The pound has fallen to its lowest rate against the euro since July 2013 and the lowest rate against the US dollar since 1985. Since August 2015, the pound has depreciated by 23.4% against the euro and 22.2% against the dollar. And since the referendum of 23 June, it has depreciated by 15.6% against the euro and 17.6% against the dollar.
On Sunday 2 October, at the start of the Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister announced that Article 50, which triggers the Brexit process, would be invoked by the end of March 2017. Worries about what the terms of Brexit would look like put further pressure on the pound: the next day it fell by around 1% and the next day by a further 0.5%.
Then, on 6 October, it was reported that President Hollande was demanding tough Brexit negotiations and the pound dropped significantly further. By 7 October, it was trading at around €1.10 and $1.22. At airports, currency exchange agencies were offering less than €1 per £ (see picture).
With the government implying that Brexit might involve leaving the Single Market, the pound continued falling. On 12 October, the trade-weighted index reached its lowest level since the index was introduced in 1980: below its trough in the depth of the 2008 financial crisis and below the 1993 trough following Britain’s ejection from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in September 1992.
So just why has the pound fallen so much, both before and after the Brexit vote? (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.) And what are the implications for the economy?
The articles explore the reasons for the depreciation. Central to these are the effects on the balance of payments from a possible decline in inward investment, lower interest rates leading to a net outflow of currency on the financial account, and stimulus measures, both fiscal and monetary, leading to higher imports.
Worries about the economy were occurring before the Brexit vote and this helped to push sterling down in late 2015 and early 2016, as you can see in the chart. This article from The Telegraph of 14 June 2016 explains why.
Despite the short-run effects on the UK economy of the Brexit vote not being as bad as some had predicted, worries remain about the longer-term effects. And these worries are compounded by uncertainty over the Brexit terms.
A lower sterling exchange rate reduces the foreign currency price of UK exports and increases the sterling price of imports. Depending on price elasticities of demand, this should improve the current account of the balance of payments.
These trade effects will help to boost the economy and go some way to countering the fall in investment as businesses, uncertain over the terms of Brexit, hold back on investment in the UK.
Pound Nears Three-Decade Low as May Sets Date for Brexit Trigger Bloomberg, Netty Idayu Ismail and Charlotte Ryan (3/10/16)
Sterling near 31-year low against dollar as May sets Brexit start dat Financial Times, Michael Hunter and Roger Blitz (3/10/16)
Sterling hits three-year low against the euro over Brexit worries The Guardian, Katie Allen (3/10/16)
Pound sterling value drops as Theresa May signals ‘hard Brexit’ at Tory conference Independent, Zlata Rodionova (3/10/16)
Pound falls as Theresa May indicates Brexit date BBC News (3/10/16)
The pound bombs and stocks explode over fears of a ‘hard Brexit’ Business Insider UK, Oscar Williams-Grut (3/10/16)
Pound Will Feel Pain as Brexit Clock Ticks Faster Wall Street Journal, Richard Barley (3/10/16)
British Pound to Euro Exchange Rate’s Brexit Breakdown Slows After Positive Manufacturing PMI Halts Decline Currency Watch, Joaquin Monfort (3/10/16)
7 ways the fall in the value of the pound affects us all Independent (4/10/16)
The pound and the fury: Brexit is making Britons poorer, and meaner The Economist, ‘Timekeeper’ (11/10/16)
Is the pound headed for parity v US dollar and euro? Sydney Morning Herald, Jessica Sier (5/10/16)
Flash crash sees the pound gyrate in Asian trading BBC News (7/10/16)
Flash crash hits pound after Hollande remarks Deutsche Welle (7/10/16)
Sterling mayhem gives glimpse into future Reuters, Swaha Pattanaik (7/10/16)
Sterling takes a pounding The Economist, Buttonwood (7/10/16)
Government must commit to fundamental reform The Telegraph, Andrew Sentance (7/10/16)
Interest & exchange rates data – Statistical Interactive Database Bank of England
- Why has sterling depreciated? Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate your argument.
- What has determined the size of this depreciation?
- What is meant by the risk premium of holding sterling?
- To what extent has the weaker pound contributed to the better economic performance than was expected immediately after the Brexit vote?
- What factors will determine the value of sterling over the coming months?
