“There’s no way the US can crush Huawei”


Ren Zhengfei: ‘The world cannot leave us because we are more advanced’ –


Huawei has been under considerable pressure from the U.S., which has been convincing allies in Australia, the UK, and New Zealand to not use the company’s 5G equipment due to security concerns.

Huawei founder speaks amid pressure: ‘The U.S. can’t crush us’

“There’s no way the U.S. can crush us,” Zhengfei told the broadcaster. “The world needs us because we are more advanced. Even if they persuade more countries not to use us temporarily, we can always scale things down a bit.”

 [Tap to expand] 

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei describes the arrest of his daughter Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer, as politically motivated

The UK is set to make a decision on whether it will use Huawei’s equipment in March or April, but the country’s National Cyber Security Centre has reportedly found ways to “limit the risks” of its technology.

Ren said regardless of ban in the UK, Huawei will continue to invest in the country, and promised the company will increase its focus there if the U.S. doesn’t work out.  

“We still trust in the UK, and we hope that the UK will trust us even more,” he added. “We will invest even more in the UK. Because if the U.S. doesn’t trust us, then we will shift our investment from the U.S. to the UK on an even bigger scale.”


On the arrest of his daughter, Ren objected to the actions of U.S., calling them “politically motivated.”


“The U.S. likes to sanction others, whenever there’s an issue, they’ll use such combative methods,” he said.


“We object to this. But now that we’ve gone down this path, we’ll let the courts settle it.”


Huawei tests Europe’s independence

What Europe needs is not only the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, but also the courage to make its own independent choices. Europe’s cooperation with  Huawei on construction of a 4G network is already an established fact, but it seems now that beneficial collaboration has become one of the biggest risks.

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Panic In Washington, US currency traders on the frontlines as Trump’s 2-year stock honeymoon ends with hunt for betrayer and govt shutdown

Panic In Washington – Treasury Secretary Calls Top Bankers To Check Liquidity, While On Vacation


  Jerome Powell Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Currency Traders on Front Line as Markets Stay Wary of U.S. Risk

The final week of 2018 could prove tumultuous for investors as holiday-thinned trading combines with a growing array of pressures on markets.

Traders in the $5.1 trillion-a-day currency market were among the first to respond to a partial U.S. government shutdown and a report that President Donald Trump has discussed firing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The dollar slipped against its Group-of-10 peers, while the yen, seen by many as a haven, gained for a seventh day.

Treasury futures climbed in early Asian hours before paring their advance. Cash bonds trading was shut in Asia due to a holiday in Japan, the first in a week that will see a number of closures across major markets.

Sentiment in global financial markets has already taken a beating with the S&P 500 Index just recording its worst week in seven years. Increased uncertainty over the leadership of the Fed could add to turmoil along with a partial shutdown of the U.S. government, although assurances from U.S. Treasury Steven Mnuchin about liquidity and the future of the central bank chief may ease some concerns.

The Treasuries yield curve last week moved closer than ever to its first post-crisis inversion and the rally in safer assets dragged the 10-year yield below 2.75 percent for the first time since April. However, given that much of the upheaval is emanating from the U.S., it is not entirely clear whether Treasuries, and also the U.S. dollar, will act as reliable havens should Powell’s leadership face a genuine threat.

Societe Generale SA’s head of U.S. rates strategy Subadra Rajappa said she thinks a change in Fed leadership is “extremely unlikely,” though she’s not ruling out the possibility of the president persuading Powell to “resign.”

“If it comes to that, given the backdrop of the recent government shutdown, investors might be less inclined to treat Treasuries as safe haven assets,” she said by email. “A change in Fed leadership will likely rattle the already-fragile financial markets and further tighten financial conditions.”

Market participants are generally of the view that Powell will not be fired, and senior administration officials say Trump recognizes he doesn’t have that authority. But even continued exploration of the possibility could make for a volatile week.

The market response to a material threat to the Fed’s independence would be complicated, according to Steve Englander, head of global G-10 FX research and North America macro strategy for Standard Chartered Bank. He said near-term uncertainty over the process and politics in a fluid situation would weigh on equity prices and bond yields. The dollar, he said, would likely face multiple opposing forces, but the “near-term response is likely negative on the risk that U.S. economic policy becomes more erratic.”

Kitchen Sink

The Bloomberg Dollar Index was up more than 4 percent in 2018 at the end of last week and is close to its highest level in a year and a half, while the Japanese yen surged around 2 percent last week versus the greenback.

Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York, is among the few eyeing the strained relations between the president and the Fed chair with equanimity.

The stock market “has discounted everything but the kitchen sink, including the loss of a Fed Chair who hasn’t been in office for even a year yet,” he said by email.

