Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Gold vs Cash in a Financial Crisis - Richard_Mills
2.Current Stock Market Rally Similarities To 1999 - Chris_Vermeulen
3.America See You On The Dark Side Of The Moon - Part2 - James_Quinn
4.Stock Market Trend Forecast Outlook for 2020 - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Who Said Stock Market Traders and Investor are Emotional Right Now? - Chris_Vermeulen
6.Gold Upswing and Lessons from Gold Tops - P_Radomski_CFA
7.Economic Tribulation is Coming, and Here is Why - Michael_Pento
8.What to Expect in Our Next Recession/Depression? - Raymond_Matison
9.The Fed Celebrates While Americans Drown in Financial Despair - John_Mauldin
10.Hi-yo Silver Away! - Richard_Mills
Last 7 days
Buying a Custom Built Gaming PC From Overclockers.co.uk - 1. Delivery and Unboxing - 17th Feb 20
BAIDU (BIDU) Illustrates Why You Should NOT Invest in Chinese Stocks - 17th Feb 20
Financial Markets News Report: February 17, 2020 - February 21, 2020 - 17th Feb 20
NVIDIA (NVDA) GPU King For AI Mega-trend Tech Stocks Investing 2020 - 17th Feb 20
Stock Market Bubble - No One Gets Out Of Here Alive! - 17th Feb 20
British Pound GBP Trend Forecast 2020 - 16th Feb 20
SAMSUNG AI Mega-trend Tech Stocks Investing 2020 - 16th Feb 20
Ignore the Polls, the Markets Have Already Told You Who Wins in 2020 - 16th Feb 20
UK Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic WARNING! Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham Outbreaks Probable - 16th Feb 20
iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF IBB AI Mega-trend Tech Stocks Investing 2020 - 15th Feb 20
Gold Stocks Still Stalled - 15th Feb 20
Is The Technology Stocks Sector Setting Up For A Crash? - 15th Feb 20
UK Calm Before Corona Virus Storm - Infections Forecast into End March 2020 - 15th Feb 20
The Growing Weaponization of Space - 14th Feb 20
Will the 2020s Be Good or Bad for the Gold Market? - 14th Feb 20
Predictive Modeling Suggests Gold Price Will Break Above $1650 Within 15~30 Days - 14th Feb 20
UK Coronavirus COVID-19 Infections and Deaths Trend Forecast 2020 - 14th Feb 20
Coronavirus, Powell and Gold - 14th Feb 20
How the Corona Virus is Affecting Global Stock Markets - 14th Feb 20
British Pound GBP Trend and Elliott Wave Analysis - 13th Feb 20
Owning and Driving a Land Rover Discovery Sport in 2020 - 2 YEAR Review - 13th Feb 20
Shipping Rates Plunge, Commodities and Stocks May Follow - 13th Feb 20
Powell says Fed will aggressively use QE to fight next recession - 13th Feb 20
PALLADIUM - THIS Is What a Run on the Bank for Precious Metals Looks Like… - 13th Feb 20
Bitcoin: "Is it too late to get in?" Get Answers Now - 13th Feb 20
China Coronavirus Infections Soar by 1/3rd to 60,000, Deaths Jump to 1,367 - 13th Feb 20
Crude Oil Price Action – Like a Coiled Spring Already? - 13th Feb 20
China Under Reporting Coronavirus COVID-19 Infections, Africa and South America Hidden Outbreaks - 12th Feb 20
Will USD X Decline About to Trigger Precious Metals Rally - 12th Feb 20
Copper Market is a Coiled Spring - 12th Feb 20
Dow Theory Stock Market Warning from the Utilities Index - 12th Feb 20
How to Get Virgin Media Engineers to FIX Hub 3.0 Problems and NOT BS Customers - 12th Feb 20
China Under Reporting Coronavirus COVID-19 Infections by 66% Due to Capacity Constraints - 12th Feb 20
Is Coronavirus the Black Swan That Takes Gold To-Da-Moon? - 12th Feb 20
Stock Market 2020 – A Close Look At What To Expect - 12th Feb 20
IBM AI Mega-trend Tech Stocks Investing 2020 - 11th Feb 20
The US Dollar’s Subtle Message for Gold - 11th Feb 20
What All To Do Before Opening A Bank Account For Your Business - 11th Feb 20
How and When to Enter Day Trades & Swing Trade For Maximum Gains - 11th Feb 20
The Great Stock Market Dichotomy - 11th Feb 20
Stock Market Sector Rotation Should Peak Within 60+ Days – Part II - 11th Feb 20
CoronaVirus Pandemic Stocks Bear Market Risk 2020? - Video - 11th Feb 20

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Nadeem Walayat Financial Markets Analysiis and Trend Forecasts

Bad Economic Idea of Devaluing Currency to Help Exporters

Economics / Economic Theory Feb 13, 2015 - 01:56 PM GMT

By: Frank_Hollenbeck

Economics

Frank Hollenbeck writes: The European Central Bank's (ECB) decision to shortly print over 1 trillion euros has reignited concerns over currency wars. The euro has dropped almost 20 percent over the last six months after endless hints from the ECB.

