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Foreign exchange risk (also known as FX risk, exchange rate risk or currency risk) is a financial risk that exists when a financial transaction is denominated in a currency other than the domestic currency of the company. The exchange risk arises when there is a risk of significant appreciation of the domestic currency in relation to the denominated currency before the date when the transaction is completed.
Financial risk is any of various types of risk associated with financing, including financial transactions that include company loans in risk of default. Often it is understood to include only downside risk, meaning the potential for financial loss and uncertainty about its extent.
A currency, in the most specific sense is money in any form when in use or circulation as a medium of exchange, especially circulating banknotes and coins. A more general definition is that a currency is a system of money in common use, especially for people in a nation. Under this definition, U.S. dollars (US$), pounds sterling (£), Australian dollars (A$), European euros (€), Russian rubles (₽) and Indian rupees (₹) are examples of currencies. These various currencies are recognized as stores of value and are traded between nations in foreign exchange markets, which determine the relative values of the different currencies. Currencies in this sense are defined by governments, and each type has limited boundaries of acceptance.
Currency depreciation is the loss of value of a country's currency with respect to one or more foreign reference currencies, typically in a floating exchange rate system in which no official currency value is maintained. Currency appreciation in the same context is an increase in the value of the currency. Short-term changes in the value of a currency are reflected in changes in the exchange rate.
Foreign exchange risk also exists when the foreign subsidiary of a firm maintains financial statements in a currency other than the domestic currency of the consolidated entity.
Investors and businesses exporting or importing goods and services, or making foreign investments, have an exchange-rate risk but can take steps to manage (i.e. reduce) the risk.
Many businesses were unconcerned with, and did not manage, foreign exchange risk under the international Bretton Woods system. It wasn't until the switch to floating exchange rates, following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, that firms became exposed to an increased risk from exchange rate fluctuations and began trading an increasing volume of financial derivatives in an effort to hedge their exposure.The currency crises of the 1990s and early 2000s, such as the Mexican peso crisis, Asian currency crisis, 1998 Russian financial crisis, and the Argentine peso crisis, led to substantial losses from foreign exchange and led firms to pay closer attention to their foreign exchange risk.
The Bretton Woods system of monetary management established the rules for commercial and financial relations among the United States, Canada, Western European countries, Australia, and Japan after the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement. The Bretton Woods system was the first example of a fully negotiated monetary order intended to govern monetary relations among independent states. The chief features of the Bretton Woods system were an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained its external exchange rates within 1 percent by tying its currency to gold and the ability of the IMF to bridge temporary imbalances of payments. Also, there was a need to address the lack of cooperation among other countries and to prevent competitive devaluation of the currencies as well.
A floating exchange rate is a type of exchange rate regime in which a currency's value is allowed to fluctuate in response to foreign exchange market events. A currency that uses a floating exchange rate is known as a floating currency. A floating currency is contrasted with a fixed currency whose value is tied to that of another currency, material goods or to a currency basket.
A currency crisis is a situation in which serious doubt exists as to whether a country's central bank has sufficient foreign exchange reserves to maintain the country's fixed exchange rate. The crisis is often accompanied by a speculative attack in the foreign exchange market. A currency crisis results from chronic balance of payments deficits, and thus is also called a balance of payments crisis. Often such a crisis culminates in a devaluation of the currency.
A firm has economic risk (also known as forecast risk) to the degree that its market value is influenced by unexpected exchange-rate fluctuations, which can severely affect the firm's market share with regard to its competitors, the firm's future cash flows, and ultimately the firm's value. Economic risk can affect the present value of future cash flows. An example of an economic risk would be a shift in exchange rates that influences the demand for a good sold in a foreign country.
In economics and finance, present value (PV), also known as present discounted value, is the value of an expected income stream determined as of the date of valuation. The present value is always less than or equal to the future value because money has interest-earning potential, a characteristic referred to as the time value of money, except during times of negative interest rates, when the present value will be more than the future value. Time value can be described with the simplified phrase, "A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow". Here, 'worth more' means that its value is greater. A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow because the dollar can be invested and earn a day's worth of interest, making the total accumulate to a value more than a dollar by tomorrow. Interest can be compared to rent. Just as rent is paid to a landlord by a tenant without the ownership of the asset being transferred, interest is paid to a lender by a borrower who gains access to the money for a time before paying it back. By letting the borrower have access to the money, the lender has sacrificed the exchange value of this money, and is compensated for it in the form of interest. The initial amount of the borrowed funds is less than the total amount of money paid to the lender.
