Global Economic Analysis - Spread Calculations

Calculating Spread on a Foreign Currency Quote
Profits for currency market dealers are derived from the difference between the bid, which is the exchange rate at which a dealer is willing to purchase a particular currency, and the ask, which is the exchange rate for which a dealer is willing to sell a particular currency.

The difference between the two is called the bid-ask spread. Foreign currency dealers will quote both a bid and an ask for a particular currency. The average of the bid and ask (ask plus bid divided by two) is referred to as the midpoint price. The bid-ask spread is usually given as a percentage and it is calculated as:

Formula 5.1

% Spread = 100 × (Ask Price - Bid Price)
                                     Ask Price

Example: Bid-Ask Spread
Suppose that a dealer provides the following quote in the U.S. for euros to dollars:

Direct ($/¬): $0.8038/$0.8041

Then the bid-ask spread will be 100 × (0.8041 - 0.8038) / 0.8041 = 0.0373%, which is about 4 bps.

Factors Influencing the Size of Spreads
Factors that affect the size of spreads for spot or forward currency exchange rates include:

  • Trading Volume - The higher the volume, or the more active a market, the lower the bid-ask spread.
  • Currency Rate Volatility - With higher volatility, currency dealers are exposed to higher risk. Spreads will increase with higher volatility.
  • Perceived Economic/Political Risks - Risks such as political instability, higher inflation and changing economic conditions will affect the spreads associated with a particular currency. The higher the uncertainty, the greater the expected spread.

Note that if a dealer has an overly large position in a currency relative to the desired net position, the dealer will alter the midpoint of the spread rather than adjust the spread. For instance, a dealer with a shortage of a particular currency will move the midpoint of the direct quote up. Competition is also an important factor for spreads. A dealer with an overly large spread will not be making trades.

Spot Market Calculations
Related Articles
  1. Career Education & Resources

    How Hard are the CFA Exams?

    Learn about the difficulty of the CFA exams with a description of the tests, some statistics on pass rates and suggestions that can help you pass the exams.
  2. Professionals

    What it Takes to be a Financial Analyst

    A financial analyst researches companies and economic conditions to make business, sector and industry recommendations.
  3. Career Education & Resources

    Financial Analyst: Career Path & Qualifications

    Read about what it takes to become a financial analyst in a corporation or securities firm, and learn how far you can rise in the profession.
  4. Career Education & Resources

    Financial Planner: Career Path & Qualifications

    Learn what education and certifications you need to become a financial planner, as well as the future prospects and earnings potential for financial planners.
  5. Career Education & Resources

    Where to Find Non-Profit Finance Jobs

    The non-profit sector offers a stable selection of jobs for those who seek other types of fulfillment from their jobs than just purely financial.
  6. Career Education & Resources

    Portfolio Manager: Career Path & Qualifications

    Learn about the basic requirements for getting hired as a portfolio manager, and discover how most professionals in the field rise into the position.
  7. Your Practice

    4 Professional Associations Advisors Should Join

    These four professional organizations are among the most respected and well known in the industry.
  8. Professionals

    Equity Research: Career Path and Qualifications

    Find out what equity research analysts do on a day-to-day basis, and learn more about the typical career progression for these securities professionals.
  9. Professionals

    What's on the CFA Level II Exam?

    The Chartered Financial Analyst Level II exam is the second of three tests that CFA candidates must pass.
  10. Professionals

    Financial Data Analyst: Career Path & Qualifications

    Learn more about the career options available to financial data analysts, and determine whether the profession is a good match for you.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Personal Financial Advisor

    Professionals who help individuals manage their finances by providing ...
  2. CFA Institute

    Formerly known as the Association for Investment Management and ...
  3. Chartered Financial Analyst - CFA

    A professional designation given by the CFA Institute (formerly ...
  4. Security Analyst

    A financial professional who studies various industries and companies, ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. What are the differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified ...

    The differences between a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) are many, but comes down ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I become a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

    According to the CFA Institute, a person who holds a CFA charter is not a chartered financial analyst. The CFA Institute ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What types of positions might a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) hold?

    The types of positions that a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is likely to hold include any position that deals with large ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Who benefits the most from prepaid expenses?

    Prepaid expenses benefit both businesses and individuals. Prepaid expenses are the types of expenses that are bought or paid ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. If I am looking to get an Investment Banking job. What education do employers prefer? ...

    If you are looking specifically for an investment banking position, an MBA may be marginally preferable over the CFA. The ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can I still pass the CFA Level I if I do poorly in the ethics section?

    You may still pass the Chartered Financial Analysis (CFA) Level I even if you fare poorly in the ethics section, but don't ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  2. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  3. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  4. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  5. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
Trading Center