Argentina and Brazil currency union – pros and cons

Recently there has been talk of preparation for a currency union between the Brazilian ‘real’ and Argentina ‘peso’ which would create the world’s second largest currency bloc. The new currency, which Brazil suggests calling the ‘sur’ (South) would reduce the reliance on the US dollar and encourage greater regional trade.

To enter a currency union it represents one end of the exchange rate continuum whilst the other end is pure floating currency determined by market forces (supply and demand) – see Fig 1 below:

Reserve Bank of New Zealand: Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 4

Costs and Benefits

By joining a currency union both Brazil and Argentina no longer have control over managing inflation, attaining full employment and use interest rates to respond to different stages of the business cycle. One of the benefits of a floating rate is that it acts as a shock-absorber – a downturn in the economy leads to a depreciating exchange rate and therefore more competitive exports and more expensive imports – however a lot depends on the elasticity of demand for both exports and imports. Remember the Greek experience in the EU when their economy was in a dreadful state financially and they had the Euro as their currency. If Greece still had its old currency the drachma it would have depreciated and maybe have led to some sort of export recovery. The concern was that the strength of the Euro was determined by the Germany economy and this impacted the poorer members of the currency union like Greece, Portugal and Spain. When asymmetric shocks occur they effect economies differently as they can be due to different production and consumption structures, trade exposure and varying levels of inflation between the two countries. This is apparent with Argentinian inflation hitting 95% in 2022 compared to 5.79% in Brazil. Furthermore, central bank interest rates in Brazil are 13.75% compared to the central bank in Argentina of 75%. It seems here that the Argentinian economy is in real trouble and add to this they are on the brink of another default on their debt – 5th in 40 years. So who is to benefit here – it seems that Argentina is in the worst predicament and might welcome currency union to try and improve the economic conditions in their economy. However will a full currency union actually happen? Table 1 below summarises some of the pros and cons.

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Strong US dollar a concern for developing countries

From CNBC – some good graphics in this presentation and an interview with Eswar Prasad, an economist at the Brookings Institution and professor at Cornell University. Quote below:

“So here’s the paradox. The rest of the world despises how dominant the dollar is, yet they go to the U.S. dollar, because there really isn’t much of an alternative,”

Some facts about the US Dollar –

  • 60% of the world’s central banks’ foreign exchange reserves in US dollar-denominated assets.
  • 40% of consumers use the US dollar as a payment currency worldwide.
  • 60% of international debt and 50% of loans globally is in US dollars.
  • US dollar – still the main currency to buy and sell commodities such as oil.

“This is ultimately going to entrench the dollar’s dominance even further,” Prasad said. “That is certainly a serious problem for low-income countries that have high levels of foreign debt, especially dollar-denominated debt.”

US dollar strength a problem in fighting inflation

The US dollar hasn’t been stronger since 2000 – it has appreciated:

  • 22% – Yen,
  • 13% – Euro,
  • 6% – emerging market economies.

The dominance of the US$ has serious implications for the macroeconomy of almost all countries. Although US share of world trade has declined from 12% to 8% the US$ share of world exports has remained around 40%. Therefore imports denominated in US$ into countries have become more expensive and it is estimated that for every 10% US$ appreciation adds 1% to the country’s inflation figure. For developing countries with a high dependency on US$ denominated imports this is particularly worrisome.
Furthermore almost 50% of cross-border loans and international debt securities are in US$ and although emerging market governments have made progress in issuing debt in their own currency, their private corporate sectors have high levels of dollar-denominated debt. As the US Fed continue to raise interest rates with a fourth consecutive 75 basis points rise on 2nd November financial conditions have tightened and the strong US$ only compounds these pressures especially for many low income countries that are close to defaulting on their debt.

What should countries do?
Some countries and intervening in the foreign exchange buying their own currency with US$ reserves – foreign reserves fell by over 6% in the first half of this year to support their currency. Intervention should not be a permanent policy as it could mean a loss of foreign reserves as well as alerting markets to your intentions which could play into the hand of foreign exchange dealers. Monetary policy needs to keep inflation close to its target rate and the higher price of imports should reduce demand and therefore prices but a lot depends on the elasticity of demand for a country’s imports – if inelastic there is increasing pressure on inflation. Fiscal policy should provide some support to those that are most vulnerable without jeopardising the inflation target.

