Spot Exchange Rate

Updated on March 27, 2024
Article byGayatri Ailani
Edited byGayatri Ailani
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Spot Exchange Rate?

The spot exchange rate is the current rate at which one currency can be exchanged for another currency. Based on the demand and supply of currencies, it reflects the price of one currency in terms of another currency and is the most commonly quoted exchange rate in the foreign exchange market.

Spot Exchange Rate

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The spot exchange rate is very important as it determines the value of cross-border transactions, such as international trade and investment. In addition, it provides a basis for calculating the value of one currency in terms of another currency, which is necessary for conducting business across borders.

Key Takeaways

  • The spot exchange rate represents the present value of one currency compared to another, reflecting the cost of exchanging one for the other at the current market conditions.
  • The spot exchange rate offers adaptability and up-to-the-minute pricing, while the forward exchange rate provides stability and safeguards against currency value fluctuations.
  • Market demand and supply, trading activities, and bid-ask spread are the three important trends determining the spot price.
  • It also allows market participants to transact in the foreign exchange market without a long-term commitment. This provides greater flexibility and reduces the risk of currency fluctuations.

Spot Exchange Rate Explained  

The spot exchange rate is influenced by a large number of currencies. Still, a few are considered the most important, or “major” currencies, due to their widespread use in international trade and finance.

For example, the dollar, euro, yen, pound, and Swiss franc are five major currencies that make up a large portion of the foreign exchange market, and their relative values significantly impact the rate. As a result, market participants closely monitor the economic and political developments that affect these currencies and adjust their trading strategies accordingly.

Central banks often use the spot exchange rate as a reference point in setting monetary policy, such as adjusting interest rates or intervening in the currency market to influence the exchange rate.

The spot exchange rate reflects the current market demand and supply for different currencies. Market participants determine the rate through buying and selling activities in the foreign exchange market.

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What Determines The Spot Exchange Rate?

Three major trends play an important role in determining the rate, and they are:

  • Market demand and supply: If there is a high demand for a particular currency, its value will increase relative to other currencies. This will cause the rate to rise. Conversely, if there is a low demand for a currency, its value will decrease, causing the rate to fall.
  • Trading activities: The foreign exchange market is a decentralized, over-the-counter (OTC). Here the currency trading is conducted directly between market participants. These participants can include commercial and investment banks, currency dealers, hedge funds, and individuals. Market participants buy and sell currencies based on their perception of the current market conditions and the future direction of exchange rates.
  • Bid-ask spread: The spot exchange rate is quoted as a bid-ask spread, which represents the difference between the highest price a buyer is willing to pay for a currency (the bid price) and the lowest price a seller is willing to accept (the ask price). The bid-ask spread reflects the supply and demand for the currency and the cost of executing a trade in the market.

The spot exchange rate is the price at which a currency can be swapped for another currency on the spot date. This is typically two business days after the trade date. When a transaction involving two currencies is executed, one is bought, and the other is sold. The rate is the price at which the transaction takes place and is determined by several factors. These may include interest rate differentials, inflation rates, and political and economic conditions in the countries whose currencies are being traded.

Examples

Let us look at a few examples to understand the concept better:

Example #1

On January 1, the spot exchange rate between the US dollar (USD) and the British pound (GBP) was 1.30 USD to 1 GBP. This means that for every 1 pound exchange, an individual would receive 1.30 USD.

Suppose that on January 15, a political event in the UK hurt the country’s economy. As a result, the demand for GBP decreases. And the supply increases, causing the rate to change from 1.25 USD to 1 GBP.

Suppose a US-based company had previously agreed to purchase goods from a UK supplier on January 15. It was counting on the exchange rate of 1.30 USD to 1 GBP. The company would now need to pay more USDs to purchase the same amount of GBP, as the exchange rate has changed. This is an example of how rapidly changing market conditions can impact businesses engaged in international trade.

In this scenario, the company might use a financial tool such as a forward contract to lock in a specific exchange rate for a future transaction to minimize the risk of currency fluctuations.

Example #2

Suppose a US-based company wants to purchase goods from a Japanese supplier that requires Japanese yen (JPY) payment. On January 1, the spot exchange rate between the US dollar (USD) and the Japanese yen (JPY) was 105 JPY to 1 USD. This means that for every 105 yen the US-based company wants to exchange, it would receive 1 USD.

Now, suppose that on January 15, there was a natural disaster in Japan that disrupted the country’s economy. As a result, the demand for JPY decreases, and the supply increases, causing the spot exchange rate to change from 110 JPY to 1 USD.

If the US-based company had agreed to purchase goods from the Japanese supplier on January 15, it would now need to pay more USD to purchase the same amount of yen, as the exchange rate has changed. As a result, the company would need to pay 11,000 US dollars (100,000 JPY x 110 JPY/USD) to purchase the goods, compared to the 10,500 US dollars (100,000 JPY x 105 JPY/USD) paid on January 1.

In this scenario, the company might use a financial tool such as a forward contract to lock in a specific exchange rate for a future transaction to minimize the risk of currency fluctuations.

Advantages 

The advantages of the spot exchange rate are as follows: 

  • Simplicity: The spot exchange rate is straightforward enough to understand. It is simply the price at which one currency can be exchanged for another currency on the spot date.
  • Flexibility: This exchange rate is a flexible option for businesses that need to exchange currencies short term. It allows companies to take advantage of favorable exchange rates as they arise.
  • Speed: Transactions using this exchange rate are completed quickly, typically within two business days. This is an advantage for companies needing to pay for goods or services promptly.
  • Cost-effective: The spot exchange rate is generally a cost-effective option for businesses that need to exchange small amounts of currency, as it does not require any upfront payment or deposit.
  • Real-Time Pricing: The rate reflects the current market conditions and is updated in real-time, allowing companies to make informed decisions about their currency exchanges.

Spot Exchange Rate vs Forward Exchange Rate 

The difference between the spot exchange rate and the forward exchange rate is as follows:

Spot exchange rateForward exchange rate
It refers to the current rate.It refers to the rate at some point in the future.
It provides flexibility and real-time pricing.It provides certainty and protection against currency fluctuations.
Exchange happens on the spot date, typically within two business days.Exchange happens at an agreed-upon date in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to calculate the spot exchange rate?

The formula for calculating it is as follows:
 
Spot exchange rate = Price of foreign currency / Price of domestic currency
 
For example, if the price of 1 US dollar (domestic currency) is 0.86 euros (foreign currency), then the spot exchange rate between the US dollar and the euro = 0.86 / 1 = 0.86. Thus, for every US dollar, a person can exchange 0.86 euros

How do you calculate expected future spot exchange rates?

A multitude of factors, including supply and demand, interest rates, and various economic conditions, determines the value of a spot exchange rate. The expected future spot exchange rate can be calculated by multiplying the ratio of interest rates ( foreign/ domestic) with the current spot rate.

What is the outright spot exchange rate?

The outright spot exchange rate is the current market price for an immediate foreign exchange transaction. It represents the exchange rate at which one currency can be exchanged for another at a specified time. It values financial instruments such as forwards, futures, and options. In addition, it is used as a benchmark for pricing other currency-related products and services.

This has been a guide to what is Spot Exchange Rate. We explain its comparison with forward exchange rate, examples, advantages, & disadvantages. You can learn more about from the following articles –

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