currency exchange rate

Foreign Exchange Rates: Currency Appreciation and Depreciation

Understanding exchange rate and what causes currency appreciation & depreciation is an important topic when it comes to forex trading.

What is Foreign Exchange?

The foreign exchange rate is the value of a national currency against other currencies. It is the rate at which one national currency will be exchanged for another. There are two forms of currency exchange rates: floating and fixed. Floating exchange rates change constantly and are determined by forces of supply and demand, while fixed exchange rates obstruct currency movements within a narrow range set by the central bank. Exchange rates are relative and used as a comparison of the currencies of two countries.

Currency Appreciation: It is the increase in one currency’s value against another. Currency appreciation usually reflects economic growth, higher interest rate, and increase of demand.  
Currency Depreciation: It’s when a currency falls in value against its rivals. It occurs due to weak economic performance, political instability, interest rate differentials, or risk aversion during uncertain times.

What are the Most Traded Currencies in Forex Market?

The eight most traded currencies in the forex market are:

  • The US dollar (USD)
  • The euro (EUR),
  • The British pound (GBP)
  • The Japanese yen (JPY)
  • The Canadian dollar (CAD)
  • The Australian dollar (AUD)
  • The Swiss franc (CHF)
  • The Chinese Yuan (CNY)

According to the BIS survey in 2019

And the top traded currency pairs are: 

  1. EUR/USD:  Euro vs. US dollar 
  2. USD/JPY: US dollar vs. Japanese yen
  3. GBP/USD: British pound vs. US dollar
  4. USD/CHF: US dollar vs. Swiss franc
  5. USD/CAD: US dollar vs. Canadian dollar
  6. AUD/USD: Australian dollar vs. US dollar
  7. NZD/USD: New Zealand dollar vs. US dollar 
  8. USD/CNY: US dollar vs. Chinese Yen 
  9. EUR/GBP: Euro vs. British pound

Understanding Currency Pairs

Understanding the pricing and quotation for currency pairs is very essential in forex trading. Currencies are defined as the base currency and secondary quote currency. The base currency is the first currency in a currency pair. Also known as the transaction currency. The quote currency is the currency being used to pay for the transaction, and it is also known as the counter currency or secondary currency.

Buying and selling currency pairs in the forex market always involves two currencies: the currency you’re paying with (the one you’re selling) and the currency you’re buying. This explains why currencies are traded in pairs. 

If you’re selling the pair, then you’re selling the base currency, and the currency you’re buying is the quote currency. While in buying, you’re selling the quoted currency to buy the base currency. 

When trading a forex pair, the prices are shown (the exchange rate) reflect how much it costs to buy/sell one unit of the base currency by selling/buying the quoted currency.

For example, in the EUR/USD pair the US Dollar is the quote currency, while the first currency (Euro) is referred to as the base currency. If the price of the pair is 1.1200, this means that then you need $1.12 to buy 1 Euro.

What affects Exchange Rate?

Forex Exchange Rate: Currency Appreciation and Depreciation

The exchange rate has a direct effect on overall economic activity, trade, and sentiment. That’s why it is always watched, analyzed and manipulated directly in order to maintain economic stability. Higher currency rates mean less expensive imports and more expensive exports which lower the competitiveness of national goods and could lead to negative trade balance gapping. On the other hand, lower exchange rates support exports and trade activity. 

1. Inflation Rate: 

It is one major factor affecting exchange rates. Typically, a lower inflation rate leads to a rising currency value, as its purchasing power increases relative to other currencies. The prices of goods and services increase slowly when inflation is low. While with high inflation, we see depreciation in currency value even if it is accompanied by higher interest rates.

2. Interest Rates: 

Changes in interest rates directly affect currency value and its exchange rate against other currencies. Higher interest rates offer lenders a higher return compared to other countries which attract more foreign capital, causing a rise in exchange rates. It’s worth noting that interest rates, inflation, and exchange rates are all correlated. Central banks use interest rates to control both inflation and exchange rates. 

3. Terms of Trade: 

Terms of trade are defined as the ratio between export and import prices. If the export prices increase more than the import prices, then terms of trade are good. The increase in terms of trade indicates greater demand for a country’s exports. Accordingly, it will result in an increase in revenue from exports which results in rising demand for the national currency, thus increasing its value. In case of rising the price of exports by a lower rate than its imports, the currency’s value will depreciate compared to the currencies of its trading partners.

4. Public Debt: 

Public debt or government debt or national debt is the total debt owed by the central government. While governmental spending stimulates the domestic economy, national large public deficits hold back investing competitiveness. Countries with large public debts are less attractive to foreign investors and less likely to obtain foreign capital, which fuels inflation. When foreign investors forecast a rise in government debt of a particular country, they prefer not to own securities denominated in its currency, especially if the risk of default is great. So, the country’s debt rating is a very crucial factor in setting exchange rates.

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