Oil Prices Impact on Currency Rates and Economy

Tim Clayton
Last Edited Mar 28, 2023

The global economy has witnessed significant oil price fluctuations in recent years, driven by geopolitical tensions, supply disruptions, and the ongoing transition to renewable energy sources. These price shifts have far-reaching consequences for both oil-producing and oil-consuming nations, influencing their currency rates and overall economic health. A notable example is the unprecedented drop in oil prices in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a collapse in global demand, sending shockwaves through financial markets and economies worldwide.

This article delves into the intricate relationship between oil prices, currency rates, and the global economy. We will explore how changes in oil prices impact major economies, the implications for inflation, and the role of central banks and governments in navigating these challenges. Additionally, we will examine the varying effects on individual countries and discuss the cyclical trends that characterize this complex interplay. By understanding these dynamics, investors and policymakers can make more informed decisions and better anticipate potential opportunities and risks in the ever-changing landscape of the global economy.

Major Oil-importing Economies Damaged By Higher Oil Prices?

The major global economies overall are substantial net importers of crude. When oil prices move higher, purchasing power in the largest economies has a net decline. At the retail level, fuel prices increase which has a direct negative impact as increased spending on energy triggers weaker discretionary spending.  

Higher energy prices also lead to caution over investment, given the uncertainty surrounding the outlook. There is, therefore, a negative impact on growth within the global economy.

In contrast, a decline in oil prices will boost net consumer spending and support overall GDP growth.

Current Oil Prices:

Inflation Implications Are Substantial

As well as growth, changes in oil prices have an important impact on inflation. Energy prices have a substantial weighting in consumer price indices, given the importance of consumer spending, and shifts in energy costs will directly impact headline inflation.

There are also important secondary effects, as higher energy prices trigger upward pressure on costs within the industrial and transport sectors.

In this environment, there is the risk that an inflationary spiral develops as cost increases are passed on to the consumer sector. Higher headline inflation also tends to put upward pressure on wage settlements and inflation expectations, which can reinforce upward pressure on prices.

Summary: Oil price decline will lower headline inflation, with sharp price fluctuations complicating monetary policy.

The Extent And Duration Of Moves Are Crucial

The scale of oil price rises and the duration of increases are key factors in determining the outlook for global economies and potential policy responses. A relatively short-lived increase in prices tends to have only a limited impact, but substantial and extended gains in energy are much more important.

Global central banks consider underlying inflation to be more important and will tend to ‘look through’ short-term inflation changes driven by oil price changesIt is, however, much more difficult to ignore sharp and sustained increases in prices, especially given the potential impact on inflation expectations. In 2018, currency volatility was at a record high also because of major and sudden oil price movements. 

Central Banks and Governments: Navigating the Challenges of Oil Price Fluctuations

The role of central banks and governments in managing the economic consequences of oil price fluctuations is critical. Their policy decisions can either alleviate or exacerbate the impact on currency rates and overall economic conditions. In this section, we will discuss the various ways central banks and governments can address the challenges posed by oil price changes and the potential pitfalls they should strive to avoid.

  1. Monetary policy adjustments: Central banks often respond to changes in oil prices by adjusting interest rates. When higher oil prices lead to increased inflation, central banks may raise interest rates to curb inflationary pressures. However, raising interest rates can dampen economic activity, potentially exacerbating the negative effects of higher oil prices. Conversely, central banks may lower interest rates in response to declining oil prices, which can help stimulate economic growth but may also lead to financial instability if monetary policy becomes too loose. Striking the right balance in monetary policy is essential for mitigating the impact of oil price fluctuations on the economy.
  2. Inflation targeting and communication: Central banks should focus on maintaining clear communication regarding their inflation targets and policy intentions. By effectively managing market expectations, central banks can minimize the risk of overreacting to short-term changes in oil prices and avoid exacerbating economic imbalances. This approach can also help prevent an inflationary spiral, as well as the erosion of central bank’s credibility.
  3. Fiscal policy measures: Governments can use fiscal policy to counteract the economic impact of oil price changes. For oil-exporting countries, it is crucial to adopt counter-cyclical fiscal policies, such as saving windfall revenues during periods of high oil prices and using those funds to stimulate the economy during downturns. This can help smooth economic cycles and reduce the risk of a steep downturn when oil prices decline. For oil-importing countries, targeted fiscal measures, such as providing targeted subsidies or tax relief to vulnerable sectors, can help cushion the impact of higher oil prices.
  4. Encouraging economic diversification: Governments should prioritize policies that promote economic diversification, reducing their reliance on oil revenues and enhancing their resilience to oil price fluctuations. By investing in education, infrastructure, and industries outside the oil sector, countries can build more stable and sustainable economies.
  5. International cooperation: Collaboration between oil-producing and oil-consuming countries can help stabilize the global oil market and mitigate the economic impact of oil price fluctuations. Participating in forums such as the G20 and OPEC can facilitate dialogue and foster a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by the global energy landscape.

