Factors contributing to a currency's hard status might include the long-term stability of its purchasing power, the associated country's political and fiscal condition and outlook, and the policy posture of the issuing central bank.
Conversely, a soft currency indicates a currency which is expected to fluctuate erratically or depreciate against other currencies. Such softness is typically the result of political or fiscal instability within the associated country.
The US dollar (USD) has been considered a strong currency for much of its history. Despite the Nixon Shock of 1971, and the
The euro (EUR) has also been considered a hard currency for much of its short history, however the European sovereign debt crisis has eroded that confidence.
The Swiss franc (CHF) has long been considered a hard currency, and in fact was the last paper currency in the world to terminate its convertibility to gold. In the summer of 2011, the European sovereign debt crisis lead to rapid flows out of the euro and into the franc by those seeking hard currency, causing the latter to appreciate rapidly. On September 6, 2011, the Swiss National Bank announced that it would buy an "unlimited" number of euros to fix an exchange rate at 1.00 EUR = 1.20 CHF, to protect its trade. This action temporarily eliminated the franc's hard currency advantage over the euro but was abandoned in January 2015.
Investors as well as ordinary people generally prefer hard currencies to soft currencies at times of increased inflation (or, more precisely, times of increased inflation differentials between countries), at times of heightened political or military risk, or when they feel that one or more government-imposed exchange rates are unrealistic. There may be regulatory reasons for preferring to invest outside one's home currency, e.g. the local currency may be subject to capital controls which makes it difficult to spend it outside the host nation.
For example, during the Cold War, the ruble in the Soviet Union was not a hard currency because it could not be easily spent outside the
In some economies, which may be either planned economies or market economies using a soft currency, there are special stores that accept only hard currency. Examples have included Tuzex stores in the former
Because hard currencies may be subject to legal restrictions, the desire for transactions in hard currency may lead to a black market. In some cases, a central bank may attempt to increase confidence in the local currency by pegging it against a hard currency, as is this case with the Hong Kong dollar or the
In some cases, an economy may choose to abandon local currency altogether and adopt another Fiat money as legal tender in a process known as dollarization. Examples include the adoption of the US dollar in