Source: IMF Blog – How Countries Should Respond to the Strong Dollar.

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US dollar as the global currency

With the impact of technology and the geopolitical changes happening in the global economy is the US dollar coming under pressure as the world’s reserve currency? The data indicates that the US dollar still reigns with approximately 60% of the world’s central banks’ foreign exchange reserves invested in US dollar-denominated assets. Most commodity contracts, like oil, are priced and settled in dollars. It is used as the medium of exchange for the majority of global transactions – see chart below:

The US economy now accounts for about 25% of global GDP (at market exchange rates), down from 30% in 2000 and changes are happening in foreign exchange markets. One area that has impacted this is that transactions between emerging market currencies are becoming easier. China and India, for example, will soon no longer need to exchange their respective currencies for dollars to conduct trade cheaply.

What about the Chinese renminbi?
Although there has been some progress with the renminbi as it now accounts for approximately 3% of international payment transactions, and 3% of global foreign exchange reserves are held in renminbi. However it is unlikely to challenge the dominance of the dollar unless there are market driven reforms and upgrades to its institutional framework.

US dollar debt
Foreign investors, including central banks, hold nearly $8 trillion in US government debt. Overall US financial obligations to the rest of the world total $53 trillion. Because these liabilities are denominated in dollars, a plunge in the value of the dollar would make no difference to the amount the United States owes but would reduce the value of those assets in terms of the currencies of the countries that own them. China’s holdings of US government bonds, for instance, would be worth less in renminbi.

Source: Enduring Preeminence by Eswar Prasad. IMF Finance & Development. June 2000

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Why has the US dollar got so strong and problems associated?

There has been a lot of talk about global currency’s depreciating against the US dollar but why has the dollar been so strong? In times of uncertainty people gravitate to the US dollar for safety – it is the global reserve currency and the vast majority of global trade is done in US dollars. The uncertainty in the global economy has been due to:

  • The pandemic
  • Expansionary fiscal and monetary policy
  • Supply side problems not being able to keep up with demand
  • Ukraine War which has increased energy and food prices.

From the above there has been strong inflationary pressure in the US especially and this needs contractionary monetary policy intervention – higher interest rates. The US Fed Reserve has increased interest rates ahead of other developed economies.

28th September 2022 – US dollar.

Problems with a strong US dollar
When the US dollar appreciated – see image above – it has a contractionary impact on the global economy. The dollar and US capital markets are far more globally important than the US economy itself – the currency is the world’s safe haven and its capital markets are those of the world. Therefore the exchange rate is crucial when money goes into and out of the US. Also countries worry about the exchange rate in particular when inflation is high – weak currency makes imports more expensive and can feed inflation. For those that owe money in US dollars a weak currency becomes very expensive as they have to convert more of their currency into US dollars – this is prevalent in the developing world. With Fed Chair Jerome Powell determined to bring US inflation down there is the risk of further interest rate hikes which could put economies into recession.

Source: Financial Times – Why does the strength of the US dollar matter? Martin Wolf

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UK Pound slumps as IMF advises against tax cuts

Below is a very good video from Al Jazeera that explains the Bank of England’s emergency intervention to calm the market after the UK’s government’s tax cut plans. Once these plans were announced the GB Pound slumped to it lowest level $1.035 against the US Dollar since 1985. The BoE announced it is buying up long-dated UK government bonds to bring stability to financial markets but even higher interest rates are still likely and that is worrying news for the country’s property market. Good coverage of this below from Al Jazeera.

A falling currency and its impact.

With the falling value of the UK Pound here is a mindmap on the impact of a weaker currency. What seems to have caused this is the UK government’s decision to make tax cuts, which are to be paid for by higher government borrowing. On hearing this news investors appear to have dumped UK pounds fearing further instability in the UK economy.

The weak pound is a chance to stimulate exports although it has meant more expensive imports of oil and food – UK imports 50% of its food. This will put further pressure on inflation which in turn may also force the Bank of England to increase interest rates.

