What Is the U.S. Dollar Index (USDX)?
The U.S. dollar index (USDX) is a measure of the value of the U.S. dollar relative to the value of a basket of currencies of the majority of the U.S.'s most significant trading partners. This index is similar to other trade-weighted indexes, which also use the exchange rates from the same major currencies.
- The US Dollar Index is used to measure the value of the dollar against a basket of six world currencies - Euro, Swiss Franc, Japanese Yen, Canadian dollar, British pound, and Swedish Krona.
- The index was established shortly after the Bretton Woods Agreement dissolved in 1973 with a base of 100, and values since then are relative to this base.
- The value of the index is fair indication of the dollar’s value in global markets.
Understanding the U.S. Dollar Index (USDX)
The index is currently calculated by factoring in the exchange rates of six major world currencies, which include the Euro (EUR), Japanese yen (JPY), Canadian dollar (CAD), British pound (GBP), Swedish krona (SEK), and Swiss franc (CHF). The EUR is, by far, the largest component of the index, making up almost 58 percent (officially 57.6%) of the basket. The weights of the rest of the currencies in the index are: JPY (13.6%), GBP (11.9%), CAD (9.1%), SEK (4.2%), and CHF (3.6%).
The index started in 1973 with a base of 100, and values since then are relative to this base. It was established shortly after the Bretton Woods Agreement was dissolved. As part of the agreement, participating countries settled their balances in U.S. dollars (which was used as the reserve currency), while the USD was fully convertible to gold at a rate of $35/ounce.
An overvaluation of the USD led to concerns over the exchange rates and their link to the way in which gold was priced. President Richard Nixon decided to temporarily suspend the gold standard, at which point other countries were able to choose any exchange agreement other than the price of gold. In 1973, many foreign governments chose to let their currency rates float, putting an end to the agreement.
History of the U.S. Dollar Index (USDX)
The U.S. dollar index has risen and fallen sharply throughout its history, reaching its high point in February 1985 with a value of 164.72 and its low point in March 2008 with a value of 70.698. As of March 25, 2020, the index carried a value of 100.35, meaning that the U.S. dollar has depreciated versus the basket of currencies since 1985 but is roughly equal to its starting value in 1973. The index is greatly affected by macroeconomic factors, including inflation/deflation in the dollar and foreign currencies included in the comparable basket, as well as recessions and economic growth in those countries.
The contents of the basket of currencies have only been changed once since the index started when the Euro replaced many European currencies previously in the index in 1999 such as Germany's predecessor currency, the Deutschemark. In the coming years, it is likely currencies will be replaced as the index strives to represent major U.S. trading partners. It is likely in the future that currencies such as the Chinese yuan (CNY) and Mexican peso (MXN) will supplant other currencies in the index due to China and Mexico being major trading partners with the United States.
Interpreting and Trading U.S. Dollar Index (USDX)
An index value of 120 suggests that the U.S. dollar has appreciated 20% versus the basket of currencies over the time period in question. Simply put, if the USDX goes up, that means the U.S. dollar is gaining strength or value when compared to the other currencies. Similarly, if the index is currently 80, falling 20 from its initial value, that implies that it has depreciated 20%. The appreciation and depreciation results are a factor of the time period in question.
The U.S. dollar index allows traders to monitor the value of the USD compared to a basket of select currencies in a single transaction. It also allows them to hedge their bets against any risks with respect to the dollar. It is possible to incorporate futures or options strategies on the USDX. These financial products currently trade on the New York Board of Trade. Investors can use the index to hedge general currency moves or speculate. The index is also available indirectly as part of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), options, or mutual funds.