Given that the Fed is already close to the end of its hiking cycle, the markets won’t melt down if Powell leaves office, according to Rupkey. “They already did,” he said.

Those on the front lines of this week’s opening trade say markets are on a knife edge.

Mind the Machines

“If equity markets fall further, they’re going to set off machine-based selling,” said Saed Abukarsh, the co-founder of Dubai-based hedge fund Ark Capital Management. “The other risk is that experienced traders are on holiday, so the ones left will be trigger happy with every new headline.”

“I can’t see buyers stepping into this market to stem off any selling pressure until January,” said Abukarsh. “So if you need to adjust your books for the year-end with any meaningful size, you’re going to have to pay for it.”

Trump’s two-year stock honeymoon ends with hunt for betrayer

Nobody was happier to take credit for surging stocks than Donald Trump, who touted and tweeted each leg up. Now the bull is on life support and the search for its killer is on.

And while many on Wall Street share the president’s frustration with the man atop his markets enemies list, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, they say Trump himself risks making things worse with too much aggression when equities are one bad session away from a bear market.

“You would think that after coming off of the worst week for the markets since the financial crisis in 2008, he would look to create some stability,” said Chuck Cumello, CEO of Essex Financial Services. “Instead we get the opposite, with this headline and more self-induced uncertainty. This coming from a president who when the market goes up views it as a barometer of his success.”

U.S. stock futures whipsawed Monday and were little changed after swinging from a 0.9 percent gain to a loss of the same magnitude. The equity market closes at 1 p.m. in New York ahead of the Christmas holiday.

Click here to see all of Trump’s tweets on the economy and markets.

Attempts by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to reassure markets that Powell wouldn’t be ousted appeared to have largely removed that as an immediate concern for traders, but the secretary’s tweet Sunday that he called top executives from the six largest U.S. banks to check on their liquidity and lending infrastructure added to anxiety.

To be sure, equities remain solidly higher since Trump took office. Even with its 17 percent drop over the last three months, the S&P 500 has risen 18 percent since Election Day. The Nasdaq Composite Index is up 25 percent with dividends. True, volatility has jumped to a 10-month high, but market turbulence was significantly worse for three long stretches under Barack Obama.

The S&P 500 slumped 7.1 percent last week and the Nasdaq Composite Index spiraled into a bear market. As of 2:31 p.m. in Hong Kong, futures on the S&P 500 were up 0.6 percent while Nasdaq 100 contracts added 0.5 percent.

While Trump seems to have found his villain in Powell, blame is a dubious concept in financial markets, as anyone who has tried to explain the current rout can attest.

Along with the Fed chairman, everything from rising bond yields, trade tariffs, falling bond yields, Brexit, tech valuations and Italian finances have been implicated in the downdraft that has erased $5 trillion from American equity values in three months.

Whatever’s behind it, nothing has been able to stop it. And while many on Wall Street credit the president for helping jump-start the market after taking office, they say he should look in the mirror to see another person creating stress for it right now.

“Trump was gloating how much good he had done for the economy and the market. Now he’s blaming Powell for the decline instead of himself,” said Rick Bensignor, founder of Bensignor Group and a former strategist for Morgan Stanley. “Half his key staff has been fired or quit. The markets are off for a variety of reasons, but most of them have Trump behind them.”

If Trump is bent on getting rid of Powell, there may be ways of doing it that don’t risk kicking a volatile market into hysteria, said Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, a senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It doesn’t have to be firing, it could be someone else taking Powell’s job. That could be a net positive for the markets,” Hellwig said. “A friendly change in the head of the Fed may cause some turbulence short-term but it may be offset with the markets repricing the risk associated with two rate hikes in 2019.”

For now, the turmoil shows no signs of letting up. In the Nasdaq 100, home to tech giants like Apple Inc. and Amazon.com, there have been 17 sessions with losses greater than 1.5 percent this quarter, the most since 2009. Small caps are down 26 percent from a record, while the Nasdaq Biotech Index has dropped at least 1 percent on seven straight days, the longest streak since its inception in 1993.

It’s been a long time since anyone in the U.S. has lived through this protracted a decline. Including Trump.

”It’s impossible to tease out what the proximate causes are,” said Kevin Caron, a senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors. “The normal ebb and flow of financial markets are all part of the mix. It’s impossible just to point to the chairman as the only input.”

Credit: Bloomberg


Stock Market Crash Could Force “Tariff Man” Trump To Surrender Trade War To China



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Dollar bulls face perilous start to second half of 2017

Losing streak: The greenback finished the first half of 2017 on a four-month losing streak – the longest such stretch since 2011. – AFP


After the worst start to a year for the greenback since 2006, the end of the first half couldn’t come quick enough for the dwindling ranks of dollar bulls. Yet if history is any guide, it could soon get even worse.

