Devaluation

Devaluation

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Encyclopedia
Devaluation is a reduction in the value of a currency
Currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 with respect to those goods, services or other monetary units with which that currency can be exchanged.

In common modern usage, it specifically implies an official lowering of the value of a country's currency within a fixed exchange rate
Fixed exchange rate
A fixed exchange rate, sometimes called a pegged exchange rate, is a type of exchange rate regime wherein a currency's value is matched to the value of another single currency or to a basket of other currencies, or to another measure of value, such as gold.A fixed exchange rate is usually used to...

 system, by which the monetary authority formally sets a new fixed rate with respect to a foreign reference currency. In contrast, depreciation
Depreciation (currency)
Currency depreciation is the loss of value of a country's currency with respect to one or more foreign reference currencies, typically in a floating exchange rate system. It is most often used for the unofficial increase of the exchange rate due to market forces, though sometimes it appears...

is used for the unofficial decrease in the exchange rate in a floating exchange rate
Floating exchange rate
A floating exchange rate or fluctuating exchange rate is a type of exchange rate regime wherein a currency's value is allowed to fluctuate according to the foreign exchange market. A currency that uses a floating exchange rate is known as a floating currency....

 system. The opposite of devaluation is called revaluation
Revaluation
Revaluation means a rise of a price of goods or products. This term is specially used as revaluation of a currency, where it means a rise of currency to the relation with a foreign currency in a fixed exchange rate. In floating exchange rate correct term would be appreciation. The antonym of...

.

Depreciation and devaluation are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably, but they always refer to values in terms of other currencies. Inflation
Inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

, on the other hand, refers to the value of the currency in goods and services (related to its purchasing power
Purchasing power
Purchasing power is the number of goods/services that can be purchased with a unit of currency. For example, if you had taken one dollar to a store in the 1950s, you would have been able to buy a greater number of items than you would today, indicating that you would have had a greater purchasing...

). Altering the face value of a currency without reducing its exchange rate is a redenomination
Redenomination
Redenomination is the process of changing the face value of banknotes or coins used in circulating currency.When redenomination occurs, financial data that spans the change must be correctly accounted for. For example, the GDP is properly documented....

, not a devaluation or revaluation.

Historical usage


Devaluation is most often used in situation where a currency has a defined value relative to the baseline. Historically, early currencies were typically coin
Coin
A coin is a piece of hard material that is standardized in weight, is produced in large quantities in order to facilitate trade, and primarily can be used as a legal tender token for commerce in the designated country, region, or territory....

s struck from gold or silver by an issuing authority which certified the weight
Weight
In science and engineering, the weight of an object is the force on the object due to gravity. Its magnitude , often denoted by an italic letter W, is the product of the mass m of the object and the magnitude of the local gravitational acceleration g; thus:...

 and purity of the precious metal. A government in need of money and short on precious metal might abruptly lower the weight or purity of the coins without announcing this, or else decree that the new coins had equal value to the old, thus devaluing the currency.

Later, paper currencies were issued, and governments decreed them to be redeemable for gold or silver (a gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

). Again, a government short on gold or silver might devalue by abruptly decreeing a reduction in the currency's redemption value, reducing the value of everyone's holdings.

Devaluation in modern economies


Present day currencies are usually fiat currencies
Fiat money
Fiat money is money that has value only because of government regulation or law. The term derives from the Latin fiat, meaning "let it be done", as such money is established by government decree. Where fiat money is used as currency, the term fiat currency is used.Fiat money originated in 11th...

 with insignificant inherent value. When the U.S. dollar was fully disassociated from the gold standard in 1971, the value of any fiat currency became solely determined by the willingness of its issuing State to accept it as payment for taxes. Some countries hold floating exchange rates while others maintain fixed exchange rate policies against the United States dollar
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

 or other major currencies. These fixed rates are usually maintained by a combination of legally enforced capital controls or through government trading of foreign currency reserves to manipulate the money supply. Under fixed exchange rates, persistent capital outflows or trade deficits may lead countries to lower or abandon their fixed rate policy, resulting in a devaluation (as persistent surpluses and capital inflows may lead them towards revaluation).

