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  April 20th, 2016 | Written by

Fourth Quarter Currency Impact for Multinationals is the Largest Seen to Date

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  • At the height of the euro crisis in 2012, North American multinationals reported currency headwinds of $23 billion.
  • In Q5 2015, the total negative currency impact was $33.94 billion for North America companies.
  • In Q5 2015, the average currency headwind per North American company was $217 million.

Of a total of 1200 companies analyzed by FiREapps, 409 companies—357 in North America and 52 in Europe, or 34 percent—reported negative currency impacts in 2015.

The height of the euro crisis, in the second and third quarters of 2012, was thought of as the worst of currency volatility. At that time North American multinationals were reporting headwinds of $20.27 billion and $22.73 billion, respectively, due to currency fluctuations.

Yet, although “the euro crisis was one of unprecedented proportion,” says a recent report from FiREapps, less than three years later, companies “are seeing more significant sustained negative impacts than at the height of the euro crisis. Q4 2015 was the fifth consecutive quarter where negative impact was magnitudes above the running average of previous years.”

The FiREapps research ongoing effort to provide insight into how currency affects corporations. FiREapps, a provider of foreign exchange software, analyzes the earnings of 1200 publicly traded North American and European companies every quarter. The companies included in this data set are large multinational firms with at least 15 percent international revenues in at least two currencies.

The latest results show that of the companies quantifying the impact, the total negative currency

impact in the fourth quarter of 2015 was $36.85 billion—$33.94 billion in North America and $2.91 billion in Europe. Compared to the fourth quarter of 2014, the 2015 impact is over 80 percent larger than the $20.18 billion reported the year before and up more than 50 percent from the third quarter of 2015.

The number of companies quantifying negative currency impacts in North America and Europe was up 33 percent over the third quarter of 2015. In North America, the number of companies reporting but not quantifying a headwind was up 66 percent over the fourth quarter of 2014 and marks a record number of reported headwinds.

The last quarter of 2015 was the second quarter in a row that more than 40 percent of North American corporations surveyed reported a currency headwind. That “was the first time this phenomenon was first observed,” FiREapps reported.

For North American companies quantifying negative impact, the average per company headwind was $217 million and, for European corporates, it was $323 million. “That is the highest average per company impact, by far, since we began tracking North American corporations,” said the report, “and the second highest on record among European corporations.”