In a recent blog, Falling sterling – bad for some; good for others, we looked at the depreciation of sterling following the Brexit vote. We saw how it will have beneficial effects for some, such as exporters, and adverse effects for others, such as consumers having to pay a higher price for imports and foreign holidays. The article linked below examines these effects in more depth.
Just how much the quantity of exports will increase depends on two main things. The first is the amount by which the foreign currency price falls. This depends on what exporters choose to do. Say the pound falls from €1.30 to €1.18. Do exporters who had previously sold a product selling in the UK for £100 and in the eurozone for €130, now reduce the euro price to €118? Or do they put it down by less – say, to €125, thereby earning £105.93 (£(125/1.18)). Their sales would increase by less, but their profit margin would rise.
The second is the foreign currency price elasticity of demand for exports in the foreign markets. The more elastic it is, the more exports will rise for any given euro price reduction.
It is similar with imports. How much the sales of these fall depends again on two main things. The first is the amount by which the importing companies are prepared to raise sterling prices. Again assume that the pound falls from €1.30 to €1.18 – in other words, the euro rises from 76.92p (£1/1.3) to 84.75p (£1/1.18). What happens to the price of an import to the UK from the eurozone whose euro price is €100? Does the importer raise the price from £76.92 to £84.75, or by less than that, being prepared to accept a smaller profit margin?
The second is the sterling price elasticity of demand for imports in the UK. The more elastic it is, the more imports will fall and, probably, the more the importer will be prepared to limit the sterling price increase.
The article also looks at the effect on aggregate demand. As we saw in the previous blog, a depreciation boosts aggregate demand by increasing exports and curbing imports. The effects of this rise in aggregate demand depends on the degree of slack in the economy and the extent, therefore, that (a) exporters and those producing import substitutes can respond in terms of high production and employment and (b) other sectors can produce more as multiplier effects play out.
Finally, the article looks at the effect of the depreciation of sterling on asset prices. UK assets will be worth less in foreign currency terms; foreign assets will be worth more in sterling. Just how much the prices of internationally traded assets, such as shares and some property, will change depends, again, on their price elasticities of demand. In terms of assets, there has been a gain to UK balance sheets from the depreciation. As Roger Bootle says:
Whereas the overwhelming majority of the UK’s liabilities to foreigners are denominated in sterling, the overwhelming bulk of our assets abroad are denominated in foreign currency. So the lower pound has raised the sterling value of our overseas assets while leaving the sterling value of our liabilities more or less unchanged.
How a lower pound will help us to escape cloud cuckoo land, The Telegraph, Roger Bootle (31/7/16)
- What determines the amount that exporters from the UK adjust the foreign currency price of their exports following a depreciation of sterling?
- What determines the amount by which importers to the UK adjust the sterling price of their products following a depreciation of sterling?
- What determines the amount by which sterling will depreciate over the coming months?
- Distinguish between stabilising and destabilising speculation? How does this apply to exchange rates and what determines the likelihood of there being destabilising speculation against sterling exchange rates?
- How is UK inflation likely to be affected by a depreciation of sterling?
- Why does Roger Bootle believe that the UK has been living in ‘cloud cuckoo land’ with respect to exchange rates?
- Why has the UK managed to sustain a large current account deficit over so many years?
The growth of emerging economies, such as China, India and Brazil brings with it both good and bad news for the once dominant countries of the West. With growth rates in China reaching double digits and a much greater resilience to the credit crunch and its aftermath in these emerging nations, they became the hope of the recovery for the West. But, is it only benefits that emerge from the growth in countries like China?
Chinese business has grown and expanded into all areas, especially technology, but countries such as the USA have been reluctant to allow mergers and takeovers of some of their businesses. Notably, the takeovers that have been resisted have been in key sectors, particularly oil, energy and technology. However, it seems as though pork is an industry that is less important or, at least, a lower risk to national security.
Smithfield Foods is a US giant, specialising in the production and selling of pork. A takeover by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings has been approved (albeit reluctantly) by the US Committee on Foreign Investment. While the takeover could still run into obstacles, this Committee’s approval is crucial, as it alleviates concerns over the impact on national security. The value of the deal is some $7.1bn, including the debt that Shuangui will have to take on. While some see this takeover as good news, others are more concerned, identifying the potential negative impact it may have on prices and standards in the USA. Zhijun Yang, Shuanghui’s Chief Executive said:
This transaction will create a leading global animal protein enterprise. Shuanghui International and Smithfield have a long and consistent track record of providing customers around the world with high-quality food, and we look forward to moving ahead together as one company.
