DEFINITION of 'Dollar Rate'

The dollar rate is the exchange rate of a currency against the U.S. dollar (USD). Most currencies that are traded in international markets are quoted in terms of number of units of foreign currency per USD. However, some currencies, such as the euro, British pound and Australian dollar, are quoted in terms of U.S. dollars per foreign currency.

BREAKING DOWN 'Dollar Rate'

The dollar rate is the rate at which another country's currency converts to the U.S. dollar. For example, if the dollar rate to one Canadian dollar is 0.75, then one U.S. dollar is exchanged for three-quarters of a Canadian dollar.

Importance of Dollar Rate

The dollar rate reflects the relative value of currencies worldwide. Exchange-rate risk means changes in the relative value of certain currencies reduce the value of investments denominated in a foreign currency. This is typically the biggest risk for bondholders making interest and principal payments in a foreign currency, since the dollar rate affects the investor's true rate of return.

When a currency appreciates, the country becomes more expensive and less internationally competitive. Its citizens have a greater standard of living because they buy international products at reduced prices. When the currency depreciates, local products become more competitive and exports increase. Incomes do not cover as much when buying international products. For example, when the dollar rate decreases, U.S. products become cheaper internationally and U.S. companies increase their exports. Exporting firms hire more workers and employment increases. Because foreign-made products become more expensive when sold in the United States, imports decline. The United States becomes cheaper for foreign tourists, and tourism revenues increase. However, it is more expensive for Americans to travel abroad. Prices of certain imported products increase, leading to higher inflation.

Factors Influencing Dollar Rate

Supply and demand determine the price of a currency. Certain people, firms or governments buy or sell dollars for other currencies to increase or decrease the dollar's value. For example, American importers exchange dollars for yen at a bank, then buy Japanese cars for sale in the United States, creating a supply of dollars. Likewise, a Japanese importer exchanges yen for dollars, then buys American cars for sale in Japan, creating a demand for dollars.

International investors also influence the dollar rate. For example, American investors exchange dollars for yen to buy shares on the Japanese stock exchange, creating a supply of dollars. Likewise, Japanese investors exchange yen for dollars when investing in U.S. markets, creating a demand for the dollar.

Governments influence the dollar rate as well. Each country keeps reserves of gold and foreign currencies for paying international debts, imports and other purposes. For example, when the Japanese government decides to increase its reserve of dollars, it sells yen for dollars and creates demand for dollars. When the U.S. government increases its reserves of yen, it sells dollars for yen and creates a supply for the dollar.

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