By Frances Coppola
For businesses, forex buying and selling decisions can often be driven by cash flow needs. For example, a U.S. business that has been invoiced by its British supplier for £15,000 may need to exchange U.S. dollars for pounds in order to settle the bill. Businesses also trade forex to manage their forex risks, for example by adjusting currency balances to benefit from exchange rate movements.
However, on the other side of any business’s forex trade is a trader looking to make a profit. Traders’ buying and selling decisions are based on many factors. Some of these factors are technical, such as price and volume trends shown on forex charts. But others are fundamental economic indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP), inflation, employment and interest rates.1
A forex economic calendar gives real-time information on scheduled announcements of fundamental indicators and other events that could have an impact on currency exchange rates. Traders constantly adjust their bid and offer rates based upon their expectations of the outcome of these events.2
For example, Federal Open Market Committee meetings are shown on forex reconomic calendars. These meetings set the target range for the Federal Funds Rate, and hence influence commercial interest rates. When the next meeting appears on the calendar, forex traders will form a view as to what they expect the interest rate decision at that meeting will be, and then adjust their prices accordingly. U.S. dollar exchange rate movements thus anticipate scheduled political, social, and economic events.
A forex economic calendar can give businesses the information they need to assess the likely impact of these events on exchange rates and thus help them decide when to buy and sell the currencies they need for cash flow and risk management.
There are numerous forex economic calendars available on the internet, many of which are free to use.3 Some are integrated into online forex trading packages.
Typically, a forex economic calendar gives a week’s forward view of expected events, along with the currency principally affected and an estimate of the expected outcome. Once the event is past, the actual outcome is added for comparison.
Here, for example, is a screen print from a free FX calendar provided by DailyFX, showing the start of the events list for July 26th 2017:4
The time of the event is shown first, followed by a flag indicating the currency to which the event relates. The International Standards Organization (ISO) code for the currency is also shown, along with the nature of the event. There is an estimate of the importance for forex buying and selling decisions – in this case, one of the events shown is of “medium” importance, one is “low” and two are “high.” There is a forecast of the information that the event is expected to provide, along with the actual outcome (when available) and the outcome from the previous such event.
In this example, three of the events concern the euro, and the forecast was for no change. On the strength of this, traders might decide to leave their bid and offer prices unchanged, resulting in no change to the euro’s exchange rate. However, had the forecast been for an interest rate rise from zero percent to – say – 0.25 percent, the euro’s exchange rate might have risen.
The outcome can of course deviate from the forecast: if, for example, the forecast was for a 0.25 percent interest rate increase but the European Central Bank left the rate unchanged, the euro’s exchange rate might rise on the forecast and drop on the outcome. Nonetheless, the fact that traders respond to forecasts by adjusting bid and offer prices, causing exchange rates to rise or fall, means that businesses may need to be alert to forthcoming economic events and their expected outcomes. Using a forex economic calendar can help businesses stay in touch with a fast-moving forex market.
To set up a forex economic calendar, start by setting the time zone. For example, a business based in New York would set the time zone to Eastern Standard Time (EST) or GMT-4. The times of events would then appear in EST.
Forex economic calendars can be extremely flexible. Many calendars have filters that enable users to show only events relating to currencies that they are interested in, or only certain types of event – the calendar above, for example, allows users to filter out events of low and medium importance.5 Users may be able to set alerts for certain events and currencies. They may also be able to make notes relating to individual events.
Some forex economic calendars have tutorials to guide users through setting up and using the calendar to inform their trading decisions.
Today’s forex markets respond instantaneously not only to news events as they occur, but also to forecasts of economic, political, and social events. Using a forex economic calendar can help businesses factor in the exchange rate impact of news when making their forex risk management and cash flow decisions.
With 17 years’ experience in the financial industry, Frances is a highly regarded writer and speaker on banking, finance and economics. She writes regularly for the Financial Times, Forbes and a range of financial industry publications. Her writing has featured in The Economist, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She is a frequent commentator on TV, radio and online news media including the BBC and RT TV.
1. “Economic Calendar,” Investopedia; https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/economic-calendar.asp
3. “Top 10 Forex Calendars,” EarnForex.com; https://www.earnforex.com/blog/top-10-forex-calendars/
4. Economic Calendar, DailyFX; https://www.dailyfx.com/calendar?ref=SubNav