U.S. Dollar Surges, EXIM Bank Remains in Limbo
This should be a time of financial uncertainty and speculation, as a new president-elect’s fiscal promises and policies are put under a microscope, and the Federal Reserve considers how their implementation and success would impact GDP growth, investments, and monetary conditions.
But the dollar seems bullish on Donald Trump, and the ramifications of that are already being felt a month before the President-elect takes the oath of office.
The U.S. dollar hasn’t been as high as it is now since 2002, and the recent interest-rate increase should make it even stronger.
For Americans that have been putting off that trip to Europe, now is the time, as dollars that once exchanged at a near 2:1 rate with euros have now pulled almost even.
But while American consumers will find lower prices on imported items, U.S. exports will become less competitive abroad.
And in emerging markets, where trillions in loans are made in dollars, those debts will now be harder to pay back.
The impact is also being felt on foreign currencies besides the euro, from Japan to Brazil, and Turkey to India. Higher interest rates by central banks in at least some of these markets are likely to follow.
Americans without a deep financial stake in global markets may wonder if a strong U.S. dollar, which certainly sounds like a good thing, is something worth celebrating, especially given some negative media stories about its surge. The stock market seems unfazed, reporting a series of record highs despite the possibility that a stronger dollar will curb a recovery on corporate profits.
But exports figure to be the biggest potential crisis, with costs impacted on U.S. goods from steel to cattle.
Observers are also taking into account a Trump administration’s position on the Export-Import Bank, which can be a potential boon for exporters if it can ever return to the scope of business it authorized in the past.
Although EXIM was reauthorized by Congress earlier this year, its ability to approve larger deals has been hamstrung by the lack of a quorum on its board as President Obama’s appointment has not been taken up by lawmakers.
The President-elect has yet to make a public comment about the bank, which tends to redraw traditional battle lines in Washington. Among Republicans it has as many detractors and supporters, while Democrats are mostly in favor of a robust EXIM presence.
Trump, who is not a typical Republican by any standard, wants to boost the competitiveness of U.S. exports and create more jobs, both of which can be partly achieved if the bank can start making large loans again. But Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at aerospace industry consultancy Teal Group, has told CNBC that he believes Trump “won’t go to bat for it.”
If the President-elect is not persuaded by the potential market benefits, he may be intrigued by the opportunity to reshape the bank in his own image. It’s dormancy has been forced by having only two board members, when three are required to approve loans of more than $10 million. If Trump can fill those positions with like-minded dealmakers, he may be more enthusiastic about its revival. Any nominees he puts forth, however, will have to be approved by Congress.