What is a Forex Hedge?
A forex hedge is a transaction implemented to protect an existing or anticipated position from an unwanted move in exchange rates. Forex hedges are used by a broad range of market participants, including investors, traders and businesses. By using a forex hedge properly, an individual who is long a foreign currency pair or expecting to be in the future via a transaction can be protected from downside risk. Alternatively, a trader or investor who is short a foreign currency pair can protect against upside risk using a forex hedge.
Understanding a Forex Hedge
It is important to remember that a hedge is not a money making strategy. A forex hedge is meant to protect from losses, not to make a profit. Moreover, most hedges are intended to remove a portion of the exposure risk rather than all of it, as there are costs to hedging that can outweigh the benefits after a certain point.
So, if a Japanese company is expecting to sell equipment in U.S. dollars, for example, it may protect a portion of the transaction by taking out a currency option that will profit if the Japanese yen increases in value against the dollar. If the transaction takes place unprotected and the dollar strengthens or stays stable against the yen, then the company is only out the cost of the option. If the dollar weakens, the profit from the currency option can offset some of the losses realized when repatriating the funds received from the sale.
Investors, traders, businesses and other market participants use forex hedges.
Forex hedges are meant to protect profits, not generate them.
Currency options are one of the most popular and cost-effective ways to hedge a transaction.
Using a Forex Hedge
The primary methods of hedging currency trades are spot contracts, foreign currency options and currency futures. Spot contracts are the run-of-the-mill trades made by retail forex traders. Because spot contracts have a very short-term delivery date (two days), they are not the most effective currency hedging vehicle. In fact, regular spot contracts are often why a hedge is needed.
Foreign currency options are one of the most popular methods of currency hedging. As with options on other types of securities, foreign currency options give the purchaser the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the currency pair at a particular exchange rate at some time in the future. Regular options strategies can be employed, such as long straddles, long strangles, and bull or bear spreads, to limit the loss potential of a given trade.
Example of a Forex Hedge
For example, if a U.S. investment bank was scheduled to repatriate some profits earned in Europe it could hedge some of the expected profits through an option. Because the scheduled transaction would be to sell euro and buy U.S. dollars, the investment bank would buy a put option to sell euro. By buying the put option the company would be locking in an ‘at-worst’ rate for its upcoming transaction, which would be the strike price. As in the Japanese company example, if the currency is above the strike price at expiry then the company would not exercise the option and simply do the transaction in the open market. The cost of the hedge is the cost of the put option.