£ vs. €


altThe pound seems finally to be struggling up from the floor, rising above $1.60 for the first time since November. It even maanged to rise to €1.15, and speculators are betting it will hit €1.25 by the middle of the summer – providing a welcome boon to the few British travellers who are venturing abroad this year. Time to raise a cheer?

Well, maybe. There are some encouraging statistics – the number of mortgage approvals rose last month, housing rents are strengthening, and some of the more optimistic experts say we're through the worst of this crisis. But most of the pound's consolidation is actually due to the fact that America is in just as big a fix as we are, with a comparable mountain of public debt and a beaten-up financial services sector. And the Eurozone is worse off than everyone thought. It didn't suffer the financial shock that we did because its finance industry is smaller and more conservative. But now that the Brits and Americans are putting off their European holidays and purchases of BMWs and washing machines, the Eurozone is suffering.

Still, the cheapness of British exports is beginning to have a visible effect on our balance of trade, far earlier than most economists thought. The belief was that the low value of the pound would only help us in a year or two, once the world was buying again. So that's lucky. And it's more than luck – it's good judgement, and you have to admit that it's Gordon Brown's good judgement – that we're not in the Eurozone. Then we would be unable to adjust in the wake of an economic shock like the one we've had. As the likes of Italy and Spain now realize.