Currency swap definition: What is a Currency Swap? Definition and How It Works


two best indicators for a scalping strategy A has effectively managed to replace a 10% loan with a 5% loan. Similarly, Company B no longer has to borrow funds from American institutions at 9%, but realizes the 4% borrowing cost incurred by its swap counterparty. Under this scenario, Company B actually managed to reduce its cost of debt by more than half. Instead of borrowing from international banks, both companies borrow domestically and lend to one another at the lower rate. The diagram below depicts the general characteristics of the currency swap.


Your Net Return on Investment will be high if the interest rate spread is significant, enabling you to lower your foreign exchange margins. Foreign Exchange MarketsThe foreign exchange market is the world’s largest financial market that decides the exchange rate of currencies. Last, currency swaps can be used by countries as a defense against a financial crisis. Currency swaps allow countries to have access to income by allowing other countries to borrow their own currency. For example, a company may take a loan in the domestic currency and enter a swap contract with a foreign company to obtain a more favorable interest rate on the foreign currency that is otherwise is unavailable. In addition to hedging exchange-rate risk, this type of swap often helps borrowers obtain lower interest rates than they could get if they needed to borrow directly in a foreign market.

An approach to work around this is to select one as the funding currency (e.g. USD), and select one curve in this currency as the discount curve (e.g. USD interest rate swap curve against 3M LIBOR). Cashflows in any other currency are first swapped into the funding currency via a cross currency swap and then discounted. The most common XCS, and that traded in interbank markets, is a mark-to-market XCS, whereby notional exchanges are regularly made throughout the life of the swap according to FX rate fluctuations. This is done to maintain a swap whose MTM value remains neutral and does not become either a large asset or liability throughout its life.

What is a currency swap?

They both receive the loan they want, in the currency they want, but on better terms than they could get by trying to get a loan in a foreign country on their own. While using a currency swap as a way to generate income can be useful, the greatest advantage of a currency swap for retail investors is the ability to hedge against volatility in the currency markets. With a currency swap an investor can reduce the volatility in their overseas holdings, thus improving their risk-return profile and smoothing out the ups and downs in their portfolio. Because currency rates are always changing currency swaps can help to smooth out profits and losses in any portfolio. In the case of swaps being made by businesses and institutions the reason currency swaps are done is typically as a hedge, or as a way to get cheaper financing. In the investing world a currency swap might be sought after by buying a high-yielding currency such as the Australian dollar, while simultaneously selling a low yielding currency like the Japanese Yen.

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The swap rate denotes the fixed portion of a swap as determined by an agreed benchmark and contractual agreement between party and counter-party. A currency swap involves the exchange of interest—and sometimes of principal—in one currency for the same in another currency. In this article, we are going to dig in and look at what currency swaps are, some examples, and their benefits. Initiated as a way of avoiding currency regulations, the practice had, by the mid-1990s, largely been replaced by currency swaps.

How a Currency Swap Works

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In this case, on both sides of swaps, the payments are made on the basis of floating interest only. This swap combines a floating swap with a fixed-to-fixed currency exchange. In this scenario, one side pays the other at a set rate in currency, such as X, while the other side pays at a variable rate, such as Y. SpeculatorsA speculator is an individual or financial institution that places short-term bets on securities based on speculations.

Benefits of Cross Currency Swap

In this type of swap, the principal amount of the underlying loan is not exchanged. Usually, though, a swap involves notional principal that’s just used to calculate interest and isn’t actually exchanged. A liability swap is a financial derivative in which two parties exchange debt-related interest rates, usually a fixed rate for a floating rate. A foreign currency swap is an agreement to exchange currency between two foreign parties, often employed to obtain loans at more favorable interest rates. Interest rate variations for currency swaps include fixed rate to fixed rate, floating rate to floating rate, or fixed rate to floating rate. Currency swaps were originally conceived in the 1970s to circumvent foreign exchange controls in the United Kingdom.

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It has pricing associations with interest rate swaps , foreign exchange rates, and FX swaps . Realistically, it is very hard to personally find a counterparty that needs the same amount and maturity in the foreign market. Therefore, an intermediary swap bank is usually present – they help find a counterparty to fit your needs, facilitate the exchange of cash flows and take on some risk. This fee must be smaller than the quality spread differential; otherwise, there would be no incentive for the parties to enter the swap. In this example, Party A enjoys a comparative advantage over Party B in borrowing C$, but Party A wants to borrow $.

These funds will likely be used to pay back domestic bondholders for each company. Interest payments go to the swap bank, which passes it on to the American company and vice versa. In a currency swap, counterparties exchange equivalent amounts of two different currencies, and trade back at a later specified date. Party A borrows at 9% C$ and swaps the debt with Party B, who borrows at 6% $. Each party saves 1% compared to if they had borrowed at their available foreign rate.

  • Rather than borrowing real at 10%, Company A will have to satisfy the 5% interest rate payments incurred by Company B under its agreement with the Brazilian banks.
  • The principal notional amounts are specified prior to the start of the swap’s agreement.
  • The money market segments that are highly condensed are the forward rate agreement, other interest rate agreement and the cross currency swap segments.
  • If currency A offers a higher interest rate, it is to compensate for expected depreciation against currency B and vice versa.

Rather, swaps are over-the-counter contracts primarily between businesses or financial institutions that are customized to the needs of both parties. You can use Swaps to hedge against currency risk or speculate on fluctuations in the exchange rate, respectively. Swaps are helpful to profit from favourable exchange rate movements or to safeguard against potential losses if the currency rate goes against you.

Benefits of Currency Swaps

The reason for this discrepancy in lending rates is due to the partnerships and ongoing relations that domestic companies usually have with their local lending authorities. In reality, market participants have different levels of access to funds in different currencies and therefore their funding costs are not always equal to LIBOR. If the companies have already borrowed in the currencies each needs the principal in, then exposure is reduced by swapping cash flows only, so that each company’s finance cost is in that company’s domestic currency. In interest rate swaps, the swap/reference rate is used to determine the total value of the swap’s fixed leg, which must be equal to the total value of the floating leg of the swap. The money market segments that are highly condensed are the forward rate agreement, other interest rate agreement and the cross currency swap segments. In early 2017, for example, it was reported that the Egyptian government was considering signing a currency swap with Russia.


CFI is the official provider of the Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst ™ certification program, designed to transform anyone into a world-class financial analyst. A way to calculate the potential gain from trade is by determining the quality spread differential . Thus, the value of the swap points is roughly proportional to the interest rate differential. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. 84% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

There’s an option to avoid swaps whatsoever by opening a swap-free Islamic trading account. While the cost of borrowing in the international market is unreasonably high, both of these companies have a competitive advantage for taking out loans from their domestic banks. Company A could hypothetically take out a loan from an American bank at 4% and Company B can borrow from its local institutions at 5%.