Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gordon Brown is Curt Schilling

Slate's "Moneybox" columnist Daniel Gross explains "The Sinking Dollar Also Has an Upside." Although it makes things expensive for Americans in Europe (try to imagine "The Sun Also Rises" if a weak dollar made it too costly to go out drinking in Paris), it makes things cheap for foreign visitors coming to the US, helping out those who sell services (hotel rooms, etc..) to tourists. From an economics perspective, this example was particularly interesting:
Chuck Skelling, manager at Towne BMW in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville, receives a few calls per day from status-conscious Torontonians inquiring about new Bimmers. Because Canadian car prices are based on old exchange rates, the same BMW 335 convertible that retails for $48,000 in the United States sells for the equivalent of $63,000 in Toronto.
This is a good example of "pricing-to-market" - BMW charging different prices in different national markets - and also suggests low "exchange rate pass through" - that is, the decline in the dollar relative to the euro has not translated (yet) into higher retail prices for European goods in the US. But what really got me thinking was Gross' comment:
Even the Brazilian real and Argentine peso, the Los Angeles Clippers of currencies, are thriving against the buck.
  • I tend to think of the Peso as more of a "lovable loser," like the Chicago Cubs. And like the Cubs with the billy goat, the Peso has a curse - the inability to issue foreign debt denominated in domestic currency, which is referred to as "original sin" in the international macro literature. Is Carlos Menem the economic Steve Bartman?
  • The Italian Lira was somewhat of a laughingstock in the 70's and 80's, but Italy's foreign exchange gained strength with the establishment of the European Monetary Union in the 90's, at roughly the same time the Cleveland Indians emerged from long mediocrity after the establishment of Jacobs Field.
  • The Swiss Franc is a perennial powerhouse/often overvalued like Notre Dame Football or Duke Basketball.
  • Detroit's Pistons often complain they're undervalued, just like Detroit's automakers perenially complain the Japanese Yen is undervalued.
  • The Zimbabwe Dollar is in free-fall, like the Oakland Raiders (black markets, black uniforms...).
  • The British Pound is the Boston Red Sox of currencies. There is a considerable, hand-wringing literature on the decline of Sterling from its glory days ($4.86 under the classical gold standard), emblematic of Britain's (relative) economic decline. Arguably, the decline began in the interwar period with an ill-fated attempt to restore the pre-war parity. It was also during the interwar period that Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees, and the era of Yankee baseball/economic supremacy began. After a tortured history of collapses, reversals and humiliations (e.g. devaluations in '49, '67 and '92, an IMF bailout in '76), the fortunes of the Pound (over $2 now!) and the Red Sox (2005 world champions) have finally reversed. In Britain's case, much of the credit goes to the policies of the Labour government under Chancellor of the Exchequer (now P.M.) Gordon Brown, who established central bank independence. The Red Sox championship is attributable partly to a pitcher who shares a name with a former sub-unit of the British Pound.


Anonymous said...

Bill, you really have too much time on your hands. But, very nice. Look forward to more.

I think you should consider making a direct link to your, "Considering Graduate School in Economics?" which is just great. At the moment, I had to click on your profile and then your webpage before I found it.

I also enjoyed reading your research.

Hope getting your first blog comment gives you a little boost,


Bill C said...

Thanks, Len! I appreciate it.