FX turnover is down, but not by as much as some expected. Why?
So the latest Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Triennial Central Bank Survey is out and, as Profit & Loss previously reported, the headline figure is that the FX market has contracted in size from $5.3 trillion to $5.1 trillion traded per day over the past three years.
This news seems to have caught very few people by surprise, however the survey shows spot foreign exchange volumes are lower while FX swaps activity has grown considerably, especially in Asian centres and in the yen.
Just about 10 months ago the deal was announced to sell Icap’s voice business to Tullett Prebon and at that time, in this column, I suggested that a consequence of that deal would be an easier path for anyone looking to buy Icap’s electronic business, subsequently revealed to be named Nex.
Obviously I cited an exchange as the most likely buyer and it seems, if the headlines of last week are anything to go by, that the pieces are being moved into place. Moving pieces is, however, very different to an actual deal – what are the chances of that?
A new paper published by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) asks the question, what would balance sheets look like if the borrowing through FX swaps and forwards were recorded on-balance sheet, as the functionally equivalent repo debt is?
The authors of the report, FX Swaps and Forwards: Missing Global Debt? observe that these products “create debt-like obligations” and state that non-banks outside the US owe large sums of dollars off-balance sheet through these instruments. They add that the total is of a size similar to, and probably exceeding, the $10.7 trillion of on-balance sheet dollar debt.
Plenty of things surprise me in life; West Ham, the New York Giants and the Montreal Canadiens actually winning; Cable going up; the people we elect as our leaders – the list is endless.
One line on the list continues to puzzle and intrigue me in equal measure – why have we still to make significant progress on automating the trading of FX swaps? Am I the only one who sees the time for CLOB in FX swaps as being now?
Those of us, me especially, who have been waiting for the e-revolution in FX to hit the swaps markets may have reason for optimism today, although actual hard evidence through results may have to wait quite a bit longer. CME's new FX Link launched this morning in Asia, without much fanfare it has to be said, but launch it did - and it could be the start of a market structure change that we e-FX swaps proponents have been expecting.