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Visualized: What Factors Drive the U.S. Dollar?

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Visualized: What Factors Drive the U.S. Dollar?

U.S. Dollar

This infographic is available as a poster.

What Factors Drive the U.S. Dollar?

In 2022, the U.S. dollar hit 20-year highs as inflation and interest rates rose sharply.

Not only did investors buy U.S. dollars given its role as the world’s reserve currency, but demand for U.S. dollars increased as rising interest rates drove higher returns for the safe-haven currency.

Now, as inflation appears to be easing and lower rate hikes look to be in the cards, the U.S. dollar is cooling. Still, relative to many of the other major global currencies it remains strong.

In the above Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments, we look at factors that influence the U.S. dollar’s value, and the implications for financial markets and investors.

What Drives the U.S. Dollar?

Importantly, the value of the U.S. dollar is driven by supply and demand factors. During periods of economic uncertainty, investors turn to U.S. dollars because of the underlying strength of the U.S. economy and its role in global financial markets.

Here is a brief overview of some of the key variables that impact the dollar:

1. Inflation2. Interest Rates3. Safe-Haven Status
4. Economic Growth
High U.S. inflation drives Fed rate hikes.

Higher interest rates mean higher yields for U.S. dollar investors.

Investors turn to U.S. dollars during market turmoil.

Historically, the U.S. has had reliable growth.

When U.S. inflation is increasing, it has knock-on effects on interest rates. As the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to fight inflation, it makes the returns of holding the greenback more attractive. This is because global investors look to currencies that generate a higher relative return, accounting for other factors.

Meanwhile, the dollar remains the global reserve currency. Today, roughly half of global trade invoices are in U.S. dollars. Many global corporations and governments borrow in U.S. dollars, while revenues are generated in their local currency.

Alongside this, the liquidity and depth of U.S. financial markets are unmatched. In 2022, 59% of central bank reserves were held in U.S. dollars, indicating strong demand internationally.

U.S. Dollar Trends Over 50 Years

Since the early 1970s when the U.S. dollar delinked from gold, the currency has had three cycles of strength and three weakening cycles.

These trends can be shown through the U.S. Dollar Index or “Dixie” which tracks the value of the dollar against a basket of weighted currencies.

U.S. Dollar CyclesU.S. Dollar Index PeakYearAnnual Inflation RateAnnual Interest Rate
1980s12819853.6%8.1%
1990s - 2000s11320021.6%1.7%
2011 - 2020s11420227.1%4.0%

Annual data as of November 2022. Inflation is represented by the Consumer Price Index. Interest rates are represented by the Federal Funds rate.

As the above table shows, the first dollar peak took place in the 1980s as Fed chair Paul Volcker was aggressively hiking interest rates to fight inflation. As interest rates rose, investors flocked to the dollar, pushing it to record highs.

In the second strengthening cycle of the 1990s and 2000s emerging markets were growing at a considerable rate and buying U.S. dollar debt. During this time, a rising dollar hurt emerging market currencies and contributed to the Asian Financial Crisis of the 1990s. Here, currencies with high dollar-denominated debt but low U.S. dollar currency reserves struggled to pay off their debts.

During the Dotcom crash of 2002, the dollar hit its second peak.

The most recent cycle, since 2011, has been the longest strengthening cycle in decades. As the Federal Reserve moved to tighten monetary policy in the mid-2010s, the dollar’s strength accelerated. This has only been more pronounced in 2022 as the Fed hiked rates at the fastest rate in decades.

Weighing the Global Impact

As the below table shows, nearly all major global currencies have declined against the dollar:

CurrencyYTD Performance Against the U.S. Dollar*
Brazilian Real4.7%
Mexican Peso3.2%
Swiss Fanc-2.5%
Australian Dollar-6.9%
Canadian Dollar-7.4%
Euro-7.3%
Chinese Yuan-8.9%
British Pound-9.2%
Swedish Krona-12.3%
Japanese Yen-16.4%

Source: Google Finance (Dec 2022). *Year-to-date performance as of Dec 12, 2022.

The main exceptions are the Brazilian real and Mexican peso. In anticipation of U.S. central bank rate hikes, both countries raised interest rates swiftly, creating higher yields for investors. In addition to being ahead of U.S. rate increases, both countries are energy producers.

