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Negative Arbitrage


Negative arbitrage occurs when the cost of borrowing funds is higher than the returns generated from investing those funds. This typically happens when an investor borrows money at a high interest rate and then invests in a lower-yielding investment. As a result, the investor experiences a net financial loss due to the disparity between the borrowing and investing rates.


The phonetics of the keyword “Negative Arbitrage” are:Negative: /ˈnɛɡətɪv/Arbitrage: /ˈɑr-bɪ-trɑʒ/

Key Takeaways

  1. Negative arbitrage occurs when the cost of borrowing funds is higher than the return generated from the investment of these funds.
  2. It is an unfavorable situation for investors and financial institutions, as it leads to a loss in potential profit, typically resulting from poor timing or market conditions.
  3. Negative arbitrage can be mitigated by using strategies such as waiting for more favorable market conditions, reducing borrowing costs, or finding higher-yielding investment opportunities.


Negative arbitrage is an important concept in the world of business and finance as it pertains to an unfavorable financial situation where the cost of borrowing exceeds the income generated from investments. This typically occurs when an individual or institution invests borrowed funds into a financial instrument that yields lower returns than the interest paid on the borrowed money. Understanding negative arbitrage is crucial for investors and financial professionals as it helps them identify and avoid this situation, preventing potential losses and enabling them to make well-informed investment decisions. By minimizing such risks and effectively managing their financial portfolios, they can optimize returns and contribute to the overall strength and stability of the financial market.


Negative arbitrage is an important concept in finance that is closely tied to the efficient allocation of resources and risk management. Central to the understanding of negative arbitrage is the concept of arbitrage itself, which is the simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset in different markets in order to take advantage of a price discrepancy that generates risk-free profits. Essentially, negative arbitrage occurs when the cost of borrowing funds for the purpose of engaging in arbitrage activities is greater than the income that can be generated from investing those funds. This can lead to unfavorable financial situations and have a significant impact on an organization’s bottom line. For both businesses and investors, understanding negative arbitrage can be crucial for effective decision-making and risk management. For instance, it can come into play when a company is issuing bonds to access cheaper funds to finance projects or refinance existing debt. In such cases, if the cost of the funds obtained from issuing these bonds is higher than the returns generated from the investments made using those funds, the company experiences negative arbitrage. This can be detrimental to a company’s overall financial health, as it may lead to higher financing costs and reduced profitability over time. Similarly, for investors, the ability to avoid negative arbitrage situations can be critical to optimizing their investment returns and protecting their portfolios from unnecessary risks. By closely monitoring market conditions, staying aware of potential arbitrage opportunities, and considering strategies to mitigate risks, such as hedging, both businesses and investors can better navigate the often complex world of finance and make more informed decisions to safeguard their financial interests.


Negative arbitrage occurs when the cost of borrowing funds surpasses the return earned on investing those funds. This usually happens due to fluctuations in interest rates or unexpected market changes. Here are three real world examples of negative arbitrage: 1. Bond Issuance: A city decides to issue municipal bonds to finance the construction of a new school. The bonds have an interest rate of 5%. However, due to market changes and general economic downturn, the city is only able to invest the bond proceeds in a safe, risk-free investment, such as a short-term treasury bond or guaranteed investment contract, yielding only a 4% return. In this case, the city experiences negative arbitrage as the cost of borrowing (5%) surpasses the return on investment (4%). 2. Bank Borrowing: A commercial bank borrows money from the central bank at an interest rate of 3%. The bank plans to lend those funds to its customers at a higher rate, say 5%, and earn a profit from the interest rate spread. However, due to increased competition or a sudden drop in market interest rates, the bank is only able to lend the borrowed funds at an interest rate of 2%. This situation creates negative arbitrage, as the bank is incurring a higher cost of borrowing (3%) than the return on its loans (2%). 3. Currency Swaps: An international corporation has operations in multiple countries and frequently engages in currency swaps to minimize exchange rate risks. In a currency swap, two parties exchange a fixed amount of one currency for another, with the agreement to reverse the transaction at an agreed-upon future date. Suppose the corporation swaps US dollars for Japanese yen, with the expectation that the yen will appreciate against the dollar. However, if the yen unexpectedly depreciates against the dollar during the swap period, the corporation will experience negative arbitrage, as the cost of the original swap will have surpassed the returns generated from the exchange rate fluctuations.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is negative arbitrage?
Negative arbitrage is a financial situation where the cost of borrowing funds is higher than the return on the invested funds. This results in a net loss or negative spread for the investor. It usually occurs when interest rates on investments are lower than the rates at which funds are borrowed.
In which situations does negative arbitrage typically occur?
Negative arbitrage often occurs when an investor or entity borrows funds at a higher interest rate and then invests those funds in low-yielding investments, such as bonds or treasury bills. This can also occur during periods of low-interest rates or when investment returns are not keeping pace with borrowing costs.
How can negative arbitrage be avoided?
To avoid negative arbitrage, an investor can seek investments with higher returns so that the spread between borrowing costs and investment returns remains positive. Additionally, adopting a diversified investment strategy or refinancing loans to lower borrowing costs may help mitigate the risk of negative arbitrage.
How does negative arbitrage impact investment strategies?
Negative arbitrage has the potential to diminish the overall performance of an investment portfolio and result in net losses. As a result, investors must weigh the risk of negative arbitrage when making investment decisions and explore alternative investment opportunities to ensure a positive return.
What is the relationship between negative arbitrage and interest rate risk?
Interest rate risk is a major factor influencing negative arbitrage. When interest rates increase on borrowed funds, the spread between borrowing costs and investment returns might turn negative, resulting in negative arbitrage. Thus, investors with exposure to interest rate-sensitive investments should closely monitor interest rate fluctuations and manage their risk accordingly.
Can bonds and bond funds experience negative arbitrage?
Yes, bonds and bond funds are susceptible to negative arbitrage. When interest rates rise, bond prices typically decrease, resulting in lower returns on bond investments. If an investor bought bonds by borrowing funds at a higher rate than their bond’s yield, the net return would be negative, leading to negative arbitrage.

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