By Ed Zwirn
(New York Post, June 19, 2016)
What’s all this talk of Brexit and what does it mean to the average New Yorker?
Well, if you yearn for a London pub crawl or the sight of Big Ben, take note.
A positive outcome for Thursday’s Brexit referendum, while threatening to inflict chaos on global financial markets, will at the same time stretch the purchasing power of the US dollar throughout Europe, particularly in the UK.
The greenback has gained over 10 percent against the pound during the past year, with the British currency most recently quoted at $1.42, down from $1.59 52 weeks ago.
Many polls in Britain show a lead for a “yes“ vote, which would have Britain leave the 28-member European Union, and currency markets may have already reacted accordingly. However, market expectations are unanimous that a Brexit would pound the pound down even further, and in short order.
“Our main assumption is that the considerable uncertainty that would follow a vote to leave would have flow-on effects on consumer and business confidence, investment and the current account, which would exert pressure on sterling,” says Sarah Broumphrey, an analyst at Euromonitor International.
“How long the currency would remain weak is difficult to say — so much depends on the outcome of the exit negotiations, a process that is likely to last for two years.”
The US imported $58 billion worth of products from Britain in 2015, according to the Commerce Department.
That included $9.9 billion worth of pharmaceutical products, $6.8 billion of new and used cars, and $3.5 billion worth of petroleum products (although the US enjoyed a favorable trade balance in the latter category).
But while a sterling debacle would tend to lower the price tag on a vintage Rolls-Royce, there are modest downsides from a US point of view.
The US exported $56.1 billion to the UK last year, and any dollar rally would tend to put a dent in this figure by making American products more expensive.
While a Brexit would shave a whopping 2 percent off long-term British gross domestic product growth, real GDP growth in the US would be “just 0.05 percent lower in 2017 than would otherwise have been the case,” says Broumphrey.