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Posts Tagged ‘appreciation’

Trump and the German balance of payments

One of President Trump’s main policy slogans has been ‘America first’. As Trump sees it, a manifestation of a country’s economic strength is its current account balance. He would love the USA to have a current account surplus. As it is, it has the largest current account deficit in the world (in absolute terms) of $481 billion in 2016 or 2.6% of GDP. This compares with the UK’s $115bn or 4.4% of GDP. Germany, by contrast, had a surplus in 2016 of $294bn or 8.5% of GDP.

However, he looks at other countries’ current account surpluses suspiciously – they may be a sign, he suspects, of ‘unfair play’. Germany’s surplus of over $50bn with the USA is particularly in his sights. Back in January, as President-elect, he threatened to put a 35% tariff on imports of German cars.

In practice, Germany is governed by eurozone rules, which prevent it from subsidising exports. And it does not have its own currency to manipulate. What is more, it is relatively open to imports from the USA. The EU imposes an average tariff of just 3% on US imports and importers also have to add VAT (19% in the case of Germany) to make them comparably priced with goods produced within the EU.

So why does Germany have such a large current account surplus? The article below explores the question and dismisses the claim that it’s the result of currency manipulation or discrimination against imports. The article states that the reason for the German surplus is that:

… it saves more than it invests. The correspondence of savings minus investment with exports minus imports is not an economic theory; it’s an accounting identity. Germans collectively spend less than they produce, and the difference necessarily shows up as net exports.

But why do the Germans save so much? The answer given is that, with an aging population, Germans are sensibly saving now to support themselves in old age. If Germany were to reduce its current account surplus, this would entail either the government reducing its budget surplus, or people reducing the amount they save, or some combination of the two. This is because a current account surplus, which consists of exports and other incomes from abroad (X) minus imports and any other income flowing abroad (M), must equal the surplus of saving (S) plus taxation (T) over investment (I) plus government expenditure (G). In terms of withdrawals and injections, given that:

I + G + X = S + T + M

then, rearranging the terms,

XM = (S + T) – (I + G).

If German people are reluctant to reduce the amount they save, then an alternative is for the German government to reduce taxation or increase government expenditure. In the run-up to the forthcoming election on 24 September, Chancellor Merkel’s centre-right CDU party advocates cutting taxes, while the main opposition party, the SPD, advocates increasing government expenditure, especially on infrastructure. The article considers the arguments for these two approaches.

Article
The German economy is unbalanced – but Trump has the wrong answer The Guardian, Barry Eichengreen (12/5/17)

Data
German economic data (in English) Statistisches Bundesamt (Federal Statistical Office)
World Economic Outlook Databases IMF

Questions

  1. Why does Germany have such a large current account surplus?
  2. What are the costs and benefits to Germany of having a large current account surplus?
  3. What is meant by ‘mercantilism’? Why is its justification fallacious?
  4. If Germany had its own currency, would it be a good idea for it to let that currency appreciate?
  5. What are meant by ‘resource crowding out’ and ‘financial crowding out’? Why might the policies of tax cuts advocated by the CDU result in crowding out? What form would it take and why?
  6. Compare the relative benefits of the policies advocated by the CDU and SPD to reduce Germany’s budget surplus.
  7. Would other countries, such as the USA, benefit from a reduction in Germany’s current account surplus?
  8. Is what ways would the USA gain and lose from restricting imports from Germany? Would it be a net gain or loss? Explain.
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US interest rates: edging upwards

On 14 December, the US Federal Reserve announced that its 10-person Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) had unanimously decided to raise the Fed’s benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to a range of between 0.5% and 0.75%. This is the first rise since this time last year, which was the first rise for nearly 10 years.

The reasons for the rise are two-fold. The first is that the US economy continues to grow quite strongly, with unemployment edging downwards and confidence edging upwards. Although the rate of inflation is currently still below the 2% target, the FOMC expects inflation to rise to the target by 2018, even with the rate rise. As the Fed’s press release states:

Inflation is expected to rise to 2% over the medium term as the transitory effects of past declines in energy and import prices dissipate and the labor market strengthens further.

The second reason for the rate rise is the possible fiscal policy stance of the new Trump administration. If, as expected, the new president adopts an expansionary fiscal policy, with tax cuts and increased government spending on infrastructure projects, this will stimulate the economy and put upward pressure on inflation. It could also mean that the Fed will raise interest rates again more quickly. Indeed, the FOMC indicated that it expects three rate rises in 2017 rather than the two it predicted in September.

However, just how much and when the Fed will raise interest rates again is highly uncertain. Future monetary policy measures will only become more predictable when Trump’s policies and their likely effects become clearer.

