The US Dollar Index has strengthened after a volatile 2023, as Wall Street adjusts its expectations for interest rate cuts. The index is up 2.8% for the year, rebounding from last November’s slide. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s comments in January suggesting that rate cuts are unlikely to begin in March surprised investors. Strong economic data, including job growth and rising consumer prices, supports keeping rates higher for longer. A strong dollar impacts American companies’ overseas revenue but benefits importers and travelers. Other countries’ monetary policies and the 10-year US Treasury yield also influence the dollar’s trajectory.
Attacks on container vessels in the Red Sea, attributed to Iran-backed Houthi militants, have disrupted one of the world’s major trade routes. Shipping companies have been diverting vessels to avoid the area, potentially causing delays and increased costs. This disruption could last up to a year and has raised concerns about potential price rises for consumers already grappling with inflation. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated that commercial real estate vacancies are expected to stress smaller banks. However, she does not perceive these vacancies as posing a systemic risk to the nation’s financial system. Yellen acknowledged the exposure of large banks to be low but noted that some smaller banks might experience stress due to high office building vacancy rates, interest rates, and falling valuations. Overall, Yellen assured that the US financial system remains well-capitalized and sound.