations, he assessed foreign consumption of a nation’s domestic cuisine as a gauge of its culinary exports to other countries. On this measure, which one of the following nations is the biggest ‘culinary exporter’ in the world?

    1. US
    2. Japan
    3. China
    4. Italy

Answer: D. Italy emerged as the world’s largest ‘culinary exporter’ with the US ranking second – thanks to the world’s adoption of burger and fried chicken restaurants – followed by China and Japan.

4. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Survey gauges the cost of a representative list of goods and services in 173 cities across the world to compare the cost of living in different places. Which among the following cities was ranked as the costliest place to live in the world in this year’s survey?

    1. Zurich
    2. Hong Kong
    3. Tel Aviv
    4. Paris

Answer: C. Tel Aviv is the costliest city with significant rises in the price of alcohol, groceries and transport and the appreciation of the Israeli shekel. Higher goods prices due to supply disruptions and rising commodity prices have increased the cost of living in most cities across the world. Averaging across the 173 cities, the cost of living has risen by 3.5% this year on local-currency measures, compared to 1.9% last year. Paris and Singapore tied for second place as expensive cities, followed by Zurich and Hong Kong. London ranks in 17th place, with Damascus rated as the cheapest city.

5. 2021 has been a good year for equities. The UK’s FTSE 100 index was up 11% between the beginning of this year and the 1st of December. Which one of these FTSE 100 companies’ share prices rose the most during this period?

    1. Auto Trader Group (online automotive marketplace)
    2. Rightmove (online property marketplace)
    3. J Sainsbury (supermarket)
    4. Ashtead Group (equipment rental for construction, industrial and other applications)

Answer: D. Ashtead has been the best performing stock in the FTSE 100 over this period, up 81%. The company operates in the UK, the US and Canada, buying equipment from manufacturers and renting it on a short-term basis to a range of customers, supplying diggers, lifters and other site machinery. The business has proved resilient through the pandemic and, with a large portion of its income coming from the US, the Biden administration’s infrastructure spending bill has strengthened the outlook. J Sainsbury is up 24% year-to-date. Like other supermarkets, Sainsbury’s has been a beneficiary of consumers spending more on groceries and less on eating out than before COVID-19. Autotrader Group is up 23%. The online car marketplace has benefited from surging demand for second-hand cars as supply chain issues have hampered the production of new cars. Rightmove is up 17% year-to-date. Rightmove and other estate agents have enjoyed strong demand throughout the pandemic as people have looked to move properties as lifestyles have changed. Demand has been further boosted by the government’s stamp duty holiday and low mortgage rates.

6. Which one of the following mince pies came top in Which? magazine’s blind taste test this year?

    1. Aldi (25p a pie)
    2. M&S (64p a pie)
    3. Iceland (32p a pie)
    4. Sainsbury (33p a pie)

Answer: C. Iceland’s mince pies were awarded the Which? best buy recommendation, along with mince pies from Tesco and Co-op (both 33p a pie). Iceland’s pies that have tested joint-first for two years running included unusual extras such as yuzu and cider along with the usual port, brandy and fruits. The Co-op pies were said to have “just the right balance of boozy notes” while Tesco’s offering is described as having pastry that is “up there with the best”. Aldi offered the cheapest pies on test but, unfortunately, they were also the lowest scorer.

7. Which country is the world’s largest exporter of Brussels sprouts?

    1. France
    2. Netherlands
    3. Germany
    4. UK

Answer: B. With 33% share of the global $218m Brussels sprout export market, the Netherlands is the single largest exporter. The global export market is highly concentrated with the three biggest exporters of Brussels sprouts, Netherlands, Mexico and United States, accounting for almost 80% of total exports last year.

8. According to the Bank of England, why did the global financial crisis in 2008 push up the price of Christmas trees in the US in 2020?

