A currency ( mhd. Werunge for, warranty ') is in a broader sense, the Constitution and order of the entire monetary system of a country , in particular the determination of the coin and note system within the currency area is concerned. The currency area is the scope of a currency. It enables the transfer of goods and services without providing anything in return in the form of other goods and services.
The currency or currency unit recognized by the state (the legal tender of a country) is also referred to. In this case, currency is a sub-form of money. Most currencies are traded on the international foreign exchange markets . The resulting price is called the exchange rate . Almost all common currencies are now based on the decimal system , i.e. there is a main unit and a sub-unit, with the sub-unit representing a decimal fraction (usually one hundredth) of the value of the main unit ( decimal currency ). In specialist circles, the sub-unit is also called sub-currency.
In the respective countries, the finance minister or the state central bank exercise control over the currency or the monetary policy . The central banks in almost all western countries have a large degree of autonomy , which means that the government cannot influence the central bank at all, or only to a very limited extent or indirectly.
If a currency is tradable and exchangeable worldwide, it is said to be convertible . If a currency is deposited with gold and / or silver and banknotes can be exchanged for the respective metal at any time, convertibility is also given in this context.
There are currently over 160 official currencies worldwide , but only the US dollar and, increasingly, the euro are the leading international currencies . There are also complementary currencies that are only accepted regionally as a medium of exchange alongside official money.
If a currency has lost a lot of trust within the population, substitute currencies such as cigarettes (e.g. cigarette currency in Germany after the Second World War ) are often formed , which then serve as a means of payment and exchange. So-called emergency money also serves as a substitute for the official currency in times of crisis. Often the currencies of other countries are also used as a substitute currency. A well-known example is the use of the " Westmark " in the GDR alongside the GDR mark . In particular, the so-called "blue tiles" (100 DM notes) were a popular medium of exchange on the black market .
The term currency denotes in a broad sense the monetary constitution , i.e. the legal order of the monetary system of a state. More often, however, currency refers to a state's legal tender. Most countries have their own national currency. The euro area is an exception, with the euro as the common currency for 19 countries ( monetary union ).
Means of payment
Currencies are issued by an issuer, nowadays i. d. R. through the central bank . It is usually mandated by law to produce and issue the currency. The currency conceived as legal tender is provided with a legal obligation to accept within the state , which means that a creditor is obliged to accept the repayment of a monetary debt with the legal tender, unless otherwise effectively agreed. This ensures their value as a means of payment. In Germany and the other participating member states of the European Economic and Monetary Union, euro cash has been legal tender since January 1, 2002: in accordance with Section 14 (1) sentence 2 of the Bundesbank Act , the euro bills issued by the ECB are the only unlimited legal tender .
Currency symbols and abbreviations
- £ for the currency pound
- $ for a variety of currencies, including the US dollar
- zł for the Polish złoty
- ¥ for yen
- 元 / ¥ for renminbi / yuan
- € for euros
- ₦ for naira
- ₹ for Indian rupee
- for the Russian ruble
There are usually two different abbreviations: On the one hand, a character or a letter abbreviation without a standardized structure (e.g. "Fr.", "SFr." Or "sfr" for Swiss francs ), which is mainly used in Switzerland; on the other hand, there is a standardized three-letter abbreviation in accordance with ISO standard 4217 (eg "CHF"), which is mainly used in international currency trading.
In order to be able to shop abroad, you have to i. d. As a rule, exchange the domestic currency for the foreign currency. Even if z. B. a German exporter has sold goods abroad and received money in foreign currency for it, he will i. d. Usually exchange for domestic currency. The exchange takes place at the current exchange rate . The exchange rate is the exchange ratio of two currencies.
The buying and selling of currencies takes place on the foreign exchange market . There are transaction costs involved in exchanging one currency for another . In addition to credit institutions, major players in the foreign exchange market are also larger industrial companies, private foreign exchange dealers, foreign exchange brokers and trading houses. The central banks of various countries can also intervene in the foreign exchange market for economic policy reasons. Due to the increasing international interdependence, the international trade in currencies on the foreign exchange market has grown in importance in the last few decades. Currencies are traded both for speculative purposes and for exchange purposes based on the real economy.
