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The Equilibrium Exchange Rate

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The Equilibrium Exchange Rate

Whether you know it or not, you have played a central role in determining your country's exchange rate. If you've ever purchased anything that came from another country, you have been a cog in the machine that goes into determining the price of another country's money relative to your country's money. Are you curious about how it all works? We invite you to keep reading.

Equilibrium exchange rate

When economists talk about equilibrium, it's just a short way for them to say that the forces of demand and supply have met at exactly the same place. The same price and the same quantity of something.

Therefore it should come as no shock that economists view the "price" of another countries' money as simply another thing that can reach equilibrium.

When thought of in this way, the equilibrium for the price of another country's money, or the exchange rate for that currency, is also the meeting point between demand for that country's money and supply for that country's money, relative to your country's money of course.

The equilibrium exchange rate is the exchange rate at which the quantity of a currency demanded is equal to the quantity supplied.

But what goes into the demand and supply of a country's money?

Before we go any further, let's make sure we agree on a few ideas.

First, we will call the place where people buy and sell currencies the "foreign exchange market." Second, we will agree that there are two ways to describe an exchange rate. The first way is by stating how much one unit of your currency can buy of a foreign currency, and the second is by stating how much one unit of a foreign currency can buy of your currency.

For simplicity, we will assume that there are only 2 countries in the world - Japan and the United States - and that you live in the United States. In addition, from now on we will define the U.S. exchange rate as the number of Japanese Yen one U.S. dollar can buy.

As of the writing of this explanation, 1 U.S. Dollar (USD) can buy 128 Japanese Yen (JPY), therefore the U.S. exchange rate is: 1 USD to 128 JPY.

We will also define how to describe changes in the value of one currency relative to another. If we stay with the USD and JPY example, if the value of 1 USD increased from 128 JPY to 130 JPY, we say that the USD has appreciated. Conversely, if 1 USD decreases value relative to the JPY from 128 JPY to 126 JPY, we say that the USD has depreciated.

When the value of a currency relative to another currency increases, we say it has appreciated.

When the value of a currency relative to another currency decreases, we say it has depreciated.

Equilibrium Exchange Rate Formula

You are probably looking here to find the equilibrium exchange rate formula...

but there isn't one!

As the equilibrium exchange rate is the exchange rate at which the quantity of a currency demanded is equal to the quantity supplied, then just like in a regular market, the demand and supply will need to be estimated, but here it can be done by using the balance of payments data. The equilibrium point would then be found where the sum of the balance of payments on the current account plus the balance of payments on the capital and financial account is zero.

Meaning of Equilibrium Exchange Rate

In order to really understand the meaning of an Equilibrium Exchange Rate, we must first understand what determines the demand and the supply of a currency. In this case, let's discuss what might impact the supply and demand for USD and JPY.

In this two-country world, you can only buy USD by selling JPY, and you can only buy JPY by selling USD. Stated another way, since you can only buy and sell a currency by exchanging it for another currency, when you buy JPY, you can only do so by providing, or selling USD, and when you buy USD, you can only do so by providing, or selling JPY.

As a result, the demand for USD occurs when someone needs to acquire something in USD (in exchange for JPY), and the supply of USD occurs when someone needs to acquire something in JPY (in exchange for USD), and vice versa.

Now, how do economists talk about why or when people would need one currency in exchange for another?

They do so by categorizing the exchange of currencies in terms of the transactions between them. In our two-country example, we will define this as the flow of goods, services, and financial assets between the U.S. and Japan, and we will call it the Balance of Payments.

The summary of one country's transactions with another country is called the Balance of Payments.

The Balance of Payments consists of the Current Account and the Capital and Financial Account.

Balance of Payments

Why does the Balance of Payments matter with respect to the USD to JPY exchange rate? The reason is that the Balance of Payments comprises two key components: the Current Account and the Capital and Financial Account.