    1. Many Christmas tree farms went out of business in the 2008–09 recession, causing a fall in supply that only affected the market 10+ years later when trees grew to full size
    2. Temporary stimulus enacted by Nordic governments in 2009 to subsidise Christmas tree growers expired
    3. Regulation passed in the wake of the crisis required banks to hold more collateral against particularly risky borrowers, including Christmas tree growers, which pushed up their cost of funding
    4. The financial crisis prompted an increase in demand for cheaper wines and many Christmas tree farmers switched to producing grapes to meet this demand

Answer: A. During the recession of 2008 the US experienced a glut of Christmas trees at a time of extreme weakness in household incomes. Faced with an oversupply of trees and the economic crisis tree growers cut back on planting. According to the Wall Street Journal, the total acreage devoted to Christmas trees fall by almost a third between 2002 and 2012. Today fewer trees are reaching maturity, which has pushed up prices.

9. Concerns over Christmas food shortages have contributed to many pre-ordering and buying food well in advance of Christmas. Which one of these items would Britons be most upset about not having at Christmas dinner, according to a YouGov survey?

    1. Turkey
    2. Potatoes
    3. Pigs in blankets
    4. Chocolate

Answer: B. Potatoes. 47% of respondents answered that they would be upset if they were unable to have potatoes at Christmas dinner, ahead of chocolate (20%), pigs in blankets (19%) and turkey (18%).

10. Which baby names registered a pop-culture driven surge in popularity in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics?

    1. Daphne and Simon
    2. Boris and Theresa
    3. Maeve and Otis
    4. Alexis and David

Answer: C. According to the ONS, Maeve and Otis, characters from the Netflix show “Sex Education”, registered a surge in popularity in 2020, rising a respective 124 and 28 places in to the top 100 girl and boy names. Archie rose into the top ten boys’ names, inspired by the royal family, while Margot has risen sharply in recent years since Margot Robbie’s appearance in the film “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

11. Most of us have made several purchases, such as computers and home exercise equipment, during the pandemic but a recent survey by insurer Aviva shows that one in ten British buyers regret having made some of these acquisitions. Which one of the following items do people most regret having bought during the pandemic?

    1. Pizza ovens
    2. Gaming equipment
    3. Hot tubs
    4. Tools and carpentry equipment

Answer: B. Almost half (45%) of the British buyers surveyed regretted having bought gaming equipment. Clothes and tools/carpentry equipment (43%) tied for second place. More than a third regretted buying pizza ovens (37%) and hot tubs (36%). Earlier this year, Aviva also reported an almost tripling of accidental damage claims involving hot tubs in 2020, as people spent more time in their gardens during lockdown.

12. According to a 2020 study by Pavlo Blavatskyy of the University of Montpellier, of cabinet ministers from 15 post-Soviet states, which one of the following attributes of a nation’s political leadership could be an indicator of its levels of corruption?

    1. Height of ministers in cabinet
    2. Proportion of left-handed ministers in cabinet
    3. Body-mass index of ministers in cabinet
    4. Proportion of spectacled ministers in cabinet

Answer: C. The study, conducted through a computer analysis of photographs of about 300 cabinet ministers to estimate their body-mass index (BMI), found that nations with chubbier ministers tended to rank higher on measures of corruption. The median BMI of a country’s cabinet was highly correlated to levels of corruption estimated by the World Bank and Transparency International.

PS: By last night, 38 countries, including the UK, had reported cases of the Omicron variant. Infections and hospital admissions in South Africa's Gauteng province, where Omicron is now the dominant strain, are rising exponentially, and faster than previous COVID-19 waves. Last Thursday more than 20% of tests in South Africa came back positive. The news hit financial markets. Commodity prices, particularly for oil, fell sharply while bonds and safe-haven currencies rallied. Stock market volatility rose to the highest level since January, during the Alpha wave. Equities fell, with sharp drops in travel, retail, property and energy stocks and more modest declines in technology and consumer staples. Available high-frequency data for the UK indicate a modest softening in restaurant bookings, air traffic and google searches for leisure activities at the start of last week. In continental Europe high frequency indicators have been dipping for several weeks due to the Delta wave and tighter restrictions. While the ultimate impact of Omicron remains uncertain, the spread of the new variant reinforces downside risks to growth. This Thursday the ONS will update a host of high frequency indicators for the UK that will reveal the extent to which activity has been affected by the Omicron news. The public health implications will take longer to emerge, but by mid-December we will begin to have an idea of Omicron disease severity and vaccine efficacy.

For the latest charts and data on health and economics, visit our COVID-19 Economics Monitor: