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What is foreign exchange intervention?

Foreign exchange intervention is a crucial monetary policy tool utilized by central banks to actively influence the exchange rate of their national currency. The objective of such interventions can vary, ranging from stabilizing the currency to maintaining competitiveness in international trade. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of foreign exchange intervention, including its definition, strategies employed, and underlying goals. We will draw insights from two relevant articles to shed light on the various aspects of this monetary policy tool.

Defining Foreign Exchange Intervention

According to the first article, foreign exchange intervention refers to the active efforts made by central banks to stabilize their currency. These interventions involve the central bank's participation in the foreign exchange market using its reserves or authority to generate currency. The primary objective is to influence the transfer rate of the national currency effectively.

Strategies and Goals

  1. Stabilizing the Currency

One of the key strategies employed in foreign exchange intervention is aimed at stabilizing the currency. The second article explains that central banks may intervene when they perceive that their currency has become misaligned with the country's economic fundamentals. For instance, a strong currency can hinder a nation's export competitiveness. In such cases, central banks may intervene to prevent the currency from appreciating excessively and making exports less affordable. Conversely, if a currency is depreciating rapidly, central banks may intervene to prevent excessive volatility.

  1. Short-term Reaction to Events

Foreign exchange intervention can also be a short-term reaction to specific events that lead to significant currency movements. The second article highlights that central banks may intervene to provide liquidity and reduce volatility in the market during such times. For example, after the Swiss National Bank (SNB) removed the minimum exchange rate between the Swiss franc and the euro, the franc plummeted. The SNB intervened to halt the franc's further decline and mitigate the associated volatility.

  1. Economic and Trade Goals

Foreign exchange intervention can be driven by broader economic and trade goals. Central banks may manipulate the value of their domestic currency intentionally to achieve specific economic objectives. For instance, a central bank might intervene to manage inflation by influencing the value of the currency. Additionally, a weaker currency can make a country's exports more competitive, thereby promoting economic growth. The second article mentions the examples of China and Japan, which have purchased significant amounts of U.S. Treasuries to devalue their currencies and enhance their export competitiveness.

Risks and Considerations

While foreign exchange intervention can be an effective monetary policy tool, it is not without risks. The second article warns that interventions can undermine a central bank's credibility if they fail to maintain stability. Past instances, such as the 1994 currency crisis in Mexico and the Asian financial crisis of 1997, highlight the potential dangers associated with interventions. It is crucial for central banks to carefully consider the timing, amount, and impact of interventions to minimize unintended consequences and maintain market confidence.


If a central bank takes actions that intentionally and artificially affect the value of a currency, particularly its own, it is engaging in what is known as a Foreign Exchange Intervention, or an interventionist policy.

Central banks occasionally use interventions in foreign exchange markets to achieve a desirable end. The banks will intentionally make trades and hold certain amounts of currencies or derivatives with the sole purpose of manipulating the value of their domestic currency. The reasons for that manipulation might be to slow down inflation or to make their county’s exports look more attractive by pushing the value of their currency lower.

China and Japan have recently been buying up billions of dollars in US Treasuries as a way to devalue their own currencies, which will make their exports more attractive in the short term and help their economies strengthen. For countries like theirs which depend on exports, a strong currency can be a very bad thing, and in Japan this is known as Endaka.

Interventions can make an economy more stable in the short term. Most of the large central banks do not engage in interventions as much as they used to.

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