THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT SUMMARY The economic environment is a major determinant of global market potential and opportunity. In today’s global economy, capital movements are the driving force, production is uncoupled from employment, and capitalism has vanquished communism. Based on patterns of resource allocation and ownership, the world's economies can be categorized as market capitalism, centrally-planned capitalism, centrally-planned socialism, and market socialism. The final years of the twentieth century were marked by transitions toward market capitalism in many countries that had been centrally controlled. However, there still exists a great disparity among the nations of the world in terms of economic freedom.
Countries can be categorized in terms of their stage of economic development: low income, lower middle income, upper middle income, and high income. Gross domestic product (GDP) and gross national income (GNI) are commonly used measures of economic development. The 50 poorest countries in the low-income category are sometimes referred to as least-developed countries (LDCs). Upper middle-income countries with high growth are often called newly industrializing economies (NIEs). Several of the world’s economies are notable for their fast growth; the BRIC nations include Brazil, Russia, India, and China. The Group of Seven (G7), Group of Eight (G-8), and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) represent efforts by high-income nations to promote democratic ideals and free-market policies throughout the rest of the world. Most of the world's income is located in the Triad, which is comprised of Japan, the United States, and Western Europe. Companies with global aspirations generally have operations in all three areas. Market potential for a product can be evaluated by determining product saturation levels in light of income levels.
A country’s balance of payments is a record of its economic transactions with the rest of the world; this record shows whether a country has a trade surplus (value of exports exceeds value of imports) or a trade deficit (value of imports exceeds value of exports). Trade figures can be further divided into merchandise trade and services trade accounts; a country can run a surplus in both accounts, a deficit in both accounts, or a combination of the two. The U.S. merchandise trade deficit was $819 billion in 2007. However, the U.S. enjoys an annual service trade surplus. Overall, however, the United States is a debtor; Japan enjoys an overall trade surplus and serves as a creditor nation.
Foreign exchange provides a means for settling accounts across borders. The dynamics of international finance can have a significant impact on a nation’s economy as well as the fortunes of individual companies. Currencies can be subject to devaluation or revaluation as a result of actions taken by a country’s central banker. Currency trading by international speculators can also lead to devaluation. When a country’s economy is strong or when demand for its goods is high, its currency tends to appreciate in value. When currency values fluctuate, global firms face various types of economic exposure. Firms can manage exchange rate exposure by hedging.