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Foreign Exchange and Currency

Foreign Exchange and Currency

Author: Sophia Tutorial
Description:

Identify characteristics of foreign exchange and currency.

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Tutorial
what's covered
This tutorial will cover foreign exchange and currency, exploring how to interpret an exchange rate as well as the difference between base currency and price currency when calculating exchange rates.

Our discussion breaks down as follows:

  1. Currency and Exchange Rates
  2. Base Currency vs. Price Currency
  3. Exchange Rate Stability/Predictability


1. Currency and Exchange Rates

First of all, what is currency? Well, currency is a unit of national exchange.

EXAMPLE

The currency in the United States is the dollar, and in Canada, it is the Canadian dollar. Many countries in Europe currently use the euro, while in Great Britain, the currency is the pound.

The exchange rate is the value of one currency relative to another. Exchange rates are subject to demand factors, and as a currency is more highly sought after than another, its value will tend to appreciate or increase relative to the other. Conversely, if it falls in comparison to the other, its value depreciates.

think about it
On a personal level, why might exchange rates matter? Suppose you were traveling in Europe and happened to be in a country where the dollar was fairly weak relative to the euro. If, for instance, you went out to eat and your meal cost 10 euros, you would have to calculate that this might actually cost you over $15 U.S. dollars, versus an even exchange of $10.

On a country level, exchange rates matter because they impact how much Americans want to purchase foreign goods or imports. They also impact how much foreigners want to purchase our goods, so it affects our exports as well.

IN CONTEXT

Suppose the exchange rate is such that one U.S. dollar can purchase 0.75 euros.

$1 U.S. Dollar = €.75 Euro

Now, suppose you want to purchase a German car that costs €40,000.

First, you would need to exchange or supply your U.S. dollars for euros. In this case, you would actually be demanding euros.

How many U.S. dollars would you need? If you perform the calculation, you would need about $53,333 in U.S. dollars, since $1 can only purchase 3/4 of the other currency, which in this case is the euro.

€40,000 / .75 = $53,333

As you can see, how exchange rates are expressed depends on the source, or which country is quoting the exchange rate.

EXAMPLE

For example, it could be quoted as the U.S. dollar to the euro is .75, or the euro to the U.S. dollar is .75, depending on the source, which can be quite confusing. What does matter is which one is the base currency and which is the price currency, which we will cover in the next section.

terms to know
Currency
A unit of national exchange
Exchange Rate
The value of one currency relative to another, exchange rate is subject to demand factors, and as a currency is more highly sought after than another, its value will appreciate or increase relative to the other


2. Base Currency vs. Price Currency

Let's go back to the example where one U.S. dollar can purchase .75 euros. Now, another way of thinking about this is that one U.S. dollar (USD) can be purchased for a price of .75 euros (EUR).

Put this way, you can see that the U.S. dollar becomes the base currency, because one unit of that currency, one dollar, is being purchased.

The euro, on the other hand, is the price currency, because it is the price of one unit of that base, or the one U.S. dollar, in this case. Therefore, the price to purchase one dollar is .75 of a euro.

Base currency defined, then, is the currency being purchased in an exchange rate calculation. The exchange rate provides the amount of the price currency that would be needed to purchase one unit of the base currency, whereas the price currency is the currency exchanged for a unit of the base currency. The exchange rate provides the amount of the price currency needed in the exchange.

EXAMPLE

Let's reverse our example from above. We could say that one euro can purchase 1.33 U.S. dollars, meaning it would take 1.33 U.S. dollars to purchase one euro. Now the euro becomes the base currency because we are looking at one unit of that currency. In order to purchase that one unit in euros, the price is 1.33 U.S. dollars, so the U.S. dollar is the price currency.

terms to know
Base Currency
In an exchange rate calculation, the base currency is the currency being purchased. The exchange rate provides the amount of the price currency needed in the exchange.
Price Currency
In an exchange rate calculation, the price currency is the currency exchanged for a unit of the base currency. The exchange rate provides the amount of the price currency needed in the exchange.


3. Exchange Rate Stability/Predictability

So, are exchange rates stable or volatile? Well, they could be both, because they are constantly changing.

did you know
Some websites track exchange rates minute to minute so that you can see the updated exchange rates all the time.

Exchange rates change as a result of economic conditions in one country compared to another. Now, even though they are changing slightly day to day, there is usually not a dramatic change. When there are significant changes, it is the result of changing economic conditions.

EXAMPLE

If the United States buys a lot of goods, or imports, from another country, then they are supplying a lot of dollars and demanding much of the other currency. Therefore, the dollar would tend to depreciate against the other currency.

Remember, when the supply of something increases--in this case, dollars--its value tends to go down. At the same time, demanding a lot of the other currency would drive its price or value up.

Overall, the exact values of exchange rates are not overly predictable. However, there are definitely some existing models that can predict whether an exchange rate will go up or go down, so its overall direction can be predicted.


summary
Today we learned about currency and exchange rates, discussing how to interpret an exchange rate depending on how it is expressed. We learned about the difference between the base currency vs. the price currency when calculating exchange rates. Lastly, we covered exchange rate stability and predictability, noting that the exact values of exchange rates change constantly and are not overly predictable, though models exist that can provide the overall direction of the exchange rates.

Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Kate Eskra.

Terms to Know
Base Currency

In an exchange rate calculation, the base currency is the currency being purchased. The exchange rate provides the amount of the price currency needed in the exchange.

Currency

A unit of national exchange.

Exchange Rate

The value of one currency relative to another, exchange rate is subject to demand factors, and as a currency is more highly sought after than another, its value will appreciate or increase relative to the other.

Price Currency

In an exchange rate calculation, the price currency is the currency exchanged for a unit of the base currency. The exchange rate provides the amount of the price currency needed in the exchange.