Articles
US Federal Reserve raises interest rates and flags quicker pace of tightening in 2017 Independent, Ben Chu (14/12/16)
US Federal Reserve raises interest rates: what happens next? The Telegraph, Szu Ping Chan (15/12/16)
Holiday traditions: The Fed finally manages to lift rates in 2016 The Economist (14/12/16)
US raises key interest rate by 0.25% on strengthening economy BBC News (14/12/16)
Fed Raises Key Interest Rate, Citing Strengthening Economy The New York Times, Binyamin Appelbaum (14/12/16)
US dollar surges to 14-year high as Fed hints at three rate hikes in 2017 The Guardian, Martin Farrer and agencies (15/12/16)

Questions

  1. What determines the stance of US monetary policy?
  2. How does fiscal policy impact on market interest rates and monetary policy?
  3. What effect does a rise in interest rates have on exchange rates and the various parts of the balance of payments?
  4. What effect is a rise in US interest rates likely to have on other countries?
  5. What is meant by ‘forward guidance’ in the context of monetary policy? What are the benefits of providing forward guidance?
  6. What were the likely effects on the US stock market of the announcement by the FOMC?
  7. Following the FOMC announcement, two-year US Treasury bond yields rose to 1.231%, the highest since August 2009. Explain why.
  8. For what reason does the FOMC believe that the US economy is already expanding at roughly the maximum sustainable pace?
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The outlook for emerging markets

Are emerging markets about to experience a credit crunch? Slowing growth in China and other emerging market economies (EMEs) does not bode well. Nor does the prospect of rising interest rates in the USA and the resulting increase in the costs of servicing the high levels of dollar-denominated debt in many such countries.

According to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) (see also), the stock of dollar-denominated debt in emerging market economies has doubled since 2009 and this makes them vulnerable to tighter US monetary policy.

Weaker financial market conditions combined with an increased sensitivity to US rates may heighten the risk of negative spillovers to EMEs when US policy is normalised. …

Despite low interest rates, rising debt levels have pushed debt service ratios for households and firms above their long-run averages, particularly since 2013, signalling increased risks of financial crises in EMEs.

But there is another perspective. Many emerging economies are pursuing looser monetary policy and this, combined with tighter US monetary policy, is causing their exchange rates against the dollar to depreciate, thereby increasing their export competitiveness. At the same time, more rapid growth in the USA and some EU countries, should also help to stimulate demand for their exports.

Also, in recent years there has been a large growth in trade between emerging economies – so-called ‘South–South trade’. Exports from developing countries to other developing countries has grown from 38% of developing countries’ exports in 1995 to over 52% in 2015. With technological catch-up taking place in many of these economies and with lower labour and land costs, their prospects look bright for economic growth over the longer term.

These two different perspectives are taken in the following two articles from the Telegraph. The first looks at the BIS’s analysis of growing debt and the possibility of a credit crunch. The second, while acknowledging the current weakness of many emerging economies, looks at the prospects for improving growth over the coming years.

Articles
‘Uneasy’ market calm masks debt timebomb, BIS warns The Telegraph, Szu Ping Chan (6/12/15)
Why emerging markets will rise from gloom to boom The Telegraph, Liam Halligan (5/12/15)

Questions

  1. How does an improving US economy impact on emerging market economies?
  2. Will the impact of US monetary policy on exchange rates be adverse or advantageous for emerging market economies?
  3. What forms does dollar-denominated debt take in emerging economies?
  4. Why has south–south trade grown in recent years? Is it consistent with the law of comparative advantage?
  5. Why is growth likely to be higher in emerging economies than in developed economies in the coming years?
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What a devalued yuan means to the rest of the world

On August 11th, China devalued its currency, the yuan, by 1.9%. The next day it devalued it by a further 1.6% and on the next day by a further 1.1%. Even though the total devaluation was relatively small, especially given a much bigger revaluation over the previous three years (see chart below), traders in world markets greeted the news with considerable pessimism. Stock markets around the world fell. For example, the US Dow Jones was down by 1.1%, the FTSE 100 was down by 2.5% and the German DAX by 5.8%.

There are three major concerns of investors about the devaluation. The first is that a weaker yuan will make other countries’ exports more expensive in China, thereby making it harder to export to China. At the same time Chinese imports into the rest of the world will be cheaper, thereby making it harder for domestic producers to compete with Chinese imports.

The second is that cheaper Chinese imports will put downward pressure on prices at a time when inflation rates in the major economies are already below target rates. The fear of deflation has not gone away and this further deflationary twist will intensify such fears and possibly dampen demand.

