The best way to understand hedging is to think of it as insurance. When people decide to hedge, they are insuring themselves against a negative event. This doesn't prevent a negative event from happening, but if it does happen and you're properly hedged, the impact of the event is reduced. So, hedging occurs almost everywhere, and we see it every day. For example, if you buy house insurance, you are hedging yourself against fires, break-ins or other unforeseen disasters.
Portfolio managers, individual investors and corporations use hedging techniques to reduce their exposure to various risks. In financial markets, however, hedging becomes more complicated than simply paying an insurance company a fee every year. Hedging against investment risk means strategically using instruments in the market to offset the risk of any adverse price movements. In other words, investors hedge one investment by making another.
When a currency trader enters into a trade with the intent of protecting an existing or anticipated position from an unwanted move in the foreign currency exchange rates, they can be said to have entered into a forex hedge. By utilizing a forex hedge properly, a trader that is long a foreign currency pair, can protect themselves from downside risk; while the trader that is short a foreign currency pair, can protect against upside risk.
The primary methods of hedging currency trades for the retail forex trader are through:
Spot contracts & Foreign Currency options.
What Hedging Means to You
The majority of investors will never trade a derivative contract in their life. In fact most buy-and-hold investors ignore short-term fluctuation altogether. For these investors there is little point in engaging in hedging because they let their investments grow with the overall market. So why learn about hedging?
Even if you never hedge for your own portfolio you should understand how it works because many big companies and investment funds will hedge in some form. Oil companies, for example, might hedge against the price of oil while an international mutual fund might hedge against fluctuations in foreign exchange rates. An understanding of hedging will help you to comprehend and analyze these investments.