Currency ETFs are starting to gain favor with retail investors as both a hedge to the weak dollar trend that has resumed since the flight to safety during the recent financial crisis, as well as for speculation. While many individual investors are intimidated by setting up a Forex market trading account, there are several US Dollar ETF tools that allow American investors to hedge against both developed and developing market currencies. The benefits of these individual hedges are numerous, but there are risks in trying to trade currencies as well. Where many investors run into trouble is in using leverage to try and exploit a trend, but when that trend breaks, it can get ugly. For investors and consumers that want to dip their toe in while providing some marginal hedging to a weak dollar crisis, ETFs are a much more practical and cost-effective means to achieve that objective.
Why Engage in Forex Currency Trading and Hedging?
Many Americans expend a considerable portion of their net income on energy and materials. Since energy sources like oil and metals like gold and silver are traded on global exchanges as dollar-denominated assets, as the US dollar weakens against foreign currencies, while a particular commodity may remain roughly stable in terms of say, the Euro, it may become increasingly expensive in terms of the US dollar. Consumers and investors looking to hedge this exposure on a grand scale can simply buy a currency ETF that provides returns based on the rise and fall of foreign currencies versus the US dollar. All of the ETFs below are in terms of US dollars, so if you were to purchase FXA for example, you’d be banking on an increase in the strength of Australia’s Dollar versus the US Dollar. (If you were doing this over the prior 6 month period, you would have been right – FXA is up over 20% as the dollar has weakened considerably against virtually all major currencies).
Some doomsayers are calling for an actual weak dollar crisis whereby China stops funding our debt, the Fed is unable to reign in inflation, unemployment remains high, the economy sputters, etc. While buying Gold is one way to prepare for such a scenario, what if the current gold price already reflects such sentiment or if other factors like global demand suppress the rise in gold prices you were expecting? At least with a foreign currency ETF, you get that gain no matter what, as long as you select the right currency. For that purpose, most traders advise banking on a major currency versus the US like the Euro or Japanese Yen. For the extreme risk takers out there, there are leveraged ETFs for currency as well. (see full list of all sector and country leveraged ETF possibilities).
For creative traders out there, these currency ETFs actually provide the ability to trade options on the underlying instrument. A creative way to hedge your currency and provide income to your portfolio instantaneously would be to purchase one of the ETFs below and then sell covered calls against the shares. While this can start to become complex and eat into your funds with commissions, this article on how options work outlines some background, best practices and a comprehensive review of the best online brokers for such transactions.
Foreign vs. Dollar Currency ETFs – Long, No Leverage
FXA CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Trust
FXB CurrencyShares British Pound Sterling Trust
FXC CurrencyShares Canadian Dollar Trust
FXE CurrencyShares Euro Trust
FXY CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust
FXM CurrencyShares Mexican Peso Trust
XRU CurrencyShares Russian Ruble Trust
FXS CurrencyShares Swedish Krona Trust
FXF CurrencyShares Swiss Franc Trust
BZF WisdomTree Dreyfus Brazilian Real Fund
CYB WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan Fund
CEW WisdomTree Dreyfus Emerging Currency Fund – Active
EU WisdomTree Dreyfus Euro Fund
ICN WisdomTree Dreyfus Indian Rupee Fund
JYF WisdomTree Dreyfus Japanese Yen Fund
BNZ WisdomTree Dreyfus New Zealand Dollar Fund
SZR WisdomTree Dreyfus South African Rand Fund
Leveraged Currency ETFs – Long and Short
ULE ProShares Ultra Euro ETF
YCL ProShares Ultra Yen ETF
EUO ProShares UltraShort Euro ETF
YCS ProShares UltraShort Yen ETF
If you’re unsure of how leveraged ETFs work, check out this article demonstrating the value destruction that occurs over time due to daily rebalancing in this leveraged ETF risk article (I didn’t dub them the riskiest ETFs on Earth for no reason).
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