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The Economist

Foreign Exchanges – Foreign Trade – Prices

«The Economist», 2 aprile 1921, pp. 688-689

 

Rome, March 24

 

 

The feature of the week has been the rapid variations of the lira. The pound sterling, which had closed at Rome at 106.10 on March 12th, gradually improved to 95 on the 19th, but on the 21st was higher at 97.50, only to rise further to 101.75 on the 22nd, and to drop to 98.75 on the 23rd. Many speculations are aroused by these vagaries of the lira, but the soberest opi­nion, while recognising that the economic and financial situation is improving, does not expect an abrupt fall in the quotations. The slower the betterment the more solid it will be.

 

 

The figures of the foreign trade for 1920 have been recently published

 

 

 

Imports

Exports

Excess of Imports

over Exports

Per Cent, of Exports

on Imports

1913

3,645-2

2,511-6

1,1340

68-9

1914

2,923-3

2,210-4

712-9

75-6

1915

4,703-5

2,533-5

2,1701

53-8

1916

8,390-2

3,088-2

5,302-0

36-8

1917

13,991-2

3,308-5

10,682-7

23-6

1918

16,039-3

3,344-7

12,694-6

20-8

1919

16,623-3

6,065-7

10,557-5

36-4

1920

15,862-1

7,803-7

8,058-3

49-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The figures for 1920 are calculated on the prices of 1919, so that the variations from 1919 to 1920 are variations of quantities, not of values. From 1913 to 1920 the real value of the lira has been divided by four, so that the figures are only apparently magnified. The excess of imports over exports, although less than in 1917-1919, is very menacing, and it seems impossible that the expenditure of foreign travellers and the remittances of Italian emigrants on which we relied mainly to adjust the com­mercial balance will be sufficient today to achieve this end. But the situation is improving, as is shown by the increasing percentage of the exports on the value of imports.

 

 

Even more interesting are the figures for the classes into which the foreign trade is divided:

 

 

 

 

 

Imports

Exports

 

 

1919

1920

1919

1920

Raw material

5,598

5,014

712

989

Semi-manufactured goods

3,076

3,249

1,742

2,269

Finished goods

2,522

3,364

1,985

3,292

Animals and food products

5,318

4,233

746

1,252

 

 

An ominous feature has been the decrease in the imports of raw materials. The imports of food are also decreasing, while exports are increasing, facts which point to a return to old conditions. Imports and exports of finished products are also increasing.

 

The price index number published by Professor Bachi in the Economista is falling. The new index of Professor Bachi takes as its basis the year 1920, and is divided into eight classes, and so is no longer comparable with the Economist index number, but the trend is the same:

 

 

 

 

November

1920

December

1920

January

1921

February

1921

 
Vegetable products

107-7

106-9

106-7

103-9

Animals

1241

126-4

120-7

119-5

Chemicals

107-7

102-8

98-1

86-3

Textiles

94 0

81-9

77-4

65-4

Minerals and metals

101-4

92-7

88-2

79-5

Building materials

112-6

112-6

113-3

117-0

Various vegetables

108-7

121-8

123-4

127-3

Miscellaneous

105-2

106-8

107-1

106-7

General index

107-33

104-97

102-89

97-93

 

 

High-water mark was reached in November, 1920; in February we could show a fall of about 10 points. If we make the comparison with 1901-05, the general index number, which is the only one calculated by Professor Bachi on this basis, had reached 844.41 in November, 1920, and had fallen to 770.45 in February, 1921. A fall of 74 points is noteworthy, but prices remain at a level very high in comparison with 1901-05. The fall of prices is more accentuated in products such as chemicals, textiles, minerals, and metals, in which foreign competition is more especially felt.

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