Currency swap

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A currency swap (or cross currency swap) is a foreign exchange agreement between two parties to exchange principal and fixed rate interest payments on a loan in one currency for principal and fixed rate interest payments on an equal (regarding net present value) loan in another currency. Currency swaps are motivated by comparative advantage. Currency swaps were introduced by the World Bank in 1981 to obtain Swiss franks and German marks by exchanging cash flows with IBM.

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Currency swaps can be negotiated for a variety of maturities of up to 10 years. Unlike a back-to-back loan, a currency swap is not considered to be a loan by United States accounting laws and thus it is not reflected on a company's balance sheet. A swap is considered to be a foreign exchange transaction (short leg) plus an obligation to close the swap (far leg) being a forward contract.

Unlike interest rate swaps, currency swaps involve the exchange of the principal amount. Interest payments are not netted (as they are in interest rate swaps) because they are denominated in different currencies. Further, many currency swaps are traded on organized exchanges - lowering counter-party risk, as evidenced by the bid-ask spread on most listings.

Uses

Currency swaps are often combined with interest rate swaps. For example, one company would seek to swap a cash flow for their fixed rate debt denominated in US dollars for a floating-rate debt denominated in Euro. This is especially common in Europe where companies shop for the cheapest debt regardless of its denomination and then seek to exchange it for the debt in desired currency.

For example, suppose a U.S.-based company needs to acquire Swiss francs and a Swiss-based company needs to acquire U.S. dollars. These two companies could arrange to swap currencies by establishing an interest rate, an agreed upon amount and a common maturity date for the exchange. Currency swap maturities are negotiable for at least ten years, making them a very flexible method of foreign exchange.

Currency swaps were originally done to get around exchange controls.

During the global financial crisis of 2008 currency swaps were offered to other central banks by the Federal Reserve System including stable emerging economies such as South Korea, Singapore, Brazil, and Mexico.[1]

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