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Determinants of FX Rates April 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaushik @ 7:03 pm

Economic factors

These include: (a)economic policy, disseminated by government agencies and central banks, (b)economic conditions, generally revealed through economic reports, and other economic indicators.
Economic policy comprises government fiscal policy (budget/spending practices) and monetary policy (the means by which a government’s central bank influences the supply and “cost” of money, which is reflected by the level of interest rates).
Economic conditions include:
Government budget deficits or surpluses
The market usually reacts negatively to widening government budget deficits, and positively to narrowing budget deficits. The impact is reflected in the value of a country’s currency.
Balance of trade levels and trends
The trade flow between countries illustrates the demand for goods and services, which in turn indicates demand for a country’s currency to conduct trade. Surpluses and deficits in trade of goods and services reflect the competitiveness of a nation’s economy. For example, trade deficits may have a negative impact on a nation’s currency.
Inflation levels and trends
Typically a currency will lose value if there is a high level of inflation in the country or if inflation levels are perceived to be rising [. This is because inflation erodes purchasing power, thus demand, for that particular currency. However, a currency may sometimes strengthen when inflation rises because of expectations that the central bank will raise short-term interest rates to combat rising inflation.
Economic growth and health
Reports such as GDP, employment levels, retail sales, capacity utilization and others, detail the levels of a country’s economic growth and health. Generally, the more healthy and robust a country’s economy, the better its currency will perform, and the more demand for it there will be.
Productivity of an economy
Increasing productivity in an economy should positively influence the value of its currency. It affects are more prominent if the increase is in the traded sector

Political conditions

Internal, regional, and international political conditions and events can have a profound effect on currency markets.

All exchange rates are susceptible to political instability and anticipations about the new ruling party. Political upheaval and instability can have a negative impact on a nation’s economy. For example, destabilization of coalition governments in India, Pakistan and Thailand can negatively affect the value of their currencies. Similarly, in a country experiencing financial difficulties, the rise of a political faction that is perceived to be fiscally responsible can have the opposite effect. Also, events in one country in a region may spur positive or negative interest in a neighboring country and, in the process, affect its currency.

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Trading characteristics April 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaushik @ 6:54 pm

There is no unified or centrally cleared market for the majority of FX trades, and there is very little cross-border regulation. Due to the over-the-counter (OTC) nature of currency markets, there are rather a number of interconnected marketplaces, where different currencies instruments are traded. This implies that there is not a single exchange rate but rather a number of different rates (prices), depending on what bank or market maker is trading, and where it is. In practice the rates are often very close, otherwise they could be exploited by arbitrageurs instantaneously. Due to London’s dominance in the market, a particular currency’s quoted price is usually the London market price. A joint venture of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Reuters, called Fxmarketspace opened in 2007 and aspired but failed to the role of a central market clearing mechanism.

The main trading center is London, but New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore are all important centers as well. Banks throughout the world participate. Currency trading happens continuously throughout the day; as the Asian trading session ends, the European session begins, followed by the North American session and then back to the Asian session, excluding weekends.

Fluctuations in exchange rates are usually caused by actual monetary flows as well as by expectations of changes in monetary flows caused by changes in gross domestic product (GDP) growth, inflation (purchasing power parity theory), interest rates (interest rate parity, Domestic Fisher effect, International Fisher effect), budget and trade deficits or surpluses, large cross-border M&A deals and other macroeconomic conditions. Major news is released publicly, often on scheduled dates, so many people have access to the same news at the same time. However, the large banks have an important advantage; they can see their customers’ order flow.

Currencies are traded against one another. Each pair of currencies thus constitutes an individual product and is traditionally noted XXX/YYY, where YYY is the ISO 4217 international three-letter code of the currency into which the price of one unit of XXX is expressed (called base currency). For instance, EUR/USD is the price of the euro expressed in US dollars, as in 1 euro = 1.5465 dollar. Out of convention, the first currency in the pair, the base currency, was the stronger currency at the creation of the pair. The second currency, counter currency, was the weaker currency at the creation of the pair.

The factors affecting XXX will affect both XXX/YYY and XXX/ZZZ. This causes positive currency correlation between XXX/YYY and XXX/ZZZ.

On the spot market, according to the BIS study, the most heavily traded products were:
EUR/USD: 27%
USD/JPY: 13%
GBP/USD (also called sterling or cable): 12%

and the US currency was involved in 86.3% of transactions, followed by the euro (37.0%), the yen (17.0%), and sterling (15.0%) (see table). Note that volume percentages should add up to 200%: 100% for all the sellers and 100% for all the buyers.

