Below is a link to a very good interview with Corin Dann and Don Brash this morning on National Radio’s ‘Morning Report’. Former Reserve Bank Governor Don Brash says that the major Central Banks need to act together and reduce interest rates to offset the impact of Covid-19. The Central Banks he refers to are: US Fed, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank. Good discussion of the impact of the NZ dollar on trade and the fact that just the past month in New Zealand, the virus may have cost as much as $300 million in lost exports to China. Worth a listen
Here is a very good explanation from the FT on China’s exchange rate and the fact that the US no longer sees China as a manipulator of its currency – the Renminbi.
- In May 2019 with the threat of US tariffs on Chinese goods the Renminbi depreciated in value – notice the chart is inverted which means that 1 US$ buys more Renminbi and the value of the currency falls. To look at it another way it takes more Renminbi to buy 1US$. This makes Chinese exports cheaper in the US.
- In August 2019 when the US came good on their threat to impose tariffs the Renminbi fell below 7 Renminbi / US$ in order to protect its exports to the US. Below 7 Renminbi / US$ is seen as a major threshold – the last time this happened was after the GFC.
How do China authorities intervene to manipulate the Renminbi?
The Renminbi is not a floating exchange rate which it is not determined by supply and demand. The government manages its exchange rate in two ways:
- Peoples Bank of China (Central Bank) can or sell US$ on the foreign exchange market – this depends on what they wish for the value of the Renminbi against the US dollar
- People’s Bank of China permits the Renminbi to trade 2 per cent on either side of a daily midpoint set by the. Basically at 9.15am the Peoples Bank of China and the SAFE (State Administration for Foreign Exchange) issues a circular to all the trading banks stating that this is the exchange of the Renminbi to the US$. It is then permitted to trade 2 per cent on either side of the midpoint rate.
But is China a currency manipulator? According to the US Treasury a country is a currency manipulator when it does the following 3 things:
- A significant bilateral trade surplus with the US.
- A material current account surplus of more than 3% of GDP.
- Persistent one-sided intervention in its currency market.
But in August the Chinese economy was slowing down and the Peoples Bank of China (Central Bank) provided stimulus to the economy which would depreciate the currency anyway. However with more trade talks between the US and China and both agreeing to no more tariffs and phase one of a trade deal, the value of the Renminbi against the dollar starts to appreciate. Although the US has no longer called China a currency manipulator it seems that it didn’t have the grounds to do so. This must be a concern for other trading partners with the US.
In explaining the differences between internal and external balances I came across an old textbook that I used at University – Economics by David Begg. It was described as ‘The Student’s Bible” by BBC Radio 4 and I certainly do refer back to it quite regularly. Part 4 on macroeconomics has an informative diagram that shows the impact of booms and recessions on the internal and external balances.
Internal Balance – when Aggregate Demand equals Aggregate Supply (potential output). And there is full employment in the labour market. With sluggish wage and price adjustment, lower AD causes a recession. Only when AD returns to potential output is internal balance restored.
External Balance – this refers to the Current Account balance. The country is neither underspending nor overspending its foreign income. For a floating exchange rate, the total balance of payments is always zero. Since the balance of payments is the sum of the current, capital, and financial accounts, saying the current account is in balance then also implies that the sum of the capital and financial accounts are in balance.
In the diagram right the point of internal and external balance is the intersection of the two axes, with neither boom nor slump, and with neither a current account surplus nor a deficit.
The top left-hand quadrant shows a combination of a domestic slump and a current account surplus. This can be caused by a rise in desired savings or by an adoption of a tight fiscal policy and monetary policy. These reduce AD which cause both a domestic slump and a reduction in imports.
The bottom left-hand corner shows a higher real exchange rate, which makes exports less competitive, reduces export demand and raises import demand. The fall in net exports induces both a current account deficit and lower AD, leading to a domestic slump.
In a downturn a more expansionary fiscal and monetary policy can hasten the return to full employment eg. Quantitative easing, tax cuts, lower interest rates. However one could say that today it doesn’t seem to be that effective.
