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What is a currency depreciation?

A-Level, IB
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 8 Jun 2023

Currency depreciation refers to a decrease in the value of one currency relative to another in the foreign exchange market. It means that a currency can buy less of another currency or a smaller quantity of goods and services denominated in that other currency.

Currency depreciation can occur due to various factors, including:

  1. Supply and demand dynamics: If there is an increased supply of a currency relative to its demand, its value can depreciate. Factors that influence supply and demand include changes in interest rates, economic conditions, political stability, and market expectations.
  2. Trade balance and current account deficit: A country with a trade deficit or a current account deficit (imports exceeding exports) may experience currency depreciation. The deficit creates higher demand for foreign currencies as the country needs to purchase them to pay for imported goods and services.
  3. Inflation differentials: If a country has higher inflation rates compared to its trading partners, its currency may depreciate. Higher inflation erodes the purchasing power of the currency, making it less attractive to investors.
  4. Speculative activities: Currency speculation and investor sentiment can also impact currency depreciation. If traders anticipate a decrease in the value of a currency, they may sell it in anticipation of buying it back at a lower price, leading to depreciation.

Currency depreciation has several effects:

  1. Imports become more expensive: When a currency depreciates, it becomes relatively weaker compared to other currencies. As a result, imported goods become more expensive in terms of the depreciating currency, which can lead to higher prices for consumers.
  2. Higher inflation: Currency depreciation can contribute to inflationary pressures by making imported goods more expensive. This can lead to higher import costs, which may be passed on to consumers through increased prices.
  3. Export competitiveness: Currency depreciation can benefit exporters, as their goods become relatively cheaper for foreign buyers. This can enhance export competitiveness and potentially lead to an increase in export volumes.
  4. Current account and trade adjustments: A significant and prolonged currency depreciation may help narrow a trade deficit or a current account deficit. This occurs as exports become more attractive due to their relatively lower prices, while imports become relatively more expensive.
  5. Tourism and capital flows: Currency depreciation can make a country's travel destinations relatively more affordable for foreign tourists, potentially boosting tourism. Additionally, it may attract capital inflows, as investors find the country's assets more attractive due to the currency's weakness.

It's important to note that currency depreciation is relative, as it is measured against another currency. For example, if the U.S. dollar depreciates against the euro, it means that the dollar buys fewer euros, but it does not necessarily imply that the dollar has depreciated against all other currencies.

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