The Hong Kong dollar (HKD) has had a long-standing peg to the United States dollar (USD) for over 35 years. This currency peg, also known as the linked exchange rate system, has defined the unique financial and economic relationship between Hong Kong and the United States. In this comprehensive guide, we will examine the history behind the USD/HKD currency peg, how the peg rate works, the pros and cons of the fixed exchange system, factors that influence the currency pair, and outlook going forward.

Introduction to USD/HKD Currency Peg

The Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to the US dollar since October 1983. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) introduced the Linked Exchange Rate System to maintain currency stability and confidence in the Hong Kong dollar after a period of volatility and uncertainty.

Under this fixed rate system, HKD is pegged to USD at a rate of HK$7.80 to US$1. The convertibility undertakings in place state that the HKMA will buy or sell USD at this rate whenever necessary to maintain the stability of HKD.

Over the past 35+ years, the linked exchange rate mechanism has served Hong Kong remarkably well. It has provided monetary and economic stability, low inflation, steady economic growth and serves as the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center.

However, the currency peg has faced questions and skepticism from time to time. Maintaining the peg requires significant foreign exchange market interventions by HKMA at times when USD diverges from HKD’s equilibrium value. Let’s take a closer look at how the USD/HKD peg works and has evolved over time.

How the USD/HKD Peg Rate Works

The Exchange Fund Ordinance requires that the HKMA intervene in the foreign exchange market whenever HKD threatens to weaken or strengthen beyond the defined Convertibility Zone between HK$7.75 and HK$7.85 per US dollar.

To maintain the peg and currency stability, the HKMA will conduct open market operations as follows:

  • When HKD weakens past 7.85 per USD, the HKMA will aggressively buy HKD and sell USD to support the local currency. This reduces HKD liquidity and supply in the market to bring the exchange rate back up.
  • If HKD strengthens beyond 7.75 per USD, the HKMA will aggressively sell HKD and buy USD. This increases HKD liquidity and supply to bring the rate back down.

By standing ready to buy or sell any amount of HKD needed, the HKMA is able to maintain exchange rate stability and confidence in the 1 USD to 7.8 HKD peg.

The Convertibility Zone between 7.75 and 7.85 provides some flexibility on a day-to-day basis. But in practice, the HKMA aims to maintain the stronger end of the peg at 7.75 to 7.80 to ensure consistency and stability.

History of USD/HKD Peg Over Time

The USD/HKD peg was first established on 17 October 1983 at a rate of HKD 7.80 to USD 1. Prior to this, Hong Kong had a free-floating currency system where exchange rates fluctuated based on supply and demand.

In the early 1980s, volatility in HKD against USD and other major currencies led to concerns over currency stability. The HKMA introduced the fixed peg to HKD as means to stabilize confidence in the Hong Kong dollar.

The peg provided immediate stability and certainty after a period of volatility. It quickly established credibility and boosted confidence in HKD as store of value and medium of exchange.

In May 2005, policymakers amended the Convertibility Zone to the current 7.75 to 7.85 band to provide more flexibility in maintaining the peg. Apart from this minor change, the peg system and exchange rate have remained completely fixed over the past 35+ years.

The USD/HKD peg successfully endured even through the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and 2008 Global Financial Crisis. During times of market turmoil and capital outflows, the HKMA has demonstrated its commitment and ability to maintain the peg using Hong Kong’s substantial foreign exchange reserves.

Pros of the USD/HKD Peg

The fixed exchange rate system has undeniably served Hong Kong exceptionally well over the past few decades. Here are some of the benefits and strengths of the current peg:

Monetary and economic stability – The peg provides confidence in currency’s value both domestically and internationally. It has enabled low and steady inflation averaging just 2.6% over the past 10 years. The peg also provides certainty for trade, investment and business relationships between Hong Kong and US.

Straightforward monetary policy – HKMA does not set interest rates and follows US Federal Reserve monetary policy due to the fixed exchange rate. This simplifies monetary policy and coordination.

Currency convertibility – The peg ensures free flow of capital and full convertibility between HKD and USD. This supports Hong Kong’s role as an international financial hub.

Benchmark for wages and prices – Salaries, property values and costs of living in Hong Kong are often benchmarked to exchange rate. The peg provides stability and consistency.

Shields against currency speculation – The fixed peg removes risks associated with currency fluctuations and speculation. This provides certainty for both local businesses and foreign trade/investment partners.

Levels playing field for international trade – A fixed nominal exchange rate ensures Hong Kong’s exports remain competitive in the US and other major trade partners.

