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Understanding Foreign Exchange Rollover

By Antonio Sousa, Chief Strategist
19 January 2010 21:42 GMT

Foreign exchange rollover, what is it?

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Rollover is the interest paid or earned for holding a currency spot position overnight. Each currency has an overnight interbank interest rate associated with it, and because forex is traded in pairs, every trade involves not only 2 different currencies but also two different interest rates. However, unlike what many traders think, foreign exchange rolls are not based on central bank rates. Instead, forex rolls are constructed using forward points which are mostly based on overnight interest rates at which banks borrow unsecured funds from other banks. After all, the foreign exchange market works over-the-counter.  Market and spot trades need to be settled and rolled forward every day. If the interest rate on the currency you bought is higher than the interest rate of the currency you sold, you will earn a positive roll. If the interest rate on the currency you bought is lower than the interest rate on the currency you sold, then you will pay rollover. You can learn more at http://www.fxcm.com/collect-positive-rolls.jsp

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Currently, most forex rolls are low and some are even negative, why?

In the last two years, central banks around the world took a number of measures to increase liquidity and stabilize financial markets. Among the actions taken by central bankers was a significant reduction in overnight lending rates and major injections of capital into the banking system. Eventually, after restoring some confidence on the financial system, central bankers succeeded in bringing down interbank rates. In other words, it became cheaper for banks to lend money between themselves. However, it also meant that the interest paid or earned for holding a currency position overnight would be significantly lower. In this situation, it may happen that both rolls for buying and selling currencies are negative because banks and other foreign exchange market players charge a small spread on interest paid or earned.

How do carry trades work?

Traders looking to “earn carry” will buy a high-yielding currency while simultaneously selling a low-yielding currency. So, assuming the exchange rate remains constant, an investor is able to earn the difference in interest between the two currencies. The foreign exchange carry trade has a successful track record that goes back more than 25 years. However, the recent shift in the world’s financial markets towards lower interest rates and higher risk aversion makes it more difficult to make successful carry trades.

When is rollover booked?

5 pm in New York is considered the beginning and end of the forex trading day. Any positions that are open at 5 pm sharp are considered to be held overnight, and are subject to rollover. A position opened at 5:01 pm is not subject to rollover until the next day, while a position opened at 4:59 pm is subject to rollover at 5 pm. A credit or debit for each position open at 5 pm generally appears on your account within an hour, and is applied directly to your accounts balance.

How do banks account for Weekends and Holidays?

Most banks across the globe are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, so there is no rollover on these days, but most banks still apply interest for those two days. To account for that, the forex market books 3 days of rollover on Wednesdays, which makes a typical Wednesday rollover three times the amount on Tuesday. There is no rollover on holidays, but an extra days worth of rollover usually occurs 2 business days before the holiday. Typically, holiday rollover happens if either of the currencies in the pair has a major holiday. So, for Independence Day in the USA, which is on July 4, when American banks are closed an an extra day of rollover is added at 5 pm on July 1 for all US dollar pairs.

You can view how rollover is counted for holidays using our Rollover Calendar Page.

Why should you invest in currencies, even with low interest rates?

Even though, making carry trades has been less appealing over the last few months, the currency market is still one of the best places to invest. After all, the forex market is still the most liquid financial market in the world with an average daily volume of over US$3 trillion, according to the Bank for International Settlements. This is more than three times the total daily volume of the stocks and futures markets combined. Moreover, with a no-dealing-desk forex broker, every trade is executed back-to-back with one the world's premier banks which compete to provide your broker with the best bid and ask prices. This competition between banks can reduce the potential for market manipulation by price providers.

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Written by Antonio Sousa, Chief Strategist for DailyFX, asousa@fxcm.com

DailyFX provides forex news and technical analysis on the trends that influence the global currency markets.
Learn forex trading with a free practice account and trading charts from FXCM.

19 January 2010 21:42 GMT