Investment Professionals

Trading the greenback

May 18, 2020

Product in focus: ETFS Enhanced USD Cash ETF (ASX Code: ZUSD) Trading the greenback Many investors view cash as part of the defensive, and somewhat static portion of their portfolios, but in uncertain markets it might also be used as a trading tool to act on shorter term views and expectations of currency exchange rates. The US dollar is one such option that investors could consider, using an ETF like the ETFS Enhanced USD Cash ETF (ASX code: ZUSD). ZUSD aims to track the performance of an interest-bearing US dollar cash deposit by investing in US dollar bank deposits with maturities ranging from overnight to three months and earning a variable rate of interest. Using USD as a defensive position Cash typically forms part of a defensive allocation in a portfolio for liquidity and downside protection, with Australian investors typically using the Australian dollar. Much like equities and fixed income, diversifying cash can assist with risk management, particularly in volatile periods. For example, holding currencies other than the Australian dollar might buffer the cash allocation in periods where the Australian dollar is weak. The US dollar often holds appeal to Australian investors as a result of its strength compared to the Australian dollar. AUD/USD 14 May 2015-12 May 2020 The US dollar has traditionally been viewed as a safe-haven asset, with most global central banks keeping it as a reserve currency and many international transactions conducted in the US dollar. The value of the US dollar tends to be less volatile, particularly compared to emerging markets, backed by what is to the most part seen as political and economic stability[1]. Trade your conviction Investors can also use cash investments to make tactical decisions on how they expect a currency to perform. For example, investors who believe the US dollar is likely to appreciate, may increase their cash allocation to the US dollar while those who believe it is likely to depreciate may choose to reduce their allocation. An ETF like ZUSD is a simple and liquid way to trade your convictions on the US dollar, allowing you to move quickly based on your changing market views. It may also be more cost-effective and accessible for some investors when compared to setting up cash deposits internationally or using a currency exchange. Demand for the US dollar globally driven The US dollar is heavily used across the globe. There is more than $13 trillion in US dollar denominated assets held in banks outside the US[2], reflecting approximately 15% of world GDP[3]. Approximately 80% of global trade financed by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is in US dollars (BIS finances 35% of global trade)[4]. The US dollar has also been used by the US Federal Reserve (the Fed) to improve liquidity within the US and other countries by way of swap accords. An example of how this works is as follows: the Fed has an agreement with the Reserve Bank of Australia to exchange US$60 billion of US dollars for Australian dollars and reverses this transaction at a later point in time[5]. The Fed has permanent swap arrangements with the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, European Central Bank and Switzerland but set up temporary relationships at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and Sweden[6]. This has been to support the large demand and tight supply of the US dollar outside the US and has resulted in an increase from US$60 million in the first half of March 2020 in swap activity to nearly US$400 billion at the start of April 2020[7]. Depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, demand for the US dollar – either through swap activity or broader global activity – may put upward pressure on the greenback. Those who believe this is likely may choose to ‘go long’ on the US dollar by taking exposure to it either by buying US dollars or other means, such as ZUSD. Currency exchange and equity markets The exchange rate between the US and Australian dollars correlates negatively with US equity markets as represented by the S&P 500, meaning that the US dollar tends to appreciate against the Australian dollar when the US share market is falling and vice-versa. In other words, the Aussie dollar tends to perform well when markets are rising, which is linked to demand for Australia’s resources-heavy exports. This is demonstrated further in the following charts. As shown in the correlation panel at the bottom of the chart below, across 5 years there is a negative relationship between the movements of the S&P 500 compared to the USD/AUD rate. In periods of more pronounced downturns, the correlation has become more negative, as seen in the global financial crisis and the more recent volatility in March 2020. Long term S&P 500 vs USD/AUD rate (performance in top chart and correlation in bottom chart) Source: Bloomberg, 14 May 2020 To highlight how pronounced that relationship can be the chart below shows a strong negative relationship between the S&P 500 and the USD/AUD rate in the recent months of COVID-19 driven volatility. Short-term S&P 500 v USD/AUD rate (performance in top chart and correlation in bottom chart) Source: Bloomberg, 14 May 2020 An enhanced approach to the US dollar ZUSD tracks the USD/AUD rate and invests in US dollar bank deposits with maturities ranging from overnight to three months and aims to earn a rate above the rate available on overnight deposits. Deposits are held with one or more Authorized Deposit Taking Institutions and earn a variable rate of interest spread across a range of maturities to enhance yield, while maintaining the liquidity of the fund. Generally though, exposure to the US dollar through ZUSD may assist as a buffer against weakness in the Australian dollar and offer diversification in the cash allocation of a portfolio. Alternatively, investors may choose to consider ZUSD as a trading tool for a short-term tilt to access any strength they may anticipate in the US dollar. ZUSD is the only physical US dollar ETF offering quarterly distributions. This may make it appealing to income-focused investors. More information on ZUSD Fund Name ETFS Enhanced USD Cash ETF ASX Code ZUSD Management Fee 0.30% p.a. Distribution Frequency Quarterly For more information on ZUSD, please contact us on: Sales Trading Phone +61 2 8311 3488 Email: Phone +61 2 8311 3483 Email:

