[Pacific Exchange Rate Service Logo] [Custom Chart]
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Purpose & Audience
  1. Who is this service designed for?
  2. Why is this service free?
  3. Can I use your service in my classroom?
  4. Can I advertise on your pages?
  5. What do you use to generate the plots? Can I purchase the software?
Data Sources & Requests
  1. Why do the daily rates appear a day late?
  2. What time each day are the exchange rates updated?
  3. Will there be more currencies covered in the future?
  4. Why do some series start in 1991, and others only in February 1996?
  5. Your service does not provide historical data for currency XYZ. Can I get such data elsewhere?
  6. I'm a Researcher - Can I get a copy of the entire dataset?
Using the Retrieval & Plot Interface
  1. How can I import the data into Excel, Lotus, etc.?
  2. I can't get the plotting to work - what can I do?
  3. Advanced Troubleshooting
  4. What are Julian Day numbers?
Special Topics
  1. What is the value of an SDR (Special Drawing Right)?
  2. Can't you provide more (and better) forecasts?
  3. Do you have any information about coins and bills?
  4. I would like to buy/sell currency XYZ? Where can I do this?
  5. What currency notations should I use for company's accounts?
Licensing and Redistribution
  1. Does PACIFIC provide datafeed subscriptions?
  2. Can I redistribute data from PACIFIC?
  3. Can I use data or embed charts from PACIFIC in my own FX web service?
Traveling Abroad
  1. Should I buy foreign currency now or later, at home or in the foreign country?
  2. Should I travel with cash, Travelers cheques or credit card?

Purpose & Audience

  1. Who is this service designed for?

    The PACIFIC Exchange Rate Service was designed as a repository of historical exchange rates for the academic community, i.e., economists and other researchers. The daily exchange rates are posted so that researchers will find it easy to convert figures quoted in local currency into Canadian Dollar or U.S. Dollar figures.

  2. Why is this service free?

    The PACIFIC Exchange Rate Service is supported by the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. This service is also used in the teaching of my international business management courses, which allows me to devote some time and effort to this project.

  3. Can I use your service in my classroom?

    You can use the PACIFIC Exchange Rate Service for classroom demonstrations. However, please refrain from instructing fifty students to hit the "plot" button at the same time. A mechanism is in place to prevent more than three users from generating a plot at the same time. If you intend the system for classroom use, I recommend that you contact me in advance so that your classroom use does not collide with a scheduled system maintenance.

  4. Can I advertise on your pages?

    No. Pacific is a non-commercial not-for-profit service for the academic community.

  5. Which software do you use to generate the plots? Can I purchase the software?

    The plots are generated by a customized C++ program that executes on a Unix platform. This program, which I wrote myself, generates PostScript output that is in turn translated into a final output format such as the new Portable Network Graphics (PNG) standard for images using GhostScript or Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) that can be viewed with Adobe's Acrobat Reader. My software, being rather specific in its design for the purpose at hand, is not for sale.

Data Sources & Requests

  1. Why do the daily rates appear late?

    The PACIFIC Exchange Rate Service receives the quotes of today's noon spot exchange rates through a datafeed from the Bank of Canda at around 3pm Eastern Time, or around noon Pacific Time. Note that the Canadian holiday schedule applies.

    The daily exchange rate supplement for about 200 countries is obtained from ancillary sources. This supplement, updated twice a day, is of lesser reliability than the Bank of Canada data feed. As a consequence, many of the currencies listed on this supplementary page are not stored in the PACIFIC database of historical daily exchange rates. Please be advised that some of the currency symbols used on that page may be out of date.

    Yet another page shows today's USD rates, including forward rates for major currencies, as established on the New York exchange at 4pm.

  2. What time are the exchange rates updated?

    All major currencies are updated at noon Pacific Time (3pm Eastern), except on weekends and statutory holidays. The Canadian civic holiday schedule applies. In addition to the usual holidays, no exchange rates will appear on Victoria Day, Canada Day, and Canadian Thanksgiving Day.

  3. Will there be more currencies covered in the future?

    Many users ask whether more currencies will be covered in the future. I am still trying to tap into additional sources, but I will not do this at the cost of accuracy, reliability, and data integrity. For the forseeable future the data will be limited to the set of currencies and commodites already featured. I am maintaining additional datasets for some currencies that I do not publish on the web as I am unable to validate the data. However, I will provide these data sets to fellow researchers on an "as is" basis upon requests.

