Up for the dollar and down for almost everything else

12/07/2009 9:26 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

So far this morning looks a lot like Friday afternoon.

The dollar is up against the euro to its highest level in a month as traders continue to bet that the smaller than expected job loss announced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday is a sign that the U.S. economy is growing faster than projected. That could, traders worry, lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates ahead of schedule. That would in turn push up the price of the U.S. dollar and make repaying dollar loans more expensive.

Traders have been borrowing dollars over the last year at low interest rates and then investing the borrowed cash in anything—commodities, real estate, gold, stocks—that promised a return high enough to pay the costs of their loan.

If the dollar strengthened, however, it would make repaying those loans more expensive. So traders are either buying dollars now to repay their loans or taking out “insurance” in the derivatives market to hedge against that possibility.

So where is this taking markets today?

All this is leading to a retreat in the price of those assets that had climbed as the dollar fell. Emerging markets started off the day down with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index dropping to its biggest loss in six months.  Gold dropped for a third straight day. The price of futures on the Standard & Poor’s Stock Index indicated that U.S. stocks would open on the down side.

Watch the results of the huge Treasury auction--$74 billion in notes and bonds hit the market this week—to see how long the dollar will keep moving up. The auction will serve as a reminder to bond traders and investors of how much debt the U.S. will have to sell this year to balance its various deficits.

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