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Theoretical and Applied Economics
No. 3 / 2007 (508)

Foreign Exchange Risk in International Transactions

Florentina-Olivia Balu
Daniel Armeanu
Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest

Abstract. Every international business is affected by the ever-changing value of the currencies implied in contracts. While many of us consider this unpredictability a nuisance, the volatility of currencies around the world can mean the difference between success and failure for many exporters/importers. Exchange rates between one currency and another can change dramatically in a short period of time, leaving the unprepared business exposed to potentially crippling losses. The efficient management of this risk is essential for the survival of a company and any business that is exposed to such a risk should ensure that it is fully prepared to manage it. Old standbys and recent breakthroughs in the area of financial risk management can remove much of the risk from currency rate movements. The range of such products is huge, with increasingly sophisticated techniques constantly being added. Among the most modern methods for managing exchange risk there are four major classes of derivative products like: forwards, futures, options, and swaps. Beyond the four main types of risk management instruments, there are a number of other products including "swaptions" (options on swaps); avenging options; yield curve swaps; futures on spreads; and options on portfolios. Sophisticated mathematical tools and high-speed computers are needed to calculate the price of these instruments and to determine their overall effect on the company. In this article we will focus on forward and futures contracts for managing foreign exchange risk. A forward is a contract to buy or sell currency at an agreed upon exchange rate at a specific date in the future. Futures are similar to forwards except that they're traded on exchanges which specify settlement dates. Also we make some recommendations related to the foreign exchange risk-management practices that are useful for companies involved in international trade and for financial institutions interested in providing hedging products to these companies.

Keywords: foreign exchange risk; hedging; international trade; risk management; forward and future contracts.

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