  4. Why do some series start in 1991, and others only in February 1996?

    For a set of 19 currencies I was able to obtain historical exchange rate data from Statistics Canada (originally from the Bank of Canada). For some currencies data has been made available by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board of Chicago. The US data have been integrated with the Canadian sources. The currencies that are covered since 1991 are: ATS, AUD, BEF, CHF, DEM, DKK, ESP, FIM, FRF, GBP, HKD, IEP, ITL, JPY, NLG, NOK, NZD, SEK, USD. Additionally, SDR values (which are derived from five of the above currencies) are available from 1991 on as well.

  5. Your service does not provide historical data for currency XYZ. Can I get such data elsewhere?

    Which currencies are available from PACIFIC for which period is listed on the data availability chart. If you need data for other time periods, you may want to check the International Monetary Fund's "International Financial Statistics" (IMF/IFS) yearbook, available in the government section of university libraries. Many universities also subscribe to the electronic version of the IMF/IFS. The IMF/IFS contain monthly averages and end-of-period exchange rates vis-à-vis the US Dollar for all IMF member countries.

    There are also a number of commercial data providers. Olsen & Associates in Switzerland, publishes exchange rates through their OANDA service. Visit their historical currency table interface. Other commercial providers include Bloomberg Financial Markets, Reuters, and Primark/DataStream.

  6. I'm a Researcher - Can I get a copy of the entire dataset?

    Some users panic that the dataset will magically disappear if they don't download it right away. I discourage users from downloading more data than they need. In particular, errors are occassionally found in the data which I will correct when discovered. These corrections will not be available if you rely on your copy of the dataset. I do not distribute the data through any other means than the web, except to other scholars at economics departments and business schools, who may contact me for alternative delivery methods.

Using the Retrieval and Plot Interface

  1. How can I import the data into Excel, QuattroPro or other spreadsheet programs?

    By default, the data output is in hypertext format. To import the data into a spreadsheet program, you need to select the "CSV" (comma-separated) or "TAB" (tab-separated) output format. Most spreadsheet programs are able to read these formats. On launching your application, either try the "Open File As..." or "Import..." options.

  2. I can't get the plotting to work - what can I do?

    There are two classes of problems related to the plotting of exchange rate charts. The first class is related to the use of the plot form, and the second is related to the technical abilities of your browser.

    Users may encounter a number of common mistakes. Check that you have the right beginning and ending date. Beginning dates before 1971 will not be accepted. Invalid days (e.g., February 30th or June 31st) will be rejected. Sometimes users append a digit to the year number without deleting first a digit, resulting in something like "19961". If in doubt, erase the entire field and re-enter the year number or day number.

    In regard to the technical abilities of your browser, if you see a "broken image" icon instead of a chart, you may be using a browser that does not support the new portable network graphics (PNG, pronounced "ping") standard for images. To fix this problem, switch to JPEG output. They work just as fine.

    When printing charts, the PNG or JPEG images viewed through a web browser are pixelated due to the limited resolution of 72 dots per inch. To obtain high-quality print output, use any of Portable Document Format (PDF) options. PDF files can be viewed with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

  3. Advanced Troubleshooting

    Before you send me e-mail in regard to problems you experience with the PACIFIC service, make sure that you have tried the following to rule out any hardwarde, software, or networking problems on your side.

    • Browser-Related Problems
      1. Clear your browser's cache. (You can find the controls in the "Edit" / "Preferences" / "Advanced" menu when you use Netscape 4.) Does the problem persist?
      2. Shut down your browser and restart it.
      3. Restart your computer.
      4. Use an alternative browser (eg, Netscape when you were using Explorer before).
      5. Try someone else's computer and/or browser.
    • Network-Related Problems
      1. If you get "Empty document" error messages, you may have a slow connection or a connection that was broken. Try again at a later time which may not be too busy.
      2. If you can't connect to PACIFIC at all, a network connection may be down. Try again at a later point.
      3. Try connecting through a different Internet Service Provider (eg, try a friend's computer which connects through a different ISP).

  4. What are Julian Day numbers?

    Julian Day numbers uniquely identify a point in time by assigning each day a number. With Julian day numbers it is easy to compute how many days are between two calendar days. See the Julian dates reference page for further details. This page also provides a simple converter that you can use to translate calendar dates into Julian day numbers.

Special Topics

  1. What is the value of a Special Drawing Right?

    I have prepared a detailed fact sheet that contains information on the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights.

  2. Can't you provide more (and better) forecasts?

    I do not provide "forecasts" that claim to be predictions of the future; what is displayed on the "forecast" pages are trend extrapolations. Note that economists have no reliable method to forecast exchange rates in the short term. Forecasting software is always simply extrapolating trends. As exchange rate movements are news-driven, trends can change abruptly and without prior warning.