The third is that the devaluation is taken as a sign that the Chinese authorities are worried about a slowing Chinese economy and are using the devaluation to boost Chinese exports. The rapidly expanding Chinese economy has been one of the major motors of the global economy in recent years and hence a slowing Chinese economy is cause for serious concern at a time when the global economy is still only very slowly recovering from the shock of the financial crisis of 2007–8

But just how worried should the rest of the world be about the falling yuan? And will it continue to fall, or could this be seen as a ‘one-off’ correction? What effect will it have on the macroeconomic policies of the USA, the eurozone and other major countries/regions? The following articles analyse Chinese policy towards its currency and the implications for the rest of the world.

China weakens yuan for a third straight day on Thursday CNBC, Nyshka Chandran (13/8/15)
Markets reel as investors fear worst of Chinese slowdown is yet to come The Telegraph, Peter Spence (12/8/15)
China cannot risk the global chaos of currency devaluation The Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (12/8/15)
Beware a China crisis that could crash down on us all The Telegraph, Liam Halligan (15/8/15)
The curious case of China’s currency The Economist, Buttonwood’s notebook (11/8/15)
China’s yuan currency falls for a second day BBC News (12/8/15)
China slowdown forces devaluation BBC News, Robert Peston (11/8/15)
What the yuan devaluation means around the world BBC News, Lerato Mbele, Daniel Gallas and Yogita Limaye (12/8/15)
China allows yuan currency to drop for third day BBC News, various reporters (13/8/15)
The Guardian view on global currencies: it’s the economy, stupid The Guardian, Editorial (14/8/15)
China’s currency gambit and Labour’s debate about quantitative easing: old and new ways to cope with economic crisis The Guardian, Paul Mason (16/8/15)

Questions

  1. By what percentages have the nominal and real yuan exchange rate indices appreciated since the beginning of 2011? Use data from the Bank for International Settlements.
  2. Explain the difference between nominal and real exchange rate indices.
  3. Compare the changes in the yuan exchange rate indices with that of the yuan/dollar exchange rate (see Bank of England Interactive Database). Explain the difference.
  4. How is the yuan exchange rate with other currencies determined?
  5. How have the Chinese authorities engineered a devaluation of the yuan? To what extent could it be described as a ‘depreciation’ rather than a ‘devaluation’?
  6. Why have world stock markets reacted so negatively to the devaluation?
  7. Why, in global terms, is the devaluation described as deflationary?
  8. How much should the rest of the world be worried by the devaluation of the yuan?
  9. Explain the statement by Robert Peston that ‘Beijing has done the monetary tightening that arguably the US economy needs’.
  10. Comment on the following statement by Stephen King of HSBC (see the second Telegraph article below): ‘The world economy is sailing across the ocean without any lifeboats to use in case of emergency.’
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Influences on the UK current account

Newspaper headlines this week read that the UK’s balance of trade deficit has widened to £34.8bn, the largest since 2010. And when you exclude services, the trade in goods deficit, at £119.9bn is the largest ever in nominal terms and is also likely to be the largest as a percentage of GDP.

So far so bad. But when you look a little closer, the picture is more mixed. The balance of trade deficit (i.e. on both goods and services) narrowed each quarter of 2014, although the monthly figure did widen in December 2014. In fact the trade in goods deficit increased substantially in December from £9.3bn to £10.2bn.

At first sight the widening of the trade deficit in December might seem surprising, given the dramatic drop in oil prices. Surely, with demand for oil being relatively inelastic, a large cut in oil prices should significantly reduce the expenditure on oil? In fact the reverse happened. The oil deficit in December increased from £598m to £940m. The reason is that oil importing companies have been stockpiling oil while low prices persist. Clearly, this is in anticipation that oil prices will rise again before too long. What we have seen, therefore, is a demand that is elastic in the short run, even though it is relatively inelastic in the medium run.

But the trade deficit is still large. Even when you strip out oil, the deficit in December still rose – from £8.7bn to £9.2bn. There are two main reasons for this deterioration.

The first is a strong pound. The sterling exchange rate index rose by 1.8% in December and a further 0.4% in January. With quantitative easing pushing down the value of the euro and loose monetary policies in China and Australia pushing down the value of their currencies, sterling is set to appreciate further.

The second is continuing weakness in the eurozone and a slowing of growth in some major developing countries, including China. This will continue to dampen the growth in UK exports.

But what of the overall current account? Figures are at present available only up to 2014 Q3, but the picture is bleak (see the chart). As the ONS states:

The current account deficit widened in Q3 2014, to 6.0% of nominal Gross Domestic Product GDP, representing the joint largest deficit since Office for National Statistics (ONS) records began in 1955.