Below is a mindmap showing the causes and effects of a fall in the value of a currency. Also looks at how it improves the current account. Good for revision purposes when dealing with exchange rates and trade. Might be useful for the upcoming CIE exams. Adapted from CIE A Level Revision by Susan Grant.
Been doing some revision courses and today we looked at the TWI and floating exchange rates. The exchange rate measures the external value of the NZ$ in terms of how much of another currency it can buy. For example – how many pounds, US dollars or Euros you can buy with NZ$1000. The daily value is determined in the foreign exchange markets (FOREX) where billions of $s of currencies are traded every hour.
A large percentage of the dealing in currencies is purely speculative, that is to say, people trading dollars, yen, euros and sterling seeking to make a profit (or capital gain) from small fluctuations in currency values.
Trade Weighted Index (T.W.I.)
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. – $A, $US, ¥, €, £. Each of the currencies included in the TWI is “weighted” according to how important exports to that country are (= % of total exports)
From the TWI we can see if the $NZ has appreciated or depreciated against our major trading partners currencies overall.
Free, Fluctuating, or Floating Exchange Rates
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 traveling 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
Other Factors Effecting $NZ with a Floating Exchange Rate
- Relative Inflation Rates e.g. if NZ’s inflation rate is higher than other countries then the price NZ’s exports will become relatively more expensive and NZ will lose competitiveness and exports will fall.
- Income of countries NZ trades with e.g. Australia is in a recession – NZ exports
- Tastes and Preferences e.g. world news, current events, fashion, trends, popularity effecting NZ’s exports e.g. Sept 11th and an increase in tourists to NZ
- Access to Overseas Market e.g. trade restrictions (protectionist policies e.g. tariff, quotas and regulations) placed on NZ exports by other countries governments.
- Relative Interest Rates e.g. if interest rates in NZ are higher than in other countries, then this will attract people to save in NZ banks, creating demand for the $NZ.
Last week Argentina imposed currency controls on business to prevent money leaving the economy after the Argentinian Peso lost over 25% of its value since elections last month – see graphic. The central bank now require that:
- exporters to repatriate earnings within 5 to 15 days
- businesses will need permission to repatriate profits abroad or buy US dollars
- residents are restricted to foreign exchange purchase of US$10,000 and non-residents US$1,000
With a track record of hyperinflation and financial crises, Argentinians are quick to sell their Pesos for US$ to maintain store value – with inflation and turmoil in an economy the local currency has less purchasing power. It is important for the Argentina government to restrict the demand for US$ and improve its ability to pay its significant debt – US$101bn. Capital controls have the aim of protecting the stability of the Peso and savers.
Will it work?
Although capital controls do stabilise the currency in a panic situation, they will only work in the long-term if they are used to confront the underlying macroeconomic problems in the economy itself. However, with Argentina’s inflationary issues coupled with fiscal deficits, capital controls are a band aid solution to the macroeconomic problems. Below is a very good video from the FT giving a background to the problems in Argentina.
A good summary from the FT – see video below. The Renminbi is permitted to trade 2 per cent on either side of a daily midpoint set by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC). This suggests that the PBOC still has significant control of the renminbi. Basically at 9.15am the Peoples Bank of China (Central Bank) and the SAFE (State Administration for Foreign Exchange) issues a circular to all the trading banks stating that this is the exchange of the Renminbi to the US$. It is then permitted to trade 2 per cent on either side of the midpoint rate. The midpoint set by the PBOC on Monday of Rmb 6.9225 was the lowest since December, when trade tensions were last at fever pitch. The PBOC blamed the tariffs and trade protectionist measures on Chinese goods as the reason why the exchange rate has depreciated.
But is China a currency manipulator? According to the US Treasury a country is a currency manipulator when it does the following 3 things
- A significant bilateral trade surplus with the US.(Check! China’s got that.)
- A material current account surplus of more than 3% of GDP.(China does not have that.)
