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Unlocking the power of correlations in forex trading

February 27, 2024

In forex trading, correlations show how different currency pairs or financial instruments move together. For example, when the EUR/USD pair goes up, the USD/CHF pair often goes down, and vice versa. 

source: investopedia

Understanding these relationships is crucial. It helps traders predict market movements, manage risks, and make smarter decisions. In this guide, we will explore correlations in forex trading and how you can use them to improve your strategies. Let’s get started! 

Understanding correlations 

Correlation in forex refers to the statistical relationship between different currency pairs or financial instruments and how they move in relation to each other. 

It is measured on a scale from -1 to +1, where -1 indicates a perfect negative correlation (inverse movement), +1 indicates a perfect positive correlation (same direction movement), and 0 indicates no correlation (movements are independent of each other). 

Correlation types
source: Simply Psychology

Understanding correlation helps traders anticipate how one asset’s movement may affect another. 

  • Positive correlation: This occurs when two currency pairs or assets tend to move in the same direction. For example, if the EUR/USD pair goes up, the GBP/USD pair also tends to rise. Traders can use positive correlations to diversify their portfolios by trading multiple currency pairs that move in tandem, potentially reducing overall risk exposure. 
  • Negative correlation: In contrast, negative correlation occurs when two currency pairs or assets move in opposite directions. For instance, when the USD/JPY pair increases, the price of Gold may decrease. Traders can use negative correlations as a hedging strategy to offset potential losses in one position with gains in another, helping to mitigate risk during market fluctuations. 
  • Neutral correlation: Neutral correlation indicates a weak or non-existent relationship between currency pairs or assets. For example, the EUR/USD and USD/CHF pairs may show little correlation, meaning their movements do not significantly influence each other. While neutral correlations may not offer direct trading opportunities, they can still provide valuable information about market dynamics and help traders avoid making decisions based on false assumptions of correlation. 
The correlation coefficient formula may seem complex, but you can use a specialised online calculator.
source: BYJU’S 

How to identify correlations 

If you’ve decided to count the correlation between two currency pairs, here’s a guide to help you get started: 

1. Select currency pairs: Choose the currency pairs you want to analyse for correlation. For example, you might want to examine the correlation between EUR/USD and GBP/USD. 

2. Collect historical data: Gather historical price data for the selected currency pairs. You can obtain this data from various sources such as trading platforms, financial websites, or specialised data providers. 

3. Calculate correlation coefficient: Use online correlation calculators, Excel spreadsheets with built-in functions like CORREL, or trading platforms such as MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and MetaTrader 5 (MT5) to compute correlation coefficients between the currency pairs. 

4. Interpret results: Analyse the correlation coefficient to understand the relationship between the currency pairs. A coefficient close to +1 indicates a strong positive correlation, while a coefficient close to -1 indicates a strong negative correlation. A coefficient close to 0 suggests a weak or no correlation. 

5. Repeat for different timeframes: Consider calculating correlations over different timeframes (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly) to identify any changes in correlation patterns over time. This can provide valuable insights into the stability of the correlation relationship. 

By following these steps, you can effectively count and interpret the correlation between currency pairs, helping you make more informed trading decisions in the forex market. 

Currency pairs correlations table
source: Pinterest

Factors affecting correlations 

Various factors influence the correlations between currency pairs in forex trading. Understanding these nuances is crucial for traders seeking to anticipate market movements and make informed trading decisions.  

  • Economic indicators:  Gross Domestic Product (GDP), growth rates, and inflation significantly shape currency correlations. Positive GDP figures in both the Eurozone and the US can strengthen the correlation between EUR/USD and USD/CHF pairs. Divergent inflation rates can weaken correlations as traders adjust their strategies based on economic forecasts. 
  • Market sentiment: Reflecting traders’ attitudes towards currencies, market sentiment impacts correlations. During periods of increased risk appetite, currencies like the Australian dollar (AUD) and New Zealand dollar (NZD) tend to exhibit positive correlations. Safe-haven currencies such as the US dollar (USD) and Japanese yen (JPY) may strengthen during times of uncertainty, thereby weakening correlations with riskier currencies. 
  • Geopolitical events: Events such as elections or trade negotiations can disrupt currency correlations. Major agreements may strengthen correlations between currencies, while heightened tensions can weaken them as traders seek refuge in safer assets. Increased geopolitical risks might diminish the correlation between USD/JPY and gold. 
  • The relationship between currencies and commodities: The interplay between currencies and commodities also influences currency correlations. For example, the Canadian dollar (CAD) often correlates positively with oil prices due to Canada’s significant oil exports. Consequently, a rise in oil prices could strengthen the correlation between USD/CAD and oil. Conversely, if gold prices surge, the correlation between USD/JPY and gold may weaken, given the status of the Japanese yen as a safe-haven currency. 
USD/CAD and oil prices positive correlation
source: Reuters

Using correlations in trading 

Leveraging correlations in forex trading provides traders with a strategic advantage, offering insights into market dynamics and aiding in risk management. By incorporating correlations into trading strategies, traders refine their approach, optimise trade timing, and enhance overall performance in the forex market. 

  • Strategy development: Design strategies to capitalise on currency correlations, identifying trends, and optimising trade timing. 
  • Risk management: Utilise correlated pairs for hedging to mitigate losses and minimise risk exposure. Additionally, diversify risk across multiple currency pairs or asset classes to reduce volatility and enhance stability. 
  • Portfolio diversification: Spread investments across various currency pairs or asset classes with low or negative correlations to minimise overall portfolio risk and enhance long-term stability. 
  • Identifying opportunities: Utilise correlations to identify diversification opportunities by selecting currency pairs with low or negative correlations. 
  • Asset class monitoring: Monitor correlations between different asset classes to optimise portfolio allocation and achieve risk-adjusted returns. 

In conclusion, knowing how currency pairs interact is vital for smart decision-making and managing risks in forex trading. Using correlation analysis is strongly recommended as it helps traders choose the best times to trade, manage risks effectively, and get the most out of their investments.