This deterioration in performance can be partly attributed to the recent weakness in the primary income balance [see]. This also reached a record deficit in Q3 2014 of 2.8% of nominal GDP; a figure that can be primarily attributed to a fall in UK residents’ earnings from investment abroad, and broadly stable foreign resident earnings on their investments in the UK

The primary income account captures income flows into and out of the UK economy, as opposed to current transfers (secondary income) from taxes, grants, etc. The large deficit reflects a decline in the holding by UK residents of foreign assets from 92% of GDP in 2008 to 67% by the end of 2014. This, in turn, reflects the poorer rate of return on many of these assets. By contrast, the holdings of UK assets by foreign residents has increased. They have been earning a higher rate of return on these assets than UK residents have on foreign assets. And so, despite UK interest rates having fallen, as the quote above says, foreign residents’ earnings on their holding of UK assets has remained broadly stable.

Articles
UK trade deficit last year widest since 2010 BBC News (6/2/15)
UK’s trade deficit widens to 2010 high as consumers take advantage of falling oil The Telegraph, Peter Spence (6/2/15)
UK trade deficit widens to four-year high The Guardian, Katie Allen (6/2/15)
UK trade deficit hits four-year high Financial Times, Ferdinando Giugliano (6/2/15)

Data
Balance of Payments ONS (topic link)
Summary: UK Trade, December 2014 ONS (6/2/15)
Current account, income balance and net international investment position ONS (23/1/15)
Pink Book – Tables ONS

Questions

  1. Distinguish between he current account, the capital account and the financial account of the balance of payments.
  2. If the overall balance of payments must, by definition, balance, why does it matter if the following are in deficit: (a) trade in goods; (b) the current account; (b) income flows?
  3. What would cause the balance of trade deficit to narrow?
  4. Discuss what policies the government could pursue to reduce the size of the current account deficit? Distinguish between demand-side and supply-side policies.
  5. Why has the sterling exchange rate index been appreciating in recent months?
  6. What do you think is likely to happen to the sterling exchange rate index in the coming months? Explain.
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Currency wars – a zero-sum game?

One effect of an expansionary monetary policy is a depreciation of the exchange rate. Take the case of countries using a combination of a reduction in central bank interest rates and quantitative easing (QE). A fall in interest rates will encourage an outflow of finance; and part of the money created through quantitative easing will be used to purchase foreign assets. Both create an increased demand for foreign currencies and drive down the exchange rate.

The latest case of expansionary monetary policy is that employed by the ECB. After months of promising to ‘do whatever it takes’ and taking various steps towards full QE, the ECB finally announced a large-scale QE programme on 22 January 2015.

With people increasingly predicting QE and with the ECB reducing interest rates, so the euro depreciated. Between March 2014 and 21 January 2015, the euro depreciated by 20.2% against the dollar and the euro exchange rate index depreciated by 9.7%. With the announced programme of QE being somewhat larger than markets expected, in the week following the announcement the euro fell a further 2.3% against the dollar, and the euro exchange rate index also fell by 2.3%. The euro is now at its lowest level against the US dollar since April 2003 (see chart).

The depreciation of the euro will be welcome news for eurozone exporters. It makes their exports cheaper in foreign currency terms and thus makes their exports more competitive. Similarly Japanese exporters were helped by the depreciation of the yen following the announcement on 31 October 2014 by the Bank of Japan of an increase in its own QE programme. The yen has depreciated by 7.7% against the dollar since then.

But every currency cannot depreciate against other currencies simultaneously. With any bilateral exchange rate, the depreciation of one currency represents an appreciation of the other. So just as the euro and yen have depreciated against the dollar, the dollar has appreciated against the euro and yen. This has made US goods less competitive relative to eurozone and Japanese goods.

The danger is that currency wars will result, with monetary policy being used in various countries to achieve competitive depreciations. Already, the Swiss have been forced, on 15 January, to remove the cap with the euro at SF1 – €0.833. Since then the Swiss franc has appreciated by some 15% to around SF1 – €0.96. Will the Swiss now be forced to relax their monetary policy?

The Danish and Canadian central banks have cut their interest rates, hoping to stem an appreciation of their currencies. On 28 January, the Monetary Authority of Singapore sold Singapore dollars to engineer a depreciation. The Singapore dollar duly fell by the most in over four years.

But are these policies simply beggar-my-neighbour policies? Is it a zero-sum game, where the gains to the countries with depreciating currencies are exactly offset by losses to the those with appreciating ones? Or is there a net gain from overall looser monetary policy at a time of sluggish growth? Or is there a net loss from greater currency volatility, which will create greater uncertainty and dampen cross-border investment? The following article explore the issues.

