Foreign exchange transactions | How are prices quoted?

Every firm and individual operating in international environment is concerned with foreign exchange i.e, the exchange of foreign currency into domestic currency and vice-a-versa. Generally, the firm’s foreign operations earn income denominated in some foreign currency, however, the shareholders expect payment in domestic currency and therefore, the firm must convert the foreign currency into domestic currency.

Foreign exchange transactions:

The foreign exchange transaction (i.e, for the sale and purchase of foreign currencies) takes place in foreign exchange market, which provides a mechanism for transfer of purchasing power from one currency to another. This market is not a physical entity like the Mumbai Stock Exchange or a trading center; rather it is network of telephones among banks, foreign exchange dealers and brokers etc.

For example, a trader in Delhi may buy foreign exchange, say USD, from a bank in Mumbai for making payment to a U.S. supplier against the purchases made. The bank in Mumbai, in turn may purchase the USD from a New York bank, which in turn may purchase from some other bank in New York itself or at some other center and so on. As the foreign exchange market provides transactions in a continuous manner for a large number and volume of sales and purchases, this market is an efficient one. Minute differences in exchange rates at different center may get eliminated without time lag.

How are prices of a currency quoted in foreign exchange market?

In the foreign exchange market, the price of any currency may be quoted in terms of several currencies. It is important to realize that every price or exchange rate is relative. For example, if USD is worth INR 44, then it also implies that INR 1 is worth USD 1/ INR 44. All foreign exchange rates in this way are related to each other in a reciprocal way. In other words, the value of $/Re. is just the reciprocal of the value of INR/USD.

INR vs USD – How prices are quoted?

Quotations in the foreign exchange market are generally made in terms of local currency or the domestic currency in terms of per unit of a foreign currency. For example, the exchange rates of INR in India may be quoted in terms of USD, say INR/USD = INR 44/  USD. It means that 1 USD is worth INR 44. A change in price of one currency implies, therefore, a change in price of the other currency that appears in the quote. For example, if the price of INR against the USD moves from INR 44/ 1 USD to INR 43.5/ 1 USD, one can say that INR has appreciated relative to USD by INR 0.50. This is the same as saying that USD has depreciated relative to the INR.

Two ways of offering exchange rate quotes

There are two major ways of offering exchange rate quotes. There are called

  • direct quote and;
  • indirect quote.

These quotes are given after the exchange value has been established according to the practice being followed by a country. If the country follows a fixed rate of parity between its currency and a foreign currency, then the changes in parity value of that currency shall determine changes in the value of the domestic currency vis-a-vis other foreign currencies.These performances of the domestic economy is not reflected in the valuation of its currency. This is one extreme side of absolute rigidity in fixation of exchange data. The other extreme is allowing the exchange value of the national currency to float independently according to market forces without any intervention from the Central Bank. In between these two extremes, there are many intermediate arrangements for determination of exchange values.