By contrast, countries reliant on importing energy have seen weaker currencies. This includes the Japanese yen, Swedish krona, and the British pound. In the case of China, a weaker currency is the impact of a slow economic growth outlook due to its strict zero-COVID-19 strategy and low interest rates.

Europes grim economic prospects driven by the energy crisis have also pushed down the euro, with the currency reaching parity with the dollar in 2022 for the first time in two decades.

Bringing it All Together

Generally speaking, a strong dollar leads to weaker global growth. As U.S. imports get more expensive, it drives up inflation across countries.

When the U.S. dollar is strong it also makes U.S. assets pricier compared to foreign assets, which could impact the direction of capital flows. If the dollar remains strong, capital flows may be redirected away from America.

Finally, in the U.S., a strong dollar could weaken growth and lower inflation, serving as a mixed blessing for investors and consumers alike.

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Markets in a Minute

Mapped: GDP Growth Forecasts by Country, in 2023

The global economy faces an uncertain future in 2023. This year, GDP growth is projected to be 2.9%—down from 3.2% in 2022.

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GDP Growth

Mapped: GDP Growth Forecasts by Country, in 2023

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early last year, talk of global recession has dominated the outlook for 2023.

High inflation, spurred by rising energy costs, has tested GDP growth. Tightening monetary policy in the U.S., with interest rates jumping from roughly 0% to over 4% in 2022, has historically preceded a downturn about one to two years later.

For European economies, energy prices are critical. The good news is that prices have fallen recently since March highs, but the continent remains on shaky ground.

The map shows GDP growth forecasts by country for the year ahead, based on projections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) October 2022 Outlook and January 2023 update.

2023 GDP Growth Outlook

The world economy is projected to see just 2.9% GDP growth in 2023, down from 3.2% projected for 2022.

This is a 0.2% increase since the October 2022 Outlook thanks in part to China’s reopening, higher global demand, and slowing inflation projected across certain countries in the year ahead.

With this in mind, we show GDP growth forecasts for 191 jurisdictions given multiple economic headwinds—and a few emerging bright spots in 2023.

