EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

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ddg84
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Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2020 2:40 pm

EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by ddg84 »

Hello everyone,

I know the question of hedging comes up quite often, but mine sort of comes with a twist, so I wanted to hear the forum's opinion.

I am debating whether to use the EUR hedged or non-hedged version of the all-world stock ETFs in my portfolio. I currently own VWCE (Vanguard All World, denominated in EUR). It is unhedged and the base currency is USD. I was thinking of switching it to IWDE (iShares All World), which is hedged to EUR.

For background info, I am residing in Europe, so my spending is in EUR. Normally, I know that the recommendation is to use a non-hedged version of an ETF, as in the long-term, it doesn't really matter. However, my plan is for half of my portfolio to be in USD (I get paid in USD and already own ETFs traded in USD) and the other half in EUR. So if I own an unhedged EUR ETF, that gives me even more exposure to the dollar. Basically my entire stock portion (roughly 50-55% of portfolio) will be exposed to the USD.

So my thought is to replace the VWCE with IWDE (and add some emerging markets), so that I am not as exposed to USD, since it's not my currency of spending. The expense ratio will jump from about 0.2% to 0.55%, but I think it may be worth it.

Any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks.

TLDR: Half of my portfolio is already in ETFs denominated in USD (VWRA.L / VAGU.L). The other half in EUR. By buying an unhedged fund traded in EUR, but with the underlying currency in USD, I am afraid that I have too much exposure to USD as a European citizen that spends in euros.
Last edited by ddg84 on Wed Jun 09, 2021 11:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
Genghis
Posts: 69
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:53 am

Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by Genghis »

Your exposure in a non hedged fund is to the unhedged cash flows of the underlying companies. For instance, Nestle in Switzerland reports in CHF but has most of its revenues generated from outside Switzerland. Costs are the same. It may itself choose to hedge some of these cash flows. Its share price is then a loose function of the resulting effect.

So your VWCE may have as its base currency USD but that’s just for reporting purposes. Its exposure is to 60% or whatever it is of US based companies, themselves, similar to above, are exposed to other currencies. It’s a real “mix up”.

I’m UK based and whilst I plan on travelling a lot in older age, have GBP as my currency. But I want exposure to all the different currencies of global companies. Hedging to GBP is no good if the cost of imported goods and other things dependent on global currencies is increasing.

I’m sure others have different views. I’d keep things as they are and keep costs as low as possible.
helloyou
Posts: 29
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2020 6:09 am

Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by helloyou »

Beyond the more expensive TER, the other main difference is that iShares only covers developed markets, and does not include countries like China unlike the Vanguard one.

I am in a similar situation as you, earning money in a currency that is pegged to the USD, but my country of origin is EUR. VWRA is denominated in USD and as I technically earn USD, it is better for me to use USD as the conversion/transfer fees are lower than if I had to convert my USD to EUR every time I reinvestL

As long as you do not plan to withdraw the money from your index tracker fund anytime soon, it might be better to just stick with USD as you are avoiding the need to convert from USD to EUR.

Besides, it might be irrelevant regarding the specific topic at hand but if you own other assets in EUR (cash, bonds, real estate etc) you should be already diversified in terms of FX.

This is my 2 cents but others might have another rationale than me here
Valuethinker
Posts: 42622
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by Valuethinker »

ddg84 wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 8:40 am Hello everyone,

I know the question of hedging comes up quite often, but mine sort of comes with a twist, so I wanted to hear the forum's opinion.

I am debating whether to use the EUR hedged or non-hedged version of the all-world stock ETFs in my portfolio. I currently own VWCE (Vanguard All World, denominated in EUR). It is unhedged and the base currency is USD. I was thinking of switching it to IWDE (iShares All World), which is hedged to EUR.