Another example of an economic risk is the possibility that macroeconomic conditions will influence an investment in a foreign country.Macroeconomic conditions include exchange rates, government regulations, and political stability. When financing an investment or a project, a company's operating costs, debt obligations, and the ability to predict economically unsustainable circumstances should be thoroughly calculated in order to produce adequate revenues in covering those economic risks. For instance, when an American company invests money in a manufacturing plant in Spain, the Spanish government might institute changes that negatively impact the American company's ability to operate the plant, such as changing laws or even seizing the plant, or to otherwise make it difficult for the American company to move its profits out of Spain. As a result, all possible risks that outweigh an investment's profits and outcomes need to be closely scrutinized and strategically planned before initiating the investment. Other examples of potential economic risk are steep market downturns, unexpected cost overruns, and low demand for goods.
International investments are associated with significantly higher economic risk levels as compared to domestic investments. In international firms, economic risk heavily affects not only investors but also bondholders and shareholders, especially when dealing with the sale and purchase of foreign government bonds. However, economic risk can also create opportunities and profits for investors globally. When investing in foreign bonds, investors can profit from the fluctuation of the foreign-exchange markets and interest rates in different countries.Investors should always be aware of possible changes by the foreign regulatory authorities. Changing laws and regulations regarding sizes, types, timing, credit quality, and disclosures of bonds will immediately and directly affect investments in foreign countries. For example, if a central bank in a foreign country raises interest rates or the legislature increases taxes, the return on investment will be significantly impacted. As a result, economic risk can be reduced by utilizing various analytical and predictive tools that consider the diversification of time, exchange rates, and economic development in multiple countries, which offer different currencies, instruments, and industries.
When making a comprehensive economic forecast, several risk factors should be noted. One of the most effective strategies is to develop a set of positive and negative risks that associate with the standard economic metrics of an investment.In a macroeconomic model, major risks include changes in GDP, exchange-rate fluctuations, and commodity-price and stock-market fluctuations. It is equally critical to identify the stability of the economic system. Before initiating an investment, a firm should consider the stability of the investing sector that influences the exchange-rate changes. For instance, a service sector is less likely to have inventory swings and exchange-rate changes as compared to a large consumer sector.
A firm has contingent risk when bidding for foreign projects, negotiating other contracts, or handling direct foreign investments. Such a risk arises from the potential of a firm to suddenly face a transnational or economic foreign-exchange risk contingent on the outcome of some contract or negotiation. For example, a firm could be waiting for a project bid to be accepted by a foreign business or government that, if accepted, would result in an immediate receivable. While waiting, the firm faces a contingent risk from the uncertainty as to whether or not that receivable will accrue.
Companies will often participate in a transaction involving more than one currency. In order to meet the legal and accounting standards of processing these transactions, companies have to translate foreign currencies involved into their domestic currency. A firm has transaction risk whenever it has contractual cash flows (receivables and payables) whose values are subject to unanticipated changes in exchange rates due to a contract being denominated in a foreign currency. To realize the domestic value of its foreign-denominated cash flows, the firm must exchange, or translate, the foreign currency for domestic.
When firms negotiate contracts with set prices and delivery dates in the face of a volatile foreign exchange market, with rates constantly fluctuating between initiating a transaction and its settlement, or payment, those firms face the risk of significant loss.Businesses have the goal of making all monetary transactions profitable ones, and the currency markets must thus be carefully observed.
Applying public accounting rules causes firms with transnational risks to be impacted by a process known as "re-measurement". The current value of contractual cash flows are remeasured on each balance sheet.
A firm's translation risk is the extent to which its financial reporting is affected by exchange-rate movements. As all firms generally must prepare consolidated financial statements for reporting purposes, the consolidation process for multinationals entails translating foreign assets and liabilities, or the financial statements of foreign subsidiaries, from foreign to domestic currency. While translation risk may not affect a firm's cash flows, it could have a significant impact on a firm's reported earnings and therefore its stock price.
Translation risk deals with the risk to a company's equities, assets, liabilities, or income, any of which can change in value due to fluctuating foreign exchange rates when a portion is denominated in a foreign currency. A company doing business in a foreign country will eventually have to exchange its host country's currency back into their domestic currency. When exchange rates appreciate or depreciate, significant, difficult-to-predict changes in the value of the foreign currency can occur. For example, U.S. companies must translate Euro, Pound, Yen, etc., statements into U.S. dollars. A foreign subsidiary's income statement and balance sheet are the two financial statements that must be translated. A subsidiary doing business in the host country usually follows that country's prescribed translation method, which may vary, depending on the subsidiary's business operations.