The European Central Bank has been determining euro reference rates for selected currencies since 1999 . In addition, the German banks have introduced the euro fixing, i. This means that reference rates for eight important currencies (USD, JPY, GBP, CHF, CAD, SEK, NOK, DKK) are determined daily, which serve as the basis for the currency transactions of the banks involved in the euro fixing.
Monetary policy is all measures for shaping the internal and external monetary value. Monetary policy in the narrower sense (= structuring the external monetary value) is the structuring of currency relations with foreign countries and securing the external balance. The domestic currency policy measures are also known as monetary policy . Monetary policy in the narrower sense can pursue various goals:
- Price stability
- Reduction of transaction costs
- Achieving a high level of international competitiveness
- Achievement of high domestic purchasing power
- External balance
Which of these partially contradicting goals a country is pursuing can already be seen in the choice of the exchange rate system :
With a fixed exchange rate , the central bank is obliged to keep the rate of its own currency on the foreign exchange market stable by buying or selling foreign currency (foreign exchange market intervention), depending on the market situation. For example, today some countries have pegged their national currency to the value of the dollar or the euro. The advantage of a fixed exchange rate is the planning security for internationally operating companies. Exchange rates are an important calculation factor for trade and capital movements abroad. If z. If, for example, an invoice is in a foreign currency and this value is increased due to exchange rate fluctuations until payment, then the purchased goods will be more expensive in real terms than initially calculated. The disadvantage of fixed exchange rates is that it becomes difficult or even impossible for a central bank to pursue an independent (national) monetary policy.
Nowadays, most currencies have flexible exchange rates . The exchange rate is thus formed on the foreign exchange market in the interplay of supply and demand. Currency fluctuations lead to uncertainty and reduce the planning and calculation security of internationally operating companies. An appreciation of the domestic currency makes domestic companies less competitive because foreign goods and services become relatively cheaper, while exports become relatively more expensive.
A currency crisis is an economic crisis in the form of rapid and unexpected currency devaluation . It is triggered by the unwanted abandonment of a fixed exchange rate to one or more other currencies or to gold. The cause or consequence of currency crises can be financial and economic crises.
Although currency crises are always of different types, some leading indicators can be identified that occur very frequently. These include (persistent) current account deficits, strong foreign exchange inflows in the financial account , an increase in short-term external liabilities, high credit growth and sharp increases in asset prices (especially real estate and stocks).
Once a currency crisis has broken out, typical crisis symptoms can again be identified. These include increasingly shorter terms for foreign debt, increased settlement of foreign debts in foreign currencies , higher interest rates for borrowers in the debtor country, high losses in the value of stocks and real estate , reversal of capital flows ( capital flight ) and heavy losses in currency reserves .
Examples of currency crises after the end of the Bretton Woods system include the dollar crisis in 1971, the Latin American debt crisis of 1982/83, the Mexican crisis of 1994/95 ( tequila crisis ), the Southeast Asian financial and currency crisis of 1997 ( Asian crisis ) and the 1999 Brazilian crisis.
Earlier forms of currency up to the age of coins
Ancient Orient, Egypt and Africa
The classic money functions (medium of exchange, means of payment, value meter and store of value / store of value) were already used at the beginning of the 3rd century BC. Met by metals like copper, silver, tin and gold. Grain also served as a medium of exchange and a measure of value. However, the palace economy in connection with the oikos economy as well as the subsistence production connected with it was a hindrance to the development of a money economy, since goods that were not self-produced were mostly procured by way of exchange or service. Coin money therefore only caught on later and initially only in a few branches of the economy.
Various forms of currency existed in Africa at that time. They all had the same function as a store of value. So acted z. B. pearls, ivory, cattle or the manilla currency as a means of payment. In the 15th century, with the rise of the slave trade, the manille rings, which were used as payment for slaves, were particularly important.
In ancient Greece there was initially a whole class of goods, each of which embodied individual monetary functions.