Articles
Massive Devaluation of the Euro Seeking Alpha, Sagar Joshi (26/1/15)
Devaluation and discord as the world’s currencies quietly go to war The Observer (25/1/15)
Why is dollar strong vs. 18 trillion of USA’s debt? Pravda, Lyuba Lulko (26/1/15)
Central Bankers Ramp Up Currency Wars Wall Street Journal, Anjani Trivedi, Josie Cox and Carolyn Cui (28/1/15)
The Raging Currency Wars Across Europe The Market Oracle, Gary_Dorsch (29/1/15)
Why ECB action is likely to stoke global currency wars Financial Times, Ralph Atkins (22/1/15)
Euro slides as ECB launches QE Financial Times (22/1/15)
Will Australia join the Currency Wars? The Daily Reckoning, Australia, Greg Canavan (23/1/15)
Australia’s central bank cuts rates to record low; currency plunges and stocks spike The Telegraph (3/2/15)
Singapore loosens monetary policy Financial Times, Jeremy Grant (28/1/15)
Currency Wars Have a Nuclear Option Bloomberg, Mark Gilbert (12/2/15)

Questions

  1. Explain how quantitative easing results in depreciation. What determines the size of the depreciation?
  2. How is the USA likely to react to an appreciation of the dollar?
  3. In the UK, who will benefit and who will lose from the depreciation of the euro?
  4. What are the global benefits and costs of a round of competitive depreciations?
  5. How does the size of the financial account of the balance of payments affect the size of a depreciation resulting from QE?
  6. What determines a country’s exchange-rate elasticity of demand for exports? How does this elasticity of demand affect the size of changes in the current account of the balance of payments following a depreciation?
  7. Might depreciation of their currencies reduce countries’ commitment to achieving structural reforms? Or might it ‘buy them time’ to allow them to introduce such reforms in a more carefully planned way and for such reforms to take effect? Discuss.
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Imbalance of payments

The latest balance of payments data for the UK show that in the final two quarters of 2013 the current account deficit as a percentage of GDP was the highest ever recorded. In quarter 3 it was 5.6% of GDP and in quarter 4 it was 5.4% of GDP. The previous highest quarterly figures were 5.3% in 1988 Q4 and 5.2% in 1989 Q3. The average current account deficit from 1960 to 2013 has been 1.1% of GDP and from 1980 to 2013 has been 1.6% of GDP.

The current account has four major components: the balance on goods, the balance on services, the balance on current transfers and the balance on income flows (e.g. investment income). The chart below shows the annual balances of each of these components, plus the overall current account balance, from 1960 to 2013.

There are large differences in the balances of these four and the differences seem to be widening. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)

Traditionally the balance on goods has been negative. In 2013 Q3 the deficit on goods reached a record 7.3% of GDP. It fell back somewhat in Q4 to 6.5%, still significantly above the average since 2000 of 5.5%. With the economy still recovering slowly, it would normally be expected that the trade deficit would be low. However, the high exchange rate has made it difficult for UK exporters to compete. Also with consumer confidence returning, imports are rising, again boosted by the high exchange rate, which makes imports cheaper.

The services balance, by contrast, is typically in surplus. In the final two quarters of 2013, the surpluses were 4.9% and 5.1% of GDP respectively. These compare with an average of 3.3% since 2000. It seems that the service sector, which includes banking, insurance, consultancy, advertising, accountancy, law, etc., is much more able to compete in a global environment.

The balance of current transfers to and from such bodies as the EU and UN have traditionally been negative, although as a proportion of GDP this has gradually widened in recent years. In 2013 the deficit was 1.7% compared with an average of 1.0% since 2000.

The most dramatic change has been in income flows and particularly those from investment. Before the crash in late 2008, the returns to many of the risky investments abroad made by UK financial institutions were very high. Income flows in the 12 months 2007 Q4 to 2008 Q3 averaged a surplus of 2.8% of GDP. They stayed positive, albeit at lower levels, until 2012 Q1, but then became negative as UK institutions reduced their exposure to overseas investments and as earnings in the UK by overseas investors increased. In the last two quarters of 2013, the deficits on income flows were 1.4% and 2.5% of GDP respectively.

How do these figures accord with the Chancellor’s desire to rebalance the economy towards exports? In terms of services, the export performance is good. In terms of goods, however, exports actually fell in the last two quarters from £78.4bn to £74.8bn. Although imports fell too in the final quarter, there is a danger that, with recovery and a high pound, these could begin to rise rapidly

So should the Bank of England attempt to bring the sterling exchange rate down? After all, the exchange rate index has risen from 79.1 in March 2013 to 85.9 in February 2014 (an appreciation of 8.6%). But if it did want to do so, what could it do? The traditional methods of reducing Bank rate and increasing the money supply are not open to it at the present time: Bank rate, at 0.5%, is already about as low as it could go and the Bank has ruled out any further quantitative easing.