Subsidiaries can be characterized as either an integrated or a self-sustaining foreign entity. An integrated foreign entity operates as an extension of the parent company, with cash flows and business operations that are highly interrelated with those of the parent. A self-sustaining foreign entity operates in its local economic environment, independent of the parent company. Both integrated and self-sustaining foreign entities operate use functional currency, which is the currency of the primary economic environment in which the subsidiary operates and in which day-to-day operations are transacted. Management must evaluate the nature of its foreign subsidiaries to determine the appropriate functional currency for each.
There are three translation methods: current-rate method, temporal method, and U.S. translation procedures. Under the current-rate method, all financial statement line items are translated at the "current" exchange rate. Under the temporal method, specific assets and liabilities are translated at exchange rates consistent with the timing of the item's creation.The U.S. translation procedures differentiate foreign subsidiaries by functional currency, not subsidiary characterization. If a firm translates by the temporal method, a zero net exposed position is called fiscal balance. The temporal method cannot be achieved by the current-rate method because total assets will have to be matched by an equal amount of debt, but the equity section of the balance sheet must be translated at historical exchange rates.
If foreign-exchange markets are efficient—such that purchasing power parity, interest rate parity, and the international Fisher effect hold true—a firm or investor needn't concern itself with foreign exchange risk. A deviation from one or more of the three international parity conditions generally needs to occur for there to be a significant exposure to foreign-exchange risk.
Financial risk is most commonly measured in terms of the variance or standard deviation of a quantity such as percentage returns or rates of change. In foreign exchange, a relevant factor would be the rate of change of the foreign currency spot exchange rate. A variance, or spread, in exchange rates indicates enhanced risk, whereas standard deviation represents exchange-rate risk by the amount exchange rates deviate, on average, from the mean exchange rate in a probabilistic distribution. A higher standard deviation would signal a greater currency risk. Because of its uniform treatment of deviations and for the automatically squaring of deviation values, economists have criticized the accuracy of standard deviation as a risk indicator. Alternatives such as average absolute deviation and semivariance have been advanced for measuring financial risk.
Practitioners have advanced, and regulators have accepted, a financial risk management technique called value at risk (VaR), which examines the tail end of a distribution of returns for changes in exchange rates, to highlight the outcomes with the worst returns. Banks in Europe have been authorized by the Bank for International Settlements to employ VaR models of their own design in establishing capital requirements for given levels of market risk. Using the VaR model helps risk managers determine the amount that could be lost on an investment portfolio over a certain period of time with a given probability of changes in exchange rates.
Firms with exposure to foreign-exchange risk may use a number of hedging strategies to reduce that risk. Transaction exposure can be reduced either with the use of money markets, foreign exchange derivatives—such as forward contracts, options, futures contracts, and swaps—or with operational techniques such as currency invoicing, leading and lagging of receipts and payments, and exposure netting.Each hedging strategy comes with its own benefits that may make it more suitable than another, based on the nature of the business and risks it may encounter.
Forward and futures contracts serve similar purposes: they both allow transactions that take place in the future—for a specified price at a specified rate—that offset otherwise adverse exchange fluctuations. Forward contracts are more flexible, to an extent, because they can be customized to specific transactions, whereas futures come in standard amounts and are based on certain commodities or assets, such as other currencies. Because futures are only available for certain currencies and time periods, they cannot entirely mitigate risk, because there is always the chance that exchange rates will move in your favor. However, the standardization of futures can be a part of what makes them attractive to some: they are well-regulated and are traded only on exchanges.
Two popular and inexpensive methods companies can use to minimize potential losses is hedging with options and forward contracts. If a company decides to purchase an option, it is able to set a rate that is "at-worst" for the transaction. If the option expires and it's out-of-the-money, the company is able to execute the transaction in the open market at a favorable rate. If a company decides to take out a forward contract, it will set a specific currency rate for a set date in the future.
Currency invoicing refers to the practice of invoicing transactions in the currency that benefits the firm. It is important to note that this does not necessarily eliminate foreign exchange risk, but rather moves its burden from one party to another. A firm can invoice its imports from another country in its home currency, which would move the risk to the exporter and away from itself. This technique may not be as simple as it sounds; if the exporter's currency is more volatile than that of the importer, the firm would want to avoid invoicing in that currency. If both the importer and exporter want to avoid using their own currencies, it is also fairly common to conduct the exchange using a third, more stable currency.
If a firm looks to leading and lagging as a hedge, it must exercise extreme caution. Leading and lagging refer to the movement of cash inflows or outflows either forward or backward in time. For example, if a firm must pay a large sum in three months but is also set to receive a similar amount from another order, it might move the date of receipt of the sum to coincide with the payment. This delay would be termed lagging. If the receipt date were moved sooner, this would be termed leading the payment.
