Strong Dollar Could Hurt U.S. Companies

"The solution isn't a weak dollar, but it's also not the ever-strengthening dollar policy we've been seeing in recent years," said David Malpass, chief international economist with Bear Stearns in New York. "The best solution, perhaps, is a strong and stable dollar, but no one is asserting that just yet."

Indeed, a growing number of analysts and economists in recent months have begun to wonder just that — whether the economy might be better served by having the U.S. Treasury change its tune and, at minimum, allow the dollar to stabilize at its current level.

Growing Pressure for Change

So far, Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill has held fast on the "strong dollar" policy, indicating that the Treasury will not adjust its policies to alter the value of the U.S. currency in world financial markets.

But there is growing pressure on O'Neill and the Bush administration to do something. Although he has not completely convinced the financial markets that he means it, O'Neill, backed by the White House, has repeatedly insisted that he has no plans to intervene in the currency markets or to talk down the dollar.

For Colbert, 68, who bought his first orchard with $250 of borrowed money when he was 19 and has always been in the fruit business, the strong dollar has hurt him more than anything else.

"Frost, rain, heat — those are things you worry about when you're running an orchard," he said. "It's a wonderful way of life and it's a little risky, but now it's even riskier because of the economics of it," he said. "That was something I never would have anticipated."

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