For background info, I am residing in Europe, so my spending is in EUR. Normally, I know that the recommendation is to use a non-hedged version of an ETF, as in the long-term, it doesn't really matter. However, my plan is for half of my portfolio to be in USD (I get paid in USD and already own ETFs traded in USD) and the other half in EUR. So if I own an unhedged EUR ETF, that gives me even more exposure to the dollar. Basically my entire stock portion (roughly 50-55% of portfolio) will be exposed to the USD.

So my thought is to replace the VWCE with IWDE (and add some emerging markets), so that I am not as exposed to USD, since it's not my currency of spending. The expense ratio will jump from about 0.2% to 0.55%, but I think it may be worth it.

Any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks.
If you have a global index portfolio, currency unhedged, then roughly 55-60%of the stocks are priced in USD. However that doesn't mean that those companies are primarily doing business in USD - it's hard to tell. Conversely a company like Royal Dutch Shell is highly dependent on USD revenues because of the nature of the oil and gas industry, which is priced in USD.

So if your stock portfolio is 55% in global equities, your direct exposure is say 60% x 55% = 32.5%?

If you are within 10 years of retirement, and plan to retire in the Eurozone, it certainly makes sense to have a Euro hedged portfolio *except* that your equity in your home (if you own it) AND your state pension (which can be quite significant in Eurozone) are themselves also Euro exposure. I'd still say then that at least half of one's portfolio of bonds & equities might be Euro hedged, sensibly, to reduce volatility.

The main thing is by owning a US denominated fund, you expose yourself to lots of currency conversions - potentially every time you buy and sell? If by owning the same fund in its EUR denominated form, you can have exactly the same exposure to exchange rates in the underlying stocks, but no foreign exchange costs when you buy and sell.
alex_686
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Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by alex_686 »

FX risk has been historically low.

The majority of FX movement can be ascribed to inflation. Equities have been a good hedge against inflation. Historically, over the past 100 years with over 20 currency pairs, FX risk has added about a extra 1% in volatility, and even that is mean reverting.
Genghis wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 9:03 am Your exposure in a non hedged fund is to the unhedged cash flows of the underlying companies. For instance, Nestle in Switzerland reports in CHF but has most of its revenues generated from outside Switzerland. Costs are the same. It may itself choose to hedge some of these cash flows. Its share price is then a loose function of the resulting effect.
To extend, if FX risk has been historically low with single country companies, I can't see it being a big risk going forward. The past 20 years has seen a massive sea change. The market cap indexes have really shifted from single country companies to multinational companies.
Former brokerage operations & mutual fund accountant. I hate risk, which is why I study and embrace it.
Valuethinker
Posts: 42622
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:07 am

Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by Valuethinker »

alex_686 wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 9:20 am FX risk has been historically low.

The majority of FX movement can be ascribed to inflation. Equities have been a good hedge against inflation. Historically, over the past 100 years with over 20 currency pairs, FX risk has added about a extra 1% in volatility, and even that is mean reverting.
Genghis wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 9:03 am Your exposure in a non hedged fund is to the unhedged cash flows of the underlying companies. For instance, Nestle in Switzerland reports in CHF but has most of its revenues generated from outside Switzerland. Costs are the same. It may itself choose to hedge some of these cash flows. Its share price is then a loose function of the resulting effect.
To extend, if FX risk has been historically low with single country companies, I can't see it being a big risk going forward. The past 20 years has seen a massive sea change. The market cap indexes have really shifted from single country companies to multinational companies.
Cocks a very quizzical eyebrow?

If you were in Sterling in September 1992, your buying power against the ECU (precursor to the Euro) dropped by 20%.

Japanese Yen moved against the dollar (during the Asia crisis in 1997-98) by 14% in one day.

These are outliers, of course. But Sterling has moved a long way (the wrong way for me) since 2008, or even 2016, just as an example.

These shifts in buying power are quite dramatic for the individual retiree. Andrew9999 often cites the movement of the AUD against the USD or Asian currencies in the last few years (I gather he lives in a SE Asian country).