Another method to reduce exposure transaction risk is natural hedging (or netting foreign-exchange exposures), which is an efficient form of hedging because it will reduce the margin that is taken by banks when businesses exchange currencies; and it is a form of hedging that is easy to understand. To enforce the netting, there will be a systematic-approach requirement, as well as a real-time look at exposure and a platform for initiating the process, which, along with the foreign cash flow uncertainty, can make the procedure seem more difficult. Having a back-up plan, such as foreign-currency accounts, will be helpful in this process. The companies that deal with inflows and outflows in the same currency will experience efficiencies and a reduction in risk by calculating the net of the inflows and outflows, and using foreign-currency account balances that will pay in part for some or all of the exposure.
Translation exposure is largely dependent on the translation methods required by accounting standards of the home country. For example, the United States Federal Accounting Standards Board specifies when and where to use certain methods. Firms can manage translation exposure by performing a balance sheet hedge, since translation exposure arises from discrepancies between net assets and net liabilities solely from exchange rate differences. Following this logic, a firm could acquire an appropriate amount of exposed assets or liabilities to balance any outstanding discrepancy. Foreign exchange derivatives may also be used to hedge against translation exposure.
A common technique to hedge translation risk is called balance-sheet hedging, which involves speculating on the forward market in hopes that a cash profit will be realized to offset a non-cash loss from translation.This requires an equal amount of exposed foreign currency assets and liabilities on the firm's consolidated balance sheet. If this is achieved for each foreign currency, the net translation exposure will be zero. A change in the exchange rates will change the value of exposed liabilities to an equal degree but opposite to the change in the value of exposed assets.
Companies can also attempt to hedge translation risk by purchasing currency swaps or futures contracts. Companies can also request clients to pay in the company's domestic currency, whereby the risk is transferred to the client.
Firms may adopt strategies other than financial hedging for managing their economic or operating exposure, by carefully selecting production sites with a mind for lowering costs, using a policy of flexible sourcing in its supply chain management, diversifying its export market across a greater number of countries, or by implementing strong research and development activities and differentiating its products in pursuit of less foreign-exchange risk exposure.
By putting more effort into researching alternative methods for production and development, it is possible that a firm may discover more ways to produce their outputs locally rather than relying on export sources that would expose them to the foreign exchange risk. By paying attention to currency fluctuations around the world, firms can advantageously relocate their production to a other countries. For this strategy to be effective, the new site must have lower production costs. There are many factors a firm must consider before relocating, such as a foreign nation's political and economic stability.
In economics and finance, arbitrage is the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets: striking a combination of matching deals that capitalize upon the imbalance, the profit being the difference between the market prices at which the unit is traded. When used by academics, an arbitrage is a transaction that involves no negative cash flow at any probabilistic or temporal state and a positive cash flow in at least one state; in simple terms, it is the possibility of a risk-free profit after transaction costs. For example, an arbitrage opportunity is present when there is the opportunity to instantaneously buy something for a low price and sell it for a higher price.
The derivatives market is the financial market for derivatives, financial instruments like futures contracts or options, which are derived from other forms of assets.
A hedge is an investment position intended to offset potential losses or gains that may be incurred by a companion investment. A hedge can be constructed from many types of financial instruments, including stocks, exchange-traded funds, insurance, forward contracts, swaps, options, gambles, many types of over-the-counter and derivative products, and futures contracts.
The foreign exchange market is a global decentralized or over-the-counter (OTC) market for the trading of currencies. This market determines foreign exchange rates for every currency. It includes all aspects of buying, selling and exchanging currencies at current or determined prices. In terms of trading volume, it is by far the largest market in the world, followed by the Credit market.
In finance, leverage is any technique involving the use of debt rather than fresh equity in the purchase of an asset, with the expectation that the after-tax profit to equity holders from the transaction will exceed the borrowing cost, frequently by several multiples — hence the provenance of the word from the effect of a lever in physics, a simple machine which amplifies the application of a comparatively small input force into a correspondingly greater output force. Normally, the lender will set a limit on how much risk it is prepared to take and will set a limit on how much leverage it will permit, and would require the acquired asset to be provided as collateral security for the loan. For example, for a residential property the finance provider may lend up to, say, 80% of the property's market value, for a commercial property it may be 70%, while on shares it may lend up to, say, 60% or none at all on certain volatile shares.
