The dollar’s slide doesn’t have to be bad news for investors. If you live in the U.S. and expect to spend your savings here in the States, a declining dollar doesn’t matter so much. There are even ways to benefit from it: While a violent plunge would likely send stock and bond markets reeling, an orderly selloff could be a boon for certain riskier assets.
At the same time, you should be on guard, because some of the same forces that are driving the dollar’s slide also could lead to inflation down the road—which would erode your purchasing power.
A slumping dollar historically has been good for stocks. The classic stock play during periods of dollar weakness is large-cap companies that export heavily: Companies in the S&P 500 index derive nearly half of their revenues from abroad, notes Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at Standard & Poor’s.
Such companies benefit from a weaker dollar in two ways. In the shorter term, profits rise as companies convert their foreign sales into dollars. In the longer term, their products become more competitive in overseas markets, boosting revenue as well.
For the time being, the weak dollar may benefit corporate bonds—especially those with foreign revenue streams. As profits rise, those bonds look safer, notes Matt Toms, head of U.S. public fixed income at ING Investment Management.
Commodities can serve as a hedge against the falling dollar because they are priced in the U.S. currency—so as the dollar weakens the price of the commodity rises. That’s one reason why the S&P GSCI Commodity Index, a basket of energy, metal and agricultural commodities, has gained 19% this year.
Another way to invest in gold is through mutual funds like First Eagle Gold, which holds a combination of bullion and some of the largest mining companies. The fund is up 24% over the past 12 months. Its mixture of equities and commodities provides a hedge against large market swings, says Mr. Stanasolovich, who has bought shares.
Just because the dollar is falling doesn’t mean investors should flock to any old currency for protection. Two factors are particularly crucial in foreshadowing whether a currency will appreciate in the long-term: a nation’s interest rates and its current-account balance, or the amount of money owed to it by other nations (or the amount it owes others). When interest rates rise, like in Brazil and Australia, investments denominated in those currencies become more attractive to investors seeking yield.
Yet even currencies that meet both of these criteria aren’t necessarily worth buying. For instance, while Europe’s central bank is raising interest rates and its current account is balanced, the deteriorating situation in Portugal, Ireland and Greece casts a shadow over the euro. After rallying 9% this year, the euro probably isn’t a good buy now, says Rebecca Patterson, chief global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.