Last week I wrote about whether US-listed ETFs are really cheaper once you account for currency exchange fees, and then I looked at ways to reduce forex fees. The spreadsheet I created to compare US and Canadian ETFs allows investors to compare the costs using several assumptions.
One of those assumptions was to ignore currency hedging. Unfortunately, the reality is that the decision about whether or not to use hedging is likely to be the single most important factor affecting the return of your foreign investments. If the Canadian dollar moves up or down 15% over the period you’re invested, that will clearly have far more impact than a lower MER or a currency exchange fee. Too bad all we can do when it comes to currency fluctuations is guess.
Most Canadian ETFs with foreign holdings — notably XSP, XIN, CLU and CWO — use currency hedging. Not all of them do, however: unhedged international ETFs include the Claymore International Fundamental (CIE) and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (XEM).