A week that’s certain to get off to a slow start with U.S. markets closed Tuesday will culminate with Friday’s jobs report. The release hasn’t been kind to those wagering on greenback strength. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index has slumped in the aftermath of nine of the past ten, despite above consensus reports as recently as February, March and May.

“The dollar has not been responding to positive data surprises, but continues to weaken substantially on negative news,” said Michael Cahill, a strategist at Goldman Sachs. “As long as that persists, the risks are skewed to the downside going into every data release.”

The greenback finished the first half on a four month losing streak — the longest such stretch since 2011 — wiping out its post-election gain. The currency’s 6.6 percent decline in the six months through June were the worst half for the dollar since the back end of 2010. Unraveling optimism around the Trump administration’s ability to boost fiscal growth has outweighed Fed policy or positive data, according to Alvise Marino, a strategist at Credit Suisse.

“What’s happening on the monetary policy front is not as important,” said Marino. “It’s more about the dollar remaining weighed down by the unwinding of financial expectations.”

The sudden hawkish tilt by global central banks hasn’t helped. The dollar weakened more than 2 percent against the euro, pound and Canadian loonie last week as officials signaled a bias toward tightening monetary policy.

Yet there are reasons for optimism, according to JPMorgan Chase analysts led by John Normand, who recommended staying long the greenback in a June 23 note. A cheap valuation relative to global interest rates, the market underpricing the likelihood of another Fed hike this year, and a still positive growth outlook make for a favorable backdrop to motivate dollar longs in an “overstretched” unwind, the analysts wrote.

Hedge funds and other speculators disagree. They turned bearish on the dollar for the first time since May 2016 last week. Wagers the greenback will decline outnumber bets it’ll strengthen by 30,037 contracts, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released Friday show.

Source: Bloomberg

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What Trump means for Asian investors?

In the lead-up to January 20 when Donald Trump becomes US president, Asians are guessing about the outlook for their savings.

Trump is particularly difficult to read because he made so many wild statements on the campaign trail. Everyone accepts that campaigning politicians promise heaven and deliver mostly hell, but when they win elections, most become much more sober. So far, it looks like Trump’s policy will follow his campaign threats.

The Trump presidency will be bi-polar – either highly successful if he reboots American dynamism, or one that may bankrupt the country trying, including getting involved in another war.

His rise to power has been accompanied by wild swings in investor mood as markets yo-yo from hesitation to rally, with the Dow currently peaking.

So far, Trump family members appear to have more clout than was the case with any previous , with perhaps the exception of President Bill Clinton.

Disappointingly, the favourite to be Trump’s treasury secretary is ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, which means Wall Street would have another insider running the status quo. It remains to be seen whether he can simultaneously deliver the promised spending on infrastructure, tax cuts for the rich and containment of effects of a stronger dollar.

All signs are that the dollar will strengthen, bringing echoes of the famous phrase, “my dollar, your problem”. In its latest health check on the US economy, the International Monetary Fund reported in June that “the current level of the US dollar is assessed to be overvalued by 10-20 per cent and the current account deficit is around 1.5-2 per cent larger than the level implied by medium term fundamentals and desirable policies”. The IMF thinks that the risk of the dollar surging in value is high, and estimates a 10 per cent appreciation would reduce American GDP by 0.5 per cent in the first year and 0.5-0.8 per cent in the second year.

Trump is likely to be highly expansionary in his first year because the Republicans, having control of the Congress, Senate and the White House, must revive growth and jobs to ensure voters give them a second term. Note carefully that Trump’s election promises of stopping immigration, scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, imposing sanctions on China and cancelling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are all inflationary in nature.

This is why if the Fed does not raise interest rates in December this year, it may be under pressure next year not to take any action to slow a Trump economic recovery. The Fed’s independence will be called into question, since Trump’s expansionary policy will put pressure on his budget deficit and national debt, already running at 3 per cent and 76 per cent of GDP respectively. A 1-per-cent increase in nominal interest rates would add roughly 0.7 per cent to the fiscal deficit, making it unsustainable in the long run.

Those who think that recovery in US growth would be good for trade are likely to be disappointed. So far, the recovery (which is stronger than in either Europe or Japan) has led to little increase in imports, due to three effects – lower oil prices, the increase in domestic shale oil production and more onshoring of manufacturing. The US current account deficit may worsen somewhat to around 4 per cent of GDP, but this will not improve unless sanctions are imposed on both China and Mexico, which would in turn hurt global trade.

Why is a strong dollar risky for the global economy?