Country / Region2023 Real GDP % Change (Projected)2022 Real GDP % Change (Projected)
🇦🇱 Albania2.5%4.0%
🇩🇿 Algeria2.6%4.7%
🇦🇴 Angola3.4%2.9%
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda5.6%6.0%
🇦🇷 Argentina*2.0%4.0%
🇦🇲 Armenia3.5%7.0%
🇦🇼 Aruba2.0%4.0%
🇦🇺 Australia*1.6%3.8%
🇦🇹 Austria1.0%4.7%
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan2.5%3.7%
🇧🇭 Bahrain3.0%3.4%
🇧🇩 Bangladesh6.0%7.2%
🇧🇧 Barbados5.0%10.5%
🇧🇾 Belarus0.2%-7.0%
🇧🇪 Belgium0.4%2.4%
🇧🇿 Belize2.0%3.5%
🇧🇯 Benin6.2%5.7%
🇧🇹 Bhutan4.3%4.0%
🇧🇴 Bolivia3.2%3.8%
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina2.0%2.4%
🇧🇼 Botswana4.0%4.1%
🇧🇷 Brazil*1.2%2.8%
🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam3.3%1.2%
🇧🇬 Bulgaria3.0%2.9%
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso4.8%3.6%
🇧🇮 Burundi4.1%3.3%
🇨🇻 Cabo Verde4.8%4.0%
🇨🇲 Cameroon4.6%3.8%
🇰🇭 Cambodia6.2%5.1%
🇨🇦 Canada*1.5%3.3%
🇨🇫 Central African Republic3.0%1.5%
🇹🇩 Chad3.4%3.3%
🇨🇱 Chile-1.0%2.0%
🇨🇳 China*5.3%3.2%
🇨🇴 Colombia2.2%7.6%
🇰🇲 Comoros3.4%3.0%
🇨🇷 Costa Rica2.9%3.8%
🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire6.5%5.5%
🇭🇷 Croatia3.5%5.9%
🇨🇾 Cyprus2.5%3.5%
🇨🇿 Czech Republic1.5%1.9%
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo6.7%6.1%
🇩🇰 Denmark0.6%2.6%
🇩🇯 Djibouti5.0%3.6%
🇩🇲 Dominica4.9%6.0%
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic4.5%5.3%
🇪🇨 Ecuador2.7%2.9%
🇪🇬 Egypt*4.0%6.6%
🇸🇻 El Salvador1.7%2.6%
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea-3.1%5.8%
🇪🇷 Eritrea2.9%2.6%
🇪🇪 Estonia1.8%1.0%
🇸🇿 Eswatini1.8%2.4%
🇪🇹 Ethiopia5.3%3.8%
🇫🇯 Fiji6.9%12.5%
🇫🇮 Finland0.5%2.1%
🇫🇷 France*0.7%2.5%
🇲🇰 North Macedonia3.0%
🇬🇦 Gabon3.7%2.7%
🇬🇪 Georgia4.0%9.0%
🇩🇪 Germany*0.1%1.5%
🇬🇭 Ghana2.8%3.6%
🇬🇷 Greece1.8%5.2%
🇬🇩 Grenada3.6%3.6%
🇬🇹 Guatemala3.2%3.4%
🇬🇳 Guinea5.1%4.6%
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau4.5%3.8%
🇬🇾 Guyana25.2%57.8%
🇭🇹 Haiti0.5%-1.2%
🇭🇳 Honduras3.5%3.4%
🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR3.9%-0.8%
🇭🇺 Hungary1.8%5.7%
🇮🇸 Iceland2.9%5.1%
🇮🇳 India*6.1%6.8%
🇮🇩 Indonesia*4.8%5.3%
🇮🇶 Iraq4.0%9.3%
🇮🇪 Ireland4.0%9.0%
🇮🇷 Iran*2.0%3.0%
🇮🇱 Israel3.0%6.1%
🇮🇹 Italy*0.6%3.2%
🇯🇲 Jamaica3.0%2.8%
🇯🇵 Japan*1.8%1.7%
🇯🇴 Jordan2.7%2.4%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan*4.3%2.5%
🇰🇪 Kenya5.1%5.3%
🇰🇮 Kiribati2.4%1.0%
🇰🇷 South Korea*1.7%2.6%
🇽🇰 Kosovo3.5%2.7%
🇰🇼 Kuwait2.6%8.7%
🇰🇬 Kyrgyz Republic3.2%3.8%
🇱🇦 Lao P.D.R.3.1%2.2%
🇱🇻 Latvia1.6%2.5%
🇱🇸 Lesotho1.6%2.1%
🇱🇷 Liberia4.2%3.7%
🇱🇾 Libya17.9%-18.4%
🇱🇹 Lithuania1.1%1.8%
