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Strength of the U.S. Dollar

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Our Chief Investment Officer answers your questions about the strengthening U.S. dollar:

The Positive Side of a Strong Dollar?
Throughout the past few quarters, the strengthening U.S. dollar has been gaining a lot of investors’ attention. An appreciating dollar can be both a blessing and a curse. I’ve noticed that much of the news has focused on the negative impacts of a strong dollar. Many corporate CEOs have cited the strength of the dollar as a headwind to their earnings growth. Today I will spend a few minutes on a different perspective: the positive side of a strong dollar.

What drives the U.S. Dollar?
The value of the dollar is a function of relative economic strength. So it’s not just about the Federal Reserve action or domestic economic growth, it’s also is a function of global growth. I believe the global economy is the primary driver of the dollar’s recent strength. Historically, faster-growing economies have rising currencies due to capital inflows. A strong dollar has been associated with slower global economic growth, because the dollar remains the reserve currency.

Pros and Cons?
Even though most of the headlines cite a strong dollar as a negative, there are some positive effects.

  • Typically with a strong dollar comes lower commodity prices. This is positive for the consumer, as energy costs decline.  And businesses benefit if commodities are an input variable.
  • The United States is a net importer; we import more goods than we export. Less expensive imported goods and services will increase consumer confidence and spending. Businesses buying imported raw materials or components may increase their margins or pass on savings to consumers.

What does a strong dollar mean to the U.S. economy and markets?
A strong dollar will transfer demand from the U.S. economy to economies around the world. This will negatively impact some industries, where exports represent a significant portion of their business, such as industrial conglomerates. However, other industries, focused on the domestic consumer, will benefit.

Given our forecast of an improving global economy, whether it’s actual green shoots of economic growth in Europe, or the hope of economic stimulus in China, I believe we’ll see the dollar stabilize for the remainder of the year.

I don’t believe a strong dollar will derail our market forecast.  Historically domestic equity markets have performed well in periods of both a strong or weak dollar. The message here is the dollar is not the primary driver of stock prices and I would expect the S&P 500 to post returns in the 7-10 percent range in 2015.


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.


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