Exchange Rate Policies

Key Concepts and Summary

In a floating exchange rate policy, a government determines its country’s exchange rate in the foreign exchange market. In a soft peg exchange rate policy, the foreign exchange market usually determines a country's exchange rate, but the government sometimes intervenes to strengthen or weaken it. In a hard peg exchange rate policy, the government chooses an exchange rate. A central bank can intervene in exchange markets in two ways. It can raise or lower interest rates to make the currency stronger or weaker. It also can directly purchase or sell its currency in foreign exchange markets. All exchange rates policies face tradeoffs. A hard peg exchange rate policy will reduce exchange rate fluctuations, but means that a country must focus its monetary policy on the exchange rate, not on fighting recession or controlling inflation. When a nation merges its currency with another nation, it gives up on nationally oriented monetary policy altogether.

A soft peg exchange rate may create additional volatility as exchange rate markets try to anticipate when and how the government will intervene. A flexible exchange rate policy allows monetary policy to focus on inflation and unemployment, and allows the exchange rate to change with inflation and rates of return, but also raises a risk that exchange rates may sometimes make large and abrupt movements. The spectrum of exchange rate policies includes: (a) a floating exchange rate, (b) a pegged exchange rate, soft or hard, and (c) a merged currency. Monetary policy can focus on a variety of goals: (a) inflation; (b) inflation or unemployment, depending on which is the most dangerous obstacle; and (c) a long-term rule based policy designed to keep the money supply stable and predictable.