Forex dealers, hoarders lose heavily as cedi continues to stabilise

Forex dealers and individual hoarders of foreign currencies have complained of losing huge amounts of Ghana cedis from wrongly anticipating a further fall in the cedi’s value against major trading currencies during the local currency’s free fall which peaked to about GHC3.80 to US $1 at the end of August this year.

The forex dealers made heavy prof­its during the continuous slump in the value of the cedi against major trading currencies especially between April and August 2014 by simply stocking up those foreign currencies as their value rose against the local currency. Most however said they had hoarded huge chunks of their forex in anticipa­tion that the exchange rates would sky-rocket further around the yuletide season.

Following the cedi’s strong recov­ery since the beginning of September, this now looks an unlikely prospect. Indeed forex speculators are now looking to offload their holdings which are losing value by the week; the snag is that would be buyers who do not need forex immediately for their transactions are holding out in the expectation that the cedi will ap­preciate further before any eventual depreciation resumes.

Actually, contrary to the conven­tional wisdom, only the most market- savvy forex traders made a complete killing even when the cedi was falling steeply against the major international trading currencies.

“I was only making small profits and sometimes I even incurred losses when the cedi was falling against the dollar everyday,” confesses one infor­mal sector forex trader. This is because when 1 bought dollar today at, let’s say GHC3.00 and sold it for GHC3.20, when I went back to buy another dol­lar the rate would now be GHC3.3O or more. I could not really monitor my profit and sometimes I lost,” lamented Mohammed, a black market forex dealer at the Nkrumah Circle area in Accra.

He however added that he was con­fident the cedi will further fall against the dollar, pound and euro before Christmas so he put aside about US$1,000 hoping to make a huge profit when he finally sells it for cedi. Now he frets that even if the cedi does depreciate during the Christmas pe­riod, it may not do so by enough to make up for the loss in value his for­eign exchange holdings have suffered over the past six weeks and leave enough profit to compensate him for the time value of money over the four month period September to December.

Similarly, a forex bureau operator at Kaneshie, Baba Alhassan, said he and a colleague lost over GHC3.00 after they deliberately locked GHC35,500 into dollars and euros only to covert it at a later time when the depreciation halts or slows down.

The cedi fell by over 60% from GHC2.34 to US$1 in January 2014 to about GHC3.80 to a dollar in August 2014 on the unofficial forex market where most transactions are actually done despite various interventions by the Bank of Ghana to halt the slide and stabilise the currency.

The local cur­rency had opened the year on a bad note – overtaking the South African rand as the worst performing currency in Africa according to an Ecobank re­search – having depreciated by over 17 per cent to the US Dollar on the foreign exchange market last year and then shedding another 11 per cent in January 2014 alone.

Alice Antwi, a trader who goes to China to buy consumer products to sell in Ghana said, being aware of the rate at which the cedi was falling against the dollar, she decided to covert a large portion of the revenues she had made from her last trip before she made foreign exchange losses. “I bought US$50,000 in late August this year at GHC3.80 to a dollar for my next trip to China in December. I had a feeling the rate will exceed GHC4.00 to a dollar in December so I didn’t want to make foreign exchange [con­version] losses,” Alice said.

With the cedi now trading at about GHC3.20 to the dollar, she is now faced with a veritable pricing problem: whether to buy her next round of goods using the dollars she acquired at a rate that now significantly exceeds the current going rate and try to sell those goods at a mark-up, which would effectively make her price-un- competitive; reduce her price mark-up to be price competitive at the cost of a significantly lower than usual profit margin; or not travel to China to pur­ pur­chase new inventory until the cedi de­preciates back to the level at which she bought her current cache of dollars, a. situation which might not occur for quite some time to come.

Thus, while most Ghanaians are celebrating their currency’s recovery, others are counting their losses.

Actually, those losses are not re­stricted to individual, informal sector traders and currency speculators alone. Many formal sector, major trad­ing enterprises have been caught out as well. So too, even some financial institutions which have joined the new trend of selling simplified versions of forward forex contracts, futures and swaps, to market savvy small and medium sized enterprises.

However, the losses incurred by such enterprises and financial institu­tions are expectedly lower in propor­tional terms than those incurred by informal sector currency traders and speculators because they have been armed with better market information and expertise and so were better posi­tioned to foresee the turnaround in the cedi’s fortunes before it actually hap­pened. Indeed forex market analysts and economists now point fingers at such enterprises and financial institu­tions accusing them of falling victim to their own greed since they should have known better.

In doing so however, such critics seem to have forgotten that most ana­lysts – even those in international in­vestment banks offering economic research on Ghana – were predicting a year end exchange rate of up to GHC4.00 to the dollar of higher, as re­cently as the middle of this year.

Source: The Finder