Monday, October 01, 2007

Weak Dollar Has Its Advantages

From today's WSJ front page article "Dollar Lifts Exporters":

As long as the dollar's decline is gradual, most economists see it as a modest plus overall.

Real exports have grown faster than real imports for nearly two years, and this trend is expected to continue. U.S. exports rose 2.7% to a record $137.68 billion in July, and stronger exports have contributed a half percentage point of added growth to GDP since 2005.

At the moment, strong foreign economies are soaking up U.S.-made goods and services.

Visits by foreign tourists to U.S. theme parks and other attractions are up, which means more bookings for hotels, restaurants and rental cars. The convention bureau in Orlando, Fla., forecasts a 3.9% increase in foreign visitors this year compared with 2006. Canada's dollar recently hit parity with its U.S. counterpart for the first time since 1976, which is why Disney recently ran ads north of the border urging Canadians to "enjoy the magic" of a strong currency by traveling to Florida.

People like James Mallon are seeing yet another dimension to the falling dollar. The 34-year-old native of Ottawa, who now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., says he's gotten a flurry of phone calls in the past few weeks from friends in Canada who want to stay with him for weekend shopping excursions. Several asked him to accept mail-order shipments -- including a surfboard, cookware and bicycle parts -- that they'll pick up in the future.

"I feel richer for my friends," he says, "but poorer." Mr. Mallon, an engineering consultant who specializes in ergonomics, has his student loans in Canadian dollars that now cost more to pay back. And a loan of C$25,000 that he took from his parents to buy his house in 2003 has suddenly grown far more onerous. "When I took out that loan, it was the equivalent of $14,000 U.S., but now I owe them $25,000."


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