Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Weird Arbitrage Opportunities in Currency Trading : The USD/COP Case

Have you ever dreamed about making money with absolutely no risk of loss in the currency trading market ? Did you think that such opportunities did not exist ? Contrary to most people's belief in the fact that there are absolutely no arbitrage opportunities in currency trading I have personally observed the contrary for perhaps the past ten years in a very weird occurrence that seems to be absolutely particular to the USD/COP currency pair. The COP - or Colombian peso - is the main currency unit of the Colombian government and some extremely weird arbitrage opportunities are presented within Colombia to make substantial profit from USD or EUR exchanges. On today's post I will share with you this very strange case and why it leads to a rare inefficiency which doesn't seem to be present anywhere else.

The USD/COP is what many would call a "strange" currency pair. The pair's spread is usually around 0.1-0.2% of the pair's value and daily fluctuations can go from 2 to 10% of the exchange rate. This sometimes crazy volatility makes trading this pair hard (for anything but long term trading) but it also makes local Colombian currency exchange houses maintain some exchange rates away from the real interbank FX rate when very large fluctuations occur to avoid having strong monetary loses.

What happens here is that a great arbitrage opportunity is created that is actually quite strange. For example in early 2009 the USD/COP went from 1800 to nearly 2600 in a matter of a few months and the local exchange houses kept their exchange rate near 2000-2100 due to the fact that raising the rate to 2600 would cause them loses due to their previous peso reserves against the USD. Since most currency houses lack proper diversification and protection measures they need to eliminate their own loses by keeping exchange rates artificially low (although the time period this lasts is limited).

The opportunity arises since you can go to a currency house, exchange COP for USD at an exchange rate of 2100 then you need to physically take your money to the US (yes, you need to travel) then deposit it into a US bank and withdraw it through a wire transfer to Colombia at the FX rate of 2600. If you think this would have been impossible due to some reason, the fact is that I know several friends and traders who actually did the trip and managed to get 20% profits in a matter of days. I even had a friend who did the trip three times and made a 60% return over his initial "investment". Of course, the arbitrage opportunity is limited by the fact that you can only take 10K USD in cash out of the country legally per trip but it does give you the chance to get some risk-free profit from currency exchanges.

The reasons why this bold inefficiency exists are many but probably both the above exposed lack of proper protection from strong currency moves and the general injection of money from the drug industry into currency exchange houses could make this arbitrage opportunity both a consequence of money laundering and inefficient handling. The fact that a very small percentage of the population has US or EU visas and bank accounts in the US and EU needed to finish the transaction could also explain why this is not exploited to the point where the market is made efficient.

Of course the fact that exploiting such an inefficiency could also be supporting the drug industry has made me refrain from ever taking part in this game but certainly there is an arbitrage opportunity that I know many have taken advantage of to get massive profits when these small windows of opportunity arise every 2-5 years. Definitely a weird occurrence that is worth noting and discussing. If you have any opinions please feel free to leave a comment below :o)

If you would like to learn more about my journey in automated trading and how you too can build your own automated trading systems based on sound trading tactics please consider buying my ebook on automated trading or joining Asirikuy to receive all ebook purchase benefits, weekly updates, check the live accounts I am running with several expert advisors and get in the road towards long term success in the forex market using automated trading systems. I hope you enjoyed the article !

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