- Who gain and who lose from a lower exchange rate?
- What is likely to happen to inflation over the coming months? Explain and consider the implications for monetary and fiscal policy.
- What is a ‘flash crash’. Why was there a flash crash in sterling on Asian markets on 7 October 2016? Is such a flash crash in sterling likely to occur again?
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
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)
Balance of Payments, Q4 and annual 2013 ONS (28/3/14)
Statistical Interactive Database – interest & exchange rates data Bank of England
- If the current account is in deficit, how is the overall balance of payments in balance (i.e. is in neither deficit nor surplus)?
- 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?
- Why has the balance on investment income deteriorated? In what ways could this be seen as a ‘good thing’?
- To what extent do the balance of payments figures show a rebalancing of the economy in the way the Chancellor would like?
- What could the Bank of England do to bring about a depreciation of sterling?
- What would be the benefits and costs of a depreciation of sterling?
- Why do investors overseas seem so willing to lend to the UK, thereby producing a large surplus on the financial account?
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.
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)
$ 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
- Explain how quantitative easing affects exchange rates.
- 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?
- Why may an increase in the balance of trade deficit lead directly to an appreciation of the exchange rate?
- 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?
- Under what circumstances may speculation against exchange rate changes be (a) stabilising; (b) destabilising?
- 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?
- For what reasons might sterling have been ‘overbought’ and hence be overvalued?
- What is meant by the real exchange rate (REER)? Why may reference to the REER suggest that sterling is not currently overvalued?
Turkey has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years and has attracted large inflows of foreign capital. The chart below illustrates how growth in real GDP in Turkey in most years since 2000 has considerably exceeded that in the OECD as a whole (click here for a PowerPoint). As you can see from the chart, growth in Turkey over the period has averaged 4.5%, while that in the OECD has averaged just 1.8%.
Indeed, Turkish growth has been compared with that of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China). However, like the BRICs, Turkey has been experiencing slowing growth in the past few months. Indeed, the slowdown has been especially marked in Turkey.
In recent years Turkey has benefited from large inflows of foreign capital. Partly these were direct investment flows, encouraged by a large and rapidly growing internal market, boosted by a rapid expansion of consumer credit, and also by a growing export sector. But to a large extent, especially in recent years, there has been a large rise in portfolio and other investment inflows. This has been encouraged by a large increase in global money supply resulting from policies of quantitative easing in the USA and other developed countries.
But the economic climate has changed. First investors have become worried about the conflict in Syria escalating and this impacting on Turkey. Second Turkey’s large financial account surpluses have allowed it to run large current account deficits and have maintained a high exchange rate. Third the tapering off and possible reversal of quantitative easing have led to recent outflows of finance from various countries perceived as being vulnerable, including Turkey.
The effect of this has been a depreciation of the Turkish lira and upward pressure on inflation. The lira has fallen by 14% since the beginning of 2013 and by nearly 7% since the beginning of August alone.
The question is whether the supply side of the Turkish economy has become robust enough to allow the country to ride out its current difficulties. Will foreign investors have sufficient faith in the long-term potential of the Turkish economy to continue with direct investment, even if short-term financial inflows diminish?
Turkey’s economy faces uncertainties amid possible military intervention in Syria Xinhua, Fu Peng (29/8/13)
Turkey may cut 2014 growth target to 4% Turkish Daily News (8/9/13)
Turkish lira at record low, threatening growth Daily News Egypt (7/9/13)
Turkish lira may need higher interest rates to escape emerging markets rout Reuters, Sujata Rao and Seda Sezer (20/8/13)
Turkey Economic Crisis: Crises from Both Sides Wealth Daily, Joseph Cafariello (9/8/13)
Western financial prescription has made Turkey ill The Observer, Heather Stewart (1/9/13)
Turkish Deputy PM Babacan calm amid economic fluctuations Turkish Daily News (8/9/13)
The Fragile Five BBC News, Linda Yueh (26/9/13)
Economic growth rates (annual) for Turkey, Brazil, Russia, India and China: 2000–13 IMF Economic Outlook Database (April 2013)
Quarterly growth rates of real GDP for OECD countries and selected other countries and groups of countries OECD StatExtracts
Turkey and the IMF IMF
Turkey: data World Bank
Links to Turkish Official Statistics Offstats
Country statistical profile: Turkey OECD Country Statistical Profiles
Spot exchange rate, Turkish Lira into Dollar Bank of England
- Why has the Turkish economy experienced such rapid growth in recent years and especially from 2010 to 2012?
