If the U.S. economy is getting stronger, why is the dollar getting weaker?
As the stock market surged anew on Monday, and the price of gold marched ever higher, the dollar took its biggest tumble since July. The American currency sank roughly 1 percent against other major currencies, to its lowest level since the financial crisis broke out more than a year ago.
But the seeming disconnect between the value of the dollar and the value of stocks is, in fact, not much of a disconnect at all. A growing belief that wealthy nations like the United States will forge ahead with efforts to revive economic growth is luring risk-shy investors back into the world’s stock markets. But with interest rates down and government spending up, the dollar is swooning. Many market participants assert that the currency is weakening with tacit approval from Washington policymakers.
While the faltering dollar will make everything from French wine to Korean televisions more expensive for American consumers, it will also make American exports more competitive overseas — a lift for multinational corporations like Caterpillar, Intel and Pepsi.
Indeed, shares of multinationals paced a stock market rally on Monday that left some analysts wondering if a new bull market was building. The Dow leapt 203.52 points, or 2 percent, to 10,226.94, its highest level since October 2008. The broader Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index rose 23.78 points, or 2.2 percent, to 1,093.08. The Nasdaq composite index was up 41.62 points or 1.97 percent, at 2,154.06.
Sharp gains in Asia and Europe set the stage for the big day on Wall Street. But if the stock market seems volatile lately, that is because it is. Since early September, the Dow has surged or plunged more than 1 percent during 18 separate trading sessions.
But while stocks seem to have regained their footing — the Dow industrials are up 16.5 percent for the year — the dollar, once quite literally the gold standard of world currencies, is in retreat. The dollar has lost 16 percent of its value since March. It was hovering around $1.50 against the euro on Monday.
In the “bad news is good news” paradigm of Wall Street, the dollar’s fall against nearly all the major currencies reflects the growing belief that major governments will keep interest rates low into 2010 and increase spending to revive growth. A weekend communique from the finance ministers of the Group of 20 wealthiest nations offered little support for the dollar: the G20 affirmed its support for keeping stimulus efforts in place but was silent on the dollar’s prospects.
Some investors read the statement as a sign that governments would let the dollar weaken more, without intervening in the currency markets.
“It was a deafening silence, another excuse to investors to keep selling the dollar,” said Brian Dolan, chief currency strategist for Forex.com. “A lot of it is sentiment-driven, and there the dollar is getting a vote of no confidence.”