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.


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)


  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?