Currencies are traded on the Foreign Exchange market, also known as Forex. This is a decentralized market that spans the globe and is considered the largest by trading volume and the most liquid worldwide. Exchange rates fluctuate continuously due to the ever changing market forces of supply and demand. Forex traders buy a currency pair if they think the exchange rate will rise and sell it if they think the opposite will happen. The Forex market remains open around the world for 24 hours a day with the exception of weekends.
The key to creating a successful carry trade strategy is not simply to pair up the currency with the highest interest rate against a currency with the lowest rate. Rather, far more important than the absolute spread itself is the direction of the spread. In order for carry trades to work best, you need to be long in a currency with an interest rate that is in the process of expanding against a currency with a stationary or contracting interest rate. This dynamic can be true if the central bank of the country that you are long in is looking to raise interest rates or if the central bank of the country that you are short in is looking to lower interest rates.
There is a high level of risk associated with trading foreign exchange on margin and it may not be appropriate for all types of investors. The high degree of leverage can either work for you or against you. Before you decide to invest in foreign exchange, it is recommended to carefully assess your investment goals, experience level, and your desired amount of risk. No information or opinion stated on this site should be considered a solicitation or offer to buy or sell any currency, equity, or other financial products or services. Past performance does not predict or guarantee future performance. CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 74-89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. Read our legal disclaimer.
Once you begin trading with a certain FX broker, you may want to modify the leverage available to you. This depends on the broker. With Admiral Markets you can use an industry standardised procedure that includes authenticating to the Trader's Room, selecting your account, and changing the leverage available. This action takes immediate effect, so be careful if you have open positions when you attempt to reduce your leverage.
The bottom line is that you want to pick carry trades that benefit not only from a positive and growing yield, but that also have the potential to appreciate in value. This is important because just as currency appreciation can increase the value of your carry trade earnings, currency depreciation can erase all of your carry trade gains – and then some.
From this we can see that the Forex leverage ratio strongly depends on the strategy that is going to be used. To give you a better overview, scalpers and breakout traders try to use as high a leverage as possible, as they usually look for quick trades. Positional traders often trade with low leverage or none at all. A desired leverage for a positional trader usually starts at 5:1 and goes up to about 20:1.
Between 2003 and the end of 2004, the AUD/USD currency pair offered a positive yield spread of 2.5%. Although this may seem very small, the return would become 25% with the use of 10:1 leverage. During that same time, the Australian dollar also rallied from 56 cents to close at 80 cents against the U.S. dollar, which represented a 42% appreciation in the currency pair. This means that if you were in this trade – and many hedge funds at the time were – you would have not only earned the positive yield, but you would have also seen tremendous capital gains in your underlying investment.
In every foreign exchange transaction, you are simultaneously buying one currency and selling another. In effect, you are using the proceeds from the currency you sold to purchase the currency you are buying. Furthermore, every currency in the world comes attached with an interest rate set by the central bank of that currency's country. You are obligated to pay the interest on the currency that you have sold, but you also have the privilege of earning interest on the currency that you have bought. For example, let’s look at the New Zealand dollar/Japanese yen pair (NZD/JPY). Let’s assume that New Zealand has an interest rate of 8% and that Japan has an interest rate of 0.5% In the currency market, interest rates are calculated in basis points. A basis point is simply 1/100th of 1%. So, New Zealand rates are 800 basis points and Japanese rates are 50 basis points. If you decide to go long NZD/JPY you will earn 8% in annualized interest, but have to pay 0.5% for a net return of 7.5%, or 750 basis points.