- Persistent one-sided intervention in its currency market.(China’s move on Monday doesn’t fit this bill, so no.)
But isn’t downward pressure on the Renminbi just part of the what happens to a currency when its economy starts to slow and it’s selling fewer exports.
Winners with a cheaper yuan
1. Chinese exporters are more competitive abroad.
2. Foreign consumers of Chinese products – imported products are more affordable.
3. China’s case for becoming a reserve currency could be bolstered by letting markets determine the exchange rate.
1. Chinese companies that have debt denominated in dollars, or buy things in dollars
like Chinese airlines, or other businesses that rely on imported oil.
2. Companies that compete with Chinese firms – including those in neighboring countries.
3. Companies that depend on exports to China – like the makers of luxury goods and mining companies.
4. Anyone worried about weak inflation in the U.S. or Europe
Today I was 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.
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 realtion 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
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.
Although I wrote recently on Australia avoiding the ‘resource curse’ this video from the FT suggests otherwise and that the Aussie Dollar in 2019 is going to be volatile. The slowing down of the Chinese economy accompanied by a trade dispute with the US has meant lower demand for the Aussie Dollar. Imports of commodities, especially iron-ore, have slowed as China recorded significant reduction in exports and imports in December last year – see graph below:
A lot will depend in the US Fed and its interest rate stance and whether with weaker inflationary pressure and a slowing economy there could be a drop in rates which would help the Aussie Dollar. The cother concern is the exposure that commercial banks have in the mortgage market. Housing has long been a favoured investment option in Australia and with the housing market slowing banks could be left exposed with defaults on mortgages. So is it time to dump the Aussie Dollar?
Falling exchange rate – causes and effects.
I have mentioned the ‘resource curse’ in many postings since starting this blog. It affects economies like in sub-Sahara Africa and Australia which have a lot of natural resources – energy and minerals. The curse comes in two forms:
- With high revenues from the sale of a resource, governments try and seek to control the assets and use the money to maintain a political monopoly.
- This is where you find that from the sale of your important natural resource there is greater demand for your currency which in turn pushes up its value. This makes other exports less competitive so that when the natural resource runs out the economy has no other good/service to fall back on.
The Australian economy did well at the height of the commodity boom in 2013 with iron ore, copper etc earning companies and the economy significant amounts of money. Investment in this area amounted to 9% of GDP in the same year with new mines, gas fields and infrastructure to cope with the increasing demand. But the collapse in commodity prices didn’t have the effect that suggest the resource curse. Countries like Venezuela – oil, Chile – copper, Nigeria – oil etc. have gone through turbulent times as commodity prices fall. Australia though has come through this period quite well for the following reasons:
- falling investment in the mining sector has allowed the central bank to lower interest rates allowing other sectors, previously shut out, cheaper access to investment funds
- the falling exchange rate – AUS$ lost 40% in value against US$ between 2011 – 2015 – made other elastic exports more competitive and this was particularly apparent in the tourism, education and construction sectors.
- Tourism – spending by tourists increased by 43% from 2012 and amounted to AUS$21bn in the year ending March 2018.
- Education – overseas student numbers increased from 300,000 in 2013 to 540,000 in 2018. Each year they contribute AUS$40bn.
- Construction – firms have completed projects worth AUS$29bn in the 4th quarter of 2017 which compares with AUS$20bn in the 1st quarter of 2012. The Foreign Investment Board approved AUS$72bn worth of residential-property purchases in 2016, up from AUS$20bn in 2011.
Australia GDP Annual Growth Rate – 2010-2018
Source: Trading Economics
So despite the end of the resources boom the Australian economy’s GDP per annum hasn’t fallen below 2.4% – see GDP graph. Furthermore, Australia ranks as the 14th largest economy on the globe but ranks 7th regarding the volume of foreign investment and this ranking has risen despite the end of the resources boom. Prudent fiscal measures and a sound monetary policy have also played their part in a resilient Aussie economy.