DEFINITION of 'Numeraire'

An economic term that represents a unit of account. In French, the term means "money", "coinage" or "face value". A numeraire is usually applied to a single good, which becomes the base good. All similar goods are then valued and priced against the base good. This comparison makes it possible to identify which goods are worth more than others.


An example of a numeraire arises when we look at how currencies were valued under the Bretton Woods system during the mid-twentieth century. The U.S. dollar was priced as one-thirty-fifth the price of an ounce of gold. All other currencies were then priced as either a multiple or a fraction of the dollar. In this situation, the U.S. dollar acted as the numeraire because it was fixed to the price of gold.

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