The Best Time of Day for Currency Trades

A rare Patek Philippe 18 karat pink gold watch is displayed 11 May 2007 during a preview in Geneva.
A rare Patek Philippe 18 karat pink gold watch is displayed 11 May 2007 during a preview in Geneva.

It's axiomatic that timing is everything in investing, but here's a new way to use timing to your advantage.

Have you ever suspected that certain currencies just seem to do better in Asian trading, and others in Europe? You're onto something. Paresh Upadhyaya, director of G10 FX strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has compared currency prices to the time of day the trades took place, and in a just-released report, he finds that different currencies regularly fare better at certain times of a 24-hour trading cycle.

(Note: In order to capture key U.S. data releases, Upadhyaya counts some hours normally included in European trading as part of the U.S. trading day: midnight GMT until 8:00 GMT is Asian trading, 8:00 to 13:00 GMT is U.K. trading, and 13:00 to 24:00 GMT is U.S. trading.)

Among the key patterns:

  • "The euro, the Japanese yen, and the commodity bloc currencies - Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, New Zealand dollar - tend to appreciate during the Asian time zone," Upadhyaya told me.
  • Also, the euro, Swedish krona, Norwegian krone, Swiss franc and Canadian dollar "tend to decline during their trading hours but appreciate in the other time zones." (Now there's a trading idea right there.)
  • "Many currencies are most liquid between 3-4pm GMT in a 24-hour period. This was true for the euro, the Australian dollar, the Canadian dollar, and the British pound," says Upadhyaya.
  • For many currencies, between 3 and 4 p.m. GMT, the close of the U.K. time zone, is the most liquid time of day.
  • Overall, though, the most liquid day of the week is Friday - but 44% of the time, it's also the most volatile.
  • The UK time zone was the most volatile for almost every currency. But for the Australian dollar and British pound, the US time zone was the most volatile.

Why do these patterns persist?

It's hard to know for sure, but Upadhyaya speculates that central-bank buying during business hours in their time zones helps the Aussie, kiwi, and others. And the volatility in London - which is surprising, since London is the locus of the most FX trading - may reflect the fact that more economic data is released during those hours "and more importantly, a large number of participants actively trade during this time zone," Upadhyaya says.

You may find reasons for other patterns too. In the meantime, you've got plenty of fresh fodder for trading ideas.

Tune In: CNBC's "Money in Motion Currency Trading" airs on Fridays at 5:30pm and repeats on Saturdays at 7pm.

Learn more: The essential vocabulary for currency trading is on Key Currency Terms. Top currency strategies are broken down for you in Currency Class.

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