🇱🇺 Luxembourg1.1%1.6%
🇲🇴 Macao SAR56.7%-22.4%
🇲🇬 Madagascar5.2%4.2%
🇲🇼 Malawi2.5%0.9%
🇲🇾 Malaysia*4.4%5.4%
🇲🇻 Maldives6.1%8.7%
🇲🇱 Mali5.3%2.5%
🇲🇹 Malta3.3%6.2%
🇲🇭 Marshall Islands3.2%1.5%
🇲🇷 Mauritania4.8%4.0%
🇲🇺 Mauritius5.4%6.1%
🇲🇽 Mexico*1.7%2.1%
🇫🇲 Micronesia2.9%-0.6%
🇲🇩 Moldova2.3%0.0%
🇲🇳 Mongolia5.0%2.5%
🇲🇪 Montenegro2.5%7.2%
🇲🇦 Morocco3.1%08%
🇲🇿 Mozambique4.9%3.7%
🇲🇲 Myanmar3.3%2.0%
🇳🇦 Namibia3.2%3.0%
🇳🇷 Nauru2.0%0.9%
🇳🇵 Nepal5.0%4.2%
🇳🇱 Netherlands*0.6%4.5%
🇳🇿 New Zealand1.9%2.3%
🇳🇮 Nicaragua3.0%4.0%
🇳🇪 Niger7.3%6.7%
🇳🇬 Nigeria*3.2%3.2%
🇳🇴 Norway2.6%3.6%
🇴🇲 Oman4.1%4.4%
🇵🇰 Pakistan*2.0%6.0%
🇵🇼 Palau12.3%-2.8%
🇵🇦 Panama4.0%7.5%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea5.1%3.8%
🇵🇾 Paraguay4.3%0.2%
🇵🇪 Peru2.6%2.7%
🇵🇭 Philippines*5.0%6.5%
🇵🇱 Poland*0.3%3.8%
🇵🇹 Portugal0.7%6.2%
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico0.4%4.8%
🇶🇦 Qatar2.4%3.4%
🇨🇬 Republic of Congo4.6%4.3%
🇷🇴 Romania3.1%4.8%
🇷🇺 Russia*0.3%-3.4%
🇷🇼 Rwanda6.7%6.0%
🇼🇸 Samoa4.0%-5.0%
🇸🇲 San Marino0.8%3.1%
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe2.6%1.4%
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia*2.6%7.6%
🇸🇳 Senegal8.1%4.7%
🇷🇸 Serbia2.7%3.5%
🇸🇨 Seychelles5.2%10.9%
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone3.3%2.4%
🇸🇬 Singapore2.3%3.0%
🇸🇰 Slovak Republic1.5%1.8%
🇸🇮 Slovenia1.7%5.7%
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands2.6%-4.5%
🇸🇴 Somalia3.1%1.9%
🇿🇦 South Africa*1.2%2.1%
🇸🇸 South Sudan5.6%6.5%
🇪🇸 Spain*1.1%4.3%
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka-3.0%-8.7%
🇰🇳 St. Kitts and Nevis4.8%9.8%
🇱🇨 St. Lucia5.8%9.1%
🇻🇨 St. Vincent and the Grenadines6.0%5.0%
🇸🇩 Sudan2.6%-0.3%
🇸🇷 Suriname2.3%1.3%
🇸🇪 Sweden-0.1%2.6%
🇨🇭 Switzerland0.8%2.2%
🇹🇼 Taiwan2.8%3.3%
🇹🇯 Tajikistan4.0%5.5%
🇹🇿 Tanzania5.2%4.5%
🇹🇭 Thailand*3.7%2.8%
🇧🇸 The Bahamas4.1%8.0%
🇬🇲 The Gambia6.0%5.0%
🇹🇱 Timor-Leste4.2%3.3%
🇹🇬 Togo6.2%5.4%
🇹🇴 Tonga2.9%-2.0%
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago3.5%4.0%
🇹🇳 Tunisia1.6%2.2%
🇹🇷 Turkey*3.0%5.0%
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan2.3%1.2%
🇹🇻 Tuvalu3.5%3.0%
🇺🇬 Uganda5.9%4.4%
🇺🇦 UkraineN/A-35.0%
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates4.2%5.1%
🇬🇧 United Kingdom*-0.6%3.6%
🇺🇲 U.S.*1.4%1.6%
🇺🇾 Uruguay3.6%5.3%
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan4.7%5.2%
🇻🇺 Vanuatu3.1%1.7%
🇻🇪 Venezuela6.5%6.0%
🇻🇳 Vietnam6.2%7.0%
West Bank and Gaza3.5%4.0%
🇾🇪 Yemen3.3%2.0%
🇿🇲 Zambia4.0%2.9%
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe2.8%3.0%