The answer is that the global growth model would be too dependent on the US, while the other economies are still struggling. Europe used to be broadly balanced in terms of current account, but has moved to become a major surplus zone of around 3.4 per cent of GDP. Germany alone is running a current account surplus of 8.6 per cent of GDP in 2016, benefiting hugely from the weak euro.

Japan has moved back again to a current surplus of 3.7 per cent of GDP, but the yen remains weak at current levels of 107 to the dollar. I interpret the Bank of Japan’s QQE (qualitative and quantitative easing) as both a financial stability tool and also one aimed at ensuring that the capital outflows by Japanese funds would outweigh the inflows from foreigners punting on a yen appreciation.

The Bank of Japan’s unlimited buying of Japanese government bonds at fixed rates would put a cap on losses for pension and insurance funds holding long-term bonds if the yield curve were to steepen (bond prices fall when interest rates rise). Japanese pension and insurance funds have been large investors in US Treasuries and securities for the higher yield and possible currency appreciation.

In short, the capital outflow from Japan to the dollar is helpful to US-Japan relations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the first foreign leader to call on Trump and likely dangled a carrot: Tokyo will fund Trump’s expansionary policies so long as Japan is allowed to re-arm.

From 2007 to 2015, US securities held by foreigners increased by $7.3 trillion to $17.1 trillion, bringing its gross amount to 94 per cent of GDP, official figures show. Japan already holds just under $2 trillion of US securities and, as a surplus saver, has lots of room to buy more.

The bottom line for Asia? Don’t expect great trade recovery from any US expansion. On the other hand, Asian investors will continue to buy US dollars on the prospects of higher interest rates and better recovery. This puts pressure on Asian exchange rates.

Of course, it’s possible that US fund managers will start investing back in Asia, but with trade sanctions and frosty relations between US-China in the short-term, US investors will stay home. If interest rates do go up in Asia in response to Fed rate increases, don’t expect the bond markets to improve. The equity outlook would depend on individual country responses to these global uncertainty threats.

In short, expect more Trump tantrums in financial markets.

Think Asian By Andrew Sheng, a former central banker, writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.


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The riddled Ringgit Malasia hits 17-year low against US dollar

Falling rate: A moneychanger worker showing the ringgit and US dollar notes in Kuala Lumpur recently. The ringgit is still falling versus the greenback.

Policy Matters – The riddled ringgit

CURRENCY traders are speculators. They make their money by taking bets; betting that this currency will rise, or that will fall.

Traders deal with the sentiments of the moment. They place their bets on the basis of expectations. They are quick to sniff weaknesses and take advantage of them.

The Malaysian ringgit has been vulnerable in the hands of traders. Not that traders are evil people. This is just how capitalism works.

Buying and selling from minute to minute, based on breaking news, even rumours, foreign exchange strategists do not ponder over fundamentals and the long-term equilibrium value of a currency when short-term pressures are overwhelming.

With allegations of financial impropriety running wild, there is nothing juicier that traders can chew on.

Bank Negara Malaysia, the one organisation that would know about the movement of huge sums of money, has been aloof. As waves of rumours and allegations rise and crash, silence does not do anything to quell speculation.

Then, there have been recent political developments: the deputy prime minister, other ministers and the attorney-general were dropped.

The prime minister has had to roll up his pants and walk into the rising tide. Any attempt to induce calm can, at times, induce more speculation.

Again, a field day for speculators.

The outlook is not very promising for much of the year.

A declining ringgit would make exports cheaper while raising the cost of imports. In the short run, theory indicates that the trade balance would decline.

With the passage of time, again as theory suggests, the volume of exports might increase. At this point the value of the ringgit would rise.

Until such time as the ringgit floats back to its equilibrium level, the declining ringgit will not do a lot of good.

A declining ringgit would make the consumption of imported goods from machinery and equipment to chocolates more expensive. This would lead to a decrease in household consumption of foreign goods and services, and it would also reduce investment in capital. The latter would not be beneficial because it would affect future production.

Should there be an interest rate hike in the United States in September BNM might find it necessary to respond with a hike in Malaysia. This might stem some of the capital outflow, but it would also act as a dampener on domestic investment.

The declining ringgit would drive the central bank to prop up the ringgit, as it perhaps already has. This has led to the decrease in international reserves. Malaysia has had more than adequate reserves, so a run-down on reserves will not be damaging.

It would be problematic to see the ringgit slip after the sell-off of reserves. That would mean wasting resources only to see a short-lived support of the ringgit.

Another worrying factor is the impact of the fall in the ringgit on Malaysia’s foreign debt. A weaker ringgit would mean a higher cost in debt servicing.

