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Michael Kern

Michael Kern

Michael Kern is a newswriter and editor at Safehaven.com and Oilprice.com, 

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Was Donald Trump Right About The U.S. Dollar?

  • The U.S. dollar has show tremendous strength over the past few years.
  • Former President Donald Trump spoke often about how he wanted a weaker U.S. dollar because its strength was eroding U.S. competitiveness on a global scale.
  • Perhaps one of the few positives that can be drawn from a strengthening dollar is that it might help to slow down the growing U.S trade deficit.

In a stark departure from tradition whereby American presidents refrained from talking about the value of the American dollar in order to avoid shaking up global markets, the 45th president of the United States regularly tweeted that he wanted the USD on the weaker side. Former President Donald Trump was blunt when asked by a WSJ reporter why he wanted the American currency to weaken: “Our companies can’t compete with [China] now because our currency is too strong. And it’s killing us.”

Trump might have left office more than a year ago, but he’s still to get his wish: the U.S. dollar has continued to soar against its major rivals and has even hit multi-year highs.

The ICE Dollar Index (DXY), which measures the U.S. dollar against major rivals, has climbed 15% so far this year to 103.65, the highest since January 2017, according to FactSet. 

The dollar has gained the most against the Japanese Yen: the Japanese currency has lost nearly 20% against the greenback over the past year after crashing to levels not seen in more than two decades as the Bank of Japan vows to continue a dovish stance and pledged unlimited bond-buying. The Bank of Japan has vowed to defend a 0.25% yield on its 10-year fixed-rate Japanese government bond by buying those bonds every business day, for as long as needed.

Also under pressure are the Sterling Pound and Euro, both of which have sunk to multi-year lows.

While a strong dollar can be a bonus for importers and Americans vacationing abroad, there are plenty of reasons why a brawny greenback is bad business, overall.

“Practically, a strong USD implies that exports of U.S. products will become more expensive for their clients abroad, thus profitability of U.S. exporting companies drops. Also, a strong dollar may imply that the Fed is draining the market from cash (tightening monetary policy), thus reducing the supply of USDs and thus boosting its value while at the same time there are fewer dollars to invest and move around,” he added. ” Peter Iosif, senior research analyst at Noteris, has told MarketWatch.

Related: German Energy Giant To Pay For Russian Gas In Rubles

Finally, U.S. stock markets sometimes experience an inverse relationship to the dollar: with 2022 not even at the halfway mark, the S&P 500% is down nearly 12%, putting it on track for the worst annual performance since the Great Financial Crisis if those losses worsen or are even maintained. 

But you can blame a hawkish Fed for the turn of events.

Fed Fund Rates

Changes in the federal funds rate are known to impact the U.S. dollar. Whenever the Federal Reserve increases the federal funds rate, it typically increases interest rates throughout the economy. Higher yields attract investment capital from investors abroad seeking higher returns on interest-rate products such as bonds.

In turn, global investors sell their investments denominated in their local currencies in exchange for U.S. dollar-denominated investments, resulting in a stronger exchange rate in favor of the U.S. dollar. 

The Fed’s hawkish stance was underlined on Thursday when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said a half-point interest rate increase "will be on the table" at the central bank’s monetary policy meeting next month, with investors now pricing in over 240 basis points of tightening for the rest of this year.

And, warnings by some economists that the Fed’s actions could make recession more likely by potentially pressuring spending or precipitating drops in stocks and other assets are not by any means unfounded: an advance reading of first-quarter U.S. economic growth is expected to show an annualized growth of just 1.1%, down sharply from 6.9% in the final quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, expectations that the European Central Bank (ECB) will hike interest rates sooner rather than later have been adding more pressure to the Euro with concerns that the currency bloc is headed for a sharp slowdown.

Perhaps one of the few positives that can be drawn from a strengthening dollar is that it might help to slow down the growing U.S trade deficit: Year-to-date, the goods, and services deficit increased by $45.7 billion, or 34.5%, from the same period in 2021. Exports increased $68.0 billion or 17.6% while imports increased by $113.7 billion or 22.0 percent.

By Michael Kern via Safehaven.com 

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on May 01 2022 said:
    The recent rise of the dollar against other currencies isn’t a reflection of the good health of the US economy but a reaction to the Federal Bank tightening monetary policy (increasing interest rates) to control an inflation heading towards 9%-10%. In so doing, it could make recession more likely as evidenced by a sharp drop of US economic growth from an annualized growth of 6.9% in the final quarter of 2021 to just 1.1% in the first quarter of 2022.

    Moreover, a strong dollar tends to reduce US exports by making them more expensive for their clients abroad and also the profitability of U.S. exporting companies. The strengthening dollar is already adversely affecting U.S. stock markets causing the S&P 500% to fall by nearly 12% in the first half of 2022 and putting it on track for the worst annual performance since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 if those losses worsen or are even maintained.

    On the other hand, the recent spectacular rise in oil prices benefits the dollar since the bulk of globally-traded oil is priced in dollars. The petrodollar system provides at least three immediate benefits to the United States: (1) it increases global demand for US dollars. (2) it also increases global demand for US debt securities and (3) it gives the United States the ability to buy oil with a currency it can print at will. In geopolitical terms, the petrodollar lends vast economic and political power to the United States.

    The United States is the world’s second largest importer of crude oil after China importing 9.0 million barrels a day (mbd). This means that rising oil prices increase US budget deficit and push inflation up.

    Still, the overall benefits of the petrodollar system underpin the value of the dollar and the US financial system on which it depends.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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