There's a lot of talk today about the future of the dollar. If left unchecked or without an appropriate exit strategy, our massive stimulus programs will have a crippling effect on the value of the dollar. It's simple economics: if you increase supply without a similar increase in demand, the price of your product drops.
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What to Consider
Exporters benefit when their home currency weakens relative to the rest of the world because their trading partners can now buy their product for less. This is why China's currency has been undervalued for years. The Chinese government does not let the yuan float freely, which leads many to cite that as the reason China's exports are so incredibly cheap.
Oil and gold also benefit from a weak dollar. Gold is often perceived as a safe haven during periods of asset devaluation. Oil benefits because it's priced in dollars. As we've seen with the oil price over the past few months, that indeed seems to be the case.
Quality Always Matters
So commodity businesses that have pricing power and U.S. companies that do brisk business abroad benefit from a weaker dollar. But let me go on record as saying over the long run, it's not beneficial for a country to continually suffer from a weak currency. In the case of the U.S., that rings even more true since the greenback is regarded as the world's premier currency.
Nonetheless, major oil companies like ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) that have substantial operations abroad will be OK. And since a weak dollar also benefits the price of oil, the majors doubly benefit. Construction and engineering firm KBR (NYSE:KBR), a virtually debt-free $5.1 billion company, does a bulk of its work overseas. And because the bulk of KBR's work comes from government agencies, the company continues to prosper as best as one can during a recession.
Another option is investing in businesses located outside the U.S. that earn money in other currencies that are likely to strengthen against the U.S. dollar. But such a move poses some risk because the other currency must appreciate and the company needs to maintain its profitability. So while the Japanese yen has gotten stronger against the greenback lately, many Japanese businesses have a tough time of it.
Nations like Brazil and Australia, which are rich in commodities, are expected to resume a healthy GDP going forward. Up north in Canada, you have commodity giant Teck Resources (NYSE:TCK), which does business all over the world and has the Canadian dollar as the functional currency.
It's never wise to make any investment based solely on a single macro bet, especially if the prices aren't bargains. But if the dollar does weaken long-term, then businesses with characteristics like those above will benefit.
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