In the past couple of updates on the performance of currency-neutral funds, we found that these funds do not quite live up to the expectation of removing the effects of currency fluctuations for a modest cost. Instead the currency-neutral funds show a performance lag ranging from 2.33% for the iShares S&P 500 CAD-Hedged ETF (TSX: XSP) to 1.30% for the iShares MSCI EAFE CAD-Hedged ETF (TSX: XIN) (See posts Performance of Currency-Neutral S&P 500 Index Funds and Performance of Currency-Neutral MSCI EAFE Index Fund).
Reader Cal wondered how the lag would affect an investor who wants to invest $10,000 in US stocks and has the option of simply picking XSP versus converting to US dollars, buying IVV and after 25 years converting back to Canadian dollars. Since there are a number of variables, I constructed a spreadsheet to play around with the following variables:
– the term of investment (in years)
– annual returns
– Currency-hedged fund tracking error
– Currency conversion cost
– size of currency appreciation / depreciation over the investment term
For a 25 year term, annual returns of 7%, currency-hedging lag of 1.5%, one-way currency conversion cost of 1.5%, we find that (no surprises here) not hedging is advantageous if the foreign currency appreciates or remains the same against the Canadian dollar.
Under these assumptions, due to the large annual performance lag of currency-hedged funds, currency hedging turns out to be unprofitable even when the foreign currency depreciates by 25%. It is only when the foreign currency depreciates by 30% or more that the currency hedged fund comes out ahead. If the depreciation is 50%, the currency hedged fund has an advantage of 31% over its unhedged counterpart.
The spreadsheet will allow you to play around with the variables. For instance, if you use Norbert Gambit to convert currency, your costs might be as low as 0.2%. And if the performance lag of the currency hedged fund is 2% then not hedging is advantageous even at a depreciation of 35%.
The spreadsheet is available here.