On equities, certainly Dimson and Marsh concluded they cannot be called an inflation hedge. What we can say is:

- equities are a real asset, a claim on the cash flows of companies that are broadly linked to inflation. So they should offer a degree of inflation protection
- equities pay very high returns, because they are very volatile. Benoit Mandelbrot (or Nicholas Taleb) did a lot of fundamental research that showed that financial market prices are fractal - the volatility of returns cannot be well characterised with a mean and a standard deviation (accurately).

It's another risk story. Equities pay good returns because there's always the risk of a Storming of the Winter Palace. Loosely organised irregulars might charge in and overthrow the Czar. You get paid for taking on that risk that you will need money when the market is headed for zero --that investors don't have infinite time horizons.

I am not (just) being rhetorical. Equities dropped over 80% in real terms in the UK in an 18 month period in the 1970s. No war. No revolution. But raging inflation and a fiscal crisis plus a financial collapse among secondary banks (the Slater-Walker crash). This was not an Emerging Market - this was not Thailand in 1997. This was a developed country with a 100+ year old stock market, institutions older than their US equivalents, etc.

Note that equities did not perform well during the UK's period of high inflation (roughly mid 1960s to early 1980s).
alex_686
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Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by alex_686 »

Valuethinker wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 10:42 am Cocks a very quizzical eyebrow?

If you were in Sterling in September 1992, your buying power against the ECU (precursor to the Euro) dropped by 20%.

Japanese Yen moved against the dollar (during the Asia crisis in 1997-98) by 14% in one day.

These are outliers, of course. But Sterling has moved a long way (the wrong way for me) since 2008, or even 2016, just as an example.
Yawn. What does this have to do with anything? The question at hand is the affect of of FX hedging on equities, not FX movements. i.e., what would be the difference in real returns between a UK investor investing in UK equities verse a EU investor investing in UK equities? The difference is much less stark when looking at the annual returns covering that period.

But, as you say, these are rare outliers. Theory and historical data argue the other way. And you give good examples of this.
Valuethinker wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 10:42 amIt's another risk story. Equities pay good returns because there's always the risk of a Storming of the Winter Palace. Loosely organised irregulars might charge in and overthrow the Czar. You get paid for taking on that risk that you will need money when the market is headed for zero --that investors don't have infinite time horizons.

I am not (just) being rhetorical. Equities dropped over 80% in real terms in the UK in an 18 month period in the 1970s. No war. No revolution. But raging inflation and a fiscal crisis plus a financial collapse among secondary banks (the Slater-Walker crash). This was not an Emerging Market - this was not Thailand in 1997. This was a developed country with a 100+ year old stock market, institutions older than their US equivalents, etc.
What would hedging FX do here? Not much. The FX hedges are going to be zero-cost collar hedges, so it is not going to protect you from inflation. Nor are they going to hedge against poor equity returns.
Valuethinker wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 10:42 amBenoit Mandelbrot (or Nicholas Taleb) did a lot of fundamental research that showed that financial market prices are fractal - the volatility of returns cannot be well characterised with a mean and a standard deviation (accurately).
I would hope Mandelbrot, as he has done thoughtful work in this area - unlike Taleb. But what is your point? We don't use a normal distribution for our analytical framework. While I am aware of its flaws I certainly think it is appropriate here. Rather we use the power law or a jump diffusion process, which Mandelbrot suggests. The values are going to be different but the conclusions are going to be the same. The risk is small and self-corrects over time.
Valuethinker wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 10:42 am Note that equities did not perform well during the UK's period of high inflation (roughly mid 1960s to early 1980s).
Another so what? Real returns of equities are fairly independent of inflation. Yeah, there are periods where there are correlations, but the low equity returns in these cases are not caused by inflation but by another factor that is driving both equity returns and inflation. In this case, supply shocks, a inflexible economy due to unions and government regulations, and poor fascial and monetary policies.

Hedging your FX risk isn't going to turn around a equity portfolio's performance when the market is tanking.
Former brokerage operations & mutual fund accountant. I hate risk, which is why I study and embrace it.
jg12345
Posts: 91
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2020 1:03 pm

Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by jg12345 »

Hi OP, all,

Interesting question and discussion.

