The Economist invented the Big Mac Index in 1986 as an entertaining way to assess whether currencies were at the “correct” levels. The index uses purchasing power parity (PPP) to measure one currency against another. PPP is the idea that exchange rates should adjust so the same product (in this case, a hamburger) has the same price in two different countries when the price is denominated in the same currency. After updating the Index on January 22, 2015, The Economist reported:
“Two trends have dominated the world of burgernomics over the past six months: currency markets have bubbled like potatoes in a fryer as the oil price has fallen to finger-licking lows and central banks have cooked up new monetary stances. The currencies of commodity exporters have been burnt while those of big importers have sizzled. Meanwhile, the end of quantitative easing in America has supersized the dollar, whereas the mere prospect of it in Europe has made a happy meal of the euro.”
Since a Big Mac in the United States cost about $4.79 last week, the Swiss franc was quite overvalued. That’s not the case with currencies elsewhere, though. Here are the prices of a Big Mac in a few key locales:
Euro area $4.26
It should be noted the Big Mac Index is not a perfect measurement tool. The price of a burger should be less in countries with lower labour costs and more in countries with higher labour costs. When prices are adjusted for labour, the Swiss franc is not the most overvalued currency in the world, the Brazilian real is.