As professional copywriters, we often encounter misconceptions surrounding the impact of foreign currency fluctuations on the bottom lines of companies. Contrary to popular belief, the strength or weakness of the U.S. dollar does not necessarily spell doom for U.S. corporations. While foreign exchange market fluctuations do have undeniable implications, they are not directly correlated with market-wide corporate profits. In fact, for every company that may suffer due to a stronger dollar, there is another that benefits from it. The net effect on the overall market remains largely indiscernible.
Curiously, the narrative often overlooks companies that have actually reaped the rewards of foreign currency fluctuations. Instead, their successes are often attributed solely to impeccable execution of their business strategies. On the other hand, we repeatedly hear from companies that grapple with the perceived negative impact of the dollar on their earnings, regardless of whether the dollar is appreciating or depreciating.
A prime example is the third quarter of 2022, where the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) experienced its most robust performance since 2016, soaring by over 7%. During this earnings season, a staggering 50% of S&P 500 firms expressed concerns over the adverse effects of the stronger dollar in their earnings calls, as reported by FactSet.
Coincidentally, in the subsequent quarter, the dollar made a significant about-face, relinquishing all its gains from the third quarter and more. In theory, one might anticipate that the 50% of firms previously bemoaning the dollar's strength would now rejoice in its weakness. However, their silence was deafening, and instead, they continued to voice complaints about the negative impact of the dollar.
Clearly, relying solely on comments made during earnings calls will not yield an objective analysis of the dollar's influence.
To obtain a more objective assessment, it is essential to examine the correlation between quarterly and yearly changes in the DXY and the S&P 500's earnings-per-share. Extensive analysis of quarterly data since 1985 reveals correlations so weak that they fail to meet standard levels of statistical significance. Similar conclusions emerge when studying the correlations between the dollar and the S&P 500 index itself.
Despite the lack of statistically significant correlations, many commentators persist in lamenting the strength of the dollar. Sensational headlines like "The Unstoppable Dollar Is Bad for the S&P 500" are not uncommon. In response, investors and their advisors rightfully demand concrete evidence to support these claims.
It is crucial to dispel misconceptions and approach the topic of foreign currency fluctuations with a discerning eye. Only then can we fully comprehend their true impact on corporate bottom lines and make informed decisions moving forward.
The Dollar: An Unprofitable Blame Game
The last time I wrote about the dollar, it was going through its worst quarter since 2010. Some of you may not have shared my cynicism back then, but perhaps now you'll reconsider. It's interesting to note that many analysts who were once complaining about the weak dollar are now blaming its strength.
It's easy to make the dollar a convenient scapegoat, but playing the blame game won't lead to profitable investment strategies.
Questions to Ask During Earnings Season
When financial analysts participate in a company's earnings call and hear the U.S. dollar being blamed for a disappointing quarter, it's important to ask tough questions of the CEO.
The first question to consider is whether or not the CEO's company is involved in foreign exchange trading. If the answer is yes, then the follow-up question should focus on why management believes they can accurately time the fluctuations of the dollar. Based on my extensive experience of tracking market timers' performance for over 40 years, I have yet to come across a timer who has consistently and successfully done so.
If the CEO states that their company is not engaged in foreign exchange trading, a different line of follow-up questions should be pursued. In this case, it is crucial to ask why the company did not hedge its foreign exchange exposure. Wide fluctuations in the value of the dollar are to be expected, and companies should be closely monitoring their foreign currency exposure. By hedging against this exposure, there would be no grounds for attributing any impact on the company's bottom line to the dollar.
More: Why a government shutdown could undercut the U.S. dollar rally
Also read: A surging U.S. dollar is about to become a problem for stock-market bulls
Mercedes-Benz Group is set to release its second-quarter results, with an estimated sales increase and growth in EBIT. Learn about the van business performance,...
Aviation experts highlight the need for improved safety measures to address a notable increase in serious close calls between planes. The FAA's challenges inclu...