Floating-for-Floating and Fixed-for-Fixed Swaps: Domestic and Foreign Currency Transactions

This is part 4 of a 10 part series on currency swaps and interest rate swaps and their role in the global economy. In parts 1 and 2, we discussed the beginnings of swaps as well as the differences between interest rate swaps and currency swaps. In part 3, we discussed fixed-for-floating swaps. In part 4, we’ll discuss floating-for-floating and fixed-for-fixed swaps.

In the first 3 parts of this series on interest rate swaps and their role in the global economy, we’ve covered the broader strokes of interest rate swaps and currency swaps, with our most recent discussion focusing on fixed-for-floating swaps, or plain vanilla swaps. While similar, fixed-for-fixed swaps are slightly different from their plain vanilla counterpart.

Floating-for-floating rate swaps can be used to limit risk associated with two indexes fluctuating in value. For example, if company A has a floating rate loan at JPY 1M LIBOR and it has a floating rate investment that yields JPY 1M TIBOR + 60-basis points and currently the JPY 1M TIBOR is equal to JPY 1M LIBOR + 20-basis points. Given these metrics, company A has a current profit of +80-basis points. If company A thinks that JPY 1M TIBOR will decrease relative to the LIBOR rate or that JPY 1M LIBOR is going to increase relative to the TIBOR rate, it would initiate a floating-for-floating swap to hedge against downside risk.

Company A finds company B in a similar situation, each finding a comparable advantage to a floating-for-floating swap. Company A can swap JPY TIBOR + 60-basis points and receive JPY LIBOR + 70-basis points. By doing so, company A has effectively locked in profit of 70-basis points instead of holding +80-basis points unprotected to volatility in the base indexes.

A fixed-for-fixed swap is fairly straight forward. Let’s say an American firm, company C, is able to take out a fixed rate loan in the U.S. at 8%, but needs a loan in Australian Dollars to finance a construction project in Australia. However, the interest rate for company C is 12% in Australia. Simultaneously, an Australian company, company D, can take out a fixed rate loan of 9%, but needs a loan in U.S. dollars to finance a construction project in the U.S., where the interest rate is 13%.

This is where a fixed-for-fixed currency swap comes into play: company C (in the U.S.) can borrow funds at 8% and lend the funds to the Australian company for 8%, while company D (in Australia) can borrow funds at 9% and lend the funds to the U.S. company for 9%. The comparable advantage is equal for both company C and company D: both save 4% they would have otherwise had to have spent without fixed-for-fixed currency swaps.

In part 5 of 10 of this series, we’ve fielded some basic questions on interest rate swaps and will provide some clear, succinct answers to make this complex financial instrument a little more ‘plain vanilla.’

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