What is Carry?by Boris Schlossberg
The idea behind the carry is quite straightforward. The trader goes long the currency with a high interest rate and finances that purchase with a currency with a low interest rate. In 2005, one of the best pairings was the NZD/JPY cross. The New Zealand economy, spurred by huge commodity demand from China and a hot housing market, has seen its rates rise to 7.25% and stay there (at the time of writing), while Japanese rates have remained at 0%. A trader going long the NZD/JPY could have harvested 725 basis points in yield alone. On a 10:1 leverage basis, the carry trade in NZD/JPY could have produced a 72.5% annual return from interest rate differentials alone without any contribution from capital appreciation. Now you can understand why the carry trade is so popular! But before you rush out and buy the next high-yield pair, be aware that when the carry trade is unwound, the declines can be rapid and severe. This process is known as carry trade liquidation and occurs when the majority of speculators decide that the carry trade may not have future potential. With every trader seeking to exit his or her position at once, bids disappear and the profits from interest rate differentials are not nearly enough to offset the capital losses. Anticipation is the key to success: the best time to position in the carry is at the beginning of the rate-tightening cycle, allowing the trader to ride the move as interest rate differentials increase.