What Are Currency Warrants?

A currency warrant is a financial instrument used to hedge currency risk or speculate on currency fluctuations in foreign exchange (forex) markets. A currency warrant, like other options contracts, derives its value from the underlying exchange rate, where a warrant's value goes up as the underlying rises and a put warrant's value goes up when the underlying price falls, similar to a call option.

Many long-term currency call options (with expiration dates in excess of a year) are referred to as warrants.

Key Takeaways

  • A currency warrant is a long-term call option that gives the holder the right to enter into a forex trade at a given exchange rate (strike price).
  • Currency warrants are priced the same way as shorter-term currency options and are used to hedge currency risk or to speculate on currency moves that will occur over a time period longer than one year.
  • Warrants often allow forex traders to obtain greater leverage in order to amplify speculative bets.

How Currency Warrants Work

Typically, warrants are used to manage risk if you have exposure to a certain currency and wish to hedge against potential losses. The other common use of currency warrants is to speculate on the movement of exchange rates and earn a profit if your view is correct. The added leverage in currency warrants allows users to gain more exposure to exchange rate movements. In an uncertain macro environment, currency warrants offer those with foreign currency exposure a longer-term solution for hedging purposes.

In currency (forex) options markets, longer maturity contracts are referred to as warrants. In equity options markets, longer maturity calls and puts are referred to as LEAPs.

Currency warrants are priced the same way as shorter-term currency options and allow holders the right, but not the obligation, to exchange a set amount of one currency into another currency at a specified exchange rate on or before a specified date. This is very similar to how stock options work in practice.

In some cases, currency warrants are attached to certain international debt issues so that bondholders are protected against a depreciation of the currency denominating the bond's cash flows.

Example of Currency Warrants

Imagine that you are the financial officer for a U.S. based firm with large operations in Europe. Because you must reconcile your foreign transactions in U.S. dollars, you wish to hedge your exposure to fluctuations in the EUR/USD exchange rate.

Furthermore, since your eurozone operations are projected to continue for several years into the future at least, you do not want to hedge your forex exposure using shorter-term options. You're not interested in having to roll over or re-establish your hedges on a frequent basis. You therefore decide to hedge using longer-term EUR/USD put warrants that expire in three years' time.

With the Euro currently buying USD $1.20, you purchase a $1.00 strike put warrant expiring in three years. This way, if the euro currency falls below USD $1.00, you will have protection or insurance in place that you can sell euros for $1.00 even if it falls below that level, say to USD $0.80. This can be very beneficial as currency fluctuations are one of the unknowns that can be hedged. Because the option expires in several years, you do not need to worry about rolling over or re-establishing your hedge until that time.