Source: CIE A Level Revision – Susan Grant

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Strong US dollar is a problem for other economies

This year the US dollar has appreciated by 10% against other major currencies. The main reason behind this is the US Fed increasing interest rates in tackling the inflationary pressure in its economy – since the beginning of the year the Fed Funds rate has increased from 0% to 2.25-2.5%. This increase in interest rates has been quicker than other major economies which has led to the strengthening of the US dollar. This stronger dollar makes US exports less competitive and imports cheaper as the US dollar buys more of the other currency. However even if a country doesn’t trade with the US it can still be impacted by the US dollar when pricing goods and services. The problem lies in the invoicing of fuel and food which is usually quoted in US dollars – an IMF paper suggested that approximately 40% of invoices are in US dollars – see Figure 4 below. Furthermore they also found prices for businesses doing trade between two distant countries can be much more sensitive to the value of the US dollar than the relative levels of the tow local currencies.

With the US Fed focused on inflation further interest rate increases on the cards which could lead to further strengthening of the US dollar. To counter this action other countries central banks could increase their interest rates ahead of time to protect their currency.

IMF – July 2020

The graph above reveals that the share of global exports invoiced in dollars is much larger than the share of exports destined to the US. This difference indicates that the dollar plays an outsized role in the invoicing of global exports; the patterns for imports are quite similar. The right panel of Figure 4 establishes that the dollar’s leading role reflects more than its use for the invoicing of commodity exports: once exports of commodities are removed from both the invoicing and export shares, the dollar share of invoicing (23%) still exceeds – by a sizeable margin – the share of exports destined for the US (10%). Figure 4 also reveals that the euro’s share in global export invoicing is an impressive 46%. While this appears as a very large number, recall that a currency’s vehicle currency role can be gauged only by comparing its share in global invoicing to the share of global exports that involve the jurisdiction issuing the currency. This comparison reveals that the euro’s share in global export invoicing is not much larger than its share, 37%, of exports destined to EA countries.

Sources:

Strong dollar is a major headache for other countries. FT 30th July 2022

IMF – Patterns in Invoicing Currency in Global Trade. Emine Boz, Camila Casas, Georgios Georgiadis, Gita Gopinath, Helena Le Mezo, Arnaud Mehl, Tra Nguyen. July 2020

Why do developing countries like a strong currency?

In the majority of economics textbooks a depreciation of the exchange is beneficial to an economy especially those like developing countries which depend a lot on export revenue.

A fall in the value of the exchange rate will make exports cheaper and so acts as an implicit subsidy to firms that sell abroad. Exposure to world markets also helps companies in the developing world learn and improve. Finished imported products that are still purchased will be more expensive and some of these will count in the country’s consumer price index. Costs of production will be pushed up because the cost of imported raw materials will rise. Domestic firms may also feel less competitive pressure to keep costs and prices low.

A rise in the value of exchange rate will make exports more expensive in terms of foreign currencies, and imports cheaper in terms of the domestic currency. Such a change is likely to result in a fall in demand for domestic products. A higher exchange rate may also reduce inflationary pressure by shifting the aggregate supply curve to the right because of lower costs of imported raw materials. The price of imported finished products would also fall and there would be increased competitive pressure on domestic firms to restrict price rises in order to try to maintain their sales at home and abroad.

It has been traditional for developing countries to try and engineer a weaker currency to make their exports more competitive especially as this revenue is one way in which their economies can start to grow. China and other South East Asian economies adopted this strategy as they went through industrialising their economy. Empirical studies suggest that an undervalued currency boosts growth more in developing rather than developed economies.

Why then is it that some African countries still want to maintain a strong currency? Primary sector exports and overseas aid raises the demand for local currencies making them appreciate. Governments are concerned about a weaker currency as

  • Some are dependent on capital imports to finance infrastructure projects
  • It forces them to spend more income to pay back foreign debts.
  • Pushes up the cost of imported goods, including food, medicine and fuel – mainly impacts the city population who are more likely to complain to politicians.
  • Some companies in developing countries import a lot of their machinery and raw materials – additional cost to their production.
  • A weaker currency does make exports cheaper but this can be nullified by more expensive imports.

However all of this has been overshadowed by COVID-19. The pandemic is increasingly a concern for developing countries which rely heavily on imports to meet their needs of medical supplies essential to combat the virus.

Turkish inflation hits 73.5% but not surprising.

Most economists are in agreement that when there is an increase in inflation the central bank increases the base interest rates in order to reduce spending and encouraging saving. This takes money out of the circular flow and should lead to less borrowing and therefore less pressure on prices.

