Covered Interest Arbitrage

Definition of 'Covered Interest Arbitrage '


A strategy in which an investor uses a forward contract to hedge against exchange rate risk. Covered interest rate arbitrageis the practice of using favorable interest rate differentials to invest in a higher-yielding currency, and hedging the exchange risk through a forward currency contract. Covered interest arbitrage is only possible if the cost of hedging the exchange risk is less than the additional return generated by investing in a higher-yielding currency. Such arbitrage opportunities are uncommon, since market participants will rush in to exploit an arbitrage opportunity if one exists, and the resultant demand will quickly redress the imbalance. An investor undertaking this strategy is making simultaneous spot and forward market transactions, with an overall goal of obtaining riskless profit through the combination of currency pairs. Covered interest arbitrage is not without its risks, which include differing tax treatment in various jurisdictions, foreign exchange or capital controls, transaction costs and bid-ask spreads.

Investopedia explains 'Covered Interest Arbitrage '


Returns on covered interest rate arbitrage tend to be small, especially in markets that are competitive or with relatively low levels of information asymmetry. While the percentage gains are small they are large when volume is taken into consideration. A four cent gain for $100 isn't much but looks much better when millions of dollars are involved. The drawback to this type of strategy is the complexity associated with making simultaneous transactions across different currencies.

Note that forward exchange rates are based on interest rate differentials between two currencies. As a simple example, assume currency X and currency Y are trading at parity in the spot market (i.e. X = Y), while the one-year interest rate for X is 2% and that for Y is 4%. The one-year forward rate for this currency pair is therefore X = 1.0196 Y (without getting into the exact math, the forward rate is calculated as [spot rate] times [1.04 / 1.02]).

The difference between the forward rate and spot rate is known as “swap points”, which in this case amounts to 196 (1.0196 – 1.0000). In general, a currency with a lower interest rate will trade at a forward premium to a currency with a higher interest rate. As can be seen in the above example, X and Y are trading at parity in the spot market, but in the one-year forward market, each unit of X fetches 1.0196 Y (ignoring bid/ask spreads for simplicity).

Covered interest arbitrage in this case would only be possible if the cost of hedging is less than the interest rate differential. Let’s assume the swap points required to buy X in the forward market one year from now are only 125 (rather than the 196 points determined by interest rate differentials). This means that the one-year forward rate for X and Y is X = 1.0125 Y.

A savvy investor could therefore exploit this arbitrage opportunity as follows -

  • Borrow 500,000 of currency X @ 2% per annum, which means that the total loan repayment obligation after a year would be 510,000 X.
  • Convert the 500,000 X into Y (because it offers a higher one-year interest rate) at the spot rate of 1.00.
  • Lock in the 4% rate on the deposit amount of 500,000 Y, and simultaneously enter into a forward contract that converts the full maturity amount of the deposit (which works out to 520,000 Y) into currency X at the one-year forward rate of X = 1.0125 Y.
  • After one year, settle the forward contract at the contracted rate of 1.0125, which would give the investor 513,580 X.
  • Repay the loan amount of 510,000 X and pocket the difference of 3,580 X.



Filed Under: ,

comments powered by Disqus
Hot Definitions
  1. XW

    A symbol used to signify that a security is trading ex-warrant. XW is one of many alphabetic qualifiers that act as a shorthand to tell investors key information about a specific security in a stock quote. These qualifiers should not be confused with ticker symbols, some of which, like qualifiers, are just one or two letters.
  2. Quanto Swap

    A swap with varying combinations of interest rate, currency and equity swap features, where payments are based on the movement of two different countries' interest rates. This is also referred to as a differential or "diff" swap.
  3. Genuine Progress Indicator - GPI

    A metric used to measure the economic growth of a country. It is often considered as a replacement to the more well known gross domestic product (GDP) economic indicator. The GPI indicator takes everything the GDP uses into account, but also adds other figures that represent the cost of the negative effects related to economic activity (such as the cost of crime, cost of ozone depletion and cost of resource depletion, among others).
  4. Accelerated Share Repurchase - ASR

    A specific method by which corporations can repurchase outstanding shares of their stock. The accelerated share repurchase (ASR) is usually accomplished by the corporation purchasing shares of its stock from an investment bank. The investment bank borrows the shares from clients or share lenders and sells them to the company.
  5. Microeconomic Pricing Model

    A model of the way prices are set within a market for a given good. According to this model, prices are set based on the balance of supply and demand in the market. In general, profit incentives are said to resemble an "invisible hand" that guides competing participants to an equilibrium price. The demand curve in this model is determined by consumers attempting to maximize their utility, given their budget.
  6. Centralized Market

    A financial market structure that consists of having all orders routed to one central exchange with no other competing market. The quoted prices of the various securities listed on the exchange represent the only price that is available to investors seeking to buy or sell the specific asset.
Trading Center