Purer return and reduced volatility: Hedging currency risk in international-equity portfolios

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1 Purer return and reduced volatility: Hedging currency risk in international-equity portfolios Currency-hedged exchange-traded funds (ETFs) may offer investors a compelling way to more precisely access international equity markets within portfolios. In our view, currency-hedged ETFs are an important risk-management and portfolio-building tool. Overview In addition to their low cost, tax efficiency, liquidity and transparency, ETFs have also delivered the benefits of market access and investment precision to investors. Today s investors are empowered to seek better control of unintended risks and achieve precise exposures within their portfolios through ETFs. Currency-hedged ETFs, which allow investors to buy regional equities while managing currency risk, are an excellent example of the intersection of access and precision. It s no surprise that over the past decade, U.S. investors have dramatically increased the proportion of their equity allocations to exposures outside the United States. International equities now comprise almost 50% of the world s equity market capitalization and have become an important part of a diversified equity allocation for many U.S. investors.* Even as investors have diversified their equity portfolios globally, they may not be aware that they are also taking a position in another asset class: currencies. Currency exposure can be harmful or additive to international equity returns, and can also impact portfolio volatility. Before the advent of currency-hedged ETFs and mutual funds, removing this exposure would have been very difficult for most investors. Amongst their other benefits, ETFs have democratized investing, providing a single, simplified vehicle for retail investors with different levels of sophistication to access what were previously considered more institutional-caliber stratgies. In this white paper, we will explain the effect that exchangerate movements have on the return of mutual funds and ETFs that hold foreign securities, discuss how exchange-rate risk may be mitigated through currency hedging, and describe why investors should view currencies within their portfolios as a contributor to both risk and return. Contributors Dodd Kittsley, head of ETF strategy Abby Woodham, ETF strategist Robert Bush, ETF strategist What is currency risk? Foreign currencies are a significant, yet underestimated, driver of risk and return in any international equity investment so much so, in fact, that we refer to this phenomenon as currency risk. Currency risk is the possibility that the value of one currency will change relative to another over the course of an investment horizon, altering the return of a foreign-currency-denominated investment. The buying and selling of domestic stocks takes place in U.S. dollars, meaning domestic investors (or funds that invest in domestic equities) don t need to exchange currencies during these transactions. International stocks, on the other hand, are bought and sold in their own local currencies, meaning U.S.-listed ETFs and mutual funds must convert U.S. dollars to a local currency in order to make a purchase. Then, when *Source: MSCI as of 12/31/15.

2 eventually selling, the ETF or mutual fund must exchange the proceeds, denominated in the local currency, for U.S. dollars. If the exchange rate between the dollar and the local currency has changed since the purchase date, however, the total return of the investment will be impacted. Figure 1 illustrates. Figure 1: Domestic vs. international investments Domestic investment International investment Total return = equity return This chart is for illustrative purposes only. Total return = equity return +/ currency return As an example of how currency risk works, consider an investor who wants to buy $150,000 worth of shares of the German company Bayer, which is a euro-denominated stock. The exchange rate is $1.5 = 1, so the investor exchanges $150,000 for 100,000 worth of Bayer shares. Over the course of the investment, the stock price doesn t change, and the investor later decides to sell the shares for 100,000. When it s time to exchange the euro-denominated proceeds of the sale for U.S. dollars, however, the investor finds that the exchange rate has changed to $1 = 1. This would be great news for American tourists in the Eurozone, but bad news for the investment. The 100,000 is exchanged for $100,000, meaning the investor realized a 33% loss even though the share value remained unchanged. Figure 2 illustrates. Changes in exchange rates can and do significantly impact unhedged investments in international equities, and real-life examples of the currency effect abound. Toyota Motor Corp. returned 63.9% in 2013 for Japanese investors buying the stock on the Tokyo exchange, but the dollar-denominated U.S. listing of Toyota returned only 34.5%, because the U.S. dollar strengthened against the yen in U.S.- based investors who did not hedge their currency exposure may have chosen the right equities, but saw their return significantly reduced by their (perhaps unintentional) long position in the weakening yen. International investors who make unhedged investments in U.S. equities suffer the same effect. The S&P 500 performed well in 2010, for example, returning 15.1%. However, Japanese investors who made an unhedged investment in those equities would have seen flat returns for the year because the yen strengthened considerably against the dollar. How currency hedging works An international equity ETF or mutual fund can be fully exposed to currency returns, or it can mitigate currency risk through hedging. The objective of currency hedging is to minimize the effects of foreign-exchange rate movements, seeking to give U.S. investors a purer return that approximates the return of the local market. When done by ETFs and mutual funds, currency hedging is typically accomplished through currency forward contracts, which are agreements between two parties to buy or sell currencies in the future at an agreed-upon exchange rate. Currency forwards allow portfolio managers to potentially shelter their investments from swings in exchange rates. Let s return to our earlier example in which an investor exchanges $150,000 to buy 100,000 of Bayer stock. When it came time to sell, the investor lost money, not because the stock s price changed, but because the exchange rate changed to $1 = 1. Instead of realizing a 33% loss due to currency depreciation, the investor could have hedged the investment by selling a currency forward contract on the euro that locked in the future exchange rate between U.S. dollars and euros. In other words, the investor would make an agreement with another party to sell 100,000 for $1.50 per euro, or $150,000, at a specified date in the future (say, one month). At the end of the month, when the exchange rate had shifted to $1 = 1, the investor would sell Figure 2: How currency risk can hurt returns $150,000 exchanged for 100,000 Stocks purchased with 100, ,000 exchanged for $100,000 Exchange rate $1.5 = 1 Price unchanged over month Exchange rate $1 = 1 $150,000 $1.5 = 1 100,000 + shares 100,000 $1 = 1 100,000 $100,000 This chart is for illustrative purposes only. 2 Purer return and reduced volatility