The Current Account 1. Net Exports (sales of goods and services from the U.S. to Japan, net of U.S. purchases imported from Japan) 2. Net Factor Income (investment income and employment income paid to American workers by people or organizations in Japan, net of investment income and employment income paid to workers in Japan by people or organizations in the U.S.) 3. Net Money Transfers (funds sent by foreign governments, organizations, or individuals to domestic residents, net of funds sent to the other country by the domestic government, organizations, or residents).

The Capital and Financial Account1. Sales of financial capital assets to foreign governments organizations, or people, net of purchases of foreign financial capital assets by the domestic government, organizations, or people.

Once again, for simplicity, we will only consider Exports and Imports (and not Factor Income or Transfers), and we will only consider asset sales and purchases by the U.S. and Japanese private sector (not those by the corresponding governments).

To learn more check our explanations on:

BOP: Current Account

BOP: The Capital and Financial Account (CFA)

Balance of payments accounts

Determinants of Equilibrium Exchange Rate

So what determines the demand for USD? Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, demand for USD occurs when people want to buy U.S. goods, services, and financial assets. In other words, since all U.S. goods, services, and financial assets are sold in USD, you need USD to buy them.

However, just as with anything, the more expensive the USD is, the less demand there will be for it. For example, assume you wanted a hamburger, and you had a spaceship that could take you between Japan and the U.S. instantaneously. Assume also that a hamburger costs $1 USD in the U.S. and ¥128 in Japan. If the USD to JPY exchange rate is 1 USD: 128 ¥, then a hamburger would cost the same in both countries.

However, what if the exchange rate was $1 USD to ¥200? In this case, you would be smart to want to buy Japanese hamburgers, because with $1, you could buy a hamburger in Japan and still have ¥72 left over. Since we need JPY to buy a hamburger in Japan, people will sell USD in exchange for JPY, thereby demanding less USD (and more JPY). You can see in this example that the more expensive the USD is, the less demand there will be for it with respect to buying goods, services, and financial assets.

The Equilibrium Exchange Rate Demand for USD StudySmarter OriginalsFigure 1. Demand for USD, StudySmarter Originals

Demand for currency slopes downward because when Currency 1 becomes cheaper relative to Currency 2 (depreciates), that means that Country 1 goods, services, and financial assets become cheaper for Country 2, thereby increasing demand for Currency 1 in exchange for Currency 2.

Conversely, what determines the supply of USD? Well, since we know that the only way to buy JPY, is by selling (or supplying USD), the supply of USD occurs when people want to buy Japanese goods, services, and Financial Assets.

Let's stick with the hamburger example. Since we know that, if the USD to JPY exchange rate increases from ¥128 to ¥200, people will demand more Japanese hamburgers because they're relatively cheaper. In order to buy those Japanese hamburgers, people will need to supply, or sell USD, in exchange for JPY. Hence the supply of USD will increase.

As we can see in Figure 2, the supply of USD slopes upward and to then right in line with the reasoning we provided.

The Equilibrium Exchange Rate Supply for USD StudySmarter OriginalsFigure 2. Supply for USD, StudySmarter Originals

Supply for currency slopes upward because when Currency 1 becomes more expensive relative to Currency 2 (appreciates), that means that Country 2 goods, services, and financial assets become cheaper for Country 1 thereby increasing supply for Currency 1 in exchange for Currency 2.

Equilibrium Exchange Rate Example

Now that we understand the forces that generate the supply and demand for USD, all we need to do is bring them together to understand how we can achieve the equilibrium exchange rate.

Now instead of hamburgers, let's consider a more realistic example. We know that the exports and imports of a country's goods and services are one of the key determinants of the Balance of Payments between countries. We also know that the purchase of financial assets is another key component of the Balance of Payments between countries.

Therefore, let's consider the impact changes in exchange rates can have on exports, imports, and the purchase of financial assets. Let's stick with our two country example.

If the value of USD increases relative to the JPY, or appreciates, that means U.S. goods, services, and assets become more expensive to Japanese residents, thereby driving demand for those goods, services, and assets down.

