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What is a currency swap?

In a currency swap, institutions will enter into an arrangement lasting anywhere from 1 to 30 years, in which they loan each other an equal principal amount at the current exchange rate, lending out their currency and taking a loan in a foreign currency, and paying an interest rate in foreign currency to their lending counter-party. Institutions that engage in a currency swap (also called a cross-currency swap) seek to increase their exposure or liquidity in a foreign currency, and in some cases seek to take advantage of favorable interest rates in the arrangement. In fact, a currency swap can be considered a variation on an interest rate swap, except that in this case, a notional principal is exchanged at the onset. Continue reading...

What is a Buying Hedge?

Hedging against future price risk was the main reason Futures contracts came into being. If an investor or a business knows that they need to acquire an asset or security at a future date, they might go ahead and agree to a price and have it in writing on a Futures contract. A futures contract means that an item has been sold at a stated price, and only awaits settlement at a future date. This will protect them from the risk that the price will move unfavorably in the future, and it will allow them to balance books and plan a budget with more certainty. Futures contracts are standardized and traded on exchanges. Continue reading...

What is FOREX?

Forex is the common name for the Foreign Exchange market, an international network of currency trading that is active 24/7. Forex is by far the most active and highest-volume market in the world, because it involves large trades between international institutions in an effort to diversify or consolidate their exposure to various currencies. Individual traders can also participate, usually by trading nano-lots, which are 100-unit increments of currency. Continue reading...

What is a hedge fund?

Hedge funds are private investment groups that attract high net worth individuals (and in some cases institutions), and use investment strategies that may be riskier than would be suitable for the average investor. While the name "hedge" implies that the fund serves a defensive purpose, today’s hedge funds use wide array strategies, and more often than not the goal is total return. The strategies used are often speculative, contrarian, or alternative compared to most investment options in say mutual funds or traditional long-only asset managers. Continue reading...

How do I get exposure to other currencies?

There are two main ways to get exposure to other currencies: you can buy them in the open market (FOREX), or you can buy instruments (such as ETFs) which reflect the currencies’ cross rates. For example, FXE reflects the rate of exchange between the US dollar and the Euro. It is trading in units of exchange rate times 100 (for example, if today, FXE is trading at $130, it means that the rate of exchange is $/Euro = $1.30). Continue reading...

What is a currency basket?

Currency baskets are composed of weighted amounts of certain currencies. The most common use of a currency basket is as a benchmark for certain economic analysis, but it can also be used as a unit of account where an international organization has constituents that use various currencies. A basket of currencies is a weighted index of various currencies which serves a specific purpose as a benchmark or as a unit of account. Continue reading...

What are currency futures?

Currency futures are derivative contracts that trade on regulated exchanges around the world. Like forward contracts, they name a specific amount of one currency which is to be exchanged for a specific amount of another currency at a future date. Futures name a specific amount of one currency which will be exchanged for a specific amount of another currency at a future date. Like other derivative contracts that trade on exchanges (e.g., options), futures are transferable and are traded as the market calls for up until their expiration. Investors can short them (sell to open) and hold them long (buy to open), and can close their positions as they see fit without riding out the contract to the expiration date. Continue reading...

What is a currency symbol?

Currency symbols are characters written or typed in a specific arrangement alongside the numerical values of a currency amount, to denote the kind of currency in which the amount of money is held. An example would be the dollar sign ($), which is placed at the beginning of the numbers which describe the amount of currency in question, despite the fact that in most languages the word “dollars” follows the numbers when spoken. Many currencies have their own symbol but not necessarily all do. Continue reading...

What is an FX swap?

A Foreign Exchange (FX) Swap is a short-term arrangement where a company or institution swaps domestic currency for another, then swaps it back after a short time - this may involve the use of a Forward contract. If a company sells something internationally, and they now hold a significant amount of foreign currency, they may want to exchange it for their domestic currency. If, however, they already have a payment obligation in the foreign currency within the next few months, they may use an FX Swap arrangement. Continue reading...

What is delta hedging?

Delta hedging is the process of reducing exposure to potential loss resulting from price fluctuations in the security underlying his or her options positions by bringing the delta – or price relationship between options and their underlying securities – of a portfolio to zero, or closer to it (a position called ‘delta neutral’ or ‘delta hedged’). This is accomplished by purchasing financial instruments which counterbalance each other's exposure to price fluctuations, often adding short or long positions in other options or the underlying securities themselves. Continue reading...