International rating agencies are known to look unkindly at declining international reserves and exchange rate weaknesses.

Hence, a deeper concern might be a downgrade in Malaysia’s credit rating. It would be a pity if Malaysia were to be slapped with a downgrade because the government has gone to great lengths to convince international agencies of our credit worthiness.

Although the outlook is not particularly bright, all is not out of our hands.

First, confidence must be restored in our economy. In particular, companies must be given the support they need to wade through the difficulties they face.

Second, the domestic political risk factors have to be better managed.

Third, although there is not much room for expansionary fiscal policies, it may need to be used to counterbalance an economy that is faced with a slump in confidence and enthusiasm. Stakeholders must be reminded that the country’s development plans are on track.

Fourth, it is necessary to convince stakeholders that the central bank can act appropriately should the ringgit continue to face strong pressures.

Trying to save the day by persuading agents not to sell the ringgit has a flat timbre to it, at least under current conditions.

Fifth, initiatives must be taken to push ahead with good institutions and governance structures. This is in keeping with the government’s overall programme, and it is now most opportune to stress the commitment to this objective.

The Malaysian economy has weathered many a crisis. The challenges that present themselves now are not trivial, but they are surely surmountable.

By Shankaran Nambiar

Dr Shankaran Nambiar is author of The Malaysian Economy: Rethinking Policies and Purposes. The views expressed in this article are his own. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Ringgit to ease further against US dollar next week

KUALA LUMPUR: The ringgit is expected to depreciate further against the US dollar next week, as falling commodity prices coupled with domestic political development will hurt investor confidence further, a dealer said.

The dealer said consistent talks over a possible US interest rates hike next month has prolonged the greenback’s strength, with most emerging Asian currencies succumbing to selling pressure including the ringgit.

Last Thursday, the ringgit breached 3.9000 against the dollar for the first time since the Asian financial crisis 17 years ago, amid political tensions. The local note was pegged at 3.80 per dollar from 1998 to 2005 during the Asian financial crisis by the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Capital Advisors Currency Trader, Justin Herling, told Bernama that other factors such as declining oil prices and China’s struggling economy had largely contributed to the depreciation of the ringgit.

He predicted the ringgit to further depreciate to 4.05 over the next 30 days.

“However we see this as a short-term correction but in the long term fundamentals still remain strong,” he added.

For the week just ended, the ringgit traded lower against the US dollar at 3.9220/9250 from 3.8230/8260 recorded last Friday.

The local currency also fell against the Singapore dollar to 2.8291/8317 from 2.7775/7799 last Friday and weakened against the yen to 3.1429/1458 from 3.0771/0800 previously.

It declined against the pound sterling to 6.0881/0943 from 5.9509/9563 last week and was easier against the euro at 4.2836/2885 from 4.1816/1860 previously. – Bernama

Getting into the ringgit engine room

The depreciating ringgit has caught the imagination of most people on the streets. Beginning this week, we are featuring a special column on the mechanics of the currency and the forces that dictates its movements.Armed with two decades of experience as an interest rate and foreign exchange strategist in various financial institutions, Suresh Ramanathan will be looking into the intricacies of currency markets. With a Doctorate in Economics from Universiti Malaya, Suresh specialises in Modelling of Interest Rate Swaps, Foreign Exchange Forwards and Monetary Policy Signalling.Voted as Asia’s best foreign exchange strategist last year by AsiaMoney, he remains intrigued and fascinated by the workings of financial markets.

JUST how much is a currency worth? Exactly what the last buyer was willing to pay for it. That is the short answer. The longer answer is complicated.

In Malaysia’s foreign exchange (forex) markets, figuring out what a currency is worth is suddenly urgent. Trading is erratic, bid and offer spreads are wide and volume is thin as the market adapts to currency volatility. Determining the fair value of a currency is not an easy task either, disagreements between economists on what the fair value is or how it is measured becomes a banter at coffee bars and rigorous in academia. While the simple approach in analysing recent currency weakness is taking a top-down approach – meaning looking into macro-economic issues, followed by external and internal factors – affecting the economy.

But in the current environment, it may not suffice. Expectations of currency depreciating is built over a period of time until it reaches a breaking point.

The breaking point for ringgit is when the rest of the macro economic variables such as economic growth, inflation and trade balances are impacted.

The big question being where exactly is the breaking point for the ringgit? For the ringgit, a factor that stands out, is the arbitrage-speculative mechanism in the forex forward market.

A forex forward contract is an agreement between two parties to buy or sell currency at a specified future time at a price agreed upon today. It is available in all banks and used primarily for exporters and importers as a hedging instrument. The forex forward market has two features – one being a deliverable forward contract traded in the domestic market and settled in ringgit.

