7 Ways to Profit From the Rising Dollar
Fresh off a sterling 2015, analysts expect the dollar to have another bullish year.
7 Ways to Profit From the Rising Dollar
With a 9 percent gain in 2015, the U.S. dollar is expected to remain strong throughout 2016, according to experts. (Getty Images)
Buckle up. If the stock market’s performance during the first week of the year offers a precursor of what’s to come, investors could be in for a bumpy ride this year. U.S. stocks tumbled, rattled yet again by the uncertain Chinese economic growth picture, and crude oil maintained its downward descent.
But there was a bright spot: The U.S. dollar ticked up, continuing a strong surge from 2015. Bullish analysts expect the dollar to remain strong throughout 2016.
The U.S. dollar index, which is a measure of the dollar versus a basket of world currencies, gained a solid 9 percent in 2015, and many analysts expect that trend to continue. Investors and money managers flocked to the dollar last year, attracted by the relative strength in the U.S. economy and the Federal Reserve’s rising interest rate environment.
“Traders bid up the dollar in anticipation of the Fed rate hike. Higher interest rates here, relative to the rest of the developed world, makes the dollar more attractive. You add in a little geopolitical instability, which drives traders to the dollar as a safety hedge, and you had a recipe for a strong dollar,” says Charles Sizemore, founder of Dallas-based Sizemore Capital Management.
During times of market, economic or political uncertainty, global investors often park cash in the dollar. “The dollar’s status as the world’s safe-haven currency was undisputed last year,” says Henry To, partner at CB Capital Partners in Newport Beach, California.
Bullish analysts expect the dollar to remain the world’s favored currency. The interest rate divergence between the Federal Reserve and other central banks is a main driver, along with positive economic growth differentials.
“The IMF expects the U.S. economy to notch a 2.6 percent growth rate last year. That is low by U.S. standards, but it is much higher than the eurozone at 1.5 percent and Japan at 0.6 percent. This divergence means that the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, is raising interest rates, while their European and Japanese counterparts are still years behind. Higher interest rates in the U.S. make the U.S. dollar more attractive as an investment for global investors,” To says.
There are strategies that capitalize on a rising dollar environment, but investors need to be selective about their portfolio choices. “The trend of the rising U.S. dollar could continue to mean greater volatility in the equity markets, but that will also present opportunity,” says Joe Heider, founder of Cirrus Wealth Management in Cleveland.
Multinational companies that rely heavily on profits from overseas see their revenues slashed by the rising dollar trend. “Investors may want to avoid companies that are heavily dependent on exports, since U.S. exports will become more expensive,” Heider says.
One way for U.S. investors to combat that risk is to think domestically and focus on companies that derive more of their profits and revenues in the U.S. Here are seven investments poised to profit from the rising dollar trend:
iShares Russell 2000 ETF (ticker: IWM). This exchange-traded fund offers investors exposure to nearly 2,000 small U.S. companies. IWM could benefit from a rising-dollar trend because small U.S. companies generate substantially less of their sales from foreign countries compared with large U.S. companies, To says. “The companies in IWM generate less than 20 percent of their total sales from foreign countries, while companies in the S&P 500, which essentially contains 500 of the U.S. largest companies, generate nearly half of their total sales from foreign countries,” To says. The IWM has $24.3 billion in assets under management, with its top five holdings making up only 1.7 percent of the fund. Expenses are a low 0.20 percent, or $20 annually per $10,000 invested.
State Street S&P Retail ETF (XRT). The XRT ETF offers exposure to 99 U.S. retailers, and top holdings include Five Below (FIVE), Children’s Place (PLCE) and Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). “U.S. retailers tend to benefit from a U.S. dollar rising trend, as they derive nearly all their sales in the U.S. Because a higher U.S. dollar usually leads to lower oil and gasoline prices, U.S. consumers will have more money in their pockets to spend on retail items such as clothing, electronics and foodstuffs,” To says. The fund is smaller, with $613 million in assets, but the expense ratio is still a reasonable 0.35 percent.
Invesco PowerShares U.S. Dollar Index Bullish Fund (UUP). This ETF tracks the level of the U.S. dollar index and is more of a straight currency play. “That’s the easiest way to speculate on the dollar, and it beats trying to speculate in the forex market,” Sizemore says. The fund has $1.1 billion in assets under management and carries an expense ratio of 0.75 percent.
WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity ETF (HEDJ). This ETF includes 126 European multinationals that export to the U.S., which tend to benefit from the rising dollar environment. Top holdings include Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch (BUD), German power company Siemens and Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica (TEF). The fund also hedges currency market exposure, which has the potential to provide investors a double-whammy return. The fund has $15.6 billion in assets and sports an expense ratio of 0.58 percent.
“We do like European stocks because of the central bank stimulation for their economy and the weak euro makes their products more competitive,” says Jeff Carbone, managing partner at Cornerstone Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. Investing in European stock funds that hedge with the dollar “could win with growth in the stock prices rising and also see additional return on a gain in the currency exchange rate,” he says.
For investors looking for individual stock picks, To highlighted several stocks that derive nearly all their sales in the U.S. and have a substantial amount of their costs overseas in other currencies. “These companies are able to increase revenues while paying their suppliers less, resulting in a substantial increase in profits,” To says.
Whole Foods Market (WFM). Whole Foods specializes in selling natural and organic food products, with more than 400 stores in the U.S. and 19 stores in foreign markets. “Whole Foods derives over 95 percent of its sales in the U.S. and is insulated from a rising U.S. dollar. The company also sources a significant amount of its products overseas,” To says. WFM market had a rough 2015 and is down nearly 40 percent in the last 12 months.
Union Pacific Corp. (UNP). Union Pacific is one of the largest railroads in the U.S. and provides freight services for commodities, food and beverage products, as well as finished products including automotive, plastics and consumer goods. “The company derives all their sales in the U.S. However, it also benefits from a rising U.S. dollar trend. Union Pacific’s second-largest cost item is diesel. Since oil and diesel prices tend to decline when the U.S. dollar rises, this means a rising U.S. dollar will compress Union Pacific’s costs as well,” To says. UNP stock has fallen 33 percent in the last year, but railroad stocks are expected to show more strength in 2016.
Ross Stores (ROST). Ross operates nearly 1,300 off-price retail apparel and home fashion stores, and all its sales are derived from the U.S. The company sources all its products through vendors in New York and Los Angeles, which in turn manufacture most of their products overseas, such as in China and Vietnam. “Because of the rising U.S. dollar trend, Ross has been able to compress their buying costs while maintaining their sales price, which has benefited and will continue to benefit their bottom line as the U.S. dollar continues to rise,” To says. ROST stock has outperformed the market in the last year, moving up 10 percent.
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