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Currency Swap


A currency swap is a financial agreement between two parties to exchange the principal amount and interest in one currency for the same in another currency. It is generally used to obtain loans in foreign currency at more favorable interest rates. The two parties will pay back the original principal amount exchanged at the end of the contract.


The phonetics of “Currency Swap” is: Currency – /ˈkɜːrənsi/Swap – /swɒp/

Key Takeaways

1. Multiple Purposes: Currency swaps are used for various purposes including hedging against foreign exchange risks, to gain access to cheaper interest rates, or to ensure easier access to foreign markets. They can be utilized by both financial institutions and multinational corporations. 2. Two Types of Currency Swaps: There are generally two types of currency swaps – fixed for fixed currency swap and floating for floating currency swap. The former involves the exchange of fixed interest rate payments, while the latter involves swapping floating interest rates between two currencies. 3. Risk Management: One of the main benefits of a currency swap is the ability to hedge against potential risks associated with exchange rate fluctuations. However, this does not entirely eliminate the risk, especially if the exchange rate fluctuates wildly during the swap period.


Currency swap is a crucial financial instrument in the realm of international finance and trade. It’s a transaction where two parties agree to exchange specific amounts of different currencies, repayable over time, thereby allowing them to utilize a currency not immediately available to them. This mechanism plays a significant role in managing any risks associated with foreign exchange and interest rates. Companies use currency swaps to secure cheaper debt, hedge against foreign exchange fluctuations, and maintain liquidity in foreign markets. Thus, by making international transactions more predictable and secure, currency swaps contributes to the stability and efficiency of the global financial market.


Currency swaps are primarily used to hedge against potential risks associated with fluctuations in exchange rates or to gain exposure to desired currencies. Companies dealing in international trades often have to deal with multiple currencies, and changes in the values of these currencies can have a significant impact on their sales, costs, and ultimately, profits. When two companies agree to exchange their respective currency flows, it allows them to manage the uncertainty in terms of their future cash flow and stabilize their operations. They can plan their activities more confidently, knowing that they have a fixed rate to work with, eliminating the hazards of exchange rate fluctuations. Another important purpose of a currency swap is to acquire cheaper debt. This is particularly beneficial for multinational companies operating across different countries. Here’s how it works: If company A is based in the U.S. with a comparatively better credit rating, it can issue debt at a lower rate in the U.S., and then swap the dollar-denominated liability with company B’s local currency debt of an equal amount while company B from another country can do the same. Using a currency swap, both the companies can benefit from each other’s creditworthiness and take advantage of the lower interest rates. In essence, currency swaps provide businesses and financial institutions alike a powerful and efficient tool to manage their foreign currency exposures, avail international credit advantages, and stabilize their financial operations.


Example 1: Company A is based in the United States and wants to expand its business to Europe. For that, they need Euros and thus, they enter a currency swap with Company B in Europe that needs dollars for its expansion in the U.S. Both companies decide to trade a specific amount, agreeing to swap back at the end of a specified period at a prearranged exchange rate. This way, both entities can efficiently utilize their resources without getting affected by the fluctuation in currency value. Example 2: Company C in Japan has borrowed money in US dollars but their earnings are in Yen and they would prefer not to have foreign exchange rate risk. Another company D in the US has borrowed in Japanese Yen, but their income is in dollars, they too prefer not to have foreign exchange rate risk. These two companies can enter into a currency swap for the amount of the loan. Each will pay the interest on the other’s loan. At the end of the loan period, they will swap principals again, avoiding any exchange rate movements. Example 3: The central banks of different countries also engage in currency swaps. During the financial crisis of 2008, the Federal Reserve (the U.S. central bank) and the European Central Bank (ECB) had a currency swap agreement. The Fed provided dollars to the ECB and took Euros in return. This was to ensure there was enough liquidity in the system and avert a deeper financial crisis.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Currency Swap?
A currency swap is a financial derivative contract in which two parties agree to exchange principal and interest in one currency for the same in another currency.
How does a Currency Swap work?
In a currency swap, the first party borrows a certain amount of foreign currency from the second party at a fixed exchange rate. Simultaneously, a matching loan in its own currency to the second party is made. Both parties pay interest on the full loan amount to each other during the loan period.
What is the main purpose of conducting a Currency Swap?
The main purposes of conducting a currency swap are to avoid foreign exchange rate risk, to obtain cheaper debt, to gain access to foreign capital, or to hedge against currency risk.
Which entities usually engage in Currency Swaps?
Big financial institutions and multinational corporations are the most common entities to engage in currency swaps. Sometimes, central banks also use currency swaps to get foreign currency liquidity.
How are the interest rates determined in a Currency Swap?
The interest rates in a currency swap are either fixed or floating and are agreed upon by the two parties involved in the swap.
What is a Cross-Currency Swap?
A cross-currency swap is a specific type of currency swap where the interest and principal payments are in different currencies. It’s typically used when a company wants to acquire a loan in a foreign currency.
How is the maturity date of a Currency Swap decided?
The maturity date of a currency swap is decided by both parties when the swap is initiated. The maturity can range from one year to over 30 years.
What are the risks involved in a Currency Swap?
The risks involved in a currency swap deal include exchange rate risk, interest rate risk and the risk that the other party will default on its side of the agreement.
Can Currency Swaps be traded on exchanges?
Unlike some other derivatives, currency swaps are not traded on exchanges. These are private agreements between two parties, usually facilitated by a financial institution.
Are Currency Swaps and FX Swaps the same?
No, while both involve exchanging different currencies, the structure of the two swaps is different. FX swaps involve exchanging currencies for a certain time period and then reversing the transaction. Currency swaps, on the other hand, involve multiple payments over a long period of time.

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