The other feature being a non-deliverable forward (NDF) contract that is settled in US dollar and traded offshore. Generally the NDFs are traded in financial centres such as Singapore, London and New York.

The mechanism of how a NDF trade and settlement works is based on the tenure of the contract followed by the fixing rate. The tenure can range from one month to a year or more and the price is fixed at the time the trade is entered into between two parties.

The trade, fixing and settlement dates are crucial since the period between the inception of the trade and the fixing can decide the profit and loss of a non-deliverable trade.

The fixing of the ringgit against the US dollar is currently done onshore through a spot fixing mechanism monitored by Bank Negara. The mechanism of fixing the rate onshore or in the domestic market removes certain elements of arbitrage and speculation.

But it does not prevent traders from taking a position in the offshore market by going into an agreement to buy or sell NDFs. It provides an arbitrage opportunity. In simple terms, the difference between the spot rate that is fixed in the domestic market and the offshore rate indicated by the MYR NDF provides an arbitrage opportunity for traders.

The second channel of arbitrage – speculation involves yield when one buys or sell a currency contract in the forward market. Between the period of inception of the trade and the fixing date, the MYR NDF yield can move either way. It is here where banks profit the trade, via using the implied NDF yield arbitrage versus the onshore forward yield.

This spread has been the lynchpin of trading mechanism for currency markets, particularly for emerging market currencies that are not convertible in the international market and not allowed to trade offshore. This is a legacy that was left behind from the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98 when Malaysia imposed capital controls and ringgit no longer became an international tender.

In the current trading environment of ringgit, spreads on the implied yield between onshore and offshore forward markets have persistently stayed above 1%, since the third quarter of 2014. An implied yield spread of more than 1% between onshore and offshore forward market indicates weakness of the ringgit against the US dollar.

This provides an avenue for markets to exploit the difference in yield, particularly for financial institutions that have access to both the onshore and offshore foreign exchange forward market. As the arbitrage window gradually closes and the spread between offshore and onshore implied yield from the foreign exchange forward narrows, the impetus for the ringgit to weaken further slows in pace, and it is here the risk of the currency swinging to the firm side picks up momentum.

Bottom-line, it’s not the macro view ala top-down that affects the ringgit. It’s the trading arbitrage in the currency that truly plays a significant role for the ringgit’s current predicament.


The difference between now and 1998 

THE ringgit is falling and so is the stock market. Contagion worries are building.

That scenario is a reality for Malaysian capital markets and the anxiety over a slowdown in China’s economy has got many worried about its effect on economic momentum in Malaysia.

Parallels from such a situation today can be drawn against what happened during the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997/98 but the setting is different than what happened almost 20 years ago.

Going back to 1997/98, it was a time when growth in Malaysia and South-East Asia was booming. Overheating worries turned into whether such growth was sustainable.

Starting with the attack on the Thai baht, the currencies of many South-East Asian countries were soon under attack.

The ringgit too felt the brunt of such attacks and at the worst, fell to RM4.80 to the dollar before recovering and ultimately pegged at RM3.80 to the dollar in September 1998.

“In 1997/98, it was contagion that caused problems. The currency crisis turned into a financial crisis,” says independent economist Lee Heng Guie.

The reasons for the fall in the ringgit this time is different.

The value of the ringgit was for some time after the peg was removed linked with the price of crude oil. As the price of crude oil rose, so the ringgit.

But as the price of crude oil collapsed like it has now, the ringgit felt the brunt. Political uncertainties in Malaysia is not helping the value of the ringgit.

The price of West Texas Intermediate is now at US$44.81 a barrel

The danger is what will happen to the real economy as the ringgit weakens?

The external trade sector will do well as seen in June’s export numbers. The steep decline of the ringgit in June lifted external trade by 5.0% year-on-year to RM64.3bil.

“In part, the weak ringgit currency spurred exports growth during the month. Ringgit fell to an average of RM3.74 per US dollar in June versus RM3.60 in May. Exports growth were driven by most export products except the exports of petroleum including crude petroleum, LNG and petroleum products. Primarily, the exports of E&E surged by 13.5% following two months of contractions,” says AmResearch in a note.

Although there are similarities in the movement of the ringgit between 1997/98 and today, the stark contrast was economic strength.

In 1997 Malaysia had a current account deficit and a fiscal surplus. That situation reversed a year later and has been so ever since.

The ringgit peg at RM3.80 afforded stability to exporters and that swelled the trade account in 1998. A fiscal deficit was realised after the Government embarked on priming, with the aid of lower government debt than today, to kickstart the economy which had been ravaged by a steep decline in economic activity.