  3. Do you have any information about coins and bills?

    None except for the new Euro currency. I will not respond to inquiries about coins and bills. You may want to try the following starting points:

  4. Where can I buy/sell currency XYZ?

    Try your local bank or currency exchange house for small amounts (tourist purposes). For large amounts, there are several specialized currency brokerage houses that you may want to consider. However, I will not make any recommendations or provide references, and in general I will not respond to inquiries of this nature.

  5. What currency notations should I use for company's accounts?

    If your company engages in a substantial amount of imports and exports, I strongly encourage companies to use the ISO-4217 codes (see the currencies of the world page). Since many currencies are denoted with symbols that cannot be represented through ordinary ASCII characters (such as Yen or Pound symbols, or double-dashed A's), or a "$" symbol may be used for many different currencies, the three-character ISO-4217 codes are the best way to record transactions in different currencies. These codes avoid any ambiguity, and any financial institution or auditor will recognize them.

Licensing and Redistribution

  1. Does PACIFIC provide datafeed subscriptions?

    No. PACIFIC does not offer any such services. If you are interested in a daily e-mail with exchange rates, you can subscribe to such a service through Xenon Laboratories or OANDA's FXmail.

  2. Can I redistribute data from PACIFIC?

    You may only download and use data from PACIFIC for personal or company-internal use (e.g., in a company intranet). You are not permitted to download and redistribute data without my permission.

  3. Can I use data or embed charts from PACIFIC in my own FX web service?

    No. I do not license any part of my PACIFIC service to other web services.

Travelling Abroad

  1. Should I buy foreign currency (cash) now or later, at home or in the foreign country?

    Whether or not you should buy currency now or later depends on whether the foreign currency is expected to appreciate or depreciate. If the foreign country is a high inflation country, it is often advisable to wait until the last moment before leaving because the foreign currrency's value is depreciating, and thus it is becoming cheaper to purchase. Where inflation levels are relatively similar (for example, between the U.S. and the U.K.), any "advice" amounts to speculation. Since exchange rate movements are notoriously difficult to predict, any "advice" you may get on this issue is probably unreliable.

    Whether to buy currency at home or in the foreign country depends on the foreign country's exchange rate regime, restrictions on import and export of cash, and sophistication of the banking system. If a foreign country has a fixed exchange rate there is often a black market for foreign exchange. This means that you may be able to buy the currency at a better rate in the foreign country. Be aware that such transactions may or not be legal. Find out which rules apply before you leave. If a country has restrictions on the import or export of its currency, you may need to obtain the bulk of your foreign currency requirements at your travel destination. (If there are export restrictions on cash, avoid using cash as much as possible and rely on credit cards.) Finally, changing currency in a foreign country also depends on how sophisticated the banking system is. In addition to regular banks you will often find currency exchanges in tourist areas. Note, however, that such commercial currency exchange houses (often not more than a tiny booth in a tourist area) charge commissions and fees, which are often horrendous. Advertised rates are frequently not what they actually charge, as they may add fixed fees per transactions in addition to the usual percentage points on top of the exchange rates. Sometimes a lower advertised exchange rate is more than offset by an unadvertised fixed transaction fee. In other words: be careful dealing with such currency exchanges.

  2. Should I travel with cash, travelers cheques, or credit card?

    This depends entirely on your destination country. If you are travelling to major industrialized nations with highly developed financial systems, use your credit card and carry just as much cash as absolutely necessary. Withdraw cash from ATMs using your credit card. When using credit cards for cash withdrawals, it is highly advisable to deposit money into your credit card account prior to your departure in order to avoid the exorbitant interest rates banks charge for cash advances on credit cards. The downside of using foreign ATMs is that you may need to be familiar with the local language, as many do not provide English-language instructions. The upside of using credit cards is that the commission charged by credit card companies are typically quite small; typically about 1-2% of the transaction value. Ask your credit card issuer about their policies and rates.

    Traveler cheques have the advantage that they are insured. If you lose them they can be replaced. However, in most places where you can use traveler cheques they also accept credit cards. In most industrialized countries credit cards are now more widely accepted than traveler cheques.

    Using cash is often the most convenient form, but also the most risky. Never rely on cash alone; carry a credit card or traveler cheques at least as "backup".

    More advice is available from many sources: your bank, your credit card company, your travel agent, your automobile club, etc. The web offers some very useful starting points as well. OANDA's travel advisories provide information about a large number of travel destinations.

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  © 2011 by Werner Antweiler, University of British Columbia. All rights reserved.
The Pacific Exchange Rate Service is located in Vancouver, Canada.
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