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Currency hedging is similar to insurance, which you buy to protect yourself from an unforeseen event. It’s an attempt to reduce the effects of currency fluctuations. In order to hedge an investment, investment managers will set up a related investment designed to offset potential losses. In general, currency hedging reduces the increase or decrease in the value of an investment due to changes in the exchange rate. It’s an attempt to even out results.

Investors shouldn’t make long-term investment decisions based on expectations of future foreign currency movements. Here are three reasons why:

1. It is almost impossible to predict the timing of currency movements.

Predicting when a particular currency may rise or fall is a very difficult task and is best left to investment professionals.

Exchange rate movements tend to vary over time and can be severe over shorter time periods.

Over the short-term currencies can vary significantly

Rolling 1 year returns (calculated monthly). Difference between S&P 500 Index return C$ and S&P 500 Index return US$. Source: Morningstar Direct as of June 30, 2017.

2. The impact of currency movements tends to diminish over time.

While exchange rates fluctuate from year to year, the impact of currency on investment returns declines over time.

Impact of currency diminishes over time

As at December 31, 2017. Difference between S&P 500 Index return C$ and S&P 500 Index return US$.
Source: Morningstar Direct.

3. In a diversified portfolio, currency movements tend to even out.

A well-diversified portfolio has exposure to many different currencies. The interplay between baskets of currencies is sometimes referred to as a natural hedge.

There are two main ways portfolio managers manage foreign currency risk :

  1. Forward contracts – The portfolio manager can enter into an agreement to exchange a fixed amount of currency at a future date and specified rate. The value of this contract will fluctuate and essentially offset the currency exposure in the underlying assets. Keep in mind the investment will not benefit if currency fluctuations work in its favour.

  2. Options – For a fee, options give the holder the right but not the obligation to exchange one currency for another at a set rate during a certain period of time. This reduces the potential that a change in exchange rates will affect the return on the investment.

Hedging removes the impact of currency volatility so that the main factor in the fund’s return is the performance of the underlying securities.

Effects of changes in currency value: On an unhedged US $ portfolio On a hedged US $ portfolio On a 50 % hedged US $ portfolio
C$ ↑ 10 % vs. US$ -10 % 0 % -5 %
C $ ↓ 10 % vs. US $ +10 % 0 % +5 %
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It's important for investors to consider their appetite for currency exposure prior to investing in a mutual fund with a foreign investment mandate. Remaining unhedged may be appropriate for some but not for others.

Hedged/Currency neutral Unhedged
Time horizon Short-term Long-term
Diversification Concentrated portfolio Portfolio well diversified by currency

Disclosure

This has been provided by RBC Global Asset Management Inc. (RBC GAM) and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal, accounting, tax, investment, financial or other advice and such information should not be relied upon for providing such advice. RBC GAM takes reasonable steps to provide up-to-date, accurate and reliable information, and believes the information to be so when provided. Information obtained from third parties is believed to be reliable but RBC GAM and its affiliates assume no responsibility for any errors or omissions or for any loss or damage suffered. RBC GAM reserves the right at any time and without notice to change, amend or cease publication of the information.

Please consult your advisor and read the prospectus or Fund Facts document before investing. There may be commissions, trailing commissions, management fees and expenses associated with mutual fund investments. Mutual funds are not guaranteed, their values change frequently and past performance may not be repeated. RBC Funds, PH&N Funds and BlueBay Funds are offered by RBC Global Asset Management Inc. and distributed through authorized dealers.