- Valuation meter: cattle
- Store of value: jewels
- Medium of exchange: wine, copper, iron and slaves
- Means of payment: arrowheads and skewers
In the course of time, carefully weighed unminted precious metal established itself as a means of payment in the Greek Poleis . It is believed that money was crucial to the standardized public payments in the polis. The first correct coins date from around 600 BC. And were minted in Western Anatolia. These coins were made from a naturally occurring silver-gold alloy and most likely were only used locally. The use of coins, however, quickly caught on throughout Greece, whereby (due to better extraction possibilities in mines - in contrast to the gold currency in the Persian Empire ), silver was used as a coin metal (in exceptional cases also gold and bronze). The assured weight was guaranteed by the stamp of the polis. The most important currency was the drachma, which was used again from 1831 to 2001 as the currency of Greece ( Greek drachma ).
However, it was not until the beginning of the 5th century BC that a money economy in the true sense of the word was possible. Be spoken. The center of ancient monetization was Athens, whose currency circulated throughout the Mediterranean. The reasons for this lie in the democratic structure and in Athens' trading power. It was only Alexander the Great who introduced a new major currency that ended Athens' supremacy.
As in ancient Greece, there were different forms of money in Rome . A standardization towards a generally valid currency took place around 500 BC. Instead of. Here money was initially used to determine penalties. In the course of the expansion of the Roman Empire, ever larger gold, silver and bronze deposits came to Rome as spoils of war. This promoted the now emerging large-scale coinage. Initially, bronze and silver coins were made. However, it took a relatively long time for Roman coinage to match the scope of Greek coins. In the course of the Punic Wars , the metal content of the coins was reduced as ever larger amounts of money were needed to finance the military. On the other hand, the Roman currency spread more and more throughout Italy, so that all other Italian cities quasi stopped minting. Countless different currencies existed in the newly conquered areas outside of Italy, but they were convertible with the main Roman currency.
As a result of further expansions, ever larger amounts of silver flowed to Rome, so that a large part of the state expenditure was financed by the new minting of silver coins, which in the following centuries initially led to currency devaluation and in the 3rd century AD to the complete collapse of the Roman silver currency. Increasingly, the Roman citizens no longer had any confidence in ever new forms of coin, which tended to have an ever-decreasing silver content. The result was that older coins in particular were hoarded or melted down. As a result, money lost much of its importance, so that, for example, the wages of the Roman soldiers were paid directly in grain. In response, the Emperor Constantine the Great replaced the silver standard with a stable gold standard.
In late antiquity, the monetary system was finally reorganized, with silver coins again - but this time with a high silver content - and bronze coins being minted. However, gold coins continued to exist. Regardless of this, the silver coin continued to lose importance, so that Rome's monetary system, which was once based on silver and bronze coins, was replaced by a system of gold and bronze currency.
The gold standard introduced under Constantine I, the so-called solidus, served as the basis for the Byzantine currency system . It was introduced as a new denomination in place of the aureus by the Emperor Constantine the Great in 309 and remained for more than a millennium until the conquest of Constantinople (1453) , from the 10th century as the histamenon and from the 11th century as the hyperpyron Circulation. This currency existed for about 1000 years. The reasons for this are the high gold content and the resulting stability of the gold currency. In the course of this development, silver became less and less important. However, like bronze money, it continued to exist alongside the gold standard as a means of payment. Money was extremely important in Byzantine society. It served in all areas of the economy as well as in public spending and made international trade possible. However, this collapsed as a result of growing uncertainties (including piracy on the trade routes) almost in the entire Byzantine area.
Early Middle Ages
Following on from the solidus mentioned above, the heavy silver denarius, also known as the penny , developed under Charlemagne . However, the gold circulation within the state institutions per se decreased. On the other hand, money increasingly developed into a medium of exchange that served trade and market events. The original gold standard lost its importance as a means of payment and was only hoarded as a kind of store of value. In the 7th to 8th centuries, the transition to the pure silver currency took place, which only had a pure arithmetic reference to gold.
Introduction of paper money
Paper money in the form of banknotes was first used in China. Its inception was a long and steady process, stretching roughly from 618 to 1279. In the 10th century, for example, paper money initially served only on a regionally very limited level as a relief for traders in the state salt industry. The banknote production was nationalized as a result, but there were many regionally different currencies. The actual mass production of banknotes was only made possible with the invention of printing with movable type in the 11th century. In the middle of the 13th century, the many different currencies were unified into one state currency for the first time.