Financial risk management is the practice of economic value in a firm by using financial instruments to manage exposure to risk: operational risk, credit risk and market risk, foreign exchange risk, shape risk, volatility risk, liquidity risk, inflation risk, business risk, legal risk, reputational risk, sector risk etc. Similar to general risk management, financial risk management requires identifying its sources, measuring it, and plans to address them.
International finance is the branch of financial economics broadly concerned with monetary and macroeconomic interrelations between two or more countries. International finance examines the dynamics of the global financial system, international monetary systems, balance of payments, exchange rates, foreign direct investment, and how these topics relate to international trade.
In finance, a currency swap is an interest rate derivative (IRD). In particular it is a linear IRD and one of the most liquid, benchmark products spanning multiple currencies simultaneously. It has pricing associations with interest rate swaps (IRSs), foreign exchange (FX) rates, and FX swaps (FXSs).
The forward exchange rate is the exchange rate at which a bank agrees to exchange one currency for another at a future date when it enters into a forward contract with an investor. Multinational corporations, banks, and other financial institutions enter into forward contracts to take advantage of the forward rate for hedging purposes. The forward exchange rate is determined by a parity relationship among the spot exchange rate and differences in interest rates between two countries, which reflects an economic equilibrium in the foreign exchange market under which arbitrage opportunities are eliminated. When in equilibrium, and when interest rates vary across two countries, the parity condition implies that the forward rate includes a premium or discount reflecting the interest rate differential. Forward exchange rates have important theoretical implications for forecasting future spot exchange rates. Financial economists have put forth a hypothesis that the forward rate accurately predicts the future spot rate, for which empirical evidence is mixed.
Currency overlay is a financial trading strategy or method conducted by specialist firms who manage the currency exposures of large clients, typically institutions such as pension funds, endowments and corporate entities. Typically the institution will have a pre-existing exposure to foreign currencies, and will be seeking to:
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to finance:
Hedge accounting is an accountancy practice, the aim of which is to provide an offset to the mark-to-market movement of the derivative in the profit and loss account. There are two types of hedge recognized. For a fair value hedge, the offset is achieved either by marking-to-market an asset or a liability which offsets the P&L movement of the derivative. For a cash flow hedge, some of the derivative volatility is placed into a separate component of the entity's equity called the cash flow hedge reserve. Where a hedge relationship is effective, most of the mark-to-market derivative volatility will be offset in the profit and loss account. Hedge accounting entails much compliance - involving documenting the hedge relationship and both prospectively and retrospectively proving that the hedge relationship is effective.
A foreign exchange hedge is a method used by companies to eliminate or "hedge" their foreign exchange risk resulting from transactions in foreign currencies. This is done using either the cash flow hedge or the fair value method. The accounting rules for this are addressed by both the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and by the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles as well as other national accounting standards.
A foreign exchange derivative is a financial derivative whose payoff depends on the foreign exchange rate(s) of two currencies. These instruments are commonly used for currency speculation and arbitrage or for hedging foreign exchange risk.
Raj Aggarwal is an author and contributor to the fields of finance and international business studies. Aggarwal was the dean of the University of Akron College of Business Administration from 2006 until 2009. He was elected as a fellow of the Academy of International Business. He has worked as an engineer, financial analyst, strategic planner, department chair, university budget planner and corporate board member. He has authored or co-authored over a dozen books or monographs and over a hundred scholarly articles that have cited over 5,000 times according to his profile in Google Scholar.
Macro risk is financial risk that is associated with macroeconomic or political factors. There are at least three different ways this phrase is applied. It can refer to economic or financial risk found in stocks and funds, to political risk found in different countries, and to the impact of economic or financial variables on political risk. Macro risk can also refer to types of economic factors which influence the volatility over time of investments, assets, portfolios, and the intrinsic value of companies.
Corporate finance is an area of finance that deals with sources of funding, the capital structure of corporations, the actions that managers take to increase the value of the firm to the shareholders, and the tools and analysis used to allocate financial resources. The primary goal of corporate finance is to maximize or increase shareholder value. Although it is in principle different from managerial finance which studies the financial management of all firms, rather than corporations alone, the main concepts in the study of corporate finance are applicable to the financial problems of all kinds of firms.
Söhnke Matthias Bartram is a Professor in the Department of Finance at Warwick Business School (WBS). Prior to joining the University of Warwick, he held faculty positions at Lancaster University and Maastricht University and worked for several years in quantitative investment management at State Street Global Advisors as Head of the London Advanced Research Center. He is a Charter Member of Risk Who’s Who and a member of an international think tank for policy advice to the German government.
Companies that do business in more than one currency are exposed to exchange rate risk – that is, changes in the value of one currency versus another. Exchange rate risk is especially high in periods of high currency volatility.