Analysis of US Dollar Carry Trades in the Era of ‘Cheap Money’

A related paper has been added to:

#129 – Dollar Carry Trade

Authors: Shehadeh, Erdos, Li, Moore

Title: US Dollar Carry Trades in the Era of 'Cheap Money'

Link: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2765552

Abstract:

In this paper, we employ a unique dataset of actual US dollar (USD) forward positions against a number of currencies taken by so-called Commodity Trading Advisors (CTAs). We investigate to what extent these positions exhibit a pattern of USD carry trading or other patterns of currency trading over the recent period of the ultra-loose US monetary policy. Our analysis indeed shows that USD positions against emerging market currencies are characterised by a pattern of carry trading. That is, the USD, as the lower yielding currency, is associated with short positions. The payoff distributions of these positions, moreover, are found to have positive Sharpe ratios, negative skewness and high kurtosis. On the other hand, we find that USD positions against other advanced country currencies have a pattern completely opposite to carry trading which is in line with uncovered interest parity trading; that is, the lower (higher) yielding currency is associated with long (short) positions.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"In the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, many countries, especially developed countries including the USA, have adopted unconventional loose monetary policies with the purpose of stimulating their sluggish and unstable economies. This period is termed in the financial press as “the era of cheap money”. On the other hand, other countries, especially emerging markets, have maintained relatively high interest rates over the same period. Because of the potential impact of these effects on the trading decisions of the FX traders, it is worthwhile to consider currency trading in general and USD carry trading in particular over the sample period of the paper.

In light of this, the crux of the paper is to analyse our dataset of the USD forward positions to find out to what extent they show characteristics of USD carry trading or another trading strategy over the recent period of record-low US interest rates. In other words, we investigate whether these positions exhibit a response to the very low US interest rates by having a pattern of USD carry trading or other patterns of trading strategies can be identified across different currency markets. The distinctive feature of this study is that we have access to a dataset of daily-aggregated USD forward positions against a number of advanced and emerging currencies. It is collected from a Swedish investment specialist, Risk & Portfolio Management AB (RPM) which is a fund of hedge funds investing in Managed Futures strategies which are also known as Commodity Trading Advisors (CTAs). CTAs engage in various strategies like trend-following, short-term trading, and global macro that often employs carry trading as a sub-strategy. By exploiting and analysing our private dataset we find significant long-run equilibrium relationships which directly relate the USD forward positions to its forward premium. The relationships point to different trading strategies for emerging and advanced market currencies. For emerging currencies, we find that these relationships are consistent with carry trading. That is the lower yielding currency (the USD) is associated with short positions and vice versa. This carry trading pattern of forward shorting lower-yielding currency is induced by the expectations that the lower-yielding currency will not actually appreciate on average as much as the forward rate implies, or even it will depreciate. This in turn implies a profit on average at maturity. On the other hand, we find that the reverse holds between the USD and advanced currencies. In other words, we find a pattern of “fundamentals-based” trading consistent with the uncovered interest parity condition. That is, the lower (higher) yielding currency is associated with more long (short) positions. These anti-carry positions can reflect the unattractiveness of the advanced currencies-USD carry trading due to the increased uncertainty and narrow interest differentials for these markets over the period following the recent crisis.

Given that our data set is collected from FX traders which are mainly trend-followers, these results of the different trading strategies for emerging and advanced market currencies shed some light on the trading behaviour of this group of the FX market participants. On the one hand, the characteristics of carry trades for EM currencies which involve long high-interest currency aginst the low-interest currency reflect a trend-following strategy which is based on
the expectations that high-interest currency is going to appreciate -i.e. based on the appreciation trend of the high-interest rate currency. On the other hand, the characteristics of “fundamentals-based” trades for AM currencies which involve long low-interest currency against high-interest currency reflect a trend-following strategy which is based on the expectations that low-interest rate currency is going to appreciate –i.e. based on the appreciation trend of the low-interest rate currency. This is in line with the heterogeneous agents model developed by Spronk et al. (2013). The model demonstrates that depending on the dominant trend in the market, FX trend-followers can be in the same line of either carry traders or fundamentalists. In this sense, our results provide some insights into these features of the FX trend-following traders."


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