A strong monetary economy developed in the Islamic world between the 7th and 12th centuries, which benefited from the increased trade turnover and a stable high-quality currency (the dinar ). At that time, loans, checks, promissory notes and savings accounts were introduced for the first time. The necessary banking structures also emerged with this development.
In 1661, banknotes were officially introduced in Sweden for the first time at European level. Sweden had rich copper deposits, but copper coins had a low numerical value, so that large and extremely heavy coins had to be minted. The use of paper money was a huge relief.
The use of banknotes naturally revealed many advantages, so that, for example, lending was noticeably easier and the very risky transport of gold and silver was also eliminated. Furthermore, it was now possible for the first time to issue shares in companies in the form of paper.
On the other hand, however, there were some drawbacks such as: For example, that the governments were now theoretically in a position to reprint money indefinitely in order to cover their financing needs (simplified war financing) because, unlike coins with a precisely defined precious metal content, the banknotes no longer had a fixed value. A possible consequence of this development would be the onset of strong inflation .
The paper currency that was not linked to precious metal finally gained acceptance in the 20th century - at the latest during the global economic crisis .
Transition to national single currencies
In the High Middle Ages, the right to mint coins was a privilege that every nobleman sought, because the coin shelf was a profitable sovereign right . This led to the fact that there were many non-comparable currencies in which the precious metal content of individual types of coins could fluctuate significantly. Because in the Middle Ages Kurant coins were common; the market value of foreign coins was determined based on the precious metal content. This in turn hindered supra-regional trade. For these two reasons - trade facilitation and concentration of power - the tendency towards national single currencies increased.
In the early days of Kurantgeld , the metal content of the coins corresponded to their face value . However, since the minters were more often tempted to deteriorate coins in order to cover their money needs, inflation occurred several times in the early modern period . For example, the so-called Kipper and Wipper time at the beginning of the Thirty Years War was based on a deterioration in coins.
The driving force in Europe was France, which with its central government collected the minting rights early on and made them subject to the king. The first major currency reform was the great coin reform under Louis XIII. 1640–1641 when the Louis d'or was introduced. With the introduction of the French franc in 1795, the first decimal currency was established. This currency and especially its decimal denominations were spread throughout Europe through Napoleon's campaigns . This resulted in a number of coin systems in and around France that were structured in a similar way and that formed fixed exchange rates because of the high purity currant coins . This led to the creation of the Latin Monetary Union on December 23, 1865 ; it was a currency union that consisted of France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Greece and gave clear guidelines for the manufacture of coins. The countries minted their own coins, but all 100 coins (100 francs, 100 francs, 100 lire, 100 drachmas) were made of 32.26 g of gold and had a diameter of 35 mm. The disadvantage of the Latin Monetary Union was the bimetallism , i.e. the fixed exchange rate between gold and silver coins (the term limping currency referred to a currency system in which two metals (mostly gold and silver) were legal tender).
The gold standard
In addition to the sharp drop in the price of silver towards the end of the 19th century, the bimetallic currencies brought further problems with them, so that many countries decided to deposit their currency only with gold. With the deposit of currencies with gold, the disadvantages which the introduction of paper money brought with it (especially with regard to the increased risk of inflation) should be cushioned. Great Britain was a pioneer in this development and introduced the gold standard as early as 1817. Germany (1871 in the course of the Franco-German War ) and the USA (1900) followed. However, there was no general alignment, that is, there were quite different forms of gold currency after 1880.
|Currency reserves in the form of||Predominantly gold coins||Gold, silver, divisional coins, banknotes|
|gold||England, Germany, France, USA||Belgium, Switzerland|
|mostly foreign exchange||Russia, Australia, South Africa, Egypt||Austria-Hungary, Japan, Holland, Scandinavia, other British Dominions|
|currency only||Philippines, India, Latin America|
With the introduction of the gold standard, the so-called “obligation to convert” arose, that is, it was theoretically possible for every citizen at any time to exchange their cash for the corresponding amount of gold at the central bank. The gold parity denotes the exchange ratio. This pure gold standard actually only existed in theory. In practice, however, the deposit of the currency with gold only acted as a kind of hedge against excessive cash inflation (price stabilization).
