Page last updated at 11:51 GMT, Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Q&A: Strong pound - winners and losers

Shoppers in New York
UK consumers could soon be cashing in on the weak dollar

The pound has yet again reached a fresh 26-year high against the US dollar, boosted by higher UK interest rates and weakness in the US housing market.

It makes a big difference to anyone involved with changing money between currencies.

So who are the big winners and losers?

Should I be dashing off to do my shopping in New York?

Your pounds are certainly worth more than they were a few years ago, but there are a few things to bear in mind.

First of all, remember that the rate you get from a bank or bureau de change will not be as high as $2 for your pound.

That figure is the exchange rate that banks offer to each other when they are trading large amounts of currencies between themselves.

Also remember that you are only allowed to bring 145 worth of shopping from the US into the UK.

Any more than that and you will have to pay import duty and VAT at the airport.

Import duty is a percentage of the value of the goods and can vary according to the nature of the goods and their country of origin.

All that, combined with your plane fare and hotel bills could make your bargains look a bit pricey.

Is it good news for businesses?

What's good news for pound-wielding tourists in the USA is bad news for dollar-earners visiting our shores.

Small businesses relying on tourists visiting Britain may feel the squeeze.

The same goes for companies that export to the US and other countries in Asia and the Middle East that link their currencies to the dollar.

Big exporters - such as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Smiths Industries - will all be hit by this.

But these firms have probably been doing some hedging to protect themselves against this effect as the pound has been strengthening against the dollar for months.

The situation is more complicated for companies that use a lot of oil because oil is traded in dollars.

So British Airways and Virgin will lose out because Americans will find their tickets more expensive than their own carriers, but UK airlines will gain because fuel will be cheaper.

And, of course, both will benefit from more Brits wanting to visit the US - but lose out the other way round.

If I'm not going abroad will this affect me?

Yes - if you are buying anything made in the USA or anywhere else with a currency linked to the dollar you should notice it getting cheaper.

Oil being priced in dollars should mean lower petrol prices.

If you are a shareholder then you will clearly win and lose from the currency effects on the companies you own shares in, but there is one added factor.

Some London-listed companies such as BP, AngloAmerican and HSBC set their dividends in dollars, so their shareholders lose out when the dollar is weak.

Look out for lots of references to currency effects when companies report their results in the coming year.

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