The Global Implications of a Rising US Dollar

There are a lot of great things to be said about the United States economy right now. As US markets celebrate their longest ever growth streak, economically, a lot of Americans are satisfied with their financial well-being. Unemployment fell to a 50-year low, falling from 3.9 to 3.7 percent in September, as the US economy added another 134,000 jobs and companies have been steadily announcing payroll increases. In the third quarter, wages grew 3.4 percent, the fastest pace in over a decade. Amazon shocked the country by announcing its new $15 minimum wage for US workers, a policy that will go into effect next month, and is yet another sign of the best labor market in over a decade.

In the midst of this positive growth, the US Dollar continues to perform well as we enter the fourth quarter. US treasury yields are their highest since 2011, the dollar hit an 11-month high against the yen, and even the pound slipped to below $1.30 as the Dollar continues to sneak up. This means many Americans will enter the holiday season not only more eager to spend, but perhaps more eager to travel, as the Dollar’s value continues to rise globally. While spelling great news for US citizens, what does this mean for others around the world? Specifically, emerging markets across the globe are very aware of the recent trend of the Dollar, and in many cases, are facing potentially severe implications if the rapid growth continues to be a trend.

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Currency exchange rate sign in downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the Argentine peso has fell significantly in 2018.

One key indicator of economic and monetary prosperity is the Federal Reserve benchmark interest rate. The Fed tends to raise rates during a strong economy to contain excesses and make sure the economy continues to grow stably, and tends to lower rates in times of economic struggle, in an effort to boost spending and borrowing. Currently sitting at a range between 2% and 2.25%, the Fed raised the rate for the third time in late September, and plans to raise it again sometime in December, and the plans don’t stop there. In June, when the Fed laid out its long-term objectives, it tentatively planned three more interest rate increases for 2019, and one more for 2020. The rates can also help ensure inflation rates are steady. The current inflation rate of 1.9% is very close to the Fed’s target of 2%. This is a very significant outline, as it tells us that the Fed predicts the US’s growth to continue through 2020.

 While signaling stability for the US Dollar, the Fed’s interest rate increases can negatively affect foreign markets, especially those who have borrowed heavily in US Dollars. As it stands, the US is still, by far, the dominant global reserve currency, accounting for 63% of global reserves. Many countries around the world issue Dollar-denominated debt, and debt levels become exaggerated with the rise of the Dollar. While interest rate increases work in strong economies such as the US’s, the same increases constrain countries where economies are not doing as well. It hurts policy options in regions with tight financial conditions and high trade tensions. While the US market enjoys a growth streak, the markets of emerging countries have on average been declining throughout 2018.

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The Indian Rupee hit an all-time low this year vs. the US Dollar.

Emerging markets, which often rely heavily on foreign investment, will be hurting the most. In emerging Asian markets, the Indonesian rupiah hit a 20 year low in 2018, and the Indian Rupee hit an all-time low vs the Dollar, hitting 73.77. In South America, the Argentine Peso, which was placed at 18 vs the US Dollar in 2017 and was relatively stable, rose to over 40 in 2018. The Brazilian Real hit 4.15 this year, while being in the low 3s during 2017. In the Middle East, the Turkish Lira, which has been in the 3s for the last half decade, has reached above 6, and in Africa, the South African Rand has increased to over 15 despite being as low as just 11 last year. While these are some of the more extreme examples worldwide, and while there are plenty of other internal issues at play, it still marks a global trend of struggle against the US Dollar. The reality is, foreign investors are crucial to the success of emerging economies, and investors become more and more reluctant to invest abroad in times of such volatility.

This brings up an intriguing ethical debate, that is, should we, as Americans, really care about the economic struggles abroad? After all, with turbulence abroad, investors have turned to the relative stability and strength of the US markets, increasing investment in 2018. With our government’s “America First” policy, jobs have finally been increasing again over the past few years. Despite this, I worry about the tough implications that emerging economies are facing right now. Worldwide market collaboration and investment drives innovation and success and can move different people and cultures together forward Of course, the reality is a lot more complicated, but I still see success, especially in emerging markets, as a positive thing, and it is important to keep in mind that US markets affect these markets more than we think.




Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Facebook has recently been under fire for its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It can be difficult to understand and follow all of the events that took place. To start, in 2015 Global Science Research, a company owned by Aleksandr Kogan, harvested the data of 270,000 users who willingly sold their information to the company through the app “thisisyourdigitallife.” This was done in a legal manner and in line with all government regulations because the users voluntarily sold their data. However, the app also unknowingly harvested the data of the friends of these users. This is also compliant with Facebook’s policy, as the data of friends can be mined for use by app developers and academics. The data was then sold to Cambridge Analytica, which is a violation of Facebook’s policy on data mining. Christopher Wylie, a co-founder of Cambridge Analytica, blew the whistle on the events which led to national coverage of the issue. On March 16 of 2018, Facebook recognized the situation and suspended Cambridge Analytica from the website for selling the data to a third party. The tech firm reaffirmed that this was not a data breach as the users who downloaded “thisisyourdigitallife” voluntarily consented to having their data mined; the data of their friends should not have been sold to Cambridge Analytica. A day later, Cambridge Analytica issued a statement saying that it deleted all of the data it had received from Global Science Research after learning that it was not obtained in compliance with Facebook’s data privacy policies. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has since issued apologies in newspaper advertisements, stating that this was a “breach of trust,” and has agreed to testify before Congress about the matter on April 11.

Since Christopher Wylie blew the whistle on the scandal, Facebook has been rapidly losing value. The share price has dropped from $185.90 to as low as $152.22 as the news broke on March 16. This 18% decline in share price has caused Facebook to lose $80 billion in value, and Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth has also declined by $14 billion. With new facts about the scandal being uncovered every day, Facebook’s stock could face a major decline in the coming weeks. Mark Zuckerberg plans to have his Congressional hearing in April; he will hopefully be able to reassure users, investors, and the government that Facebook is capable of safely guarding the information of its users if he wishes to avoid further decline in share price or lawsuits.

Facebook and all tech companies need to make it their number one priority to safely secure the information of its users and customers. It is their duty to ensure that our information will not be sold without our consent. Hopefully the steep decline in Facebook’s share price will result in a wake-up call for the tech firm to increase its data and information security. Data privacy has been a hot-button issue lately with recent data breaches at Uber and Equifax receiving a high amount of national attention. After Equifax’s breach of data in September of 2017, the share price dropped dramatically, from $142.72 to $92.98 in the matter of 8 days after the news broke, leading to the company losing over $5 billion in value. This breach caused Equifax to lose nearly one third of its value all because the company failed to protect the information of its customers. Facebook stands out amongst these, as the information sold to Cambridge Analytica was used to create and target specific political advertisements for then candidate Donald Trump. Regardless, Facebook and all tech firms need to improve their policies and procedures when it comes to data privacy to avoid losing billions in value after data breaches.

Facebook did not take the necessary steps to ensure that all data being collected was done in compliance with its data privacy policies. Although Cambridge Analytica was the one to actually break the rules by purchasing the illegally obtained data, Facebook did not do enough to monitor the situation. After the data was collected, Facebook failed to track where it was used, causing the sale of the data to Cambridge Analytica to go right over Facebook’s head. Facebook, and all tech companies that retain customer data, must ensure that all data is properly collected and sold to those who rightfully can use it. Facebook’s data privacy policy is merely text on a page when the company fails to enforce its own guidelines. If Facebook wishes to avoid this issue again, and if it would like to set a precedent for the tech industry, then the company should begin monitoring the supply chain of data taken from its users. Currently, the social media platform has “strict confidentiality obligations” to which vendors and service providers must comply. Facebook does not list what these strict rules are, but the company clearly failed its users by not ensuring that Global Science Research and Cambridge Analytica were in compliance with these obligations. Tech firms need to begin tracking the stream of data and ensuring that all data is being properly collected and sold by legal means. Tech firms have seen many examples of the devastation that a data breach can do to a company’s value, and all should take Facebook’s latest mishap as a final warning to increase their security for data collection.