Weak pound good for printers if no one else

Simon Nias
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One of the few positives to have emerged from the recession has been the beneficial impact on UK print of the devalued pound.

As the economy entered life support at the beginning of last year, the government authorised a large scale cash transfusion in the form of quantitative easing (QE) – or ‘money printing’.

The £200bn pumped into the economy from March 2009 to February 2010 was supposed to replace lost liquidity, thereby boosting lending to businesses and individuals. In reality, certainly as far as the average SME printer is concerned, that hasn’t happened.

Pumping lots of money into the financial sector is not, it turns out, a surefire way to see that money find its way into the hands of households and businesses. Not that this is much of a surprise given the relative returns generated by retail and investment banking.

However, if QE did not have the desired effect in terms of boosting the supply of credit to the private sector, it did lead to a significantly weaker pound, boosting UK exports and at the same time protecting UK printers – particularly book and magazine printers – from competition from mainland Europe (if not further afield).

So far, so protectionist. The problem is that the UK government is not alone in this monetary ruse. The Federal Reserve has injected a whopping $2,350bn (£1,490bn) into the US economy, while China has been accused of deliberately undervaluing the Yuan to boost its export-led economy.

In a bid to avert a full-blown currency war, an agreement of sorts was hashed out at last week’s G20 finance ministers’ meeting in South Korea, with the result that China will allegedly allow the Yuan to appreciate, despite the likelihood that the US and UK will launch a second round of QE thereby further devaluing their currencies.

With the spectre of rising oil prices on the horizon as a result of the lack of value currently in shares and bonds, it is not outlandish to suggest that the combination of a rising Yuan, further devalued pound and higher transport costs could at some point in the next 12 months, make it more economical for publishers to have the first prints of their latest colour tomes printed in the UK rather than the Far East. Wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books?

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