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Profit Now From Currency-Linked Certificates of Deposit

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The good news is that we live in a global economy and our savings strategies and investment options are beginning to reflect this reality. Because of these global opportunities we are no longer restricted to saving or investing in one currency, the U.S. dollar (USD).

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While the U.S. economy continues its agonizing and tentative recovery, other countries are rebounding more quickly from the global slowdown of 2009 and 2010 and are showing signs of growth and expansion even as the U.S. struggles to regain a solid footing.  This year several countries have experienced  strong appreciation of their currency against the USD like China up 6.5%, Australia up 15%, Singapore up 11%, and Canada up 6%.  This could be an opportunity to invest in a currency-linked certificate of deposit (CLCD). A CLCD is a certificate of deposit that provides a performance return based upon the change in valuation of an underlying single currency or a basket of currencies.  There may be a nominal interest rate that returns income as well.

There are several important issues to be aware of when investing in a CLCD.  First, although the CD is FDIC insured, it is only insured if the bank issuing it fails or becomes insolvent.  The FDIC program does not cover loss of value due to currency fluctuation.  There is a liquidity risk that may result in the CD having less value or no value in the event that you need to access your funds before maturity. Most CLCDs have a participation rate (similar to equity-linked certificates of deposit) that determines what percent of the currency performance return the investor gets.  The most attractive CLCDs offered use 100 percent – meaning that if the currency increases in value by 15 percent over the term of the CD that you will receive the full 15 percent.  There are a few ‘exotic’ CLCDs that actually offer a participation rate of up to 120 percent.  An equity-linked CD may have an interest cap, but very few CLCDs include an interest cap because the rate of interest is not the primary value driver of the investment. It is usually no more than 0.5 percent annualized.

Let’s take an example.  If you were to purchase a CLCD with a face value of $ 100,000 USD that is linked to the Swiss franc (CHF) it might look like this.  The CHF which presently trades at 1.0793 to USD and has traded in the past 12 months as high 1.4100 to USD.  If you buy the CLCD today the exchange rate is locked in at the current rate of 1.0793.  When the CLCD matures in 12 months the prevailing rate will be used to determine the performance return.  If for example the CHF resumed its high of 1.4100 at the time of maturity, the rate of return would be 30.6 percent for 12 months.  At full participation the investor would receive $ 130,600 USD when redeeming their $ 100,000 USD face value CLCD on year from now. 

But the opposite can also occur.  If one year ago you purchased a CLCD linked to the Indian Rupee (INR) you would have purchased at an exchange rate of approximately 0.0223 to USD.  Today, the INR trades lower at 0.01998 or 10.4 percent less.  When you redeem your $100,000 USD face value CLCD you would receive only $ 89,600 USD.  The loss of value of $10,400 would not be covered by FDIC insurance because the bank did not fail or become insolvent.  The loss was due the change in currency valuation.

It should be clear from our discussion here that CLCDs are more complex than ELCDs due to the volatility of foreign exchange rates. CLCDs are available for terms of 3 months to 5 years and can be linked to a single currency or customized to contain a basket of currencies. While both CDs function in a similar fashion, behavior of the underlying currency or index can be very different and subject to extreme variation over the term of the CD.  You should read all materials with care and determine if the investment is suitable for you.

Banks that offer currency-linked certificates of deposit

EverBank

EastWest Bank

HSBC

Comments


Thomas Hertog, December 13, 2011


Alston, thank you for your question. A DCI (Dual Currency Instrument) or a DCD (Dual Currency Deposit)actually converts the currency at maturity. A CLCD does not convert the currency that is linked to the CD. In the article, I gave an example of the Swiss franc and US dollar. The CD deposit is always denominated in USD. At no point does it actually convert to Swiss francs. A DCI or DCD example would be depositing USD and converting to Swiss fancs at maturity. Regards, Thomas.

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Alston Hsieh, December 12, 2011


I still do not understand CLCD ? Can you analysis comparison with Dual currency product(DCI or DCD ) the difference between CLCD , tks

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Thomas Hertog, December 12, 2011


Stephen: Thank you for your comments. While I was researching and writing the article I initially thought the same as you noted in your post - why not invest directly in the currency markets? As I reviewed more of the offerings from banks I realized that the value-added from them includes keeping the riskier currencies out of the CD offering. If you invest directly, you'll be responsible for developing that knowledge. Regards, Thomas

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Amanda F., December 12, 2011


I think the advantage of currency CDs is that you can earn higher interest in a foreign currency. For example, if you look at the Everbank listings, they show a 3-month Brazilian Real CD paying 5.09% APY. If you believe the Real is going to maintain its exchange against the dollar, or even increase, then these are a great bet.

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Stephen Paul, December 12, 2011


Interesting but these are really only CDs in name only. They are currency bets with some nominal insurance in case the institution holding them fails. I don't understand how investing in these is better than just investing in currency on the open markets. There are plenty of banks and currency brokers that allow you to do so.

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