3 the shares for 100,000. Under the terms of the contract, the investor would then sell that 100,000 to the counterparty for $150,000. Because the investor locked in the exchange rate at the beginning of the month, he or she received the same flat return of a local investor, instead of a loss. Currency hedging helps investors mitigate the distortion of the currency effect on their international investments, getting them closer to the returns that local investors receive. For example, the yen-denominated MSCI Japan returned 9.5% in 2014; the U.S.-dollar-denominated version of the index returned 4.0%, thanks to the weakening yen. The MSCI Japan U.S. Dollar Hedged, which is hedged on a monthly basis, returned 8.5% for the year. Hedged investors received returns that were more representative of Japanese equity performance. To hedge or not to hedge? Given that the returns from currencies can either add to or detract from the total returns of a foreign investment, investors can either elect to hedge or not hedge currency risk. Investors who do have an outlook on foreign currencies relative to the dollar should ensure that their foreign market investments reflect their currency outlooks, either by hedging or not hedging as the case may be. When the U.S. dollar strengthens, currency-hedged investments generally outperform corresponding unhedged investments. Conversely, when the U.S. dollar weakens, currency-hedged investments tend to underperform. Take, for example, an investor who believes the U.S. dollar may depreciate against foreign currencies. If this investor is seeking to invest in international equities, an unhedged ETF may be more suitable. If the investor s assumption is correct, he or she will receive the returns of the underlying securities as well as the gains of the local currency relative to the U.S. dollar. On the other hand, a hedged international equity ETF may be the better solution for an investor who believes the U.S. dollar will appreciate. If the investor s view proves accurate, he or she will receive the returns from the underlying securities while, mitigating the negative impact of the stronger U.S. dollar. Currency-hedged investments aren t just for investors with an active view of future fluctuations in exchange rates. The impact of currency on total return can be extreme and unpredictable. Investors without an opinion on future exchange rates may want to consider removing the currency component from their total return, lest the equity return (and underpinning of their investment thesis) be swamped out. Is your investment implicitly short the U.S. dollar? Investments in equities, mutual funds and ETFs denominated in another currency are implicitly short the U.S. dollar: If the U.S. dollar strengthens over the course of the investment horizon, the foreign currency will be exchanged for fewer U.S. dollars at the time of sale. However, today s investors have the ability to control for this risk and can neutralize the impact of currencies in an efficient manner with currency-hedged ETFs. Figure 3: Currency s impact on return (in percentage points) local currency MSCI EAFE MSCI Japan MSCI ACWI ex USA U.S. dollars Currency impact on return local currency U.S. dollars Currency impact on return local currency U.S. dollars Currency impact on return Source: Morningstar as of 12/31/15. Performance is historical and does not guarantee future results. returns do not reflect fees or expenses, and it is not possible to invest directly in an index. See back page for index definitions. Purer return and reduced volatility 3

4 As Figure 3 shows, currency s impact on total return can be extreme and unpredictable. The yen strengthened considerably against the U.S. dollar in 2007, leading the unhedged MSCI Japan to outperform. In this case, currency exposure helped enhance returns. Conversely, when the yen began to weaken in 2012 as the Bank of Japan initiated its aggressive quantitative-easing policy, currency exposure detracted from equity returns consistently through Currency hedging also has the potential to help reduce the volatility of international equity investments. Currencies can be volatile on a stand-alone basis, creating a bumpier ride for an unhedged investment. Over the past 10 years through the end of 2015, the five currency-hedged MSCI indexes shown in Figure 4 (with the exception of Japan) were less volatile than their unhedged counterparts. The reduction in volatility helped boost riskadjusted returns for the hedged indexes relative to the unhedged. As a result, the hedged indexes also had higher Sharpe ratios, as shown in Figure 5. What drives currency moves? Exchange rates can be very volatile. In the short run, the value of currencies can be driven by a host of factors like sentiment and investor positioning. Over longer periods of time, the determinants of exchange rates shift to structural forces. A widely-followed economic theory, purchasing power parity, holds that currencies have a long-run real equilibrium value. Over time, currencies should mean revert to that equilibrium rate. Other models look at metrics like savings and investment balance trends and productivity trends. Regardless of the model used, exchange rates can deviate substantially from fair value for many years. On the next page, we list some key contributors to cyclical currency market movements. Figure 4: 10-year standard deviation ( ) Hedged Unhedged 14.8% 18.5% 19.3% 15.5% 17.6% 23.6% 19.1% 24.2% 14.5% 19.1% MSCI EAFE MSCI Japan MSCI Emerging Markets MSCI Germany MSCI AC World Ex-USA Source: Morningstar as of 12/31/15. Performance is historical and does not guarantee future results. Graph represents average annual monthly returns. Hedged indices are as follows: MSCI EAFE US Dollar Hedged, MSCI Japan US Dollar Hedged, MSCI Emerging Markets US Dollar Hedged, MSCI Germany US Dollar Hedged, MSCI ACWI ex USA US Dollar Hedged. returns do not reflect fees or expenses, and it is not possible to invest directly in an index. See back page for index definitions. Figure 5: 10-year Sharpe ratio ( ) Hedged Unhedged MSCI EAFE MSCI Japan MSCI Emerging Markets 0.29 MSCI Germany MSCI AC World Ex-USA Source: Morningstar as of 12/31/15. Performance is historical and does not guarantee future results. Hedged indices are as follows: MSCI EAFE US Dollar Hedged, MSCI Japan US Dollar Hedged, MSCI Emerging Markets US Dollar Hedged, MSCI Germany US Dollar Hedged, MSCI ACWI ex USA US Dollar Hedged. returns do not reflect fees or expenses, and it is not possible to invest directly in an index. See back page for index definitions. 4 Purer return and reduced volatility

