Monday, 6 February 2012

Retail Trade Volume and Your Own Currency

Sorry for the long silence, been a hectic two weeks writing up the methodology and results chapter of the thesis. Spent also a considerable number of hours formulating an idea about how to use a QE from the Central Bank of Iceland through the balance sheet of households,  not banks, to give households a short breathing space from debt peonage. Published those ideas on my Icelandic blog this week - the responses that I had were "mixed" to say the least. Will try to translate the post into English and post it here but until then, here is the Icelandic version:  FramkvƦmd skuldaniĆ°urfellingar.

I've been writing up answers for the European Web (an Icelandic website where the general public can answer any EU related questions and get answers from "professionals" on the matter) and the last one was about whether the macroeconomic influences of inflation would be different if Iceland used the euro instead of the krona. Essentially, the influences are of course the same (higher real exchange rate, etc.) but the remedy is different: obviously you can't use the back door marked "currency devaluation" if you're using the euro. So nominal devaluation of wages and prices in order to get back the ability to sell your stuff both in the domestic economy and outside of it is the only way out in case of an economy using the euro.

Further on that topic I saw this graph at the Real-World Economics Review blogsite. Pretty damn scary! (click to enlarge)

So I constructed a similar version including the Icelandic economy. I rebased the series: January 2002 = 100 in each economy. January 2002 is the first value for Iceland, other data comes from Eurostat. (graph shows volume of retail trade, seasonally adjusted)

What strikes me most is Germany! Those guys were certainly not pulling up their purses in the beginning of the 2000s. Actually, this graph is a rather telling sign of the two-speed economy that the Euro Zone is. 

But beside the Germans being Germans - this is a compliment! - for the first years of 2000s (and continuing being Germans after 2008, but that part is not a compliment) the other striking difference is between Greece and Iceland. The growth wasn't that different - a rocketing path up until 2008 - but the paths down are different all together! 

Evidently, it helps when you mess things up to be able to devalue your currency. At least retail trade in Iceland is 40% higher now than it was 10 years ago. Greece (and Spain) are, well, not doing so well.

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