30 years ago, Bunker Hunt, while trying to demand delivery for virtually every single silver bar in existence, and getting caught in the middle of a series of margin hikes (sound familiar), accused the Comex (as well as the CFTC and the CBOT) of changing the rules in the middle of the game (and was not too happy about it). Whether or not this allegation is valid is open to debate. We do know that "testimony would reveal that nine of the 23 Comex board members held
short contracts on 38,000,000 ounces of silver. With their 1.88 billion
dollar collective interest in having the price go down, it is easy to
see why Bunker did not view them as objective." One wonders how many short positions current Comex board members have on now. Yet by dint of being a monopoly, the Comex had and has free reign to do as it pleases: after all, where can futures investors go? Nowhere... at least until now. In precisely 9 days, on May 18, the Hong Kong Mercantile exchange will finally offer an alternative to the Comex and its alleged attempts at perpetual precious metals manipulation.
From Commodity Online:
The Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx) has received authorisation from the Securities and Futures Commission and will make its trading debut on May 18, 2011 with the 1-kilo gold futures contract offered in US dollars with physical delivery in Hong Kong.
The ATS authorisation grants HKMEx the right to offer market participants, through its member firms, the use of its state-of-the-art electronic platform to trade commodities. The Exchange will begin trading with at least 16 members including some of the world’s largest financial institutions as well as several well-established brokerages in Hong Kong.
“We are very excited about this historic day. It allows us to establish a liquid and vibrant international commodities exchange based in Hong Kong, linking China with the rest of Asia and the world,” said Barry Cheung, chairman of HKMEx. “Global demand for core commodities has in recent years been driven by Asia, especially China and India. However, market participants in the region have had to rely on Western exchanges for price discovery, bearing the basis risk exposure in the process. Our new platform will offer Asia a bigger say in setting global commodity prices. It will also enable market participants to more actively manage their risk exposures, using products tailored to Asian market needs.”
HKMEx’s broking members at launch include BOCI Securities Ltd, Celestial Commodities Ltd, CES Capital International Co. Ltd, Chief Commodities Ltd, ICBC International Futures Ltd, Interactive Brokers LLC, KGI Futures (Hong Kong) Ltd, MF Global Hong Kong Ltd, Morgan Stanley Hong Kong Securities Ltd, OSK Futures Hong Kong Ltd, Phillip Commodities (HK) Ltd, Tanrich Futures Ltd and TG Securities Ltd. Its three clearing members are Interactive Brokers (UK) Ltd, MF Global UK Ltd and Morgan Stanley & Co International Plc.
And while the Chinese market is far more bubbly when it comes to gold and silver purchases, it remains to be seen just how happy a gambling addicted Chinese population will take to spurious and conveniently timed margin hikes that take the air out of the next parabolic move up in gold and silver (our guess is not very).
Far more importantly, the Comex monopoly appears to be over, and going forward the exchange will have to be far more sensitive about angering broad swaths of the population using 5 consecutive margin hikes in 9 days. The new exchange will also make the now traditional "banging the close" operation (or "banging the whatever" as the May 1 15% drop from $49 to $42 in minutes demonstrated) obsolete, as traders will have options of where to route orders from the hours of 0800 HKT to 2300 HKT.
Bottom line: if Chinese demand for gold and silver is as strong as it was a week ago, and it is, the recent Comex-directed plunge in precious metals is about to the BTFDed.
From the HKMex:
HKMEx is introducing a 32 troy ounce gold futures contract useable by a wide range of market participants to execute hedging, arbitrage and other investing strategies. Moreover, the HKMEx gold futures contract has the following important characteristics designed to meet the needs of a marketplace which lacks an international price-setting mechanism in the Asian time zone:
* Secure physical delivery in Hong Kong meeting international standards
* Trading execution on an advanced and robust electronic platform
* World-class clearing functionality
* Extended Asian day trading hours to tap into global market liquidity
* Contract specifications tailored to market participants in Asia
Gold is one of the world’s most important and actively traded commodities. Demand for the metal is driven by three main factors: the jewellery market, industrial manufacturing and financial investment. In addition, gold is relatively unique in that it is used as both a commodity and a monetary asset.
Although gold has a long trading history in Asia, the majority of price formation for gold is today concentrated in the North American and European markets. In recent years, the introduction of gold futures trading in Asia has tapped into latent trading demand that is primarily driven by strong economic development in China and India.
Hong Kong is historically one of the world’s leading gold centres and has a natural geographical advantage in Asia. Hong Kong’s vibrant financial infrastructure ensures access to leading market participants and deep regional and international pools of liquidity.
Trading hours for the HKMEx gold contract will extend from 0800 HKT to 2300 HKT, opening with TOCOM in Japan and encompassing the London Bullion Market Association AM Fixing, the opening of COMEX, and the LBMA PM Fixing. The HKMEx opening auction will run from 0730 to 0800.
While gold futures trading on Asian exchanges has demonstrated significant growth, there is currently no contract that is or will likely become a regional benchmark contract for gold pricing. Without a regional benchmark, true price discovery for gold is either confined to the local in-country market or must depend on the European or North American markets. In-country markets generally restrict foreign participation and often subject it to adverse currency restrictions or tax treatment. Meanwhile, global benchmark pricing from the western hemisphere provides imperfect hedging for Asia’s trading community.
HKMEx is well positioned to address the demand of Asia’s trading community for the establishment of a gold futures contract as the regional benchmark.