*Reflect updated figures from the January 2023 IMF Update.

The U.S. is forecast to see 1.4% GDP growth in 2023, up from 1.0% seen in the last October projection.

Still, signs of economic weakness can be seen in the growing wave of tech layoffs, foreshadowed as a white-collar or ‘Patagonia-vest’ recession. Last year, 88,000 tech jobs were cut and this trend has continued into 2023. Major financial firms have also followed suit. Still, unemployment remains fairly steadfast, at 3.5% as of December 2022. Going forward, concerns remain around inflation and the path of interest rate hikes, though both show signs of slowing.

Across Europe, the average projected GDP growth rate is 0.7% for 2023, a sharp decline from the 2.1% forecast for last year.

Both Germany and Italy are forecast to see slight growth, at 0.1% and 0.6%, respectively. Growth forecasts were revised upwards since the IMF’s October release. However, an ongoing energy crisis exposes the manufacturing sector to vulnerabilities, with potential spillover effects to consumers and businesses, and overall Euro Area growth.

China remains an open question. In 2023, growth is predicted to rise 5.2%, higher than many large economies. While its real estate sector has shown signs of weakness, the recent opening on January 8th, following 1,016 days of zero-Covid policy, could boost demand and economic activity.

A Long Way to Go

The IMF has stated that 2023 will feel like a recession for much of the global economy. But whether it is headed for a recovery or a sharper decline remains unknown.

Today, two factors propping up the global economy are lower-than-expected energy prices and resilient private sector balance sheets. European natural gas prices have sunk to levels seen before the war in Ukraine. During the height of energy shocks, firms showed a notable ability to withstand astronomical energy prices squeezing their finances. They are also sitting on significant cash reserves.

On the other hand, inflation is far from over. To counter this effect, many central banks will have to use measures to rein in prices. This may in turn have a dampening effect on economic growth and financial markets, with unknown consequences.

As economic data continues to be released over the year, there may be a divergence between consumer sentiment and whether things are actually changing in the economy. Where the economy is heading in 2023 will be anyone’s guess.

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Markets in a Minute

Chart: The State of U.S. Retirement Assets in 2022

U.S. retirement assets have faced challenging conditions amid market headwinds—but over the last decade these assets have nearly doubled.

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U.S. Retirement Assets in 2022

This infographic is available as a poster.

Chart: The State of U.S. Retirement Assets in 2022

Today, many people are questioning the effects of high inflation on their retirement assets.

This Markets in a Minute from New York Life Investments charts the state of U.S. retirement assets to show how Americans are building their retirement savings, and where these assets are being drawn from.

U.S. Retirement Assets: Where it Stands Today

As of 2022, there was over $33 trillion being held in U.S. retirement assets.

For perspective, that’s about 31% of all household financial assets in America and nearly double the amount seen a decade ago. In the table below, we show how this breaks down by retirement asset type, using data from the Investment Company Institute:

Type of Retirement Asset2022*2012200219921982
IRAs$11.7T$5.8T$2.5T$872B$67B
DC Plans$9.3T$5.2T$2.6T$1.1T$264B
State and Local Government DB Plans$5.1T$3.2T$2.1T$958B$260B
Private-Sector DB Plans$3.2T$2.7T$1.7T$1.1T$479B
Federal DB Plans$2.2T$1.3T$800B$411B$99B
Annuities$2.2T$1.7T$899B$473B$180B
Total $33.7T$19.9T$10.5T$5.0T$1.3T

*As of Q2 2022.

As seen above, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) hold the most retirement assets, at 34% of the total. Since 2012, they have doubled, jumping from $5.8 trillion to $11.7 trillion in 2022.

Today, about 37% of Americans hold an IRA.

With $9.3 trillion in assets, defined contribution (DC) plans are the second-greatest source of savings. These type of plans have the employee make contributions that are automatically deducted from their paycheck. Here, employers have the option to make contributions. Like IRAs, they have grown considerably in the last 10 years.

Defined benefit (DB) plans, meanwhile, have declined in usage, especially in the private sector. In 1982, private-sector DB plans made up almost 40% of U.S. retirement assets. In 2022, they accounted for under 10% of these assets.

Overall, retirement assets have declined in 2022 due to weak market performance—after a record year in 2021 driven by higher contributions, a strong market, and other factors.

U.S. Financial Security in 2022

With these factors at play, how are Americans feeling about their financial security, and how is this impacting their retirement outlook?

In one Ipsos survey, just 56% of Americans surveyed said they felt good about their overall level of financial security.

When it comes to their long-term outlook, chief among concerns is inflation. Over half surveyed said that it will likely have a big impact on their ability to save for retirement and meet other long-term financial goals. Rising interest rates and medical costs are other areas of concern, with about one-third saying they will have a large impact on achieving these outcomes.

Meanwhile, 59% of Americans said they feel confident they have enough savings to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Of these, Baby Boomers feel most confident at 70%, while Gen Z (48%) feels least confident.

The good news is that inflation looks to have hit its peak in the summer of 2022. Still, reaching a 2-3% target may take a longer period of time. With this in mind, looking to investment strategies that include floating-rate bonds and real estate, infrastructure, and value equities may help insulate retirement assets from market fluctations and inflation.

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2023 Global Forecast by Visual Capitalist

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