The articles consider the latest balance of payments figures and their implications for the economy and for economic policy

Articles
UK current account deficit far bigger than forecast The Guardian, Katie Allen (28/3/14)
UK current account deficit near record high at £22.4bn BBC News (28/3/14)
UK current account gap second widest on record The Telegraph, Szu Ping Chan (28/3/14)
When will the UK pay its way? BBC News, Robert Peston (28/3/14)
Current account deficit crisis creeping up on UK can no longer be ignored The Guardian, Larry Elliott (30/3/14)

Data
Balance of Payments, Q4 and annual 2013 ONS (28/3/14)
Statistical Interactive Database – interest & exchange rates data Bank of England

Questions

  1. If the current account is in deficit, how is the overall balance of payments in balance (i.e. is in neither deficit nor surplus)?
  2. If the current account is in record deficit, why has sterling appreciated over recent months? What effect is this appreciation likely to have on the balance on trade in goods and services?
  3. Why has the balance on investment income deteriorated? In what ways could this be seen as a ‘good thing’?
  4. To what extent do the balance of payments figures show a rebalancing of the economy in the way the Chancellor would like?
  5. What could the Bank of England do to bring about a depreciation of sterling?
  6. What would be the benefits and costs of a depreciation of sterling?
  7. Why do investors overseas seem so willing to lend to the UK, thereby producing a large surplus on the financial account?
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Appreciating a depreciating pound (further update)

Compared with pre-financial crisis levels, the British pound is significantly weaker when measured against a basket of foreign currencies. In this blog we provide a further update of Appreciating a depreciating pound which was published back in early December 2012. The significance of the depreciation should be seen in the context of the UK as an open, island-economy where the ratio of exports to GDP in 2012 was close to 32%.

The competitiveness of our exports is, in part, affected by the exchange rate. Floating exchange rates are notoriously volatile. For example, some of the articles below show how sensitive the British pound can be latest news on the economy. However, since the autumn of 2007 we have observed a significant depreciation of the UK exchange rate. A depreciation helps to make our exports more competitive abroad and can potentially boost aggregate demand.

Rather than simply focus on bilateral exchange rates and so at the British pound separately against other foreign currencies, we can estimate an average exchange rate against a whole bundle of currencies. The average rate is calculated by weighting the individual exchange rates by the amount of trade between Britain and the other countries. This trade-weighted exchange rate is known as the effective exchange rate.

In analysing the competitiveness of the exchange rate, we can go one step further and adjust for the average (domestic currency) price of our exports relative to the average (foreign currency) price of those goods we import. Therefore, as well as the nominal (actual) effective exchange rate we can calculate a real effective exchange rate. If the average price of our exports rises relative to the average price of imports, the real effective exchange rate rises relative to the nominal rate. It means that we are able to obtain a larger volume of imports from selling a given volume of exports.

The chart shows the nominal (actual) and real effective exchange rate for the British pound since 2001. The chart shows clearly how from the autumn of 2007 the effective exchange rate fell sharply both in nominal and real terms.

Over the period from July 2007 to January 2009 the nominal effective exchange rate fell by 26.8 per cent while the real effective exchange rate fell by 26.6 per cent. In other words, the British pound depreciated more than one-quarter over an 18-month period. In comparison, the American dollar rose by 5.3 per cent in nominal terms and by 1.9 per cent in real terms. (Click here to download a PowerPoint of the chart.)

If we move the clock forward, we observe an appreciation of the British pound between July 2011 and September 2012. Over this period, the British pound appreciated by 7.0 per cent in nominal terms and by 7.3 per cent in real terms. However, this appreciation had effectively been wiped-out when by March 2013 the nominal rate had depreciated by 6.1 per cent and by 5.6 per cent in real terms. Subsequently, there has been a slight appreciation once more. As of September, the nominal rate had risen by 4.5 per cent and the real rate by 4.8 per cent.

While, as recent figures help to demonstrate, the British pound continues on its roller-coaster ride, there has been a very marked depreciation since the giddy-days prior to the financial crisis. The facts show that when comparing the effective exchange rate in September 2013 with July 2007 the British pound was 21.8 per cent lower in nominal terms and 18.3 per cent in real terms. Over the same period, the US dollar, for example, was only 1.3 per cent lower in nominal terms and 6.1 per cent in real terms. This constitutes a major competitive boost for our exporters. Nonetheless, there remain uncertainty about just how much British exporters can take advantage of this, the amount that it will boost British growth and the impact it will make on the country’s chronic balance of trade deficit in goods which was close to 7 per cent of GDP in 2012.