The date of September 24th looks to be the decider, when a shareholder meeting is scheduled to take place. There is still resistance to the deal, but if it goes ahead it will certainly help other Chinese companies looking for the ‘OK’ from US regulators for their own business deals. The following articles consider the controversy and impact of this takeover.
US clears Smithfield’s acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Penn Energy, Reuters, Lisa Baertlein and Aditi Shrivastava (10/9/13)
Chinese takeover of US Smithfield Foods gets US security approval Telegraph (7/9/13)
US clears Smithfield acquisition by China’s Shuanghui Reuters (7/9/13)
Go-ahead for Shuanghui’s $4.7bn Smithfield deal Financial Times, Gina Chon (6/9/13)
US security panel approves Smithfield takeover Wall Street Journal, William Mauldin (6/9/13)
- What type of takeover would you classify this as? Explain your answer.
- Why have other takeovers in oil, energy and technology not met with approval?
- Some people have raised concerns about the impact of the takeover on US pork prices. Using a demand and supply diagram, illustrate the possible effects of this takeover.
- What do you think will happen to the price of pork in the US based on you answer to question 3?
- Why do Smithfield’s shareholders have to meet before the deal can go ahead?
- Is there likely to be an impact on share prices if the deal does go ahead?
A simple model in economics is that of demand and supply. Through the price mechanism, signals are sent between consumers and producers and this interaction results in an equilibrium market price and quantity. However, what happens when the market for a good or service is in disequilibrium?
When a market is in equilibrium, demand equals supply. However, as we discussed in a previous blog concerning baby milk in China (see Milking the economy), markets are not always in equilibrium. If demand exceeds supply, a shortage will emerge and to eliminate this, the price must rise. If, on the other hand, supply exceeds demand, there will be an excess supply and thus the price must fall to restore equilibrium.
The market in question here is toilet paper in Venezuela! A severe shortage of this product has emerged in recent months, with shops running out of supplies. In a bid to relieve this shortage, the country’s Minister of Commerce has received approval for a $79 million credit, which can be used to import this basic product in short supply. Fifty million rolls will be imported to help fill the shortage that has emerged. The shortage is not just a problem for toilet paper, but also across a range of basic consumer goods. The article from Reuters comments that:
The government says the toilet paper shortages, like others, are the results of panicked buying and unscrupulous merchants hoarding the goods to artificially inflate prices.
Opposition critics say the problem is caused by the currency controls, created a decade ago by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, and years of nationalizations that weakened private industry and left businesses unwilling to invest.
With shortages across a variety of products, the President has begun to work closely with business leaders to address this situation. The following articles consider this basic market, the intervention and consequences.
Venezuela hopes to wipe out toilet paper shortage by importing 50m rolls The Guardian (16/5/13)
Venezuela ends toilet paper shortage BBC News (22/5/13)
With even toilet paper scarce, Venezuelan president warms to business Reuters, Eyanir Chinea (22/5/13)
Toilet paper shortage in Venezuela to end after lawmakers back plans to import 39 million rolls Huffington Post, Sara Nelson (22/5/13)
Venezuela’s toilet paper shortage ended; 3 other basic goods that went scarce in the country International Business Times, Patricia Rey Mallen (22/5/13)
- Using a demand and supply diagram, explain how equilibrium is determined in a free market.
- Illustrate the shortage described in the aticles on your above demand and supply diagram. How should the price mechanism adjust?
- What types of government intervention have led to the shortages of such basic consumer goods?
- How have currency controls created a problem for Venezuela?
- With an increase in imported products, what impact might there be on Venezuela’s exchange rate and on its balance of payments?
The market for any good or service is affected by countless factors. On the demand-side, things such as incomes, relative prices, expectations of price changes and tastes determine the shape and position of the demand curve. For the supply curve, it’s factors including costs of production, the profitability of alternative goods and in some cases, the weather or natural disasters. It is this last factor, which has presented Weetabix with problems.
An established breakfast cereal and brand, Weetabix is well-known for producing a range of high quality products. However, production of some of its most popular products has been stopped, as the quality of the British wheat used to make the various cereals was called into question. Last year, we had little summer to speak of and this led to the ‘worst harvest we have seen in decades’, so much so that the quality of the wheat was not sufficient to be used in making the breakfast cereal. This has caused production to cease on certain products and shortages have already begun to emerge, with some shops completely selling out and facing no prospect of being re-stocked.
