Carry Trade and Systemic Risk: Why are FX Options so Cheap?
In this paper we document first that, in contrast with their widely perceived excess returns, popular carry trade strategies yield low systemic-risk-adjusted returns. In particular, we show that carry trade returns are highly correlated with the return of a VIX rolldown strategy --i.e., the strategy of shorting VIX futures and rolling down its term structure-- and that the latter strategy performs at least as well as beta-adjusted carry trades, for individual currencies and diversified portfolios. In contrast, hedging the carry with exchange rate options produces large returns that are not a compensation for systemic risk. We show that this result stems from the fact that the corresponding portfolio of exchange rate options provides a cheap form of systemic insurance.
We thank the National Science Foundation for financial support. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.