Over the Hedge? Exporters’ Optimal and Selective Hedging Choices

Produced for the Reserve Bank of New Zealand as a Reserve Bank of New Zealand Discussion Paper DP2008/14

How do exporting firms manage currency exposures?

We examine this issue at the firm level using comprehensive data from the prototype Longitudinal Business Database recently developed by Statistics New Zealand. We use these data to test both optimal and selective hedging theories. Optimal hedging theory hypothesises that firms' hedging choices depend on the probability and cost of financial distress, underinvestment risks, scale, managerial risk aversion, information asymmetry, governance, ownership structures and tax rules.

Recent literature suggests that some firms vary hedging positions relative to their optimal position in a selective attempt to "beat the market". We examine whether hedging behaviour is consistent with hypotheses derived from optimal hedging theories, and test whether hedging positions change (possibly sub-optimally) when the NZD/AUD is perceived to be "high" or "low" relative to an historical average.

Optimal and selective hedging theories are both supported by the data. Estimation is over July 2000 to March 2007 (monthly) - a period during which the NZD/AUD varied substantially, making this a particularly pertinent period to test exporters currency risk management practices.