Trading in the euro has grown considerably since the currency’s creation in January 1999, and how long the foreign exchange market will remain dollar-centered is open to debate. Until recently, trading the euro versus a non-European currency ZZZ would have usually involved two trades: EUR/USD and USD/ZZZ. The exception to this is EUR/JPY, which is an established traded currency pair in the interbank spot market. As the dollar’s value has eroded during 2008, interest in using the euro as reference currency for prices in commodities (such as oil), as well as a larger component of foreign reserves by banks, has increased dramatically. Transactions in the currencies of commodity-producing countries, such as AUD, NZD, CAD, have also increased

 

Non-bank Foreign Exchange Companies April 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaushik @ 6:54 pm

Non-bank foreign exchange companies offer currency exchange and international payments to private individuals and companies. These are also known as foreign exchange brokers but are distinct in that they do not offer speculative trading but currency exchange with payments. I.e., there is usually a physical delivery of currency to a bank account.

It is estimated that in the UK, 14% of currency transfers/payments are made via Foreign Exchange Companies. These companies’ selling point is usually that they will offer better exchange rates or cheaper payments than the customer’s bank. These companies differ from Money Transfer/Remittance Companies in that they generally offer higher-value services.

 

Retail foreign exchange brokers April 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaushik @ 6:53 pm

There are two types of retail brokers offering the opportunity for speculative trading: retail foreign exchange brokers and market makers. Retail traders (individuals) are a small fraction of this market and may only participate indirectly through brokers or banks. Retail brokers, while largely controlled and regulated by the CFTC and NFA might be subject to foreign exchange scams. At present, the NFA and CFTC are imposing stricter requirements, particularly in relation to the amount of Net Capitalization required of its members. As a result many of the smaller, and perhaps questionable brokers are now gone. It is not widely understood that retail brokers and market makers typically trade against their clients and frequently take the other side of their trades. This can often create a potential conflict of interest and give rise to some of the unpleasant experiences some traders have had. A move toward NDD (No Dealing Desk) and STP (Straight Through Processing) has helped to resolve some of these concerns and restore trader confidence, but caution is still advised in ensuring that all is as it is presented.

 

Hedge funds as speculators and Investment management firms April 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaushik @ 6:52 pm

About 70% to 90% of the foreign exchange transactions are speculative. In other words, the person or institution that bought or sold the currency has no plan to actually take delivery of the currency in the end; rather, they were solely speculating on the movement of that particular currency. Hedge funds have gained a reputation for aggressive currency speculation since 1996. They control billions of dollars of equity and may borrow billions more, and thus may overwhelm intervention by central banks to support almost any currency, if the economic fundamentals are in the hedge funds’ favor.

Investment management firms (who typically manage large accounts on behalf of customers such as pension funds and endowments) use the foreign exchange market to facilitate transactions in foreign securities. For example, an investment manager bearing an international equity portfolio needs to purchase and sell several pairs of foreign currencies to pay for foreign securities purchases.

Some investment management firms also have more speculative specialist currency overlay operations, which manage clients’ currency exposures with the aim of generating profits as well as limiting risk. Whilst the number of this type of specialist firms is quite small, many have a large value of assets under management (AUM), and hence can generate large trades.

 

Central banks March 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaushik @ 6:50 pm

National central banks play an important role in the foreign exchange markets. They try to control the money supply, inflation, and/or interest rates and often have official or unofficial target rates for their currencies. They can use their often substantial foreign exchange reserves to stabilize the market. Milton Friedman argued that the best stabilization strategy would be for central banks to buy when the exchange rate is too low, and to sell when the rate is too high—that is, to trade for a profit based on their more precise information. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of central bank “stabilizing speculation” is doubtful because central banks do not go bankrupt if they make large losses, like other traders would, and there is no convincing evidence that they do make a profit trading.

The mere expectation or rumor of central bank intervention might be enough to stabilize a currency, but aggressive intervention might be used several times each year in countries with a dirty float currency regime. Central banks do not always achieve their objectives. The combined resources of the market can easily overwhelm any central bank. Several scenarios of this nature were seen in the 1992–93 ERM collapse, and in more recent times in Southeast Asia.

 

Commercial companies March 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaushik @ 6:50 pm

An important part of this market comes from the financial activities of companies seeking foreign exchange to pay for goods or services. Commercial companies often trade fairly small amounts compared to those of banks or speculators, and their trades often have little short term impact on market rates. Nevertheless, trade flows are an important factor in the long-term direction of a currency’s exchange rate. Some multinational companies can have an unpredictable impact when very large positions are covered due to exposures that are not widely known by other market participants.