My little understanding say that hedging stocks or not depends on whether a currency is a risk-on or risk-off currency. So if you are based in risk-off currencies CHF/JPY/(USD?) then you may want to hedge, if you're based in GBP or anything else then it's a big no. EUR is a bit in between so probably another "no hedge". In addition, I am sorry but I may be missing why you keep half of the portfolio in USD if your base currency is EUR; I would keep it 100% denominated in EUR.

Having said all that, one thing I am not clear on however is costs. TER of ACWIE (UBS MSCI ACWI EUR hedged acc) is 0.21% - less than Vanguard ftse all world unhedged. Unfortunately I do not believe it has UK reporting status so not an option. My question is still valid though: if one of the reason for not hedging is the cost, but the cost is at an advantage... then I am not sure I am getting the point? is there something I am missing? Happy to open another thread since the question is related but not the question of OP.

Disclaimer: I am temporarily based in UK, retiring in EUR, and have 0% EUR hedged equities in my AA atm.

Thanks for asking the question OP!
alex_686
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Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by alex_686 »

jg12345 wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 6:37 pm Having said all that, one thing I am not clear on however is costs.
So, the default method of hedging is the "zero cost collar". See the "Interest Rate Parity" formula. Basically, you are going to take the rate for the 1 year risk free bond (or any other time period, 1 year is the default) of the 2 currencies, and based the hedging cost around that. The cost, as the name implies, is zero.

It is the default passive option. Any other choice is a active management choice and will cost you money.

I can speak to the US accounting of expenses. It is zero. I mean, even if active the expense ratio is zero. Mostly. The active management is imbedded in the portfolio expense. At worst it is going to be a few bps. But that is for the management.

The actual cost of laying a hedge is zero, because hedging FX means purchasing a forward, option, or swap. And these are assets. And trading expenses are not counted as part of the ER.
Former brokerage operations & mutual fund accountant. I hate risk, which is why I study and embrace it.
glorat
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Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by glorat »

ddg84 wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 8:40 am TLDR: Half of my portfolio is already in ETFs denominated in USD (VWRA.L / VAGU.L). The other half in EUR. By buying an unhedged fund traded in EUR, but with the underlying currency in USD, I am afraid that I have too much exposure to USD as a European citizen that spends in euros.
I don't know if the point has been made clear by other posters but you would be mistaken to think that a world portfolio is 55% USD. It is 55% US trading markets - which are highly international. As for the other 45%, it is non-US markets, which are highly USD exposed.

In other words, there is very little linkage between US vs non-US markets and USD vs non-USD. Therefore your hedging idea doesn't achieve the goal you are looking for.
andrew99999
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Re: EUR Hedged All World Stock ETF or not?

Post by andrew99999 »

Valuethinker wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 9:14 am If you are within 10 years of retirement, and plan to retire in the Eurozone, it certainly makes sense to have a Euro hedged portfolio *except* that your equity in your home (if you own it) AND your state pension (which can be quite significant in Eurozone) are themselves also Euro exposure. I'd still say then that at least half of one's portfolio of bonds & equities might be Euro hedged, sensibly, to reduce volatility.
This is my view also.

- If you're over about 10 years until drawdown, it isn't needed, but I don't think it hurts to have a permanent allocation so that you don't have to remember down the track, which is what I do.
- Your house, income, cash, bonds, and any European equity will all be based in Euro, so it will make up a lot of your wealth. So if you retire without a house (i.e. more Euro-based liabilities from renting), and if you will have a high equities portfolio in retirement, then yes, I'd add in some EUR hedged equities.
- The unfortunate thing is that the iShares currency-hedged equities funds have high expense ratios (unlike in Australia, where they are 0.03% above the cost of unhedged equivalent). I don't know why that is the case with iShares, but it opens you up to potentially splitting your EUR-denominated equities between some European equities and some EUR-hedged global equities as a way to reduce the high cost and reduce the concentration risk.
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