Contributor, Benzinga
March 20, 2023

Currency-hedged exchange-traded funds (ETFs) aim to eliminate or reduce the exposure of a portfolio to currency fluctuations. These ETFs invest in international stocks, bonds or other assets denominated in foreign currencies but use financial instruments such as futures, options or forwards to hedge against currency risk.

Currency risk, also known as exchange rate risk, is the risk of losing money due to fluctuations in currency exchange rates when investing in international assets. For example, if a U.S. investor buys shares of a Japanese company and the Japanese yen depreciates against the U.S. dollar, the investor will receive fewer dollars when selling the shares, resulting in a loss.

Currency-hedged ETFs are designed to mitigate this risk and provide investors with more stable returns by hedging the currency exposure of their portfolios.

How Do Currency-Hedged ETFs Work?

Currency-hedged ETFs use financial instruments to offset the potential losses caused by currency fluctuations. Typically, these ETFs use futures contracts or forward contracts to lock in the exchange rate between the currency of the investor's home country and the currency of the foreign asset.

For example, suppose a U.S. investor wants to invest in a German company whose shares are denominated in euros. In that case, they would purchase shares of a currency-hedged ETF that invests in the German company and simultaneously sells euro futures contracts to hedge against currency risk. The ETF will adjust the number of futures contracts based on the size of the portfolio and the currency exposure of the foreign investment.

If the value of the euro falls, the futures contracts will provide a profit that offsets the loss of the German company's shares. On the other hand, if the value of the euro rises, the futures contracts will provide a loss that offsets the gain of the German company's shares.

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Benefits of Currency-Hedged ETFs

  1. Reduce currency risk: The primary benefit of currency-hedged ETFs is that they reduce or eliminate currency risk for investors. Investors can focus on the performance of the underlying assets without worrying about currency fluctuations.
  2. Diversification: Currency-hedged ETFs provide investors with exposure to international markets and diversify their portfolios. Investors can invest in global markets without the risk of currency fluctuations, making it easier to gain exposure to a wide range of assets.
  3. Potential for higher returns: Currency-hedged ETFs can provide higher returns compared to non-hedged ETFs in periods of currency volatility. Currency-hedged ETFs can benefit from the gains generated by the financial instruments used to hedge against currency risk.
  4. Protect against currency depreciation: Currency-hedged ETFs can protect against the depreciation of a foreign currency. This feature can be particularly useful when investing in countries with weaker currencies or unstable economies.

Drawbacks of Currency-Hedged ETFs

  1. Higher fees: Currency-hedged ETFs tend to have higher expense ratios than non-hedged ETFs because of the additional costs associated with currency hedging.
  2. Possible lower returns: In periods of currency stability, currency-hedged ETFs may generate lower returns compared to non-hedged ETFs. Currency-hedged ETFs will not benefit from currency appreciation, which can boost the returns of non-hedged ETFs.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is currency hedging in an ETF?


Currency hedging in an ETF is a technique used to reduce the impact of currency exchange rate fluctuations on the returns of an investment. It is done by using financial instruments such as forward contracts or options to lock in an exchange rate, thereby mitigating the effects of currency fluctuations on the value of the ETF.


How does currency hedging affect the returns of an ETF?


Currency hedging can have a positive or negative impact on the returns of an ETF, depending on the movements of the currency exchange rates. If the currency of the underlying assets of an ETF appreciates against the investor’s home currency, it can lead to a decrease in the returns of the ETF. On the other hand, if the currency of the underlying assets depreciates against the investor’s home currency, currency hedging can help increase the returns of the ETF.


Are currency-hedged ETFs suitable for all investors?


Currency-hedged ETFs are suitable for investors who want exposure to foreign assets but want to minimize the impact of currency exchange rate fluctuations on their investments. They are particularly useful for investors who have a long-term investment horizon and do not want to be exposed to short-term currency fluctuations. However, currency-hedged ETFs may not be suitable for all investors, as they often come with higher expenses and may be more complex than regular ETFs.


What are the risks associated with currency-hedged ETFs?


Currency-hedged ETFs are not without risks. The biggest risk associated with these ETFs is that the currency hedging strategy may not work as intended, leading to losses for the investor. In addition, currency-hedged ETFs may be subject to higher fees and expenses compared to regular ETFs. There is also the risk that the underlying assets of the ETF may underperform or experience unexpected losses, which could also impact the returns of the ETF.


How do I choose the right currency-hedged ETF?


Choosing the right currency-hedged ETF involves considering a number of factors, such as the geographic focus of the ETF, the type of assets it holds, the expense ratio and the track record of the ETF. It is important to do your research and understand the risks associated with currency-hedged ETFs before making an investment decision. Consulting a financial advisor or investment professional can also be helpful in choosing the right currency-hedged ETF for your investment needs.