European Monetary System
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European Monetary System (EMS)
European Monetary System
European Monetary System (EMS)the former institutional arrangement, established in 1979, for coordinating and stabilizing the EXCHANGE RATES of member countries of the EUROPEAN UNION.
The EMS was based on a FIXED EXCHANGE RATE system and the European Currency Unit (ECU), which was used to value, on a common basis, exchange rates and which also acted as a reserve asset to be used by members, alongside their other INTERNATIONAL RESERVE holdings, to settle payments imbalances between themselves.
European Monetary System (EMS)the former institutional arrangement, established in 1979, for coordinating and stabilizing the EXCHANGE RATES of member countries of the EUROPEAN UNION (EU). The EMS was replaced in January 1999 by the exchange rate arrangements of the ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION.
The EMS was based on a FIXED EXCHANGE RATE mechanism and the EUROPEAN CURRENCY UNIT (ECU), which was used to value, on a common basis, exchange rates and which also acted as a reserve asset that members could use, alongside their other INTERNATIONAL RESERVE holdings, to settle payment imbalances between themselves. The EMS was managed by the European Monetary Cooperation Fund (EMCF).
Under the EMS ‘exchange rate mechanism’ (ERM), each country's currency was given a fixed central par value specified in terms of the ECU, and the exchange rate between currencies could move to a limited degree around these par values, being controlled by a ‘parity grid’ and ‘divergence indicator’. The parity grid originally permitted a currency to move up to a limit of 2.25% either side of its central rate. As a currency moved towards its outer limit, the divergence indicator came into play requiring the country's central bank to intervene in the foreign exchange market or adopt appropriate domestic measures (e.g. alter interest rates) in order to stabilize the rate. If in the view of the EMCF the central rate itself appeared to be overvalued or undervalued against other currencies, a country could devalue (see DEVALUATION or revalue (see REVALUATION) its currency refixing it at a new central parity rate.
The European Currency Unit, unlike other reserve assets such as GOLD, had no tangible life of its own. ECUs were ‘created’ by the Fund in exchange for the inpayment of gold and other reserve assets and took the form of book-keeping entries recorded in a special account managed by the Fund. The value of the ECU was based on a weighted ‘basket’ of members’ currencies.
Initially, the UK declined to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) but did so eventually in October 1990, establishing a central rate against the German DM (the leading currency in the ERM) of £1 = 2.95 DM. The UK withdrew from the ERM in September 1992 after prolonged speculation against the pound had pushed it down to its ‘floor’ limit of 2.77 DM, rejecting the devaluation option within the ERM in favour of a market-driven ‘floating’ of the currency (see FLOATING EXCHANGE RATE SYSTEM). In August 1993, after the French franc came under pressure, ERM currency bands were widened to 15%. These episodes, together with the earlier withdrawal of the Italian lira from the ERM, illustrate one of the major drawbacks of a fixed exchange rate system, namely, the tendency for ‘pegged’ rates to get out of line with underlying market tendencies, so fuelling excessive speculation against weak currencies.