The Turkish lira dropped by 17% this year with three cuts in interest rates since September. This comes as inflation has climbed to 73.5%. So why would you drop interest rates when you have rapidly increasing inflation? President Erdogan sacked the governor of the head of central bank Naci Agbal who had been hiking interest rates to dampen down inflation – he was the third governor to lose his job in the last two years. Erdogan believes that raising interest rates would raise inflation rather than reduce it and he proceeded to cut rates further which saw an even steeper decline in the lira. An argument for this policy could be that the cheaper exports can drive economic growth.

Source: FT4th June 2022

The collapse of the lira make exports competitive and imports more expensive and in September Turkey posted a current account surplus thanks in large to a recovery in tourist numbers. Turkey relies heavily on imports of raw materials and energy and with the exchange rate falling these have become a lot more expensive. Although Turkish exports should be cheaper, the heavy import component of finished exports makes those goods more expensive so this outweighs the benefits of having a cheaper lira – e.g. in assembling kitchen appliances the price of imports of the component parts make the overall price of the appliance more expensive. This just fuels more inflation. Supermarkets are limiting customers to one item as they know people will stockpile produce with the ever increasing inflation rate.

So with inflation now at 73.5% and and interest rates at 14% this makes real interest rates = – 59.5%. The central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 14% at its May meeting, extending a pause that followed 5% of cuts last year. This has led to the local population to turn to other currencies – US$ Euro – in order to protect the value of their money. Below is a very good video clip from Deutsche Welle (German World Service) outlining the crisis that Turkey face and how a policy of cutting interest rates has backfired.

Strong US$ bad news for global recovery

The recent tightening of monetary policy by US Fed Chair Jerome Powell to combat inflation has seen higher borrowing costs and financial-market volatility. The US$ has risen 7% against a series of major currencies since January this year – a two year high. It has always been a safe haven currency and with a rising Fed Rate and market rates even more capital could flow into the US increasing the demand for US dollars and therefore appreciating its value. See mindmap below for the theory behind a stronger currency.

Adapted from: CIE A Level Economics Revision by Susan Grant

A high value of a currency makes exports more expensive but does lead to cheaper imports especially of the inelastic nature. But to foreign economies it does drive up import prices further fueling inflation. For developing countries this is a concern as they are being forced to either allow their currencies to weaken or raise interest rates to try and stem the fall in value. Also developing economies are concerned with the risk of a ‘currency mismatch’ which happens when governments have borrowed in US dollars and lent it out in their local currency. However it is not just developing countries that have had currency issues. This last week saw the euro hit a new five-year low with the US Fed’s aggressive tightening of monetary policy. The real problem for some economies is that they are further down the business cycle than the US so in a weaker position.

“While domestic ‘overheating’ is mostly a US phenomenon, weaker exchange rates add to imported price pressures, keeping inflation significantly above central banks’ 2% targets. Monetary tightening might alleviate this problem, but at the cost of further domestic economic pain.” Dario Perkins – chief European economist at TS Lombard in London

Source: Bloomberg – Dollar’s Strength Pushes World Economy Deeper Into Slowdown. 15th May 2022

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Yen depreciation is good for Japan and its trading partners.

A weaker currency will make exports cheaper and imports more expensive – see mindmap below. As for Japan’s falling yen it is positive for its economy as a whole as it tries to get closer to its 2% inflation target.

The weak yen is also a chance to stimulate exports, even if Japan is no longer the currency-sensitive export machine it once was. Although it has meant more expensive oil and food imports, wages have hardly risen in response to higher prices. It used to be the case that the world was concerned with cheap Japanese exports but this means that it is exporting deflation which is what most developed countries want. The FT article on this topic is very good

Source: CIE A Level Revision – Susan Grant

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Putin demanding gas be paid in roubles. Can the church help?

This is a useful piece of economic theory which I will be discussing with my classes. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine the Russian currency the Rouble collapsed:

  • Before the invasions 1 euro = 85 Roubles
  • After invasion 1 euro = 110 Roubles
  • After central bank intervention 1 euro = 94 Roubles

This means that it cost post invasion 110 roubles to buy 1 euro, compared to 85 Roubles pre-invasion. The Russian central bank did intervene in the foreign exchange market by using its foreign exchange reserves to buy roubles – demand for roubles goes up. The plan is to sell US$ and euro denomination investments to buy roubles. However a ban on the central bank using swift payments to access reserves overseas has meant that intervention was not an option.

