Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Why Hedge Foreign Currency Risk

Why Hedge Foreign Currency Risk

International commerce has rapidly increased as the internet has provided a new and more transparent marketplace for individuals and entities alike to conduct international business and trading activities. Significant changes in the international economic and political landscape have led to uncertainty regarding the direction of foreign exchange rates. This uncertainty leads to volatility and the need for an effective vehicle to hedge foreign exchange rate risk and/or interest rate changes while, at the same time, effectively ensuring a future financial position.
Each entity and/or individual that has exposure to foreign exchange rate risk will have specific foreign exchange hedging needs and this website can not possibly cover every existing foreign exchange hedging situation. Therefore, we will cover the more common reasons that a foreign exchange hedge is placed and show you how to properly hedge foreign exchange rate risk.

Foreign Exchange Rate Risk Exposure - Foreign exchange rate risk exposure is common to virtually all who conduct international business and/or trading. Buying and/or selling of goods or services denominated in foreign currencies can immediately expose you to foreign exchange rate risk. If a firm price is quoted ahead of time for a contract using a foreign exchange rate that is deemed appropriate at the time the quote is given, the foreign exchange rate quote may not necessarily be appropriate at the time of the actual agreement or performance of the contract. Placing a foreign exchange hedge can help to manage this foreign exchange rate risk.

Interest Rate Risk Exposure - Interest rate exposure refers to the interest rate differential between the two countries' currencies in a foreign exchange contract. The interest rate differential is also roughly equal to the "carry" cost paid to hedge a forward or futures contract. As a side note, arbitragers are investors that take advantage when interest rate differentials between the foreign exchange spot rate and either the forward or futures contract are either to high or too low. In simplest terms, an arbitrager may sell when the carry cost he or she can collect is at a premium to the actual carry cost of the contract sold. Conversely, an arbitrager may buy when the carry cost he or she may pay is less than the actual carry cost of the contract bought. Either way, the arbitrager is looking to profit from a small price discrepancy due to interest rate differentials.

Foreign Investment / Stock Exposure - Foreign investing is considered by many investors as a way to either diversify an investment portfolio or seek a larger return on investment(s) in an economy believed to be growing at a faster pace than investment(s) in the respective domestic economy. Investing in foreign stocks automatically exposes the investor to foreign exchange rate risk and speculative risk. For example, an investor buys a particular amount of foreign currency (in exchange for domestic currency) in order to purchase shares of a foreign stock. The investor is now automatically exposed to two separate risks. First, the stock price may go either up or down and the investor is exposed to the speculative stock price risk. Second, the investor is exposed to foreign exchange rate risk because the foreign exchange rate may either appreciate or depreciate from the time the investor first purchased the foreign stock and the time the investor decides to exit the position and repatriates the currency (exchanges the foreign currency back to domestic currency). Therefore, even if a speculative profit is achieved because the foreign stock price rose, the investor could actually net lose money if devaluation of the foreign currency occurred while the investor was holding the foreign stock (and the devaluation amount was greater than the speculative profit). Placing a foreign exchange hedge can help to manage this foreign exchange rate risk.

Hedging Speculative Positions - Foreign currency traders utilize foreign exchange hedging to protect open positions against adverse moves in foreign exchange rates, and placing a foreign exchange hedge can help to manage foreign exchange rate risk. Speculative positions can be hedged via a number of foreign exchange hedging vehicles that can be used either alone or in combination to create entirely new foreign exchange hedging strategies.
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