What Causes a Strong U.S. Dollar?
When the U.S. has relatively the strongest economy with the least geopolitical risks compared to other nations, global investors move money into the U.S. dollar. By selling their currency to buy U.S. dollar, they weaken their currency and strengthen the dollar. The euro has suffered due to the geopolitical tensions emanating from the Ukraine war. The British pound has fallen off a cliff to a record low due to its self-inflicted financial crisis which prompted a misguided fiscal stimulus package meant to kickstart the economy but could backfire and stoke more inflation.
The Fed Exacerbates
The U.S. dollar strength is also fueled by the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) interest rate hikes. The U.S. dollar as pretty much outperformed all other assets classes this year. Up until a few months ago, the markets didn’t really care too much for the strong U.S. dollar impacting earnings since volatility was taken into account with constant currency metrics. Constant currency refers to using a fixed exchange rate that eliminates volatility and fluctuations when reporting financial performance. Frankly, the markets gave a pass to companies that reported weaker earnings due to FX currency volatility.
No More Hall Passes
However, this all changed when markets realized the temporary nature of fluctuating FX had transformed into a deadly grind with no reprieve in sight as the U.S. dollar index hit 20-year highs. The U.S. dollar hit a 37-year high against the pound sterling in the past week. As more companies miss their earnings estimates due to the strong U.S. dollar, stocks get punished sending markets even lower as the contagion spreads and grows. This is evidenced by the sharp sell-off in shares of cloud database giant Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL). The Company reported impressive earnings as its saw its Cloud Revenues jump 45% year-over-year (YoY) to $3.6 billion or 50% in constant currency. However, Oracle missed its fiscal Q1 2022 EPS estimates by (-$0.04) and guided fiscal Q2 2022 EPS lower as a result of the strong U.S. dollar hurting its overseas business. Shares started the day up 2% the following day at $79.41 as it completely reversed giving back all gains and continuing to sell-off for the next two weeks to hit a low of $61.07. Footwear and athletic apparel maker Nike (NYSE: NKE) expects gross margins to contract 350 to 400 bps from FX volatility as its stock collapsed (-12.8%) after reporting earnings. Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) saw its shares collapse and accelerate lower as its business is seeing a (-2%) to (-3%) hit from the strong U.S. dollar in addition to overpaying 50X sales for its Figma acquisition. While Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) is still doing gangbusters business, the strong dollar will cost them over $800 million this year.
Globalization was the goal for companies seeking to grow their scale. However, a strong U.S. dollar actually punishes them. For investors, it’s important to know the revenue mix of domestic and foreign revenues of their companies. Companies that do most or all of their business in the U.S. should perform better than multinationals. Healthcare companies like Humana (NYSE: HUM) derive all their revenues in the U.S. with over 90% of their income from federal and state health benefits programs. This is why shares are up 4% versus down (-25%) for the S&P 500.
U.S. importers benefit from a strong U.S. dollar, but U.S. exporters of goods and services get shortchanged with a strong U.S. dollar. While the U.S. stock market has fallen this year, companies with a major chunk of their revenues derived from overseas are getting hit even harder than the benchmark indexes. For example video streaming giant Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) shares are down (-60.5%) compared to the Nasdaq index down (-33%) for 2022. Netflix derives nearly 60% of their revenues from overseas. Companies in emerging economies get punched twice in the gut as servicing U.S. dollar denominated debt gets more expensive as does commodities priced in U.S. dollars..