What is the currency carry trade?

Assets that are held are sometimes analyzed in terms of the cost of carrying them, called the cost of carry. In certain situations, there may be a potential for profit if an asset that might otherwise have a cost of carry could be traded for an asset that actually generates profit. The arbitrage opportunity that exists in that space, and the market formed by it, is sometimes called the carry trade, or the currency carry trade where it applies to currency. Continue reading...

What is a Swap?

A swap is an over-the-counter agreement between institutions to "swap" one thing for another, usually the cash flow related to interest-bearing instruments. Given the negotiable and over-the-counter nature of swaps, there are many permutations and manifestations of this concept. The most common is the interest rate swap, in which the counter-parties agree to pay the interest due on principal amounts which are not exchanged. Continue reading...

What kind of hedge funds exist?

Hedge funds can employ many strategies and focus on virtually any kind of investing style or market. They also have the flexibility to change their strategy as they see fit. Morningstar and other services will group hedge funds into categories and provide benchmarks based on their average performances. As of 2016, there are over 12,000 hedge funds, and over half of those are required to report to the SEC. Continue reading...

What is currency depreciation?

The value of a currency can depreciate in relation to the value of other currencies or to another benchmark. Currencies can have their value determined by the cost of a basket of consumer goods from one period to another, but this is really just a measure of inflation. Inflation (or “deflation”) is a subset of the appreciation/depreciation metric, but changes in the exchange rates between currencies are typically seen as the most relevant measure of a currency’s value. Continue reading...

What is a foreign currency swap?

These are generally referred to as currency swaps or cross-currency swaps , since “foreign” is a little redundant (currencies are from different countries anyway). Central banks and large institutions sometimes swap principal amounts and loan interest in their domestic currency in exchange for a foreign currency, to provide liquidity and a hedge. Currency swaps are where banking institutions, particularly central banks, exchange a loan in one currency for a loan in another currency. Continue reading...

What is a currency peg?

The currency pairs you are most familiar with, such as EUR/USD or USD/JPY, are floating currencies, meaning that their value changes freely with market forces. Some countries have chosen to peg their currency to another currency, most commonly the USD. The exchange rate between their currency and the peg currency never changes, unless policy makers tweak things slightly. Currencies can also be pegged to commodities or baskets of other currencies. Pegged currencies are not discussed often in the Forex market because their value is tied directly to the value of another, more liquid floating currency, or to a basket of currencies, or to a commodity. Continue reading...

What is a derivative?

A derivative is a security which monetizes the risk or volatility associated with a reference asset. Derivatives derive their value from speculation surrounding an underlying or reference asset. The reference asset could be another security, an interest rate, or an index, for example, but there are also derivatives based on future weather patterns. Derivatives come in many forms; examples include options, swaps, and futures. Some derivatives trade on exchanges and some are Over-the-Counter (OTC). Derivatives might be used for speculation or hedging. Continue reading...

What is currency in circulation?

Currency in circulation tends to be defined as the currency held by commercial banks, and currency with the public, without including long-term deposits or investments. As much as 2/3rd of Currency in Circulation is held outside of the borders of the US, and is estimated to be around $1.5 trillion as of 2016. Currency in Circulation is one part of what’s known as the money supply. Money supply is divided into four levels: M0, M1, M2, and M3. Some might define currency in circulation as the larger part of M0, which is the money base, constituted by the currency held in commercial banking institutions and excluding central bank reserves / Federal funds. This definition disregards the Currency with Public, which is included in other definitions and is part of M1. Continue reading...

What is a commodity swap?

Like a currency or interest rate swap, a commodity swap is a contractual agreement to trade one cash flow for another. Commodity swaps are facilitated by Swap Dealers (SDs) who pair up various companies, mostly in the oil industry, who are looking to trade a floating (market price) cash flow outlay for a fixed one, or vice-versa. Futures Commission Merchants (FCMs) are the agents licensed by the National Futures Association to solicit and broker commodity swaps through Swap Dealers (SDs). (Requirements — found here) Continue reading...

How can I invest in hedge funds?

Fund managers are allowed to accept up to 35 non-accredited investors, but for the most part you will either need to satisfy the “accredited investor” requirement of the SEC to invest directly in a hedge fund. Otherwise, there are now hedge fund indexes and ETFs that track and mimic hedge fund strategies that are accessible to everyone. You should know now that the minimum initial investment requirement to participate in a hedge fund can be quite large, such as upwards of $1 million. Continue reading...