Sharp variations within Individual economies

In broad terms, the impact on economies will depend on whether countries are net importers or exporters of crude. Countries that are net exporters benefit from higher oil prices, while higher oil prices damage countries which are net importers. The corollary is that exporters suffer economic damage when oil prices decline, and growth tends to be stronger when oil prices increase.

The impact tends to be magnified by the impact on government finances as revenue declines when oil prices come under pressure.  An unsustainable boost to fiscal spending in times of high oil prices is particularly dangerous as governments are then unable to respond by increasing spending in a downturn


Canada's economy concept with canadian flag and money dollar currency golden symbol.Among the G7 economies, the largest impact is seen in Canada. When oil prices increase, there is a direct boost to the economy, and there is also a positive impact on capital spending as companies boost exploration.

In contrast, a decline in oil prices has an important negative impact on the economy. The Canadian impact is magnified by the fact that most of the Canadian oil is produced from high-cost fields, which quickly become unprofitable as prices decline.

Higher oil prices tend to strengthen the Canadian dollar, while the currency weakens when oil prices come under pressure. When oil prices collapsed in late 2014, the Canadian economy weakened sharply, and the Bank of Canada lowered interest rates to 0.5%. The Canadian dollar also came under sustained pressure, with USD/CAD fx rate peaking above 1.4500.


The UK is still a small net export of oil, and there tends to be a very limited positive net economic impact from gradual increases in oil prices, but sharp increases are damaging.

Euro-zone and Japan

The Eurozone and Japan are heavy net importers of oil, and their economies weaken when oil prices increase sharply.

The Euro-zone impact was magnified in the last cycle by the fact that the ECB responded to higher oil prices in 2014 by raising interest rates. This had the effect of triggering notable demand weakness with a sharp downturn in growth.

When oil prices declined, Euro-zone inflation moved into negative territory and the central bank was then forced to introduce quantitative easing in order to ease deflation fears.

Overall, the yen and Euro tend to lose ground when oil prices increase.


Given the shifts seen over the past five years, there is a mixed US impact. Developments in fracking technology have enabled US producers to extract shale oil more effectively and at much lower costs than previously

There has been a sharp increase in domestic production to record highs. In this context, the US is now less sensitive to the impact of higher oil prices, but there is a larger impact from declines in prices, especially in Texas. Overall, the dollar implications are relatively neutral.

Emerging markets

Russia is a clear beneficiary of higher oil prices within emerging markets with a smaller positive impact on Mexico. In contrast, countries like Taiwan and South Korea lose out from higher energy costs. China is also a major oil importer, and higher energy costs will tend to undermine the economy.

Cyclical Trends and Investment Opportunities

The relationship between oil prices, currency rates, and the global economy is inherently cyclical. These cycles are driven by various factors, such as changes in supply and demand, technological advancements, geopolitical tensions, and macroeconomic policies. Understanding these cyclical trends is crucial for investors and policymakers seeking to capitalize on investment opportunities and mitigate risks.

  1. Supply and demand dynamics: The global oil market is influenced by the balance between supply and demand. During periods of robust economic growth, demand for oil tends to rise, leading to higher oil prices. Conversely, oil prices typically fall during economic downturns or periods of weak demand. Investors can track global economic indicators and monitor developments in major oil-consuming and oil-producing countries to identify potential turning points in these cycles.
  2. Technological advancements: Innovations in the energy sector, such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, have revolutionized oil extraction and production. The rapid growth of renewable energy sources and electric vehicles is also reshaping the global energy landscape, with potential long-term implications for oil prices. Investors should stay informed about advancements in the energy sector and consider potential investment opportunities in alternative energy industries.
  3. Geopolitical tensions and policy changes: Geopolitical events, such as conflicts in oil-producing regions, can lead to supply disruptions and impact oil prices. Additionally, policy changes, such as the implementation of production quotas by OPEC or sanctions on oil-producing countries, can influence the oil market. Monitoring these developments can help investors identify potential risks and opportunities in the energy sector.
  4. Central bank and government policies: As discussed earlier in this article, central banks and governments play a significant role in managing the economic consequences of oil price fluctuations. Investors can better anticipate potential impacts on currency rates and overall economic conditions by closely watching policy decisions, such as interest rate adjustments and fiscal measures.
  5. Diversification and hedging strategies: To capitalize on cyclical trends and investment opportunities, investors should consider diversifying their portfolios across various asset classes, industries, and geographies. This can help mitigate risks associated with oil price fluctuations and provide exposure to a broader range of investment opportunities. Additionally, investors can explore hedging strategies, such as futures and options contracts, to manage risks related to oil prices and currency movements.


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