At the same time, if the value of USD increases relative to the JPY, that means the value of JPY decreases relative to the USD, or depreciates, making Japanese goods, services, and assets cheaper to buy for U.S. residents, and drives demand for Japanese goods, services, and assets in the U.S. up.

At the equilibrium exchange rate, the sum of the balance of payments on the current account plus the balance of payments on the capital and financial account is zero.

Put another way, it's the exchange rate that ensures that the balance of payments between countries equals zero.

Equilibrium exchange rate graph

Let's analyze Figure 3 to better understand how and why equilibrium exchange rate occurs.

Let's assume that it's the first day of world trade, and neither the U.S., nor Japan have a solid understanding of how exchange rates work. In an effort to be able to sell goods, services, and assets to each other, they decide that a good starting exchange rate will be $1 USD to ¥200 JPY.

Let's also assume that hamburger trade is at the top of the import - export list because both countries make great hamburgers. Since we know that a hamburger in the U.S. costs $1 USD, and a hamburger in Japan costs ¥128 JPY, imports of Japanese hamburgers into the U.S. skyrocket because they're significantly cheaper than U.S. hamburgers. In other words, I can buy an imported Japanese hamburger for only $0.64USD since the cost of a Japanese Hamburger is only ¥128 JPY, and at the $1 USD to ¥200 JPY exchange rate, I only need $0.64 USD to get ¥128 JPY!

In order to import more Japanese hamburgers, U.S. residents need to acquire more Japanese Yen. This will increase the quantity demanded for JPY, and the only way to get JPY is by exchanging, or supplying USD. This can be seen as an upward movement along the Supply curve in Figure 3.

Similarly, since U.S. hamburgers are relatively expensive, Japanese resident stop buying them, thereby reducing the quantity demanded of USD. This is seen by the downward movement along the Demand curve.

When will the process of moving down the Demand curve and up the Supply curve stop? If you guessed "when the price of hamburgers are equal in both countries" then you guessed correctly!

The purchasing power parity (PPP) between two countries’ currencies is the exchange rate at which a given basket of goods and services would cost the same amount in each country.

Coincidentally, this is also the exchange rate required for the sum of the balance of payments between Japan and the U.S. to equal zero!

The Equilibrium Exchange Rate Equilibrium exchange rate through PPP StudySmarter originalsFigure 3. Equilibrium exchange rate through PPP, StudySmarter Originals

Shift in the demand curve for a currency

Now, what would happen if there was a shift in demand for USD?

Let's assume that the U.S. Government decided to increase interest rates. We know that one of the components of the demand for a currency includes that country's financial assets, and since a Government Bond is considered a financial asset whose return, or interest rate, has just increased, this would shift the demand for USD to the right as shown in Figure 4 below. In other words, demand for USD in the foreign exchange market increases as Japanese investors convert JPY into USD to buy more U.S. Bonds.

This is shown in Figure 4 by the shift of the demand curve from D0 to D1. At the current exchange rate of 1 USD for 128 JPY, there would be excess demand. The horizontal distance between points 1 and 2 shows excess demand. This excess demand would lead to the mechanism of bidding for USD at higher rates in order to acquire them, making the USD appreciate, ultimately establishing a new equilibrium point (Point 3) at an exchange rate of $1 USD to ¥150 JPY.

The Equilibrium Exchange Rate Demand shift for USD StudySmarter OriginalsFigure 4. Demand shift for USD, StudySmarter Originals

Shift in the supply curve for a currency

Let's now consider a shift in supply for USD. What forces might shift the supply curve for a currency?

Let's assume the U.S. Government puts a quota on the import of Japanese hamburgers into the U.S. This has the effect of artificially limiting the quantity of Japanese hamburgers available for import into the U.S. Since there are less hamburgers available to import from Japan, less JPY are needed to buy the reduced quantity. Since less JPY are needed, less USD will need to be supplied at every exchange rate, and therefore supply of USD decreases.