In an open market, the perception that a devaluation is imminent may lead speculators to sell the currency in exchange for the country's foreign reserves, increasing pressure on the issuing country to make an actual devaluation. When speculators buy out all of the foreign reserves, a balance of payments crisis occurs. Economists Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman
Paul Robin Krugman is an American economist, professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times...

 and Maurice Obstfeld
Maurice Obstfeld
Maurice Moses "Maury" Obstfeld is a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley.He is well known for his work in international economics. He is among the most influential economists in the world according to IDEAS/RePEc....

 present a theoretical model in which they state that the balance of payments crisis occurs when the real exchange rate (exchange rate adjusted for relative price differences between countries) is equal to the nominal exchange rate (the stated rate) (Krugman, Paul and Maurice Obstfeld. International Economics (2000), Chapter 17 [Appendix II]). In practice, the onset of crisis has typically occurred after the real exchange rate has depreciated below the nominal rate. The reason for this is that speculators do not have perfect information; they sometimes find out that a country is low on foreign reserves well after the real exchange rate has fallen. In these circumstances, the currency value will fall very far very rapidly. This is what occurred during the 1994 economic crisis in Mexico
1994 economic crisis in Mexico
The 1994 Economic Crisis in Mexico, widely known as the Mexican peso crisis, was caused by the sudden devaluation of the Mexican peso in December 1994....

.

Generally, a steady process of inflation is not considered a devaluation, although if a currency has a high level of inflation, its value will naturally fall against gold or foreign currencies. Especially where a country deliberately prints money (a usual cause of hyperinflation
Hyperinflation
In economics, hyperinflation is inflation that is very high or out of control. While the real values of the specific economic items generally stay the same in terms of relatively stable foreign currencies, in hyperinflationary conditions the general price level within a specific economy increases...

) to cover a persistent budget deficit without borrowing, this may be considered a devaluation.

In some cases, a country may revalue its currency higher (the opposite of devaluation) in response to positive economic conditions, to lower inflation, or to please investors and trading partners. This would imply that existing currency increased in value, as opposed to the case with redenomination
Redenomination
Redenomination is the process of changing the face value of banknotes or coins used in circulating currency.When redenomination occurs, financial data that spans the change must be correctly accounted for. For example, the GDP is properly documented....

 where a country issues a new currency to replace an old currency that had declined excessively in value (such as Turkey
Turkish lira
The Turkish lira is the currency of Turkey and the de facto independent state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The lira is subdivided into 100 kuruş...

 and Romania
Romanian leu
The leu is the currency of Romania. It is subdivided into 100 bani . The name of the currency means "lion". On 1 July 2005, Romania underwent a currency reform, switching from the previous leu to a new leu . 1 RON is equal to 10,000 ROL...

 in 2005, Argentina
Argentine peso
The peso is the currency of Argentina, identified by the symbol $ preceding the amount in the same way as many countries using dollar currencies. It is subdivided into 100 centavos. Its ISO 4217 code is ARS...

 in 2002, Russia
Russian ruble
The ruble or rouble is the currency of the Russian Federation and the two partially recognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Formerly, the ruble was also the currency of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union prior to their breakups. Belarus and Transnistria also use currencies with...

 in 1998, or Germany
German reichsmark
The Reichsmark was the currency in Germany from 1924 until June 20, 1948. The Reichsmark was subdivided into 100 Reichspfennig.-History:...

 in 1923).

See also


  • Currency war
    Currency war
    Currency war, also known as competitive devaluation, is a condition in international affairs where countries compete against each other to achieve a relatively low exchange rate for their own currency. As the price to buy a particular currency falls, so to does the real price of exports from the...

  • Fixed exchange rate
    Fixed exchange rate
    A fixed exchange rate, sometimes called a pegged exchange rate, is a type of exchange rate regime wherein a currency's value is matched to the value of another single currency or to a basket of other currencies, or to another measure of value, such as gold.A fixed exchange rate is usually used to...

  • Inflation
    Inflation
    In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

  • Monetary policy
    Monetary policy
    Monetary policy is the process by which the monetary authority of a country controls the supply of money, often targeting a rate of interest for the purpose of promoting economic growth and stability. The official goals usually include relatively stable prices and low unemployment...


  • Revaluation
    Revaluation
    Revaluation means a rise of a price of goods or products. This term is specially used as revaluation of a currency, where it means a rise of currency to the relation with a foreign currency in a fixed exchange rate. In floating exchange rate correct term would be appreciation. The antonym of...

  • Store of value
    Store of value
    A recognized form of exchange can be a form of money or currency, a commodity like gold, or financial capital. To act as a store of value, these forms must be able to be saved and retrieved at a later time, and be predictably useful when retrieved....

  • Beggar thy neighbour
    Beggar thy neighbour
    In economics, a beggar-thy-neighbour policy is an economic policy through which one country attempts to remedy its economic problems by means that tend to worsen the economic problems of other countries.- Original application :...