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Forex correlation strategy

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Forex correlation strategy

Correlation refers to the behavior of two different currency pairs. Sometimes when looking at a chart, two currency pairs appear to have the same upwards and downwards movements. Look below at two well known correlation pairs: EURUSD and GBPUSD. The two images are very similar. They have a correlation value of almost +1.

The opposite of correlation is when two currency pairs move in opposite directions. EURUSD and USDCHF for example. The have a correlation value of almost -1.

Correlation values change over time, so it’s wise to frequently check the forex correlation tables for different currency pairs.

So how do we use this in our trading?

If two currency pairs moved exactly like one another, buying EURUSD and selling GBPUSD should result in 0 profits, and 0 losses (except for spread) regardless of the direction they moved. However, there are inconsistencies with their movements.

Sometimes, they don’t move together.

Below is a picture of GBPUSD and EURUSD charts put on top of each other. From this view, you can easily see points where they move in the same direction, and where they separate.

When they separate (low correlation), BUY the currency pair that has moved down, and SELL the currency pair that has moved up. When they come together again, close both trades. One trade will be in a profit. The other trade will be in a loss. Overall, the profitable trade should be bigger than the negative trade.

The risk with this trading strategy is that sometimes, currency pairs decide to break correlation for a long time before returning to the median.

Correlation Trading - How to Trade Forex With Little to No Risk!

Tonight we did a live stream on YouTube offering an in-depth explanation of correlation trading. You can watch the stream back in its entirety here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOtqLSprYoI

Below will be a written explanation of correlation trading utilizing the AUDJPY vs. NZDJPY as the example:

Correlation trading is an amazing way to add diversification to your trading portfolio and in your trade plan. You can continue your trading plan and strategy but take advantage of correlation trading opportunities as they arise to increase your ability to profit from the forex market. In correlation trading the objective is to find currency pairs that are highly correlated, meaning that when one pair moves in any given direction the other pair also moves in that same direction. A great example of this would be the AUDJPY vs. the NZDJPY . Over the past year the correlation between the two pairs has been very positive, 92% of the time over the past year the two pairs have been moving in sync with one another. This correlation can be confirmed by using the Oanda correlation chart:

Once you have confirmed that you are looking at two pairs that are highly correlated to one another, you will want to then look into the charts and compare the price action over the past year. TradingView makes this very convenient with the ability to overlay charts. When we overlay the NZDJPY chart on the AUDJPY chart (candlesticks=AUDJPY, bars=NZDJPY) we can clearly see the times of the year when the two pairs were moving very much in sync and the times where the correlation cracked a bit and the two pairs moved oddly in opposing directions.

It is during these times when the correlation cracks that provides us with the immensely profitable and essentially risk free trading opportunities. If you notice on the chart throughout the past year you will see highlighted in yellow boxes all of the times when the correlation has cracked and a gap has formed. We can look at these moments and estimate the average maximum gap in correlation and use this information to gauge when to take a correlation trade on this pair.

You will notice every time the correlation has cracked and a gap in price action has formed, price inevitably moved back in correlation narrowing and even closing the gap You will also notice if you look back at the widest portion of the gap from every time there was a crack in correlation that it has been roughly anywhere between 400-500 pips . If we look at the second to most recent gap in correlation that we have labeled on the chart you will notice that at its widest point the gap in price was roughly 600 pips; the high being at 85.500 and the low being at 80.700. If we were watching this occur as it was happening and we noticed the gap in correlation approaching 400 pips and then 500 pips and then 600 pips, forming the widest gap in correlation all year, we could then look to take a correlation trade between these pairs.

In this given example around 3/11/16 we would look to take equal positions of long NZDJPY and short AUDJPY banking on the fact that the gap in correlation should statistically, with 92% likelihood, narrow and potentially even close completely so that the two pairs are moving back in correlation with one another. You will see that if we did this we covered on 3/30/16 we would have netted ourselves a fruitful profit of 300 pips. Our short position in AUDJPY would have been down about 20 pips or so but our long in NZDJPY would have been up about 340 pips.

This profit came with little to no direction risk because as one position goes against you the other statistically should go in your favor and if you are not netting a profit at any given moment your loss should be simnifically reduced as compared to what it would be if you were only holding the losing position.

Forex Hedging: How to Create a Simple Profitable Hedging Strategy

Ultimately to achieve the above goal you need to pay someone else to cover your downside risk.

In this article I’ll talk about several proven forex hedging strategies. The first section is an introduction to the concept which you can safely skip if you already understand what hedging is all about.

The second two sections look at hedging strategies to protect against downside risk. Pair hedging is a strategy which trades correlated instruments in different directions. This is done to even out the return profile. Option hedging limits downside risk by the use of call or put options. This is as near to a perfect hedge as you can get, but it comes at a price as is explained.

What Is Hedging?

Hedging is a way of protecting an investment against losses. Hedging can be used to protect against an adverse price move in an asset that you’re holding. It can also be used to protect against fluctuations in currency exchange rates when an asset is priced in a different currency to your own.

When thinking about a hedging strategy it’s always worth keeping in mind the two golden rules:

  1. Hedging always has a cost
  2. There’s no such thing as a perfect hedge

Hedging might help you sleep at night. But this peace of mind comes at a cost. A hedging strategy will have a direct cost. But it can also have an indirect cost in that the hedge itself can restrict your profits.

The second rule above is also important. The only sure hedge is not to be in the market in the first place. Always worth thinking on beforehand.

Simple currency hedging: The basics

The most basic form of hedging is where an investor wants to mitigate currency risk. Let’s say a US investor buys a foreign asset that’s denominated in British pounds. For simplicity, let’s assume it’s a company share though keep in mind that the principle is the same for any other kind of assets.