Download now

Managing volatility for your clients

Apr 02, 2020

The current COVID-19 concerns have rattled markets, with advisers fielding calls from concerned clients. In some cases, advisers may choose to add tilts or hedges for their clients’ investments, while for others, it will be better to stay the course. There are a range of ways to manage market volatility in a portfolio, some universally valuable, others dependent on the individual clients. In this paper, we’ve highlighted some of the most common. Download now In your discussions with clients, these principles can be a helpful starting point in reinforcing your approach and providing comfort in uncertain times. 1. Diversification Reinforcing the value of diversification with your clients can be as simple as the analogy of not having all your eggs in one basket. The current environment has reinforced the importance of diversification within asset classes and sectors, with some companies able to benefit (ie supermarkets) and others needing to close down (i.e. travel and tourism companies). 2. Incorporating more stable, less cyclical investments Holding companies which are able to consistently operate regardless of market conditions, such as essential services infrastructure, can assist in buffering portfolios against falling markets. 3. Alternative investments Investments which are designed to perform differently to equity and bond markets can range in complexity. Gold is a simple asset with a low or even negative correlation with other asset classes which has acted as a safe-haven investment across a number of market events over time. 4. Strategic tilts For some investors, incorporating short-term tilts alongside the long-term core strategy can assist in managing market volatility. Depending on the strategy, this could mean adding a tilt to high growth (and therefore ‘riskier’ assets) or adding more defensive position. ETFs can be an effective tool for managing volatility for your clients. Beyond characteristics including liquidity and cost-efficiency, the wide range available, broad exposures and instant diversification mean they can be suitable across investor types. For more information on our range of ETFs and using them in your clients’ portfolios, please contact us on: Sales Trading Phone +61 2 8311 3488 Email: Phone +61 2 8311 3483 Email:

Download now

ZUSD - It's All About The Benjamins

Apr 08, 2019

Product in Focus: ZUSD: ETFS Enhanced USD Cash ETF Most portfolios hold cash to provide liquidity and downside protection Investors can seek to increase the return on their cash allocation using ZUSD Current US rates are significantly higher than Australian rate The deposit rate of ZUSD is currently 2.36% (as of 7 April 2019), enhanced by holding funds in deposits ranging from overnight to 3 months Cash Is King Defensive assets such as cash hold an important place in portfolios not only for liquidity but also downside protection. When you look at the typical asset allocation ranges for the five main risk profiles it’s clear what a critical part cash plays in a portfolio; now more than ever with many deeply concerned about the end of the equity cycle. However, many Australian investors only consider cash as AUD cash. This is understandable, but cash balances should be diversified in the same way as equities and fixed income. This gives the benefit of both diversification and, often, better yields. The ETFS Enhanced USD Cash ETF (ZUSD) achieves this for the low cost of 0.30% p.a. The United States Of Play The Federal Reserve has two main objectives. They are: Low and stable inflation over the long term (a target of 2% in the U.S) Full employment With both objectives looking stable in the current US economic environment Powell looks to be fulfilling his mandate and this has been reflected in the current Fed Target rate - set at a range of 2.25% to 2.5% - giving the market a strong indication that rates are likely to be unchanged for the remainder of the year and if on what looks like to be a small chance there is a change, it is likely to be in the form of a cut. He is unphased by short term misses of inflation targets and concentrates on long term trends. This resonates with his recent statement (March 2019) about the use of Monetary policy, he stated that: “We don’t see data coming in that suggest that we should move in either direction. They suggest that we should remain patient and let the situation clarify itself over time.” The Fed And The Reserve – Are They Kicking Goals? The current US yields are higher than the equivalent Australian duration. As you can see in the chart above the 10-year yields on government bonds are over 50 basis points better in yield terms in the US than Australia right now. Even with the yield curve displaying inverted characteristics, shorter duration US yields are better than the Australian equivalent. Current Market Deposit Rates For US And Australian Cash The cash rates on offer on US cash deposits are significantly higher even in the scenario that the RBA raises rates and the Federal Reserve holds. Even in the unlikely event that the RBA has consecutive increases (given inflation looks stable and economic growth looks late in the cycle) to the cash rate and the Fed held rates constant, the cash deposit rates on offer to investors could remain in favour of those with US deposits. In the graph below the spread between US and Australian deposits has been more beneficial to US deposits since March 2018. Product Solution Investors holding US Dollar Cash should be aware of the benefits of the ZUSD - ETFS Enhanced USD Cash ETF that achieves the following: Exposure to US dollar cash Enhanced yield Quarterly distributions ZUSD makes use of higher yielding deposits out to a term of 3 months in duration to help enhance the yield for investors in the fund. Using a combination of “at call”, 1M and 3M duration deposits ZUSD is designed to give investors an enhanced US dollar cash position rather than just holding exposure to the physical US dollar. Investors should consider diversifying their cash positions by holding non-domestic cash in addition to Aussie dollars via ZUSD.

Download now