The exchange rates quoted by banks to their customer are based on the rates prevalent in the interbank market. The big banks in the market are known as market makers, as they are willing to buy or sell foreign currencies at the rates quoted by them up to any extent. Depending buy or sell foreign currencies at the rates quoted by them up to any extent. Depending upon its resources, a bank may be a market maker in one or few major currencies. When a banker approaches the market maker, it would not reveal its intention to buy or sell the currency. This is done in order to get a fair price from the market maker.

Two Way Quotations

Typically, the quotation in the interbank market is a two – way quotation. It means the rate quoted by the market maker will indicate two prices. One at which it is willing to buy the foreign currency, and the other at which it is willing to sell the foreign currency. For example, a Mumbai bank may quote its rate for US dollar asunder
USD 1 = Rs 48.1525/1650
More often, the rate would be quoted as 1525/1650 since the players in the market are expected to know the ‘big number’ i.e., Rs 48. In the given quotation, one rate is Rs.48.1525 per dollar and the other rate is Rs.48.1650. per dollar.

Direct Quotation.

It will be obvious that the quoting bank will be willing to buy dollars at Rs 48.1525 and sell dollars at Rs 48.1650. If one dollar bought and sold, the bank makes a gross profit of Rs. 0.0125. In a foreign exchange quotation, the foreign currency is the commodity that is being bought and sold. The exchange quotation which gives the price for the foreign currency in terms of the domestic currency is known as direct quotation. In a direct quotation, the quoting bank will apply the rule: “Buy low; Sell high”.

Indirect quotation

There is another way of quoting in the foreign exchange market. The Mumbai bank quotes the rate for dollar as:
Rs. 100 = USD 2.0762/0767
This type of quotation which gives the quantity of foreign currency per unit of domestic currency is known as indirect quotation. In this case, the quoting bank will receive USD 2.0767 per Rs.100 while buying dollars and give away USD 2.0762 per Rs.100 while selling dollars. In other world, he will apply the rule: “Buy high: Sell low”. The buying rate is also known as the ‘bid rate and selling rate as the ‘offer’ rate. The difference between these rates is the gross profit for the bank and is known as the ‘Spread’.

Spot and Forward transactions

Interbank Transactions

The transactions in the interbank market may place for settlement

  • on the same day; or
  • two days later; or
  • some day late; say after a month

Where the agreement to buy and sell is agreed upon and executed on the same date, the transaction is known as cash or ready transaction. It is also known as value today.The transaction where the exchange of currencies takes place two days after the date of the contact is known as the spot transaction. For instance, if the contract is made on Monday, the delivery should take place on Wednesday. If Wednesday is a holiday, the delivery will take place on the next day, i.e., Thursday. Rupee payment is also made on the same day the foreign currency is received.

The transaction in which the exchange of currencies takes places at a specified future date, subsequent to the spot date, is known as a forward transaction. The forward transaction can be for delivery one month or two months or three months etc. A forward contract for delivery one month means the exchange of currencies will take place after one month from the date of contract. A forward contract for delivery two months means the exchange of currencies will take place after two months and so on.

Forward Margin/Swap points

Forward rate may be the same as the spot rate for the currency. Then it is said to be ‘at par’ with the spot rate. But this rarely happens. More often the forward rate for a currency may be costlier or chapter tan its spot rate. The rate for a currency may be costlier or cheaper than nits spot rate. The difference between the forward rate and the spot rate is known as the ‘forward margin’ or swap points. The forward margin may be either at ‘premium’ or at ‘discount’. If the forward margin is at premium, the foreign correct will be costlier under forward rate than under the spot rate. If the forward margin is at discount, the foreign currency will be cheaper for forward delivery then for spot delivery.

Under direct quotation, premium is added to spot rate to arrive at the forward rate. This is done for both purchase and sale transactions. Discount is deducted from the spot rate to arrive at the forward rate.

Interpretation of Interbank quotations

The market quotation for a currency consists of the spot rate and the forward margin. The outright forward rate has to be calculated by loading the forward margin into the spot rate. For instance, US dollar is quoted as under in the interbank market on 25th January as under:
Spot USD 1 = Rs.48.4000/4200
Spot/February 2000/2100
Spot/March 3500/3600

The following points should be noted in interpreting the above quotation;

  1. The first statement is the spot rate for dollars. The quoting bank buying rate is Rs.48.4000 and selling rate is Rs.48.4200.
  2. The second and third statements are forward margins for forward delivery during the months of February. Spot/March respectively. Spot/February rate is valid for delivery end February. Spot/March rate is valid for delivery end March.
  3. The margin is expressed in points, i.e., 0.0001 of the currency. Therefore the forward margin for February is 20 paise and 21 paise.
  4. The first rate in the spot quotation is for buying and second for selling the foreign currency. Correspondingly, in the forward margin, the first rate relates to buying and the second to selling. Taking Spot/February as an example, the margin of 20 paise is for purchase and 21 paise is for sale of foreign currency.
  5. Where the forward margin for a month is given in ascending order as in the quotation above, it indicates that the forward currency is at premium. The outright forward rates arrived at by adding the forward margin to the spot rates.

The outright forward rates for dollar can be derived from the above quotations follows


From the above calculation we arrive at the following outright rates;
Buying Selling
Spot delivery USD 1 = Rs. 48.4000 48.4200
Forward delivery February 48.6000 48.6300
Forward delivery March 48.7500 48.7800

If the forward currency is at discount, it would be indicated by quoting the forward margin in the descending order. Suppose that on 20th April, the quotation for pound sterling in the interbank market is as follows:
Spot GBR 1 = Rs. 73.4000/4300
Spot/May 3800/3600
Spot/June 5700/5400

Since the forward margin is in descending order (3800/3600), forward sterling is at discount. The outright forward rates are calculated by deducting the related discount from the spot rate. Thus is shown below:


From the above calculations the outright rates for pound sterling cab be restated as follows;
Buying Selling
Spot GBR 1 = Rs. 73.4000 73.4300
Forward delivery May 73.0200 73.0700
Forward delivery June 72.8300 72.8900

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