Cons of the USD/HKD Peg

Despite its strengths, the currency peg system also comes with some downsides, risks and critiques:

Expensive to maintain – Significant foreign reserves are required to constantly intervene in markets to maintain the peg. This reserve accumulation is costly and prevents resources being spent elsewhere.

Blunts monetary policy – Hong Kong cannot pursue independent monetary policy and interest rates. This leads to monetary conditions that may be too tight or too loose at times.

Risk of speculative attacks – Traders may “test” the HKMA’s resolve and ability to maintain the peg during periods of stress, forcing the interventions.

Divergence from fundamentals – When HKD’s equilibrium value diverges from peg, it leads to overheating, asset bubbles and other distortions in the economy.

Limits flexibility – The peg reduces ability to adjustment to economic shocks or changing fundamentals. For example, HKD may become overvalued relative to China’s RMB over time.

Susceptible to USD weaknesses – Reliance on USD means Hong Kong imports inflation and weaknesses in US economy and policymaking. This was evident in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Outflow pressures – Interest rate differentials versus US can lead to heavy capital outflows from Hong Kong, putting downward pressure on HKD.

Overall, the benefits of stability and certainty from the fixed exchange regime have outweighed the disadvantages so far. However, as fundamentals shift over time, the costs may begin to outweigh the benefits.

What Factors Influence the USD/HKD Exchange Rate?

With the currency peg in place, the HKD/USD exchange rate itself doesn’t fluctuate and is anchored at around 7.80. However, there are a number of macroeconomic factors and market dynamics that can put pressure on the peg and influence HKMA’s intervention activities.

Interest rate differential – A higher HKD interest rate versus USD prompts capital outflows from HK dollar assets. This causes downward pressure on HKD. HKMA must intervene to offset outflows.

Economic growth differential – Faster US growth versus Hong Kong appreciates USD. This strains the peg as HKD comes under upward pressure.

Divergence in monetary policy – If US Fed tightens policy faster than HKMA, interest rate differentials lead to HKD weakening.

Risk sentiment – Periods of risk aversion or market turmoil lead to USD strength. This causes the HKMA to intervene to maintain the peg.

Speculation – Currency traders may mount speculative attacks to profit from HKMA defending the edges of the convertibility zone.

China growth/policy – Weaker Chinese economy and Yuan deprecation spillover to Hong Kong, requiring HKMA response.

Capital flows – Outflows of capital from Hong Kong put downward pressure on HKD. Large inflows make peg difficult to hold down.

Outlook for USD/HKD Peg Going Forward

The USD/HKD peg has survived many challenges over the past 35+ years. However, there are some clouds on the horizon that may pressure the sustainability of the fixed regime.

Divergence from China – As Hong Kong becomes more economically integrated with mainland China, pegging to the USD rather than RMB may become more problematic. If China’s growth continues to outpace US, HKD could become increasingly overvalued.

Interest rate normalization – As US interest rates normalize, HKD interbank rates staying elevated leads to heavier capital outflows. This could necessitate continuous HKMA intervention to uphold peg.

Declining reserves – Hong Kong’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen from a peak of $448 billion in 2014 to around $372 billion currently. Reserves could become strained if too many sustained interventions are required.

US inflationary pressures – Loose US monetary policy has sparked inflation fears. Higher US inflation being imported to Hong Kong via the peg undermines HKD’s purchasing power domestically.

Risks of US recession – If the US enters a recession and USD weakens markedly, HKMA would need to aggressively sell HKD to maintain the peg rate.

Speculative pressures – Hong Kong’s heavy intervention to uphold the peg recently may have drawn the attention of speculative traders looking to test the HKMA’s resolve again.

The HKMA remains resolute in its commitment to the Linked Exchange Rate System currently. However, the risks above suggest potential pressure points where the viability of the peg could be threatened in the future. Investors and businesses should stay attuned to any signs of change in Hong Kong’s monetary regime.


In summary, the USD/HKD peg established in 1983 has been cornerstone of Hong Kong’s economic success and stability over the past 35+ years. The 7.80 rate has endured through periods of regional crisis and global turmoil.

However, maintaining the fixed regime requires perpetual foreign exchange intervention by the HKMA as market dynamics evolve over time. Divergence with US fundamentals may strain the sustainability of the peg in the long run.

Nonetheless, any changes to the peg system will have profound impacts for Hong Kong and international capital flows. The HKMA will likely approach any shift in currency policy with utmost care. For now, the linked USD-HKD exchange rate continues to form the backbone of trade, investment and banking relationships between Hong Kong, the United States and beyond.