- Why has Turkish growth slowed over the past year?
- Why has “Western financial prescription made Turkey ill”
- Why has the Turkish lira depreciated? What has determined the size of this depreciation?
- What are the beneficial and adverse effects of this depreciation?
- Why must any surplus on the combined financial and capital accounts of the balance of payments be matched by a corresponding deficit on the current account?
- How is a tapering off of quantitative easing likely to impact on developing countries? What will determine the size of this impact?
- Istanbul has lost its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games? How is this likely to affect the Turkish economy?
The US dollar has been used as the international currency for the majority of international trade. Around 85% of foreign-exchange transactions are trades between US dollars and other currencies. As the first article below, from the Wall St Journal, states:
When a South Korean wine wholesaler wants to import Chilean cabernet, the Korean importer buys US dollars, not pesos, with which to pay the Chilean exporter. Indeed, the dollar is virtually the exclusive vehicle for foreign-exchange transactions between Chile and Korea, despite the fact that less than 20% of the merchandise trade of both countries is with the US.
… The dollar is the currency of denomination of half of all international debt securities. More than 60% of the foreign reserves of central banks and governments are in dollars.
But things are gradually changing as countries increasingly by-pass the dollar. Several countries have reached agreements with China to allow companies to exchange their currencies directly in so-called ‘currency swap‘ arrangements (see also). These include Japan, Australia, the UK, France/the eurozone, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Chile and Russia. But while these currency swap arrangements apply to current account transactions, there are still considerable controls of currency movements on China’s capital and financial accounts.
So what will be the implications for the USA and for China? What will be the impact on currency and bonds markets? The following articles explore the issues.
Why the Dollar’s Reign Is Near an End Wall Street Journal, Barry Eichengreen (1/3/11)
Beijing Continues Inexorable Push for Internationalisation of the Renminbi iNVEZZ, Alice Young (22/4/13)
RMB: Advance of the renminbi Emerging Markets, Elliot Wilson (4/5/13)
China’s new leaders to quicken yuan reform, but caution remains Reuters, Kevin Yao and Heng Xie (7/5/13)
Japan, China to launch direct yen-yuan trade on June 1 Reuters, Tetsushi Kajimoto (29/5/12)
China and Japan to start direct yen-yuan trade in June BBC News (29/5/12)
BOE Plans to Sign Yuan Currency Swap Deal With China Bloomberg, Fergal O’Brien & Svenja O’Donnell (22/2/13)
Bank of England, PBOC close to RMB/GBP swap agreement Emerging Markets (22/2/13)
China and Brazil sign $30bn currency swap agreement BBC News (27/3/13)
China, Brazil sign trade, currency deal before BRICS summit Reuters, Agnieszka Flak and Marina Lopes (26/3/13)
Direct trading to boost global use of yuan China Daily, Wei Tian (10/4/13)
Paris vies to be yuan hub China Daily, Li Xiang (19/4/13)
France plans currency swap line with China: paper Reuters (12/4/13)
Yuan Replaces the Dollar in China’s Dealings With France, Britain, Australia, as the War-Debt Continues to Destroy US Currency Al-Jazeerah (6/5/13)
China Takes Another Stab At The Dollar, Launches Currency Swap Line With France ZeroHedge, Tyler Durden (13/4/13)
- What are the ‘three pillars’ that have supported the dollar’s dominance?
- What is changing in the global economy to undermine this dominance?
- What will be the impact on the US government and US companies?
- What steps has China taken to ‘internationalise’ the renminbi (denominated in yuan)?
- Is the role of the euro likely to increase or decrease as an internationally held and used currency?
- What dangers are there for investors in holding all their wealth in dollar-denominated assets?
- Why may the increasing internationalisation of the euro and renminbi lead to less volatility between them and the dollar?
- How will the growing internationalisation of the euro and renminbi benefit eurozone and Chinese banks and internationally trading companies?
- What more does China need to do before the renminbi can be regarded as a truly global currency?