Interest rate parity is a no-arbitrage condition representing an equilibrium state under which investors will be indifferent to interest rates available on bank deposits in two countries.
The fact that this condition does not always hold allows for potential opportunities to earn riskless profits from covered interest arbitrage. Two assumptions central to interest rate parity are capital mobility and perfect substitutability of domestic and foreign assets. Given foreign exchange market equilibrium, the interest rate parity condition implies that the expected return on domestic assets will equal the exchange rate-adjusted expected return on foreign currency assets. Investors then cannot earn arbitrage profits by borrowing in a country with a lower interest rate, exchanging for foreign currency, and investing in a foreign country with a higher interest rate, due to gains or losses from exchanging back to their domestic currency at maturity.
Interest rate parity takes on two distinctive forms: uncovered interest rate parity refers to the parity condition in which exposure to foreign exchange risk (unanticipated changes in exchange rates) is uninhibited, whereas covered interest rate parity refers to the condition in which a forward contract has been used to cover (eliminate exposure to) exchange rate risk. Each form of the parity condition demonstrates a unique relationship with implications for the forecasting of future exchange rates: the forward exchange rate and the future spot exchange rate.
Economists have found empirical evidence that covered interest rate parity generally holds, though not with precision due to the effects of various risks, costs, taxation, and ultimate differences in liquidity. When both covered and uncovered interest rate parity hold, they expose a relationship suggesting that the forward rate is an unbiased predictor of the future spot rate. This relationship can be employed to test whether uncovered interest rate parity holds, for which economists have found mixed results. When uncovered interest rate parity and purchasing power parity hold together, they illuminate a relationship named real interest rate parity, which suggests that expected real interest rates represent expected adjustments in the real exchange rate. This relationship generally holds strongly over longer terms and among emerging market countries.
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Ofer Abarbanel is a 25 year securities lending broker and expert who has advised many Israeli regulators, among them the Israel Tax Authority, with respect to stock loans, repurchase agreements and credit derivatives. Founder TBIL.co STATX Fund.