At such low levels the Russian exports are going to bring in less money to ultimately subsidise the war effort. A stronger Rouble will bring in more cash and enhance the image on the country – the value of a country’s currency is a good indicator of how the world views that country.

How will it work?

Putin’s order makes Gazprombank the intermediary in the gas trade. A foreign buyer of gas is required to transfer foreign currency to a special account (so-called K) at Gazprombank. They would then buy roubles on behalf go the gas buyer to transfer roubles to the another special (K) account at Gazprombank – see flow chart.

Why does it matter?

Europe is heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs, with around 40% of its gas coming from the country. If Moscow decides to turn off the taps it could trigger supply shortages, factory closures and crippling energy costs across the region.

Call in the church to stop the slide in the Rouble

However, a last resort could be a repeat of 2014 (see previous post ‘Russian economy – Priests to halt slide of Rouble?’) when priests blessed the servers at the Central Bank with holy water to reduce the then collapse of the Rouble – see below.

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High commodity prices but also high input costs for NZ agricultural sector

New Zealand commodity prices have been on the rise over the last year. Global dairy prices have increase by 14% this year with beef and lamb prices setting record highs. Some economists have said that it is the perfect storm of supply and demand factors.

Supply
As it does every year, the weather has influenced the price of dairy prices especially. A wet start to the dairy season accompanied by a very hot summer has reduced the supply of milk and therefore increasing its price. Also Covid has impacted the supply chains especially that of sea freight (see below) which in turn have impacted feed, fertilisers which has reduced supply. Although the NZ inflation rate has hit a 30 year high at 5.9% this is nothing compared to the costs down on the farm. This year farming cost have increased by:

  • Fertilisers 200% (breakdown in the graph below)
  • Chemicals 50%
  • Sea Freight 500%
  • Diesel 40%
  • Electricity 21%
  • Winter grazing 36.9
  • Cultivation, Harvesting & Animal Feed Cost 18.9%

Fertiliser price inflation

Source: Westpac Economic Overview – February 2022

Demand
The Chinese recovery has mainly been responsible for the rebound in demand as well as other countries coming out of Covid restrictions. Another factor helping the primary sector is the weaker NZ$. It is now trading around the US$0.66 from over US$0.70 in late 2021. Remember that a weaker dollar makes it cheaper for consumers overseas to buy our currency and therefore more price competitive goods

Carbon Prices influence farmer’s investments
In the past year the recent doubling of carbon prices to around $85/unit has encouraged some farmers to focus their attention on tree plantations to the detriment of sheep and beef supply. What is noticeable about investment is that with the high returns on commodity prices farmers are repaying debt rather than re-investing back into their business – although still very high agricultural debt fell from $64bn in July 2019 to $62bn today.

Source: Westpac Economic Overview – February 2022

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Russia puts up interest rates to 20% as rouble tumbles 40%

In an effort to stop the rapid decline of the rouble to protect Russians’ savings the central bank have increased interest rates from 9.5% to 20%. Furthermore, citizens have been withdrawing money from ATM machines with the loss of confidence in the economy. In order to try and stem the 40% decline in its currency the Russian central bank has been buying roubles with its foreign currency reserves. In the foreign exchange market this, in theory, should have the following effect:

  • increases the demand for the rouble – Demand curve to the right – price up of rouble
  • increases the supply of foreign currency – Supply curve to the right – price down foreign currency.

Another worry for Russia is the downgrade of Russian debt to junk status by Standard & Poor’s the credit rating agency. Below is a mind map that shows the factors that are impacted by a falling exchange rate.

Adapted from: CIE A Level Economics Revision by Susan Grant

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OCR – LSAP – FLP = New Zealand’s Monetary Policy Toolkit

Below is a useful flow diagram from the ANZ bank which adds Large Scale Asset Purchases (LSAP) and Funding for Lending Programme (FLP) to the Official Cash Rate (OCR – Base Rate)

LSAP – this is the buying of up $100 billion of government bonds – quantitative easing
FLP – this gives banks cheap lending based on the Official Cash Rate – could be about $28 billion based on take up
OCR – wholesale interest rate currently at 0.75%. Commercial banks borrow at 0.5% above OCR and can save at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) at 1% below OCR.