The table below shows the investor’s account position.

Without protection the investor faces two risks. The first risk is that the share price falls. The second risk is that the value of the British pound falls against the US dollar. Given the volatile nature of currencies, the movement of exchange rates could easily eliminate any potential profits on the share. To offset this, the position can be hedged using a GBPUSD currency forward as follows.

In the above the investor “shorts” a currency forward in GBPUSD at the current spot rate. The volume is such that the initial nominal value matches that of the share position. This “locks in” the exchange rate therefore giving the investor protection against exchange rate moves.

At the outset, the value of the forward is zero. If GBPUSD falls the value of the forward will rise. Likewise if GBPUSD rises, the value of the forward will fall.

The table above shows two scenarios. In both the share price in the domestic currency remains the same. In the first scenario, GBP falls against the dollar. The lower exchange rate means the share is now only worth $2460.90. But the fall in GBPUSD means that the currency forward is now worth $378.60. This exactly offsets the loss in the exchange rate.

Note also that if GBPUSD rises, the opposite happens. The share is worth more in USD terms, but this gain is offset by an equivalent loss on the currency forward.

In the above examples, the share value in GBP remained the same. The investor needed to know the size of the forward contract in advance. To keep the currency hedge effective, the investor would need to increase or decrease the size of the forward to match the value of the share.

As this example shows, currency hedging can be an active as well as an expensive process.

Hedging Strategy to Reduce Volatility

Because hedging has cost and can cap profits, it’s always important to ask: “why hedge”? For FX traders, the decision on whether to hedge is seldom clear cut. In most cases FX traders are not holding assets, but trading differentials in currency.

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Carry traders are the exception to this. With a carry trade, the trader holds a position to accumulate interest. The exchange rate loss or gain is something that the carry trader needs to allow for and is often the biggest risk. A large movement in exchange rates can easily wipe out the interest a trader accrues by holding a carry pair.

More to the point carry pairs are often subject to extreme movements as funds flow into and away from them as central bank policy changes (read more).

To mitigate this risk the carry trader can use something called “reverse carry pair hedging”. This is a type of basis trade. With this strategy, the trader will take out a second hedging position. The pair chosen for the hedging position is one that has strong correlation with the carry pair but crucially the swap interest must be significantly lower.

Carry pair hedging example: Basis trade

Take the following example. The pair NZDCHF currently gives a net interest of 3.39%. Now we need to find a hedging pair that 1) correlates strongly with NZDCHF and 2) has lower interest on the required trade side.

Using this free FX hedging tool the following pairs are pulled out as candidates.

The tool shows that AUDJPY has the highest correlation to NZDCHF over the period I chose (one month). Since the correlation is positive, we would need to short this pair to give a hedge against NZDCHF. But since the interest on a short AUDJPY position would be -2.62% it would wipe out most of the carry interest in the long position in NZDCHF.

The second candidate, GBPUSD looks more promising. Interest on a short position in GBPUSD would be -1.04%. The correlation is still fairly high at 0.7137 therefore this would be the best choice.

We then open the following two positions:

The volumes are chosen so that the nominal trade amounts match. This will give the best hedging according to the current correlation.

Figure 1 above shows the returns of the hedge trade versus the unhedged trade. You can see from this that the hedging is far from perfect but it does successfully reduce some of the big drops that would have otherwise occurred. The table below shows the month by month cash flows and profit/loss both for the hedged and unhedged trade.

Carry hedging with options

Hedging using an offsetting pair has limitations. Firstly, correlations between currency pairs are continually evolving. There is no guarantee that the relationship that was seen at the start will hold for long and in fact it can even reverse over certain time periods. This means that “pair hedging” could actually increase risk not decrease it.

For more reliable hedging strategies the use of options is needed. Using a collar strategy is a common way to hedge carry trades, and can sometimes yield a better return.

Buying out of the money options

One hedging approach is to buy “out of the money” options to cover the downside in the carry trade. In the example above an “out of the money” put option on NZDCHF would be bought to limit the downside risk. The reason for using an “out of the money put” is that the option premium (cost) is lower but it still affords the carry trader protection against a severe drawdown.

Selling covered options

As an alternative to hedging you can sell covered call options. This approach won’t provide any downside protection. But as writer of the option you pocket the option premium and hope that it will expire worthless. For a “short call” this happens if the price falls or remains the same. Of course if the price falls too far you will lose on the underlying position. But the premium collected from continually writing covered calls can be substantial and more than enough to offset downside losses.

If the price rises you’ll have to pay out on the call you’ve written. But this expense will be covered by a rise in the value of the underlying, in the example NZDCHF.

Hedging with derivatives is an advanced strategy and should only be attempted if you fully understand what you are doing. The next chapter examines hedging with options in more detail.

Downside Protection using FX Options

What most traders really want when they talk about hedging is to have downside protection but still have the possibility to make a profit. If the aim is to keep some upside, there’s only one way to do this and that’s by using options.

When hedging a position with a correlated instrument, when one goes up the other goes down. Options are different. They have an asymmetrical payoff. The option will pay off when the underlying goes in one direction but cancel when it goes in the other direction.

First some basic option terminology. A buyer of an option is the person seeking risk protection. The seller (also called writer) is the person providing that protection. The terminology long and short is also common. Thus to protect against GBPUSD falling you would buy (go long) a GBPUSD put option. A put will pay off if the price falls, but cancel if it rises.

On the other hand if you are short GBPUSD, to protect against it rising, you’d buy a call option.

For more on options trading see this tutorial.

Basic hedging strategy using put options

Take the following example. A trader has the following long position in GBPUSD.

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