North American corporates reported $US18.66 billion in negative currency impacts in the final quarter of 2014, with the surging dollar hitting business abroad.
That’s the highest figure since the very worst parts of the euro crisis, and it’s only likely to get more dramatic for the first quarter of this year.
When the dollar rises, as it has been, it’s more difficult for companies and consumers abroad to buy US products — they have the same amount of their own money, but it’s worth less and less in dollar terms. So for US exporters, a stronger dollar is a big challenge, and they record negative currency impacts.
The figures come from a report by FIREapps, which shows that the negative currency effects were more than twice as large as in the previous three quarters combined. It takes a look at the results of 1,200 publicly traded companies on both sides of the Atlantic, including 846 North American firms.
Here’s how it looks:
Here’s a snippet from the report:
The dollar has continued to strengthen against major currencies since the last quarter of 2014, when many companies set their Q1 budget rates and guided on currency impact. The rate outlook has changed significantly. In December 2014, for example, the consensus forecast was for the euro to fall to 1.19 against the dollar by the end of 2015.3 The euro crossed that mark in early January. The euro closed out February 2015 at 1.12 and consensus now has it falling to 1 by the end of 2015.
As a result, companies must either reset their budget rates or revise their guidance. Those revisions have not been small, and they’re not without pain. And if the euro moves again — which it likely will, up or down — rates will have to be reset yet again.
“Significant” is probably an understatement as far as the moves in the dollar are concerned. Steve Englander at Citi sent round a fantastic chart, illustrating that the dollar hasn’t appreciated this quickly at any point in the last 40 years.
The bottom line is that anyone in business and finance who had money staked on the euro slowly declining against the dollar is going to have a grim few months — the rapid pace of that shift caught almost everyone by surprise.
For example, in September, Goldman Sachs thought the euro would reach $US1.15 by the end of 2015 and a 1:1 parity with the dollar by the end of 2017.
Now, it thinks that parity will be here this year, 24 months early, while the euro could fall to as low as $US0.80 by the end of 2017.
A lot of the dollar’s rapid appreciation is down to expectations that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates — which would strengthen demand for a currency — but such a fast acceleration and the heavy impact on big US firms may make Fed chair Janet Yellen pause for thought.