With the beginning of World War I , governments' need for money increased dramatically. This development was intensified during the Great Depression and finally by the outbreak of the Second World War. Many states now moved away from the pure gold standard and restored it to a gold core standard. The direct exchange of banknotes for gold was therefore excluded.
Bretton Woods and the IMF system
As early as 1944 during the Second World War , 44 countries decided to introduce a new currency system. According to the White Plan, the core idea here was the coupling of international currencies to the US dollar. The US central bank was obliged to exchange the dollar for gold at a certain exchange rate with the central bank of other countries of the Bretton Woods system. This resulted in fixed exchange rates between the respective currencies and the US dollar as the anchor currency .
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank were also founded. The IMF should promote the stability of the international monetary system and correct it in the event of imbalances. So he de facto monitored the fixed exchange rates. The introduction of special drawing rights by the IMF also served this purpose .
The value of the dollar as an anchor currency should be ensured by the fact that the central banks of the participating countries had the right to exchange dollars for gold with the FED at an exchange rate of $ 35 / troy ounce. The actual exchange option depended on the size of the FED's gold reserves. In 1948 the FED had gold reserves valued at $ 25 billion (71% of world gold reserves) compared with short-term foreign debt of $ 18.6 billion. After the Second World War, almost all of the Bretton Woods states had a lot of catching up to do in terms of capital and consumer goods, so they preferred to accumulate dollars rather than exchange dollars for gold. Due to constant trade deficits in the United States, the external debt continued to rise. In 1961 the FED still had 44% of the world's gold reserves, but the short-term foreign debts were already $ 1 billion higher than the value of the gold reserves. By 1971, US gold reserves had dropped to $ 12 billion. In 1971 the central banks of the other Bretton Woods states had dollar reserves of more than $ 50 billion. The system could only function as long as the Bretton Woods states were willing to hold high dollar reserves without exchanging them for gold. The Bretton Woods Agreement was abandoned in the early 1970s, but the institutions continued to exist with partly changed responsibilities.
The system of flexible exchange rates
At the beginning of 1973, the dollar exchange rates were released in most of the Western European countries and in Japan. The exchange rates became flexible. In this context, the concept of free floating, which was in contrast to fixed exchange rates, arose. However, smaller economies in particular, which are more dependent on international trade than, for example, Japan or the USA, decided to keep exchange rates fixed. However, this became more and more difficult over time, as new developments in the field of EDP technology and telecommunications made international capital movements easier and faster. Control was also more difficult.
Shortly after the introduction of flexible exchange rates, the new system was confronted with two oil price shocks . As a result, there were substantial current account surpluses ( OPEC countries) and deficits ( OECD countries). However, this balanced each other out in the medium term.
It was only with the 2nd IMF Amendment Agreement that the member states were left to choose the exchange rate system themselves. However, this was tied to the obligation of the individual states to ensure stable currency and economic conditions. Gold thus finally lost its position as a benchmark.
The exchange rates fluctuated noticeably as a result and also changed permanently. In particular, the interdependent states in Western Europe tried to jointly hedge against exchange rate fluctuations and created the European Monetary System (EMS) for this purpose . They aimed for stable exchange rates based on level flexibility .
International trade in particular benefited from the flexible exchange rates, which grew disproportionately compared to the development of gross domestic products.
A general tendency for the development of inflation, however, could not be determined. The inflation rates in Germany and the USA differed significantly from one another.
Monetary policy cooperation in Europe up to the euro as the single currency
According to the decision of the European heads of state and government (The Hague 1969), the European Community was to be gradually expanded into an Economic and Monetary Union ( EMU ). First a European exchange rate union was created (1972) and subsequently a European monetary system (EMS 1979). In the Maastricht Treaty (1992), full currency integration was finally decided.
The European Exchange Rate Union initially served as an instrument to at least partially maintain the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates. This should guarantee the convertibility of the individual European currencies (block floating).
