Content provided by Joshua Jenkins, CFA, Portfolio Manager
Over the last year, currencies have been on the forefront of my mind, which is unusual. I’m not saying they are not important. In the short term, they definitely impact returns. Portfolio Manager Case Eichenberger recently wrote about that here. Over the long term, however, the impact of currency fluctuations tend to net out to zero. As long-term investors, we are generally comfortable taking on currency risk if the asset we are buying is priced attractively.
So, why have I been thinking about currencies so much? Well, my wife, Kirsten, and I were married this August, and immediately after the wedding we traveled to Europe for our honeymoon. While I may be a long-term investor, I am not a long-term honeymooner. Suffice it to say the recent dollar move definitely had an impact.
We did not choose Europe last fall specifically because the euro was trading at the weakest level to the dollar in 15 years, but believe me that fact did not go unnoticed by me. So, as I spent 2017 watching my trip becoming more and more expensive, it was painful. Fortunately, we locked in a substantial portion of the cost in April by prepaying for hotels and flights to various destinations in Europe. At least we were partially hedged.
(If you look closely, you can see me calculating how much more I had to pay for the gondola ride due to the euro rally. Just don’t tell Kirsten.)
The chart below provides some rough evidence that currency moves even out over time. During the last 50 years, rolling 12-month returns on the Dollar Spot Index (DXY) generally resemble a normal distribution with a return of 0.01% on average.
As Case’s blog pointed out, weakness in the dollar has provided a very nice tailwind for our international holdings at CLS this year. In addition, according to the table below from Ned Davis Research, when sentiment towards the dollar (red line) is as sour as it is today, the dollar typically continues to underperform to the tune of 5% to 8% per year. To put it another way, this tailwind may persist, and that should generally be a postive outcome for CLS portfolios.
So, if you are planning a trip overseas in the near future, some attention may be warranted. Perhaps hedging a portion of the expenditure ahead of time could be beneficial. Though I was better off having hedged, my experience tells me it does little to reduce the mental pain of the unhedged cost. For long-term investors, enjoy the tailwind while you have it. Just remember — honeymoons aside — the long-term impact of currency fluctuations doesn’t need to keep you up at night.