Benn Steil

Geo-Graphics

A graphical take on geoeconomic issues, with links to the news and expert commentary.

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Showing posts for "Currencies"

Mini Mac Trumps the Big Mac

by Benn Steil and Emma Smith

The “law of one price” holds that identical goods should trade for the same price in an efficient market.  But how well does it actually hold internationally? The Economist magazine’s famous Big Mac Index uses the price of McDonald’s Big Macs around the world, expressed in a common currency (U.S. dollars), to measure the extent to which various currencies are over- or under-valued. The Big Mac is a global product, identical across borders, which makes it an interesting one for this purpose. Read more »

China’s Exorbitant Detriment, Mirror Image of America’s Exorbitant Privilege, Is Costing It Dearly

by Benn Steil and Emma Smith

The so-called Exorbitant Privilege of the United States, the power to conjure the world’s primary reserve currency, is reflected in the unique combination of being deeply in debt to the rest of the world (that is, having a massive negative net international investment position, or NIIP) while earning far more income abroad than it pays out in interest (that is, having massive positive annual net investment income, or NII).  The U.S. NIIP averaged negative $7.5 trillion over FY15/16, while its NII was positive $167 billion, as shown in the top left of the graphic above.  Basically, foreigners are willing to accept a trivial return to hold dollar-denominated assets. Read more »

Is the Emerging Market Currency Plunge Really About Trade?

by Benn Steil and Emma Smith

Emerging market (EM) assets have taken a beating since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory on November 8.  EM bond prices are down 4.4 percent, equities 4.6 percent, and currencies 4.1 percent.  But is this really, as the Financial Times proclaimed, about “fears of trade protectionism”? Read more »

China’s Bond Market Can’t Handle a Global RMB

by Benn Steil and Emma Smith

The Chinese RMB’s ascension into the IMF’s SDR currency basket in October has been widely seen as an important first step on its path to becoming a global reserve currency.  But we would argue that the path is a very long one, and that even rivaling the euro for the number two spot may, without implausible reforms to China’s political economy, be beyond the RMB’s reach. Read more »

The Geo-Graphics Mini Mac Index Deep Fries the Big Mac Once Again

by Benn Steil and Emma Smith

The “law of one price” holds that identical goods should trade for the same price in an efficient market.  But to what extent does it actually hold internationally?

The Economist magazine’s famous Big Mac Index uses the price of McDonald’s Big Macs around the world, expressed in a common currency (U.S. dollars), to estimate the extent to which various currencies are over- or under-valued. The Big Mac is a global product, identical across borders, which makes it an interesting one for this purpose. Read more »

What If Japan Becomes Treasury’s First Currency ‘Manipulator’ in 22 Years?

by Benn Steil and Emma Smith

In May, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso and colleagues warned of their willingness to intervene in currency markets to counteract upward pressure on the yen.  And in the wake of Britain’s historic Brexit vote on June 23, which prompted another surge in the currency, even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined the chorus. Read more »

Has the Fed Become More Accommodative than the ECB and BoJ?

by Benn Steil and Emma Smith

A Japanese interest-rate strategist recently told the Wall Street Journal that “every day is like being Alice in Wonderland” since the Bank of Japan’s foray into negative deposit rates on January 29. Though the yen initially fell, as the BoJ wanted, it reversed course quickly.  The yen has of late been trading near 18-month highs.  What is going on? Read more »

Our Mini Mac Index Flame-Broils The Economist—Yet Again

by Benn Steil and Emma Smith

The “law of one price” holds that identical goods should trade for the same price in an efficient market.  But to what extent does it actually hold internationally?

The Economist magazine’s famous Big Mac Index uses the price of McDonald’s Big Macs around the world, expressed in a common currency (U.S. dollars), to estimate the extent to which various currencies are over- or under-valued. The Big Mac is a global product, identical across borders, which makes it an interesting one for this purpose. Read more »

Greece Fallout: Italy and Spain Have Funded a Massive Backdoor Bailout of French Banks

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker

In March 2010, two months before the announcement of the first Greek bailout, European banks had €134 billion worth of claims on Greece.  French banks, as shown in the right-hand figure above, had by far the largest exposure: €52 billion – this was 1.6 times that of Germany, eleven times that of Italy, and sixty-two times that of Spain. Read more »