What is Hedging in Forex? Definition & Strategies 2024

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Hedging in forex is a risk management strategy used by traders to minimize or offset potential losses from adverse price movements in the currency market. It involves taking opposite positions in related currency pairs or markets to protect against potential losses.

Foreign exchange (forex) is the process of trading one currency for another currency. It is common for people to have to swap currencies when they go on holiday, which means that most people have some understanding of forex already and have most likely executed a forex trade whether they know it or not.

As a result of the constant demand for foreign exchange and the uncapped supply of fiat currencies, forex markets present traders with the opportunity to make a profit. The innate volatility in forex markets means that the value can rise or fall depending on the supply/demand dynamic at that time, and some savvy traders, therefore want to mitigate against potential losses while still benefiting from the upside.

This article will dive into hedging in forex and cover everything you need to know about the process, including why people might want to hedge against currency risk and also how it’s done.

Key takeaways

  • Hedging in forex is the process of mitigating against downside risk in currency markets.
  • There are many reasons why someone might want to hedge in forex, including risk management in the event of a global black swan event such as COVID-19.
  • The most common strategies for hedging in forex involve derivatives contracts, including futures and options.
  • Some other popular hedging strategies include buying different types of foreign currency, which reduces exposure to one currency by diversifying the portfolio.

What is hedging in forex?

Since the value of each currency fluctuates against the value of other currencies, forex markets can be traded to make an investment return over time. However, the inverse is also true.

Volatility in foreign exchange markets means that holding a specific currency for a prolonged period of time can lead to lost value relative to other currencies. Hedging in forex helps to mitigate against the potential downside of storing finances in a given denomination and to protect purchasing power over the long run.

There are a variety of different strategies that individuals and businesses can use to hedge against downside risk in forex markets. Forex derivatives, such as options or futures contracts, are widely available on brokerages, and they are a favored choice among traders because they allow exposure to adverse volatility without the need to own the underlying currency. There are also dedicated options trade alert services, which are a particularly helpful tool for anyone who wants to take advantage of hedging opportunities provided by options contracts.

What is the purpose of hedging in forex?

Adverse moments in forex markets can lead to rapid depreciation against stronger currencies. A prime example of such a moment would be the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, where the announcement of global lockdowns resulted in short-term volatility in forex markets. Not only was the event completely unexpected, but it also led to investors making irrational decisions, which severely reduced the value of technical analysis and trend line trading approaches.

Anyone who primarily held their money in USD at the time of the announcement lost value relative to those whose money was denominated in other major currencies such as GBP, EUR, or JPY. Situations such as this are where proper prior planning through forex hedging can become useful, but the benefits of hedging in forex are not limited to black swan events such as a global pandemic.

The price movement of the most popular fiat trading pairs in the past 5Y shows that currencies rarely move in unison, highlighting the importance of hedging.

As stated, all currencies fluctuate against each other at all times. This is because currency exchange is an important financial service for the global economy, and banks all over the world regularly need to buy and sell different currencies in order to process payments and fulfill client requests. Since there is fluctuating demand and fluctuating supply, the value of each currency is constantly changing relative to others.

With that in mind, there are several reasons why someone might want to hedge in forex but the ultimate purpose is always to mitigate against downside risk and to protect purchasing power over time.

Hedging strategies: How to hedge in forex

The most common strategies for hedging against downside risk in forex markets involve trading derivatives contracts with brokerages. While it is possible to reduce downside risk by diversifying asset holdings across multiple currencies, derivatives are the preferred way to hedge in forex. This is because derivatives remove the need to own the underlying currency at all, and traders can, therefore, profit from the downside as opposed to merely reducing it.

Forward contracts

A forward contract is an agreement between two parties to exchange an amount of currency at a future date and an agreed-upon exchange rate. By using forward contracts, businesses can lock in a predetermined exchange rate and reduce any uncertainty associated with currency volatility.

Options contracts

Options contracts give the holder the right (but not the obligation) to buy or sell a specific amount of currency at a predetermined price. Options contracts have an expiration date, meaning that the option to trade at the strike price is triggered on a certain date regardless of the actual exchange rate at the time. This allows traders to hedge against unfavorable currency movements.

Futures contracts

Similar to forward contracts, futures contracts involve an agreement to buy or sell a specific amount of currency at a predetermined price on a specified future date. Futures can be traded on most brokerages, and they can be useful for hedging against downside risk in forex markets.

Currency swaps

While forward, options, and futures contracts are all examples of forex derivatives, currency swaps are not. In a currency swap, two parties agree to exchange currencies for a specific period and then re-exchange them at a later date. While this strategy does involve owning the underlying currency itself, it can be effective for hedging against currency risk due to the obligation for re-exchange.

Money market hedge

A money market hedge is another strategy for hedging in forex that is not derivatives trading, but it also does not require exposure to an underlying currency. Instead, money market instruments such as short-term interest-bearing securities are used to offset currency risk. By adjusting the investment in different currencies, a trader or business can try to balance their asset exposure and earn interest at a higher rate than any potential downside.

FAQs

Does hedging protect against losses?

Yes, hedging in forex is designed to protect against downside risk in foreign exchange markets. However, this does not mean that there are no losses involved.

Unsuccessful hedges, i.e. hedging against downside during periods of upside, will incur costs. It’s important for anyone seeking to hedge in forex markets to plan accordingly, as the aim is to simultaneously mitigate against the downside while still benefiting from the upside.

Does hedging reduce potential gains?

Yes, hedging in forex can reduce potential gains because there are costs involved with taking inverse trades.

A hedge will reduce gains if a currency appreciates, but it can also recuperate losses in the event that a currency depreciates. Since hedges are designed to ensure that an entity can profit from volatility in both directions, it’s important to manage the position accordingly so that there is either a net benefit or significantly reduced losses, regardless of the volatility.

How do I hedge in forex?

There are several ways to hedge in forex. The most accessible strategies are derivatives contracts with brokerages, which allow exposure to market volatility without the need to own the underlying asset.

To learn more about where you can trade forex derivatives, check our article on the best futures trading platforms here.

The bottom line

There are some important reasons why someone might want to hedge against currency risk. Ultimately, foreign exchange markets are constantly fluctuating, and this can reduce relative purchasing power. By the same token, successful forex trading can raise purchasing power, too.

If you’d like to learn more about trading the foreign exchange markets, you can learn just how profitable forex trading is right here. If you are further along on your forex trading journey, we suggest you take a look at the most common trading patterns that will help you improve your forex trading proficiency.

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