This is shown in Figure 5 by the shift of the supply curve from S0 to S1. At the current exchange rate of 1 USD for 128 JPY, there would be a supply vacuum, or reduced supply. The horizontal distance between points 1 and 2 shows reduced supply. This reduced supply would lead to the mechanism of bidding for USD at higher rates in order to acquire them, making the USD appreciate, ultimately establishing a new equilibrium point (Point 3) at an exchange rate of $1 USD to ¥150 JPY.

The Equilibrium Exchange Rate Supply shift for USD StudySmarter OriginalsFigure 5. Supply shift for USD, StudySmarter Originals

Government Policy Effects on Equilibrium Exchange Rates

Let's consider how government policies might impact the equilibrium exchange rate.

Government policies such as Fiscal Policy or Monetary Policy will definitely have an effect on equilibrium exchange rates but let's discuss why.

Assume the U.S. Central Bank decides to impose a Monetary Policy of increasing the interest rate. Since we know that demand for financial assets comprises one of the key flows between Japan and the U.S., and since U.S. Bonds are now more attractive because of the higher interest rate, or improved return, this will increase capital flows into the U.S., increasing the demand for USD. At the same time, USD capital flows out of the U.S. will decrease because U.S. bonds are more attractive to U.S. citizens as well, therefore reducing the supply of USD.

Since we know that these two effects will shift demand to the right, and shift supply to the left, other things being equal, an increase in a country’s interest rate will increase the value of its currency.

An increase in a country's interest rate will also result in an increase in its equilibrium exchange rate, all else being equal.

What if we consider a change in Fiscal Policy now?

Since the U.S. Government is also a consumer of goods and services, including imported goods and services, a change in Fiscal Policy can be as simple as Government buying fewer Japanese imports, thereby reducing the supply of USD. This will shift the USD supply curve to the left, and result in a higher USD equilibrium exchange rate.

Another way Governments can use fiscal policy to impact the equilibrium exchange rate is through taxation policy. Assume, for example, that the U.S. Government decides to decrease income taxes, such that all consumers now have more disposable income. With more disposable income come more purchases, including those of imported goods and services. As U.S. consumers purchase more Japanese goods and services, demand for the JPY will increase, thereby increasing the supply of USD, resulting in a rightward shift of the USD supply curve, and a lower USD equilibrium exchange rate.

A decrease in income tax rates in a country will result in a lower equilibrium exchange rate for that country's currency, all else being equal.

The Equilibrium Exchange Rate - Key takeaways

  • The equilibrium exchange rate is the exchange rate at which the quantity of a currency demanded is equal to the quantity supplied. When the value of a currency relative to another currency increases, we say it has appreciated. When the value of a currency relative to another currency decreases, we say it has depreciated.
  • Demand for currency slopes downward because when Currency 1 becomes cheaper relative to Currency 2 (depreciates), that means that Country 1 goods, services, and financial assets become cheaper for Country 2 thereby increasing demand for Currency 1 in exchange for Currency 2.
  • Supply for currency slopes upward because when Currency 1 becomes more expensive relative to Currency 2 (appreciates), that means that Country 2 goods, services, and financial assets become cheaper for Country 1 thereby increasing supply for Currency 1 in exchange for Currency 2.
  • At the equilibrium exchange rate, the sum of the balance of payments on the current account plus the balance of payments on the capital and financial account is zero. The purchasing power parity between two countries’ currencies is the exchange rate at which a given basket of goods and services would cost the same amount in each country.
  • Changes in Monetary Policy such as an increase in a country's interest rate will also result in an increase in its equilibrium exchange rate, all else being equal. Changes in Fiscal Policy such as a decrease in income tax rates in a country will result in a lower equilibrium exchange rate for that country's currency, all else being equal.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Equilibrium Exchange Rate

The equilibrium exchange rate is the exchange rate at which the quantity of a currency demanded is equal to the quantity supplied.

Demand for a country's goods, services, and financial assets determine the equilibrium exchange rate.

The equilibrium exchange rate is determined when the quantity of a currency demanded is equal to the quantity supplied based on the balance of payments.

The equilibrium exchange rate explained graphically occurs at the intersection between the supply curve of a currency and the demand curve for a currency.

