Page last updated at 13:57 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 14:57 UK

Taking the pulse of the global economy

By James Whittington
Business editor, BBC World Service

Economically related stress balls
The price of food and fuel are issues that affect all of us.

A year on from a crisis that saw both fuel and food prices spike, sending millions of people spiralling ever deeper into poverty, an eerie silence has descended over the issue.

But it has not gone away.

Since last year's peak, some of the factors that caused food prices to shoot up so rapidly have gone into reverse.

But for the world's poorest, food remains more expensive than it used to be.

Energy prices too have come back from their peak, though not to levels seen before prices started soaring.

The BBC is Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy, looking at a range of subjects this summer
Food prices - which remain a concern particularly in many developing economies
Highly volatile energy prices - which have been a major issue in the past year
The plight of migrant workers - as the global recession takes hold in many economies
Housing markets - which have turned from boom to bust in many countries
Rising unemployment levels - as firms cut back because of falling orders

The cost of food and fuel: These are the themes for July in our series Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy where we focus each month on how the financial crisis and global recession are affecting the lives of people across the world .

Food Prices

At the peak of the food crisis in 2008, the BBC began tracking the prices of food in shops in seven major cities to create a World Food Price Index. Each week, for the last year, our reporters have headed to the shops to check the prices families pay for basic foods such as rice, bread, milk and eggs.

We expected to find generally falling food prices in line with the global trend. But our snapshots raised a number of issues. In Washington and Brussels, staple food prices have dropped in the shops we have been tracking.

But in poorer countries, our Index shows that food prices have risen. In Nairobi and Buenos Aires, the increase in basic food costs have been substantial.

Vital issues

The price of food and fuel are issues that affect all of us.

In many households around the world, food and energy costs eat up the largest slice of family incomes.

Other big issues we have examined in Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy are unemployment, remittances and house prices.

In June, we looked at the rising number of joblessness around the world and how this is affecting the life of migrant workers and the amount of money they are sending home.

In August, we will be looking at behaviour changes as a result of the downturn.

And in September, there will be a series of special programmes and reports to mark the first anniversary of the dramatic collapse of the Wall Street bank Lehman Brothers.

The world economy has been sick, suffering its deepest recession in decades.

Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy aims to keep an eye on the patient, online, on the radio and on TV.

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