With FLP and more LSAP this will mean lower lending rates and deposit rates. This should provide more stimulus in the economy and allay fears of future funding constraints making banks more confident about lending. Add to this a third stimulus – an OCR of 0.75%. Although there is currently a tightening policy the rate is probably still stimulatory. The flow chart shows the impact that these three stimulus policies have on a variety of variables including – exchange rates – inflation -unemployment – consumer spending – investment – GDP. Very useful for a class discussion on the monetary policy mechanism.

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Africa’s resource curse lingers on.

Africa may have enormous natural reserves of oil, but so far most Africans haven’t felt the benefit. In Nigeria, for instance, what’s seen as a failure to spread the country’s oil wealth to the country’s poorest people has led to violent unrest. However, this economic paradox known as the resource curse has been paramount in Africa’s inability to benefit from oil. This refers to the fact that once countries start to export oil their exchange rate – sometimes know as a petrocurrency – appreciates making other exports uncompetitive and imports cheaper. At the same time there is a gravitation towards the petroleum industry which drains other sectors of the economy, including agriculture and traditional industries, as well as increasing its reliance on imports. It is estimated that for every extra dollar in foreign currency earned from exporting resources reduces non-resource exports by $0.74 – Torfinn Harding of the NHH Norwegian School of Economics and Anthony Venables of Oxford University.

Economists also refer to this as the Dutch Disease which makes reference to Holland and the discovery of vast quantities of natural gas during the 1960s in that country’s portion of the North Sea. The subsequent years saw the Dutch manufacturing sector decline as the gas industry developed. The major problem with the reliance on oil is that if the natural resource begins to run out or if there is a downturn in prices, once competitive manufacturing industries find it extremely difficult to return to an environment of profitability.

According to the UN a country is dependent on commodities if they are more than 60% of its physical exports – in Africa that makes up 83% of countries. One of the major concerns for resource rich countries is the wild fluctuations in commodity prices which can lead to over investment – Sierra Leone created two new iron-ore mines in 2012 only for them to close in 2015 as prices collapsed. However the amount of jobs created in the mineral extraction industry is limited – across Sierra-Leone of 8m people, about 8,000 work in commercial mines. A major problem in these countries is that when there is money made from resources it tends to go on government salaries rather than investing in education. infrastructure and healthcare etc.

Norway – has a different approach.
In Norway hydrocarbons account for half of its exports and 19% of GDP and with further oil fields coming on tap Norway could earn an estimated $100bn over the next 50 years. Nevertheless there is a need to wean the economy off oil and avoid not only the resource curse that has plagued some countries – Venezuela is a good example as approximately 90% of government spending was dependent on oil revenue – but also the impact on climate change. Norwegians have been smart in that the revenue made from oil has been put into a sovereign wealth fund which is now worth $1.1trn – equates to $200,000 for every citizen. This ensures that they have the means to prepare for life after oil.

Source: The Economist – ‘When you are in a hole…’ January 8th 2022

What determines the value of the New Zealand dollar?

In a free market the rate of exchange is determined by the market forces of supply and demand. Where these conditions apply the exchange rate is said to free, fluctuating or floating. Therefore the following have a great impact on the rate of exchange in a free market:

An increase in the demand for the $NZ will result from more people wanting get or buy $NZ.

* Increase in the value of exports
* Increase in tourists travelling to NZ
* Increase in foreign investment in NZ (buying assets / companies / depositing savings)
* Increase in NZer’s taking out loans overseas

An increase in the supply for the $NZ will result from more people wanting get or buy other currencies (as they have to supply $NZ to the market to get the other currencies)

* Increase in the value of imports
* Increase in NZer’s travelling to other countries
* Increase in NZ investment overseas
* Increase in NZer’s repaying loans made overseas

For these purposes NZ residents must obtain foreign currencies. Banks, acting on their behalf, will buy these currencies in the foreign exchange market and pay for them with dollars. Thus, an increase in NZ imports will increase the supply of dollars in the foreign exchange market. With floating exchange rates, changes in market demand and market supply of a currency cause a change in value.

An example using the US$ and Euro
French citizens want to buy goods from the USA and supply euros (Graph A) to their banks and demand dollars (Graph B) to import goods and services from the United States. The value of the euro falls from $1.00 to $0.98. Simultaneously, the value of the dollar appreciates from 1.00 to 1.02 euros.

If U.S. citizens want to buy goods from France they must supply dollars to their banks (Graph C) to demand euros to import goods and services from France (Graph D). The value of the dollar falls from 1.02 euros to 1.00 euro.

