Solved Problem: How Does the Value of the U.S. Dollar Affect the U.S. and World Economies?

Supports: Macroeconomics, Chapter 18, Economics, Chapter 28, and Essentials of Economics, Chapter 19.

Between June 2021 and September 2022, the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and an average of the currencies of the major trading partners of the United States increased by 14 percent. (This movement is shown in the figure above.) An article in the New York Times had the headline “The Dollar Is Strong. That Is Good for the U.S. but Bad for the World.”  

  1. Briefly explain what the headline means by a “strong” dollar. 
  2. Do you agree with the assertion in the headline that a stronger dollar is good for the United States but bad for the economies that the United States trades with? Briefly explain. 
  3. During this period the Federal Reserve was taking actions that raised U.S. interest rates. The article noted that “Those interest rate increases are pumping up the value of the dollar ….” Why would increases in U.S. interest rates relative to interest rates in other countries increase the value of the dollar?

Solving the Problem

Step 1:  Review the chapter material. This problem is about the effect of fluctuations in the exchange rate and the relationship between interest rates and exchange rates, so you may want to review Macroeconomics, Chapter 18, Section 8.2, “The Foreign Exchange Market and Exchange Rates,” or the corresponding sections in Economics, Chapter 28 or Essentials of Economics, Chapter 19.

Step 2: Answer part a. by explaining what a “strong” dollar means. A strong dollar is one that exchanges for more units of foreign currencies, such as British pounds or euros. (A “weak” dollar means the opposite: A dollar that exchanges for fewer units of foreign currencies.)

Step 3: Answer part b. by explaining whether you agree with the assertion that a stronger dollar is good for the United States but bad for the economies of other countries. A stronger U.S. dollar produces winners and losers both in the United States and in other countries. U.S. consumers win because a stronger dollar means that fewer dollars are needed to buy the same quantity of a foreign currency, which reduces the dollar price of imports from that country. For example, a stronger dollar reduces the number of dollars U.S. consumers pay to buy a bottle of French wine that has a 40 euro price.  A strong dollar is bad news for foreign consumers because they must pay more units of their currency to buy goods imported from the United States. For example, Japanese consumers will have to pay more yen to buy an imported Hershey’s candy bar with a $1.25 price. 

The situation is reversed for U.S. and foreign firms exporting goods. Because foreign consumers have to pay higher prices in their own currencies for goods imported from the United States, they are likely to buy less of them, buying more domestically produced goods or goods imported from other countries. U.S. firms will either to have accept lower sales, or cut the prices they charge for their exports. In either case, U.S. exporters’ revenue will decline. Foreign firms that export to the United States will be in the opposite situation: The dollar prices of their exports will decline, increasing their sales.

We can conclude that the article’s headline is somewhat misleading because not all groups in the United States are helped by a strong dollar and not all groups in other countries are hurt by a strong dollar.

Step 4: Answer part c. by explaining why higher interest rates in the United States relative to interest rates in other countries will increase the exchange value of the dollar. If interest rates in the United States rise relative to interest rates in other countries—as was true during the period from the spring of 2021 to the fall of 2022—U.S. financial assets, such as U.S. Treasury bills, will be more desirable, causing investors to increase their demand for the dollars they need to buy U.S. financial assets. The resulting shift to the right in the demand curve for dollars will cause the equilibrium exchange rate between the dollar and other currencies to increase. 

Source:  Patricia Cohen, “The Dollar Is Strong. That Is Good for the U.S. but Bad for the World,” New York Times, September 26, 2022.