We are in a currency war, and have been since 2008. Our current global monetary system is deeply flawed in spite of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which was supposedly created to foster monetary cooperation and financial stability. Yet, the IMF has been eerily silent lately, which has not gone unnoticed by those who butter the IMF’s bread.


The current unwritten rule on exchange rate policy is that direct intervention is frowned upon, but indirect intervention is acceptable if the exchange rate was not the initial objective of policy. The thinking here is similar to that used when dropping a thousand pound bomb on a terrorist, wiping out a preschool, and then saying “it’s no problem since our primary target was the terrorist.”

It is simply irresponsible to look only at the direct and not indirect effects of economic policies. The US’s quantitative easing over the last six years has forced emerging market countries to impose capital controls and other currency restrictions, and ramp up their own printing presses. Current Japanese monetary policy, which is driving down the yen, is causing serious consternation to its Chinese and Korean neighbors. The People’s Bank of China recently lowered reserve requirements and is planning to widen the trading band on its currency. Let’s call this what it really is — retaliation and escalation of worldwide currency wars.

Does Devaluing Currency Really Help Exporters?

Of course, these actions are based on another popular misconception promulgated by economists: that a depreciating currency will allow exporters to reduce their prices overseas, helping them capture market share, thus boosting profits with positive ramifications for the domestic economy. The mistake in this logic is that it looks at the direct effects while totally ignoring other direct and indirect effects.

A simple example will make this clear. Suppose the exchange rate is one dollar for one euro. The European exporter is selling his product for $100 in the US which he converts into 100 euros to cover his production cost of 80 euros. Now suppose the euro depreciates so that it takes 1.5 euros to get 1 dollar. The exporter can now lower his price to $66.66 since this will bring in the same number of euros as before the depreciation. He has gained a competitive advantage over his foreign rivals, with benefits to the domestic economy.

The first problem with this story is that with new financial instruments such as swaps and financial futures, many exporters can hedge their foreign exchange risk long term, and may have already committed themselves to the rate they swap dollars for euros.

The second problem with this story is that many exporters today import many of their inputs. A BMW has parts coming from all over the world. Its engines may come from the UK. The leather seats may come from China and the steel may come from Brazil. If the depreciation causes input prices to rise from 80 euros to 120 euros, the exporter will be unable to lower his dollar prices, and, therefore will not gain in competitiveness. Of course, not all costs are imported inputs. This, however, highlights how depreciations really help exporters.

Workers Don’t Benefit from Devaluation

If domestic cost, mostly labor, does not adjust to the higher import prices resulting from the depreciation, exporters will gain, but this gain comes from reducing the real incomes of domestic workers. If these workers ultimately negotiate an increase in nominal wages to bring their real wages back up to before the depreciation, the gain to exporters will disappear. The depreciation has created only a temporary gain.

Few journalists seem to understand that a policy to reduce the foreign exchange value of a currency is, in reality, a policy to transfer wealth from workers — the middle class and the poor — to the wealthier owners of export industries. It is another example of the central bank acting as a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the have-nots to give to the haves.

Furthermore, there are many other indirect effects that make depreciating your currency a very bad policy objective. Mises explained that standard balance-of-payment accounting cannot be used when the unit of account is being distorted. Even if exporters are more profitable, this is not something to cheer if a higher nominal profit means lower real profit.

Of course, other economic actors are also hurt by a beggar-thy-neighbor policy. Consumers will bear the brunt of higher prices on foreign products. Domestic firms who import their inputs and sell on the domestic market will also likely be hurt.

Distorting Prices Hurts an Economy

A depreciating currency reflects a country’s central bank printing money faster than its neighbors. Yet, this printing hurts all firms, including exporters. Printing money alters absolute and relative prices. It interferes with the critical signals that prices send across time about what and how society wants goods and services to be produced.

What Europe needs is not a weaker euro, but significant structural reform. Europe should learn from Latvia’s experience with reform. In 2009–2010, Latvia cut government spending from 44 percent of GDP to 36 percent. It fired 30 percent of the civil servants, closed half the state agencies, and reduced the average public salary by 26 percent in one year. Government ministers took personal wage cuts of 35 percent. The Latvian economy initially dropped 24 percent, but rebounded sharply with yearly real growth of nearly 5 percent over the last three years. Yet, Latvia did this without using currency as a weapon since it kept its former currency, the lats, fixed against the euro.

Frank Hollenbeck teaches finance and economics at the International University of Geneva. He has previously held positions as a Senior Economist at the State Department, Chief Economist at Caterpillar Overseas, and as an Associate Director of a Swiss private bank. See Frank Hollenbeck's article archives.

You can subscribe to future articles by Frank Hollenbeck via this RSS feed..

© 2015 Copyright Frank Hollenbeck - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules