Bridge over ocean
1 March 1984 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 40, Issue 2

Foreign Currency Translation Gains and Losses: What Effect Do They Have and What Do They Mean?

  1. William H. Beaver
  2. Mark Wolfson

Foreign currency translation gains and losses can play an important role in the analysis and evaluation of the foreign operations of multinational firms. The relation between interest rates (or, more generally, earnings rates on assets) and changes in exchange rates is critical. Countries with relatively high nominal interest rates tend to have weak currencies, implying exchange rate losses, whereas countries with relatively low interest rates tend to have strong currencies, implying exchange rate gains.

Inasmuch as translation gains or losses capture at least some of the economic factors behind the systematic relation between interest rates and exchange rates, excluding them from an analysis of earnings can provide misleading performance measures. In effect, when transactions denominated in different currencies are economically alike, inclusion of gains and losses will result in their being treated alike. Conversely, when transactions are economically different, the inclusion of translation gains and losses will show them to be different.

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