5 Monetary policy. When central bank policy is expansionary (i.e., engaged in quantitative easing, interest rates kept low), the country s currency will likely depreciate. Conversely, when central banks raise interest rates, the country s bonds and other local assets can appear more attractive, and the currency can appreciate. Inflation expectations. If investors anticipate higher future inflation, they generally expect central banks to raise interest rates. Balance of trade. If foreign demand for a country s goods increases, the country s currency will appreciate. Conversely, if a country increases its import rates, all things being equal, that country s currency will depreciate. Currency fluctuations can be very difficult to predict. While some investors actively forecast currency valuations, forecasting currencies is not a core competency for most. Because many currencies have a long-term expected return of zero and have the potential to increase volatility, we believe investors with no currency views should consider removing currency risk from their portfolio through currency-hedging. Conclusion Today, investors are no longer forced to assume currency risk as a natural byproduct of investing in international equities. With the advent of currency-hedged ETFs, investors now have the ability to control the currency risk of their international investments. Purer return and reduced volatility 5

6 Definitions: One basis point equals 1/100 of a percentage point. Mean reversion is a theory that prices and returns eventually move back toward the mean, or average. The MSCI All Country World (ACWI) ex-usa tracks the performance of 22 developed and 23 emerging markets; the MSCI ACWI ex USA US Dollar Hedged is the currency-hedged version of the index. The MSCI EAFE tracks the performance of stocks in select developed markets outside of the United States; the MSCI EAFE US Dollar Hedged is the currency-hedged version of the index. The MSCI Emerging Markets tracks the performance of stocks in select emerging markets; the MSCI Emerging Markets US Dollar Hedged is the currency-hedged version of the index. The MSCI Germany tracks the performance of German stocks; the MSCI Germany US Dollar Hedged is the currency-hedged version of the index. The MSCI Japan tracks the performance of Japanese stocks; the MSCI Japan US Dollar Hedged is the currency-hedged version of the index. The S&P 500 tracks the performance of 500 leading U.S. stocks and is widely considered representative of the U.S. equity market. Shorting is borrowing then selling a security with the expectation that the security will fall in value. The security can then be purchased and the borrower repaid at a lower price. Standard deviation is often used to represent the volatility of an investment. It depicts how widely an investment s returns vary from the investment s average return over a certain period. A currency forward is a contract in the foreign exchange market that locks in the exchange rate for the purchase or sale of a currency on a future date. The opinions and forecasts expressed herein by the fund managers and product specialist do not necessarily reflect those of Deutsche Asset Management, are as of February 2016 and may not come to pass. Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal. Funds that invest in specific countries or geographic regions may be more volatile than investing in broadly diversified funds. A fund s use of forward currency contracts may not be successful in hedging currency exchange rates changes and could eliminate some or all of the benefit of an increase in the value of a foreign currency versus the U.S. dollar. Securities focusing on a single country may be more volatile. In addition to the normal risks associated with investing, international investments may involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable currency fluctuations, from differences in generally accepted accounting principles or from economic or political instability in other nations. Emerging markets involve heightened risks related to the same factors as well as increased volatility and lower trading volume. There are additional risks because of potential fluctuations in currency and interest rates. Investing in derivatives entails special risks relating to liquidity, leverage and credit that may reduce returns and increase volatility. Shares are not individually redeemable, and owners of Shares may acquire those Shares from a Fund, or tender such Shares for redemption to a Fund, in Creation Units only. Deutsche Asset Management represents the asset management activities conducted by Deutsche Bank AG or any of its subsidiaries. Investment products: No bank guarantee Not FDIC insured May lose value 2016 Deutsche Bank AG. All rights reserved. ETF (1/16) I RETAIL-PUBLIC CURRENCY-WHITE

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