Euro, yen FX swap rates hit more than two-year highs, flags U.S. dollar funding stress



By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Oct 3 (Reuters) - The cost of raising short-term U.S. dollar funds in Japanese and European currency swaps markets surged to more than two-year highs on Monday, suggesting increased greenback demand as funding pressure grew due to volatile financial markets and global central bank tightening.

The cross-currency basis swap, or relative premium for swapping euro and yen for dollars, has widened since last week due in part to year-end related demand for the U.S. currency to square up corporate balance sheets, analysts said.

Dollar demand typically rises among corporates and asset management firms as the end of the year approaches, with portfolio rebalancing and fund transfers requiring currencies like the euro and yen to be converted to the U.S. currency.

But that spread has remained elevated as investors grew cautious about the global outlook.

The three-month euro cross rate hit -52.250 basis points EURCBS3M=ICAP on Monday, the highest premium in favor of the dollar since March 2020 just before the pandemic became widespread.

The current euro swap rate meant that investors were willing to pay more than 52 bps over interbank rates to swap three-month euros into dollars.

The three-month yen swap rate was at -63.75 JPYCBS3M=ICAP , the highest since March 2020 as well, while sterling three-month swap rates were at -27 on Monday GBPCBS3M=ICAP . Last Thursday, that premium was at -28 basis points, the highest since March 2022.

"There's a little more funding stress this year than in 2021 and 2020," said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy, at BMO Capital Markets in New York.

He added that increased volatility from global tightening, central bank interventions, and high inflation have contributed to the stress.

Anderson pointed out that in 2020 and 2021, some investors would have waited until Nov. 28 or 29 to exchange their currencies for dollars to cover balance sheet need, noting that liquidity would not be a problem.

"But in this type of environment with wider credit spreads, uneasy markets, and interventions all over the place, even though it costs investors more, investors covered that risk for three months in September, instead of waiting and covering for one-month in November," said Anderson.

"There is more of a desire to play it safe because the liquidity may not be there when they need it."

FX swaps allow investors to raise funds in a particular currency, such as the dollar, from other funding currencies such as the euro. For example, an institution which has dollar funding needs can raise euros in euro funding markets and convert the proceeds into dollar funding obligations via an FX swap.

Since FX swaps are subject to counterparty and credit risks, the pricing of these contracts is affected by perceptions of creditworthiness of the banking system or external risks that can affect liquidity, analysts said.
Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Richard Chang

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