Exchange rates

Could there be Demand-Pull inflation in New Zealand?

The recent GDP figures the March Quarter 2021 and the Annual figure were significantly different from those predicted by the Reserve Bank. The key component of GDP is Private Consumer Expenditure which increased way above the 0.5% of the RBNZ – see table.

This no doubt encouraged more investment which saw an increase by 15.5%. This suggests that the economy is creeping towards the threat of demand-pull inflation – i.e. the economy is running hot and demand is outstripping supply – see graph.

Source: BNZ Markets Outlook.

While New Zealand’s GDP growth might pale against global comparisons this year, it’s already strong enough to be telling of rapidly diminishing economic slack and rising core inflation. Indeed, that excess demand is now arguably the order of the day in NZ, partly as the ability to supply goods and services is compromised in many ways, compared to pre-COVID times.

Furthermore the weakening NZ$ – has made exports cheaper. This is also part of the overall aggregate demand in the economy. So with C+I+G+(X-M) all increasing there is pressure on the supply-side. The NZ trade-weighted exchange is at 73.2 this morning whilst the RBNZ forecasted 75.3. However predicting anything in an economy today is very difficult considering what we have experienced with COVID 19.

TWI – An index that measures the value of $NZ in relationship to a group (or “basket”) of other currencies. The currencies included are from NZ’s major export markets i.e. Australia, USA, Japan, Euro area, UK, China. – $A, $US, ¥, €,  £, Yuan.

With this, there are cracks appearing amongst central banks around the world, as to how long they can reasonably continue with their extreme monetary policy settings. Interest rate markets have been asking the question and at least some central bankers have now given a bit of ground –notably the US Federal Reserve last week. Yes, there is still the debate about how much of the ramp-up in headline CPI inflation, globally,is transitory. However, there is also the fundamental question of whether underlying inflation is firm enough, and labour markets recovered enough, to recommend policy rates to start to normalise, whatever that means. It’s a different question, with more important implications.

Source: BNZ Markets Outlook

The Pound, the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) and George Soros pockets $1bn

Teaching  exchange rates with my AS Level class and couldn’t get away from the events in Britain on the 16th September 1992 – known as Black Wednesday. On this day the British government were forced to pull the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The video below explains the drama that unfolded very well.

Background

The Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) was the central part of the European Monetary System (EMS) and its purpose was to provide a zone of monetary stability – the ERM was like an imaginary rope (see below), preventing the value of currencies from soaring too high or falling too low in relation to one another.

It consisted of a currency band with a ‘Ceiling’ and a ‘Floor’ through which currencies cannot (or should not) pass and a central line to which they should aspire. The idea is to achieve the mutual benefits of stabel currencies by mutual assistance in difficult times. Participating countries were permitted a variation of +/- 2.25% although the Italian Lira and the Spanish Peseta had a 6% band because of their volatility. When this margin is reached the two central banks concerned must intervene to keep within the permitted variation. The UK persistently refused to join the ERM, but under political pressure from other members agreed to join “when the time is right”. The Chancellor decided that this time had come in the middle of October 1990. The UK pound was given a 6% variation

Black Wednesday

Although it stood apart from European currencies, the British pound had shadowed the German mark (DM) in the period leading up to the 1990s. Unfortunately, Britain at the time had low interest rates and high inflation and they entered the ERM with the express desire to keep its currency above 2.7 DM to the pound. This was fundamentally unsound because Britain’s inflation rate was many times that of Germany’s.

Compounding the underlying problems inherent in the pound’s inclusion into the ERM was the economic strain of reunification that Germany found itself under, which put pressure on the mark as the core currency for the ERM. Speculators began to eye the ERM and wondered how long fixed exchange rates could fight natural market forces. Britain upped its interest rates to 15% (5% in one day) to attract people to the pound, but speculators, George Soros among them, began heavy shorting* of the currency. Spotting the writing on the wall, by leveraging the value of his fund, George Soros was able to take a $10 billion short position on the pound, which earned him US$1 billion. This trade is considered one of the greatest trades of all time.

* In finance, short selling is the practice of selling assets, usually securities, that have been borrowed from a third party (usually a broker) with the intention of buying identical assets back at a later date to return to that third party. The short seller hopes to profit from a decline in the price of the assets between the sale and the repurchase, as the seller will pay less to buy the assets than it received on selling them. Wikipedia.