Although I have a French bank account, I know as an American expat that going to the ATM (cash machine) to withdraw from my American account is a matter of strategic timing. I’m always keeping my eye on the markets and the exchange rate for US dollars to Euros so that I can get the biggest bang for my buck, even though it is at miserable levels. At the time of this posting, it is 1.492 USD = 1 Euro ($1 = 0.67 centimes).
As the Euro rises against the dollar, more and more American expats are feeling the squeeze when withdrawing from US accounts.
The US dollar looks to remain at low levels for quite some time, judging from the recent decision of the US Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low for the time being (thus technically making it easier to borrow and consequently spend money, undermining the value of the dollar by way of supply and demand of liquidity).
Also playing a role: the inflation-weary European Central Bank announcing hints of an “exit strategy” from stimulus. The ECB has been quite cautious in the past about lowering interest rates, so that contributes to a stronger Euro overall. But they too have voiced concern about a weaker US dollar. Indeed, Airbus (EADS) has suffered because its production costs are in Euros but it sells its airplanes in dollars. There is even an idea of moving some production to US dollar economies.
Meanwhile, with US economic growth in the last quarter at 3.5% largely driven by the stimulus program (like “cash for clunkers” and helping negotiate lower mortgage rates for home owners), the US government is happy with a low-value dollar that is driving export growth. This is good for the US economy but bad for expats like me when withdrawing US dollars into Euros. I also know that generally when the US stock markets are up, the dollar usually gets a bit weaker. So when the US markets are up, it is bittersweet as an expat.
How are you fellow expats dealing with this issue?
According to recent reports listed below, the Eurozone economy may be officially coming out of a recession, but there remains pessimism about unemployment and sustainable growth in the mid-term. Much is similar in the US.
In fact the whole concept of GDP has been put into question by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz in France, as well as by BusinessWeek magazine. But this is an issue for another discussion.
HiFX –Europe’s job market indicates caution for money transfers
HiFX –Eurozone recession figures may bring optimism to expats making money transfers