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Triangular Arbitrage


Triangular arbitrage is a strategy used in foreign exchange trading where a trader takes advantage of discrepancies between three different currencies in the foreign exchange market. In this strategy, the trader consecutively exchanges the initial currency for the second, the second for the third, and finally, the third back to the initial currency. The aim is to make a risk-free profit from the variances in exchange rates between the three currencies.


The phonetics of the keyword “Triangular Arbitrage” is:Triangular: /ˌtraɪˈæŋɡjʊlər/Arbitrage: /ˈɑːrbɪtrɑːʒ/

Key Takeaways

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  1. Triangular Arbitrage involves exploiting price discrepancies within the currency exchange rates in three different currency pairs. Essentially, it means taking advantage of different exchange rates in different markets.
  2. The process of Triangular Arbitrage can be complex as it involves three different transactions, therefore it is often conducted programmatically to maximize efficiency. It typically involves buying a currency in one market, selling it in another for a second currency, and then converting that second currency back into the original currency in a different market.
  3. Despite its potential for profit, Triangular Arbitrage is rarely profitable due to transaction costs, especially after accounting for brokerage fees. Additionally, it relies on price changes that may not last long enough for traders to exploit given the high-speed nature of the financial markets. This makes it a risky and challenging strategy to execute successfully.



Triangular Arbitrage is a significant concept in business and finance because it presents an opportunity for risk-free profit in the foreign exchange market. This strategy involves leveraging the differences in exchange rates between three different currency pairs. The discrepancies in these rates, which are often minor and temporary, allow a trader to exploit the gap and make a profit. The importance of this practice extends beyond individual traders, as it aids in maintaining equilibrium in the currency markets. By exploiting these inefficiencies, traders help to correct the pricing discrepancies and bring about market efficiency. The concept also serves as an important tool in financial risk management by identifying and capitalizing on currency mispricing.


Triangular arbitrage, a strategy used in the foreign exchange market, exploits inconsistencies in currency exchange rates to earn a profit. The purpose of this process is to identify a discrepancy between three foreign currencies that will allow an opportunity to make a risk-free profit. Traders take advantage of this arbitrage opportunity by initiating a ’round trip’ which includes exchanging initial currency for a second, the second for a third, and finally the third back to the initial currency, all while gaining an overall profit. This practice is also known as cross-currency arbitrage or three-point arbitrage.Apart from just generating profit, triangular arbitrage also plays a significant role in ensuring that foreign exchange markets remain efficient. It helps in maintaining the principle of interest rate parity, which means that hedged returns from investing in different currencies should be the same, irrespective of the interest rates in these countries. If the interest rate disparity is not equal to the forward premium or discount, this makes a fertile ground for arbitrage. Therefore, the detection and execution of triangular arbitrage by financial institutions contribute to aligning currency exchange rates with the global market rates over time.


Triangular Arbitrage is a strategy that uses a discrepancy between three different currencies in the foreign exchange market to make a profit. Here are three real-world examples of Triangular Arbitrage:1. Forex Trading: One of the most common examples of triangular arbitrage can be found in the foreign exchange market. If a forex trader identifies an inconsistency in the exchange rates between USD, EUR, and GBP such that they can buy USD with EUR at a lower rate, then sell the USD for GBP at a higher rate, and again sell the GBP for EUR making more than they initially spent, they have successfully engaged in triangular arbitrage.2. Cryptocurrency Market: Another example can be seen in the cryptocurrency market. Suppose a trader identifies a discrepancy between Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), and Ethereum (ETH) prices across different exchanges such that they can buy BTC with LTC at a lower rate, then sell the BTC for ETH at a higher rate, and finally sell the ETH for more LTC than they initially spent. This creates a triangle of trades that results in a profit and is an example of triangular arbitrage.3. Cross-Border Shopping: A more simplified real-world example could be shopping in international markets. If the price of a product is significantly lower in one country (let’s say USA), a person could purchase it there, then sell it in another country (say UK) for a higher price, convert the profit into another currency (perhaps Euro) at a favorable rate, and then return to the original country (USA) with more money than they initially spent.In all three cases, risk-free profit (excluding transaction costs) is achieved by capitalizing on the price discrepancy among different markets or currencies due to inefficiencies in the market.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Triangular Arbitrage?

Triangular Arbitrage is a method used in finance that capitalizes on discrepancies in exchange rates between different currency pairs in the forex market. It involves using three currencies in such a way that differences between their relative values result in a profit.

How does Triangular Arbitrage work?

It operates on the basis of disparities in the foreign exchange market. Traders buy a currency pair and convert it to a second currency pair, then convert it back to the original currency. If done correctly and quickly, these transactions may yield profit due to differences between market exchange rates.

Can anyone perform Triangular Arbitrage?

In theory, yes. But it requires a high degree of market understanding, fast computational abilities, and instantaneous execution. Therefore, it is typically performed by high-frequency trading algorithms rather than individual investors.

What tools do I need for Triangular Arbitrage?

To perform triangular arbitrage, you need access to real-time forex market data and the ability to execute trades instantly. This generally involves sophisticated software and strong network connections.

Is Triangular Arbitrage risk-free?

While Triangular Arbitrage can potentially be profitable, it is not without risks. Market prices can change rapidly, meaning the opportunity for arbitrage might disappear before the trades are completed. Further, delays in execution or changes in market liquidity can also lead to losses.

What is an example of Triangular Arbitrage?

Here is a simple example: Let’s assume that the exchange rates in Australia, the US and Europe are out of alignment. You start with $1,000, convert those dollars to euros in Europe where the rate is more favorable, then convert those euros to Australian dollars where the rate is advantageous, and then finally convert those Australian dollars back into US dollars. If done properly, you should end up with more than the $1,000 you started with.

Does Triangular Arbitrage affect the Forex market?

Yes. The practice of triangular arbitrage (along with other types of arbitrage) helps to bring stability and efficiency to the foreign exchange market by eroding pricing discrepancies.

Related Finance Terms

  • Forex Market: The global decentralized or over-the-counter market for trading of currencies. This market determines foreign exchange rates for every currency.
  • Exchange Rate: The value of one currency for the conversion to another. It plays a crucial role in triangular arbitrage.
  • Currency Pair: Currency pair is the quotation of two different currencies, with the value of one currency being quoted against the other. The first listed currency is known as the base currency and the second is the quote currency.
  • Market Inefficiencies: These happen when a financial market does not operate at its best possible level, causing discrepancies in prices and allowing for opportunities for profit, which is what triangular arbitrage thrives on.
  • Arbitrageur: An individual or entity that takes advantage of market inefficiencies to make a profit. An arbitrageur would execute a triangular arbitrage strategy when they see the opportunity.

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