What Is a Negative Carry Pair?

A negative carry pair is a foreign exchange (forex) trading strategy in which the trader borrows money in a high-interest currency and invests it in a low-interest currency.

In this scenario, the status quo does not favor the trader. This is because the amount of interest they need to pay to maintain the position exceeds their interest income. Therefore, a trader will only initiate this position if they are bullish on the low-interest rate currency, believing that it will appreciate relative to the high-interest rate currency.

The negative carry pair is also known as the negative carry trade. As such, it is the opposite of the positive carry pair, which is also known simply as the carry trade.

Key Takeaways

  • A negative carry pair is a forex transaction that involves speculating on the anticipated appreciation of a high-interest-bearing currency.
  • It is the opposite of the positive carry trade, which is more well known.
  • Negative carry pairs involve incurring a negative net cashflow position, whereas the opposite is true for the positive carry trade.

Understanding Negative Carry Pairs

The negative carry pair is a forex trading strategy that seeks to exploit differences in the exchange rate and interest rates associated with different currencies. It is the reverse of the more popular carry trade strategy.

To initiate a negative carry pair, the trader will borrow money in a currency in which interest rates are high, and then invest that money in another currency in which interest rates are low. This means that, upon initiating the position, the trader is actually incurring negative cashflow because their interest expenses exceed their interest income. By contrast, the traditional carry trade involves the opposite transaction: borrowing in the low-interest currency and investing in the high-interest one, in order to generate positive net cashflow on day one.

A trader would only initiate this transaction if they believe that the low-interest currency in which they are investing will appreciate relative to the high-interest currency in which they are borrowing. In that scenario, the trader would profit when they reverse the initial trade: selling the currency they invested in in exchange for the currency they borrowed in, then repaying their debt and pocketing the gain on the transaction. Of course, this potential gain would need to exceed the cost of the interest payments made throughout the term of the investment in order for the entire transaction to be a success.

Real World Example of a Negative Carry Pair

To illustrate, suppose you are a forex trader keeping a close eye on the global currency market. You observe that there is a 1:1 exchange rate between Country X and Country Y, and that interest rates in Country X are 4%, compared to 8% in Country Y. You also believe that Xs, the currency of Country X, will likely appreciate relative to Ys, the currency of Country Y. 

With this in mind, you decide to structure a position whereby you can profit from the anticipated appreciation of Xs relative to Ys. To accomplish this, you begin by borrowing 100,000 Ys. Because their interest rate is 8%, you need to pay 8,000 Ys per year in interest.

Your next step is to invest this money in Xs. Because they have a 1:1 exchange rate, you sell 100,000 Ys and obtain 100,000 Xs. Because the interest rate on Xs is 4%, you receive 4,000 Xs per year in interest. Therefore, your net cashflow position upon initiating the trade is -4,000 Ys per year (4,000 Xs Interest Income – 8,000 Ys Interest Expense, assuming a 1:1 exchange rate).

Over the course of the next year, your prediction comes true and the X appreciates by 50% relative to the Y. Therefore, you are able to sell your 100,000 Xs in exchange for 150,000 Ys. You then repay your loan of 100,000 Ys. After deducting your net interest expense of 4,000 Ys, you are left with a profit of 46,000 Ys on the transaction (150,000 Ys – 100,000 Y Loan – 4,000 Y Net Interest Expense).

Of course, if the X had not appreciated relative to the Y, then you would have lost at least as much as your net interest expense. If the X had instead depreciated relative to the Y, your losses could have climbed significantly higher.