Are FX Markets "Rigged" At The London Closing Fix?

Tyler Durden's picture

"Banging the close," is hardly a new 'event' but the ubiquity with which it is occurring around 4pm GMT (when major FX market benchmarks known as 'WM/Reuters rates' are set) is prompting authorities to investigate potential abuse of these benchmarks by the major banks. From Libor to ISDAFix and from base-and-precious metals to energy markets, adding the largest markets in the world - foreign exchange - to the banks' pernicious manipulations does not seem like a stretch. Critically, benchmark providers base daily valuations of indexes spanning different currencies on the 4 p.m. WM/Reuters rates (which in turn drives derivative settlements and triggers).

Stunningly, the same pattern - a sudden surge minutes before 4pm in London on the last trading day of the month, followed by a quick reversal - occurred 31% of the time across 14 FX pairs over 2 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. For the most frequently traded pairs, such as EURUSD, it happened about half the time! U.S. regulators have sanctioned firms for banging the close in other markets; we await the results of the current probe...

 

 

 

Via Bloomberg,

In the space of 20 minutes on the last Friday in June, the value of the U.S. dollar jumped 0.57 percent against its Canadian counterpart, the biggest move in a month. Within an hour, two-thirds of that gain had melted away.

 

The same pattern -- a sudden surge minutes before 4 p.m. in London on the last trading day of the month, followed by a quick reversal -- occurred 31 percent of the time across 14 currency pairs over two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. For the most frequently traded pairs, such as euro-dollar, it happened about half the time, the data show.

 

The recurring spikes take place at the same time financial benchmarks known as the WM/Reuters (TRI) rates are set based on those trades. Now fund managers and scholars say the patterns look like an attempt by currency dealers to manipulate the rates, distorting the value of trillions of dollars of investments in funds that track global indexes.

 

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“We see enormous spikes,” said Michael DuCharme, head of foreign exchange at Seattle-based Russell Investments... “Then, shortly after 4 p.m., it just reverts back to what seems to have been the market rate. It adds to the suspicion that things aren’t right.”

 

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Authorities around the world are investigating the abuse of financial benchmarks by large banks that play a central role in setting them.

 

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Investors and consultants interviewed by Bloomberg News say dealers at banks, which dominate the $4.7 trillion-a-day currency market, may be executing a large number of trades over a short period to move the rate to their advantage, a practice known as banging the close. Because the 4 p.m. benchmark determines how much profit dealers make on the positions they’ve taken in the preceding hour, there’s an incentive to influence the rate

 

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Benchmark providers such as FTSE Group and MSCI Inc. base daily valuations of indexes spanning different currencies on the 4 p.m. WM/Reuters rates, known as the London close.

 

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WM supports efforts by the industry to determine and address any alleged disruptive behavior by market participants and we welcome further discussions on these issues and what preventative measures can be adopted,”

 

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Because they receive clients’ orders in advance of the close, and some traders discuss orders with counterparts at other firms, banks have an insight into the future direction of rates, five dealers interviewed in June said. That allows them to maximize profits on their clients’ orders and sometimes make their own additional bets, according to the dealers, who asked not to be identified because the practice is controversial.