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Carry Trades and Global Foreign Exchange Volatility

  • Menkhoff, Lukas
  • Sarno, Lucio
  • Schmeling, Maik
  • Schrimpf, Andreas

We investigate the relation between global foreign exchange (FX) volatility risk and the cross-section of excess returns arising from popular strategies that borrow in low interest rate currencies and invest in high-interest rate currencies, so-called 'carry trades'. We find that high interest rate currencies are negatively related to innovations in global FX volatility and thus deliver low returns in times of unexpected high volatility, when low interest rate currencies provide a hedge by yielding positive returns. Our proxy for global FX volatility risk captures more than 90% of the cross-sectional excess returns in five carry trade portfolios. In turn, these results provide evidence that there is an economically meaningful risk-return relation in the FX market. Further analysis shows that liquidity risk also matters for expected FX returns, but to a lesser degree than volatility risk. Finally, exposure to our volatility risk proxy also performs well for pricing returns of other cross sections in foreign exchange, U.S. equity, and corporate bond markets.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8291.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8291
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  1. Whitney Newey & Richard Smith, 2003. "Higher order properties of GMM and generalised empirical likelihood estimators," CeMMAP working papers CWP04/03, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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