Cost of living index adjustment is driven by changes in the purchasing power of an assignee in the host location. The purchasing power is based on both the exchange rate and inflation, relative between the home and host countries.
2020 has been a year of historic economic upheaval. Shocks in the market have impacted trade, inflation, employment, national budgets—sparking an unprecedented global recession to which even stable economies are not immune.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt global markets, depreciation has slowed in many locations and some currencies are beginning to recover lost value. Let’s take a look at some notable currency movements of the past month.
June 1 marked a day of changing times in Venezuela. The price of gasoline in the country has been among the lowest in the world for decades, and in recent years, currency depreciation has made the resource practically free.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in global markets. In addition to the economic impacts of national lockdowns, travel restrictions, rampant unemployment, slack demand for consumer goods and sharply reduced business activity, the volatility of the oil market has reached crisis levels. While OPEC members agreed to cut production in May and June by 23% earlier this month, oil futures have continued to fall and darken outlooks for the global market this month. Crude oil prices went negative for the first time in history this month due to deficient demand for oil and looming lack of global storage capacity.
AIRINC has been providing weekly updates to spot rates of major currencies on our COVID-19 landing page. The global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts landed a major blow to the global economy last month, made worse in light of volatility in oil markets sparked by controversy within OPEC+. The result has been historic depreciation in even traditionally stable currencies and unprecedented uncertainty. The last week of March saw unprecedented depreciation. While year-to-date depreciation of many currencies remains high, several major currencies saw an appreciation bump last week between April 6-13.
For years, Venezuela’s currency (currently the VES, was VEF) was the only currency legal to use within the country. However, with hyperinflation and a rapidly depreciating currency, using the VES was often difficult. Although not technically legal, transactions would often still occur using U.S. dollars, as it is a stable currency.
On August 11th, Argentina held primary elections ahead of the general election scheduled for October 27th. Center-left candidate Alberto Fernandez and running mate former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner defeated center-right President Mauricio Macri. This result created uncertainty about the future of Argentina’s economic policy. Many investors pulled their money out of Argentina, and ratings agencies such as Fitch and Standard & Poor’s downgraded their credit rating. The peso experienced rapid and significant devaluation against the dollar, losing roughly 20% of its value in a matter of days. In an effort to stabilize the peso, Macri re-instituted currency controls that had been eliminated in 2015.
During the August survey of Harare, our visit found the Zimbabwean economy in a state of transition. This June, after a decade of using a mix of approaches but primarily relying on the U.S. dollar for transactions, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced that a new Zimbabwean dollar (ZWL), also known as the Zimdollar, was the only acceptable form of payment.
When an expatriate’s home country currency weakens, what do you do? In my recent post, I talked about the importance of initiating an increase in their goods and services allowance because the employee’s salary portion, meant to be spent on their market basket, will no longer go as far once converted into their host currency.