The U.S. dollar has seen solid appreciation versus a mix of the world's major currencies. With 1997=100 as a base index, the dollar now rates 116.29 versus 102.13 as recently as August 2014, and 100.62 two years ago. This is a two-edged sword.
If you are a tourist, that U.S. buck buys 16% more than it did two years ago (or in 1997). Likewise, if you're buying foreign imports, you're likely getting better, lower pricing.
But let's say you manufacture goods here for foreign export. The price of your products is 16% higher for your typical European or Asian customer.
In the unlikely event that you're the sole supplier of a needed good, your foreign customer has to eat the price or buy less of your product. But if you have a serious competitor producing a comparable product in Belgium or South Korea, you're feeling the squeeze.
We've seen similar peaks in the past 20 years. In March 2002, the dollar spiked at 127.69 versus 1997=100. The problem today, though, is that all sorts of pressures increase the likelihood that the dollar will continue to appreciate -- and remain high for some time.
Moody's economy.com thinks that if the dollar appreciates 15% more this year, we could lose 0.6% of GDP and perhaps shed 400,000 jobs in the U.S. on currency appreciation alone.
Preliminary data from CBIA's new international trade survey shows local exporters are concerned even with year-to-date dollar appreciation.
This is certainly an area to watch (and every bit as important as the latest unemployment rate and inflation announcements) as a gauge of economic well-being.