Cost of Currency Volatility Hits Record $31B

First-quarter negative impact numbers for North American and European corporations eclipse even the height of the euro crisis, survey says.
Matthew HellerJune 16, 2015
Cost of Currency Volatility Hits Record $31B

The negative impact of currency fluctuations on North American and European companies reached a record $31 billion in the first quarter of 2015, eclipsing even the height of the euro crisis, according to the latest FIREapps survey.

For North American corporations alone, the negative impact quantified was $28.94 billion, up 55.1% from the previous quarter. The increase over the fourth quarter of 2014 for all corporates was 57% and negative currency impact has quadrupled year-over-year.

“At the height of the euro crisis, when North America-based multinationals were reporting headwinds to the tune of $20.27 billion and $22.73 billion in the second and third quarters of 2012, respectively, many people thought the world had seen the worst currency volatility,” FIREapps said.

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“Yet here we are less than three years later and for most major U.S. dollar currency pairs, volatility has surpassed the height of the euro crisis,” it added.

Of the 850 North America-based multinational corporates that the technology consulting firm analyzed, 279 companies reported negative currency impacts — 29.8% more than in the fourth quarter of 2014. Euro volatility was most commonly cited as having an effect, followed by the Japanese yen and the Russian ruble.

The average impact on a North American company’s earnings per share was eight cents, almost double the 2014 average and eight times greater than the management objective that leading multinationals set for their foreign exchange managers.

FIREapps attributed the currency volatility in large part to central bank intervention, with the example of the U.S. Federal Reserve being replicated in such economies as the European Union, Germany, and Japan.

“For global financial markets, central bank intervention creates uncertainty, and that creates volatility,” FIREapps said. “Given how tightly interconnected global economies and financial markets are, the actions of one central bank have ripple effects around the world.”

More volatility may be ahead. “As long as economies around the world remain weak, and central banks there see intervention as a successful stimulus tool, then we should expect to see continued currency volatility,” FIREapps predicted.