However, this failed and was replaced by the EMS, whose primary goal was exchange rate stability within the European Community. The introduction of the ECU as a unit of account (see European currency unit ) was part of this development. It was also stipulated that exchange rates could only fluctuate within a certain range. However, these were greatly expanded as a result of the currency crises in 1992/1993. Above all, the pound crisis of September 1992 should be mentioned here, which led to Great Britain leaving the European economic system. In direct connection with the pound crisis, the American investor George Soros should be mentioned, who speculated heavily against the British pound by exchanging pounds for German marks and French francs on a large scale , thereby accelerating the pound's decline in value even more.
However, the decisive step towards the European single currency was taken with the Maastricht Treaty, which enshrined the creation of the European economic and monetary union. In 1998 the European Central Bank (ECB) finally started its work.
With the introduction of the euro, initially as book money on January 1, 1999, a common European currency finally existed in the participating countries for the first time.
On January 1, 2002, the European Monetary Union was finally completed with the introduction of euro banknotes and coins in initially twelve countries.
All participating states have committed to complying with the so-called Maastricht criteria (officially: EU convergence criteria ).
Although prices within the eurozone are easily comparable, the purchasing power or domestic value, i.e. the amount of goods and services that citizens in the eurozone can buy for a certain amount of money in a certain country , differ from one another due to national characteristics .
In the course of time, other states joined the euro zone (for example, Greece in 2001). Successful participation in Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II) is a prerequisite for this .
In addition, some states (e.g. Bosnia-Herzegovina , Bulgaria and some French overseas departments) have pegged their currency to the euro using the currency board . The euro takes on the role of the anchor currency by having a fixed exchange rate to the respective home currency.
Free and pegged currencies
There are the following types of currencies:
Linked currencies (metal currencies)
They are characterized by the fact that behind the value of the monetary unit there is a very specific amount of a certain medium. These are often precious metals .
A distinction is made here between monometallic and bimetallic currencies.
- Gold currency (pure gold currency): Gold coins serve as a means of payment . There are also banknotes that can be exchanged for gold at any time.
- Gold core currency (gold bullion currency): There is no more gold in circulation, i.e. only paper money and coins are used as means of payment and gold is kept at the central bank as a reserve for international payments.
- Gold currency currency (manipulated gold currency): The central bank reserve can consist of gold plus the foreign exchange of other gold currency countries, as was the case in the Federal Republic of Germany before the end of the convertibility of the US dollar to gold in 1971 . The exchange of banknotes and coins for gold or foreign currency is possible at any time.
Bimetallic currencies Exactly two metals (gold and silver) serve as currency metals .
- In the case of a double currency, there is a fixed exchange rate ratio between the two metals. The problem here, however, is that when the scarcity ratios between the metals change, the nominal exchange ratio deviates from the real exchange ratio. The Gresham's Law describes the impact it has when market participants are forced through legislation to accept money with a lower value as payment for goods and services at no extra cost compared to paying with money of a higher value. If a law stipulates a value ratio between gold and silver and this ratio does not correspond to the market prices of the precious metals or if the market prices change, this means that market participants use the coins with a lower value for payment, and prices are based on the coins with a lower value Orientate the value and the coins with a higher value disappear from circulation.
- Otherwise, in the case of the parallel currency, there is no fixed exchange rate ratio between the metals, that is, two currencies actually exist side by side.
- Unbound currencies (such as US dollars or euros): Money that is not backed by gold and can theoretically be multiplied at will, whereby the actual money supply today is normally controlled by the interaction of state central banks and private commercial banks. It is not possible to exchange cash for gold or foreign currency reserves at a fixed exchange rate. Since the cancellation of gold backing for the US dollar in 1971, currencies have often been assumed to be uncovered (as "fiat" ), although in debt money systems money mostly results from the creation of credit money and insofar with return pressure from liabilities or with pledged collateral Debt of someone else - can be understood as backed.
A minor currency is an alternative currency of an economy. It is a foreign currency in addition to the legally prescribed currency, which appears and is increasingly used as an intermediate medium of exchange and also as a unit of account within a currency area.
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