Forex Market Drivers

 How Interest Rate Increases Drive Currency Prices

A common way to think about U.S. interest rates is how much it's going to cost to borrow money, whether for our mortgages or how much we'll earn on our bond and money market investments. Currency traders think bigger. Interest rate policy is actually a key driver of currency prices and typically a strategy for new currency traders.

Fundamentally, if a country raises its interest rates, the currency of that country will strengthen because the higher interest rates attract more foreign investors. When foreign investors invest in U.S. treasuries, they must sell their own currency and buy U.S. Dollars in order to purchase the bonds. If you believe U.S. interest rates will continue to rise, you could express that view by going long U.S. Dollars.

If you believe that the Fed has finished raising rates for the time being, you could capitalize on that view by buying a currency with a higher interest rate, or at least the prospect of relatively higher rates. For example, U.S. rates may be higher than those of Euroland now but the prospect of higher rates in Euroland, albeit still lower than the U.S., may drive investors to purchase Euros.

How Rising Gold Prices Affect Currencies

It's not hard to understand why we've experienced a run-up in gold prices lately. In the US, we're dealing with the threat of inflation and a lot of geo-political tension.  Historically, gold is a country-neutral alternative to the U.S. dollar.  So given the inverse relationship between gold and the U.S. Dollar, currency traders can take advantage of volatility in gold prices in innovative ways.

For example, if gold breaks an important price level, one would expect gold to move higher in coming periods.  With this in mind, forex traders would look to sell dollars and buy Euros, for example, as a proxy for higher gold prices.   Moreover, higher gold prices frequently have a positive impact on the currencies of major gold producers. For example, Australia is the world's third largest exporter of gold, and Canada is the world's third largest producer of gold. Therefore, if you believe the price of gold will continue to rise you could establish long positions in Australian Dollar or the Canadian Dollar - or even position to be long those currencies against other major countries like the UK or Japan.

Translating Rising Oil Prices to Currency Trading Opportunities

Equity investors already know that higher oil prices negatively impact the stock prices of companies that are highly dependent on oil such as airlines, since more expensive oil means higher expenses and lower profits for those companies.  

In much the same way, a country's dependency on oil determines how its currency will be impacted by a change in oil prices.  The US's massive foreign dependence on oil makes the US dollar more sensitive to oil prices than other countries. Therefore, any sharp increase in oil prices is typically dollar-negative.  

If you believe the price of oil will continue to increase for the near term, you could express that viewpoint in the currency markets by once again favoring commodity-based economies like Australia and Canada or selling other energy-dependent countries like Japan.