Weetabix is now owned by a Chinese state-owned company, but still prides itself on using locally sourced wheat. However, with the weather affecting the harvest, wheat from abroad has had to be used, aiming to reduce the gap between demand and supply. The UK is typically an exporter of wheat, but with the poor harvest has come a drop in the amount of wheat produced and thus exported by some 2m tonnes – this is back to a similar level as was seen in the 1980s. A spokesman for Weetabix said:
Normally they’re proud to claim Weetabix is not just British wheat but from within 50 miles of Burton Latimer … They have had to source a bit from outside the UK, but Weetabix is still proud to say it sources its wheat within the UK … weather permitting.
Supply will be increased once wheat from abroad is used, but it is expected that this will take a couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you’re a consumer of the traditional Weetabix, you don’t need to worry, as it’s the less-known cereals that have been affected. The following articles consider this external factor and how it affects the supply of a product.
Weetabix products hit by poor wheat harvest BBC News (22/4/13)
Weetabix supplies hit by dismal harvest The Guardian, Rupert Neate (22/4/13)
Weetabix move to scale back production and re-engineer process is a commendable one The Grocer (20/4/13)
Britain’s disastrous wheat harvest halts production of Weatbix Minis and Oatibix Mail Online, Leon Watson (22/4/13)
Bad weather threatens wheat harvest Channel 4 News, Tom Clarke (3/4/13)
Weetabix halts production of Minis after poor harvest Farmers Weekly, Philip Case (22/4/13)
- With a poor harvest, which way would you expect the supply curve to shift? Illustrate this on a diagram.
- How should this shift in supply affect the market price and quantity of wheat, assuming all else remains the same?
- How can this example can be used to explain the interdependence between markets?
- With shortages possibly emerging, what might happen to demand today? Illustrate your answer on a demand and supply diagram.
- Does sourcing wheat from local areas give Weetabix a competitive advantage? If so, how might it be affected if it does choose to import wheat?
When you hear about China, it’s often regarding their huge population, their strong growth or their dominance in exports. But, when it comes to baby milk, China is certainly an importer – and a big one at that. For many new parents, getting the ‘real thing’ when it comes to baby formula is absolutely essential.
Chinese baby formula is feared by many new parents, due to the potential for it to contain hormones and dangerous chemicals. This has led them to go to great lengths to ensure they have sufficient supplies of imported baby formula, often only trusting it if it has been hand carried from overseas. However, such is the demand for this safe version of baby milk that the global response has been to place restrictions on it. Essentially, we are seeing a system of rationing emerging.
Hong Kong was the first government to limit the amount bought to two cans of formula per day, with the potential for a fine of over $64,000 and up to two years in prison for those who do not abide by the rules. The UK has now also responded with restrictions on the quantity that can be purchased and other countries may follow suit if the excess demand continues.
According to Sainsburys:
As a short-term measure, retailers including Sainsbury’s are limiting the amount of baby milk powder that people can buy. In this way we aim to ensure a constant supply for our customers and we therefore hope they won’t be inconvenienced.
The Chinese government has reacted to this and is aiming to restore confidence in the food industry, but as yet there has been little positive effect and until there are 100% guarantees of food safety the surge in demand for baby formula from abroad is likely to continue.
This policy of rationing is clearly not only going to affect Chinese parents looking to import baby formula, but is already having an impact on domestic residents. Parents living in the UK are feeling the rationing effects and are also being restricted in terms of how many cans of formula they can buy per day. For many families this isn’t a problem, but for those with multiple children and for whom a trip to the supermarket is not a simple task, the restrictions on baby milk purchases is likely to become a problem. The following articles consider this topic.
Baby milk rationing: Chinese fears spark global restrictions BBC News, Celia Hatton (10/4/13)
Stop rationing information about baby formula milk The Telegraph, Rosie Murray-West (9/4/13)
Baby milk rationed in UK over China export fear BBC News (8/4/13)
Baby Formula rationed in UK over China demand Sky News (9/4/13)
Supermarkets limit sales of baby milk to stop bulk buying to feed China market Independent, Emma Bamford (8/4/13)
Cahinese thirst for formula spurs rationing Financial Times, Amie Tsang and Louise Lucas (7/4/13)
Entrepreneurs milk Chinese thirst for formula Financial Times, Amie Tsang and Louise Lucas (7/4/13)
Baby milk powder rationing introduced by supermarkets The Guardian, Rebecca Smithers (8/4/13)
- Using a diagram of demand and supply, illustrate how a shortage for a product can emerge. How does the price mechanism usually work to eliminate a shortage?
- What actions can be taken to deal with a shortage?
- How will more stringent regulations by the Chinese government help to restore confidence in Chinese baby milk formula?
- What impact will the imports of baby milk formula into China have on China’s exchange rate and its balance of payments?
- How could this situation be taken advantage of by entrepreneurs? Could it be used as a viable business opportunity?