Data
Statistical Interactive Database – interest and exchange rate rates data Bank of England
BIS effective exchange rate indices Bank for International Settlements
Market Data: Currencies BBC News

Recent Articles
Unexpected drop in factory output dents sterling Reuters UK, Jessica Mortimer (9/10/13)
Pound Forecasts Soar as BOE’s Carney Signals Shift: Currencies Bloombeg, Lukanyo Mnyanda and Emma Charlton (19/10/13)
Pound Advances as U.K. Financial Optimism Improves; Gilts Rise Bloombeg, Emma Charlton (7/10/13)
Re-balancing and the re-industrialisation of Britain BBC News, Linda Yueh (13/10/13)
Signs of recovery abound but with little consensus on future course Financial Times, Chris Giles and Sarah O’Connor (31/10/13)

Previous Articles
Pound depreciates Vs dollar to lowest level since Aug 16 Bloomberg, Emma Charlton (5/2/13)
Pound advances against euro on Italy speculation; Gilts decline Bloomberg, Lucy Meakin and David Goodman Alice Ross (4/3/13)
Pounding of sterling risks a currency war Scotland on Sunday, Bill Jamieson (17/2/13)
Credit ratings, the pound, currency movements and you BBC News, Kevin Peachey (25/2/13)
The Bank of England can’t just go on doing down the pound Telegraph, Jeremy Warner (21/2/13)
Sterling will continue to go down BBC News, Jim Rogers (25/2/13)

Questions

  1. Explain how the foreign demand for goods and assets generates a demand for British pounds. How will this demand be affected by the foreign currency price of the British pound, i.e. the number of foreign currency units per £1?
  2. Explain how the demand by British residents for foreign goods and assets generates a supply of British pounds. How will this supply be affected by the foreign currency price of the British pound, i.e. the number of foreign currency units per £1?
  3. What factors are likely to shift the demand and supply curves for British pounds on the foreign exchange markets?
  4. Illustrate the effect of a decrease in the demand for British goods and assets on the exchange rate (i.e. the foreign currency price of the British pound) using a demand-supply diagram.
  5. What is the difference between a nominal and a real effective exchange rate? Which of these is a better indicator of the competitiveness of our country’s exports?
  6. What factors are likely to have caused the depreciation of the British pound since 2007?
  7. What is meant by a deficit on the balance of trade in goods?
  8. What relationship exists between the demand and supply of currencies on the foreign exchange markets and the balance of payments?
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Pound appreciates as chances of more QE decline

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, said that under current circumstances he did not feel that further quantitative easing was justified. He said:

My personal view is, given the recovery has strengthened and broadened, I don’t see a case for quantitative easing and I have not supported it.

In response to his speech, the pound strengthened against the dollar. It appreciated by just over 1 cent, or 0.7%. But why should the likelihood of no further quantitative easing lead to a strengthening of the pound?

The answer lies with people’s anticipation of future interest rates. If there is no further increase in money supply through QE, interest rates are likely to rise as the economy recovers and thus the demand for money rises. A rise in interest rates, in turn, is likely to lead to an inflow of finance into the country, thereby boosting the financial account of the balance of payments. The increased demand for sterling will tend to drive up the exchange rate.

However, an increase in aggregate demand will result in an increase in imports and a likely increase in the balance of trade deficit. Indeed, in July (the latest figures available) the balance of trade deficit rose to £3.085bn from £1.256bn in June. As recovery continues, the balance of trade deficit is likely to deteriorate further. Other things being equal, this would lead to a depreciation of the pound.

So if the pound appreciates, this suggests that the effect on the financial account is bigger than the effect on the current account – or is anticipated to be so. In fact, given the huge volumes of short-term capital that move across the foreign exchanges each day, financial account effects of interest rate changes – actual or anticipated – generally outweigh current account effects.

Articles
Yorkshire can reap benefits from turnaround says Mark Carney Yorkshire Post (27/9/13)
Sterling Jumps as BOE Chief Signals No More Bond Buying Wall Street Journal, Nick Cawley and Jason Douglas (27/9/13)
Carney’s Northern Exposure Sends Sterling Soaring Wall Street Journal, David Cottle (27/9/13)
Pound Gains as Carney Sees No Case for QE, Confidence Improves Bloomberg, Anchalee Worrachate & David Goodman (28/9/13)
Exchange Rate Bounces as Strong UK Data Supports Sterling FCF (Future Currency Forecast), Laura Parsons (30/9/13)
Currency briefing: What if the pound sterling has been overbought? iNVEZZ, Tsvyata Petkova (30/9/13)
Pound rises after Carney rejects increasing QE BBC News (27/9/13)
Pound Rises for Fourth Day Versus Euro on Housing, Mortgage Data Bloomberg, Emma Charlton (30/9/13)