One of the reasons why businesses found it hard going in 1998 was corporate leverage. A number of corporations were saddled with big debts and institutions such as Danaharta Nasional Bhd was formed to restructure corporate debt in Malaysia.

Conditions are reversed for most of corporate Malaysia today. Leverage has been kept in check and cash balances among corporates are in a far healthier state than it was in 1997/98.

The difference was also foreign reserves. From a high of US$34.6bil in May 1994, foreign reserves dropped to a low of US$17.5bil in 1997. Foreign reserves in Malaysia was US$96.7bil as at July 31.

Although the quantum of foreign reserves compared with the size of the economy is a comparative consideration, economists point out that the amount of reserves today is sufficient for nearly 7.6 months of imports. Back then, it was enough for just 3.2 months of imports.

“We have come a long way from the past. The banking system is well capitalised compared with back then,” says AmResearch economist Patricia Oh Swee Ling.

The biggest difference between 1997/98 and today are households.

During the Asian financial crisis almost two decades ago, household debt as a percentage of GDP was a meagre 16%.

At the end of last year, it was 87.9% and remains at an elevated level. The man in the street was generally immune to the crisis although there was an uptick in unemployment and higher loan repayments for loans as interest rates spiked.

While per capita income today is in excess of RM35,000 compared with RM12,314 in 1998, cost pressures have emerged. The goods and services tax (GST) has crimped spending power among consumers and retail sales, according to the Malaysia Retailers Association, contracted by 3% in the second quarter compared with a rise of 4.6% in the first quarter of 2015.

Purchasers by consumers has been a big factor in the growth of the economy and if private consumption, which accounts for 50% of GDP according to an economist, falls, then that will put pressure on economic growth in the second quarter.

Economic weakness ahead

Bank Negara will release second quarter GDP numbers next week and the general consensus is it will be lower than the first quarter. The consensus is for a growth of 4.5% for the second quarter.

Citigroup, in a note, projects second quarter GDP to come in at 4% compared with 5.6% in the first quarter.

“Services were dragged down by a 11.2% year-on-year plunge in motor vehicle sales post GST, while transport and utilities were also soft. Loan growth was stable, though fund raising in capital markets lifted financial services growth,” it says.

Citigroup says growth in mining slowed to below 8% from a year ago in the second quarter on weaker production volumes in gas and oil.

“Manufacturing also slowed below 5% year-on-year on softer April-May electrical and electronic production, although rebounding in June to 7.1% year-on-year. Growth was likely cushioned by a turnaround in palm oil production and strong construction.

“From an expenditure perspective, the slowdown in second quarter GDP growth was likely led by domestic demand, especially consumption. We remain cautious on third quarter prospects given continued slump in the Composite Leading Indicator, second half growth should be cushioned by base effects, a gradual recovery from the GST induced slump, and a lift to manufactured exports from a US recovery,” it says.

Affin Hwang Capital believes that despite households adjusting to the GST following its implementation in early April, it believes private consumption will remain supportive of economic growth in the second half, supported by favourable labour market conditions on the back of steady increase in income and low unemployment rate in the country.

“Malaysia’s real GDP growth is expected to slow from 5.6% y-o-y in the first quarter to an estimated 4.5% in the second quarter, before recovering to an average of 5% y-o-y in the second half. We highlighted that our full year 2015 GDP forecast remained unchanged at 5% in 2015, at the mid-point of the official forecast of between 4.5% and 5.5% (6% in 2014).”

Moody’s Investors Service was more optimistic. It expects Malaysia’s economy to grow by 5.1% in the second quarter.

“Exports are the main drag, driven by soft global demand and low oil prices. This filters through to the domestic economy as unemployment rises and consumers reduce spending. Capital expenditure should remain buoyant as government infrastructure projects come on line.

Malaysia’s economy should pick up later this year as the global economy strengthens,” it says.

By JAGDEV SINGH SIDHU The Star/Asia News Network

Slide continues despite efforts to arrest fall

THE ringgit slide continues despite aggressive attempts by the central bank to shore up the beleaguered currency.

Bank Negara said yesterday the country’s international reserves fell to US$96.7bil as at end of July, down US$8.8bil from a month ago. It came from a high of US$140bil in 2013.

Analysts said the recent sharp fall in reserves indicated that Bank Negara had step up its intervention in the currency market.

The ringgit had been under tremendous pressure in recent months as the outflow of funds continued unabated.

Bank Negara said foreign investors cut their holdings of Malaysian bonds by 2.4% to RM206.8bil in July. This is the lowest level of foreign holding in the Malaysian bond market since August 2012.

The outflow from the bond market coincided with the sell-off seen in the stock market.