The equilibrium exchange rate can be calculated as the exchange rate necessary for the balance of payments between one country and another to equal zero

Final The Equilibrium Exchange Rate Quiz

Question

The equilibrium exchange rate is the exchange rate at which the quantity of a ________ demanded is equal to the quantity supplied.

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Answer

currency

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Question

The place where people buy and sell currencies is called the _______ ________ ______.

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Answer

foreign exchange market

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Question

If 10 US Dollars can be exchanged for 8.5 Euros, what is the USD to EUR exchange rate?

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Answer

1 USD to 0.85 EUR, 1 to 0.85

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Question

When the value of a currency relative to another currency increases, we say it has ___________.


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Answer

appreciated

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Question

When the value of a currency relative to another currency decreases, we say it has ___________.


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Answer

depreciated

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Question

The summary of one country's transactions with another country is called the _______ of ________. 


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Answer

balance payments

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Question

The Balance of Payments consists of the _______ Account and the ________ Account.


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Answer

Current, Capital and Financial

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Question

Which of the following is NOT included in the Current Account

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Answer

Asset sales and purchases

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Question

The Financial Account includes the purchases and sales of assets by the private sector and ___________.


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Answer

governments

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Demand for currency slopes ________ because when one currency becomes cheaper relative to another that means that Country's goods, services, and financial assets become cheaper for the other country.


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Answer

downward

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Question

Supply for currency slopes ______ because when one currency becomes more expensive relative to another that means that country's goods, services, and financial assets become cheaper for the other country.


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Answer

upward

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Question

At the equilibrium exchange rate, the sum of the balance of payments on the current account plus the balance of payments on the financial account is ____.


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Answer

zero

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Question

The __________ _____ ______  between two countries’ currencies is the exchange rate at which a given basket of goods and services would cost the same amount in each country. 


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Answer

purchasing power parity

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Question

A quota imposed on Japanese goods by the U.S Government would:

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Answer

Shift the supply of USD to the left

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Question

An increase in a country's interest rate will also result in an ________ in its equilibrium exchange rate, all else being equal.


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Answer

increase

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Question

What effect will decreasing the interest rate have on the demand and supply of USD?

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Answer

It will cause the demand to decrease, and the supply to increase.

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How might a decrease in US income taxes affect the exchange rate with the JPY?

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Answer

It would lower the USD equilibrium exchange rate.

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What accounts does the balance of payments consist of?

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Answer

The current account.

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Question

Where do you go to buy and sell money?

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Answer

The foreign exchange market.

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Question

If the exchange rate goes from 1USD:0.92EUR to 1USD:0.89EUR, what happened to the Euro?

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Answer

The euro appreciated.

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If an exchange rate goes from 1(domestic):3 to 1(domestic):4, 

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Answer

The domestic currency appreciated.

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When do the forces of demand and supply have met at exactly the same place?

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Answer

At equilibrium.

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What is the formula for the equilibrium exchange rate?

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There is no formula since it is simply where the quantity demanded of one currency is equal to the quantity supplied.

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When you sell a currency are you decreasing or increasing the supply?

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You are increasing the supply because there is more to be had on the market.

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When someone is looking to purchase goods in Mexico and they have USD, what happens to the demand for Mexican pesos?

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The demand for pesos increases.

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What is the current account made up of?

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Net exports, net factor income, net money transfers.

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Question

The more expensive the USD is, the _____ demand there will be for it.


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Answer

less

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Question

How does the demand for foreign goods determine the supply of domestic currency?

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Answer

If we want to buy more foreign goods then we will need to sell more domestic currency in exchange for the foreign currency. This means the supply of domestic currency increases.

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Question

If the US increases interest rates on government bonds, how might foreign investors respond?

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Answer

Foreign investors will sell their currency to buy US bonds.

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Question

If the exchange rate between Euros and British Pounds goes from 1GBP:1.12EUR to 1GBP:1.34EUR, what happened to the GBP?

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Answer

It appreciated.

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