Data
$ per £ exchange rate (latest month) XE (You can access other periods and currencies)
Effective exchange rate indices (nominal and real) Bank for International Settlements
Balance of Payments, Q2 2013 Dataset ONS

Questions

  1. Explain how quantitative easing affects exchange rates.
  2. What is happening concerning quantitative easing in the USA? How is this likely to affect the exchange rate of the US dollar to sterling; other currencies to sterling?
  3. Why may an increase in the balance of trade deficit lead directly to an appreciation of the exchange rate?
  4. Why is an anticipation of a policy change likely to have more of an effect on exchange rates than the actual policy change itself? Why, indeed, may a policy change have the reverse effect once it is implemented?
  5. Under what circumstances may speculation against exchange rate changes be (a) stabilising; (b) destabilising?
  6. How is quantitative easing (or an anticipation of it) likely to affect each of the main components of the current and financial accounts of the balance of payments?
  7. For what reasons might sterling have been ‘overbought’ and hence be overvalued?
  8. What is meant by the real exchange rate (REER)? Why may reference to the REER suggest that sterling is not currently overvalued?
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Appreciating a depreciating pound (update)

In light of the recent sharp decline in the British pound, this blog is an updated version of Appreciating a depreciating pound which was published in early December 2012. The significance of the depreciation should be seen in the context of the UK as an island-economy which makes trade an important determinant of our economic performance.

The competitiveness of our exports is, in part, affected by the exchange rate. Floating exchange rates are notoriously volatile. However, since the autumn of 2007 we have observed a significant depreciation of the UK exchange rate – a depreciation that seems to have found new momentum of late. A depreciation helps to make our exports more competitive abroad which might help to compensate for weak demand here in the UK.

Rather than look at the British pound (or any currency) against the many foreign currencies separately we can look at the average exchange rate against a whole bundle of currencies. The average rate is calculated by weighting the individual exchange rates by the amount of trade between Britain and the other countries. This trade-weighted exchange rate is known as the effective exchange rate.

The chart shows the nominal (actual) effective exchange rate for the British pound since 2002. The chart shows clearly how from the autumn of 2007 the effective exchange rate began to fall sharply. Over the period from September 2007 to January 2009, figures from the Bank of England show that the nominal effective exchange rate fell by 25.3 per cent. In simple terms, the British pound depreciated by close to one-quarter. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)

If we move the clock forward, we observe an appreciation of the British pound between July 2011 (when its value was only 1.6 per cent higher than in January 2009) and September 2012. Over this period, the British pound appreciated by 7.2 per cent. Its value remained relatively stable through much of the remainder of last year. However, we appear to be on another downward path. If we compare the average value in February 2013 with the ‘high’ back in September 2012 we observe a depreciation of 5.4 per cent.

The British pound continues on its roller-coaster ride. Most commentators expect the British pound to fall further. Some see this as an important ingredient for a revival in British economic fortunes. If we compare September 2007 with February 2013, we find that the nominal effective exchange rate for the British pound is 23 per cent lower. This constitutes a major competitive boost for our exporters. However, an important question is whether there is a demand for these goods and services abroad however more attractive the depreciation makes them.

Data
Statistical Interactive Database – interest and exchange rate rates data Bank of England
BIS effective exchange rate indices Bank for International Settlements

Articles
Pound depreciates Vs dollar to lowest level since Aug 16 Bloomberg, Emma Charlton (5/2/13)
Pound advances against euro on Italy speculation; Gilts decline Bloomberg, Lucy Meakin and David Goodman (4/3/13)
Pounding of sterling risks a currency war Scotland on Sunday, Bill Jamieson (17/2/13)
Credit ratings, the pound, currency movements and you BBC News, Kevin Peachey (25/2/13)
The Bank of England can’t just go on doing down the pound Telegraph, Jeremy Warner (21/2/13)
Sterling will continue to go down BBC News, Jim Rogers (25/2/13)

Questions

  1. Explain how the foreign demand for goods and assets generates a demand for British pounds. How will this demand be affected by the foreign currency price of the British pound, i.e. the number of foreign currency units per £1?
  2. Explain how the demand by British residents for foreign goods and assets generates a supply of British pounds. How will this supply be affected by the foreign currency price of the British pound, i.e. the number of foreign currency units per £1?
  3. What factors are likely to shift the demand and supply curves for British pounds on the foreign exchange markets?
  4. Illustrate the effect of a decrease in the demand for British goods and assets on the exchange rate (i.e. the foreign currency price of the British pound) using a demand-supply diagram.
  5. What is the difference between a nominal and a real effective exchange rate? Which of these is a better indicator of the competitiveness of our country’s exports
  6. What factors are likely to have caused the depreciation of the British pound in 2013?
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