MIDF Research earlier this week said global investors had pulled out an estimated RM11.9bil from Bursa Malaysia as of end of July.

This added to the RM6.9bil that left the stock market last year.

The rush to exit by foreign investors was a major force behind the ringgit’s sharp decline year-to-date. The local currency exchange rate against the US dollar hit 3.93 yesterday, which is a new 17-year low.

That put the ringgit down 11% year-to-date and made it Asia’s worst performing currency so far this year. To some, the currency’s recent plunge evokes an eerie reminder of past financial crisis.

The ringgit was fixed at 3.80 against the US dollar in September 1998, at the height of the Asian financial crisis. The currency peg was removed in July 2005.

Ten years down the road, the ringgit is again under pressure. And so are other currencies across the region as global investors adjust to the prospect of tighter monetary policy in the US.

In Indonesia, the rupiah was down 8.5% against the US dollar, while its stock market declined 8.7%.

Capital Economics, an independent macro-economic research firm said the biggest threat to Malaysia is slump of its currency and lower commodity prices that is hurting exports.

“With the exception of Malaysia, where US dollar debt is high, currency weaknesss is not a major threat to the region,” it said.

State owned Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) sold US$5bil of US dollar denominated bonds in March, while Tenaga Nasional Bhd recently said about 6% of its RM24bil debts are in US currency.

Others like 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) also have a significant portion of its RM42bil debts in foreign denominated currency.

Malaysia has also been hit hard by the fall in global commodity prices. The country is a net exporter of crude oil, liquefied natural gas and is ranked among the largest exporters of rubber and palm oil

For the first six months, exports declined 3.1% from a year ago, largely due to lower prices of commodities.

Next week will be a busy one for the market as the Government is scheduled to release the country’s factory output figures on Monday followed by gross domestic product (GDP) for the second quarter on Thursday.

The country’s economic performance and its outlook by the central bank should provide some bearing for the ringgit, which some analysts, including those at CIMB Research expect to touch RM4 against the US dollar by the end of the year.

By IZWAN IDRIS The Star/Asia News Network

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Ringgit Malaysia slides to lowest vs USD: fears of low oil prices, rate hike, rethink study options

Ringgit slide

PETALING JAYA: The ringgit has fallen to its lowest against the US dollar since August 2009 amid concerns over the impact of low oil prices on Malaysia’s economy and the timing of US interest rate hike.

Ringgit slide_oil

At 5pm yesterday, the ringgit was quoted at 3.5425 against the US dollar, which has been gaining strength against all major currencies in the world. That represented a weakening of 10.81% for the ringgit against the US dollar in the last six months.

According to independent economist Lee Heng Guie, the ringgit would likely remain under downward pressure as investors were concerned about the impact of falling crude oil prices on Malaysia’s economy.

Malaysia, which is a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum, is seen as the biggest loser in Asean of lower oil prices.

“Being a net oil and gas exporter, it will cause a sharp slowdown in oil and gas investments and affect the Government’s ability to spend as it struggles to manage its fiscal deficit on account of falling oil revenue,” RHB Research Institute said in a recent report.

Low oil prices would result in some loss of income for Malaysia through lower dividends from state oil producer Petroliam Nasional Bhd and lower tax and excise duties. Petroleum-related revenues account for around 30%-40% of total government revenue each year.

Savings from recent subsidy reforms might not be sufficient to offset the loss in income for the Government that was looking to cut its fiscal deficit to 3% of gross domestic income (GDP) in 2015 from 3.5% of GDP this year, economists said.

There were divided views as to whether Malaysia would momentarily slip into twin deficits, a situation where an economy is running both fiscal and current deficits, in the coming months.

Brent crude oil, an international benchmark, fell to a fresh five-year low at 5pm yesterday when it was quoted at US$54.23 (RM192.11) per barrel. That represented a decline of more than half from the peak of around US$115 (RM406.80) per barrel in mid-June.

Investors are expecting the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in the coming months, following the end of its third round of quantitative easing (QE3) programme last October.

QE3, which was launched in September 2012, involved the buying of long-term US Treasury bonds to push long-term interest rates low to support the country’s economic recovery.

In the last six months, the ringgit had also weakened against other regional currencies, including the Singapore dollar, against which it fell 3.63% to 2.6493. The ringgit fell 0.91% against the South Korean won to 0.3184; and 2.9% against the Indonesian rupiah to 0.02801.

Nevertheless, the ringgit had appreciated against the British pound, euro, Australian dollar and Japanese yen over the last six months.

Yesterday, the ringgit was quoted at 5.4080 against the pound, 4.2249 against the euro, 2.8541 against the Australian dollar and 2.9397 against 100 yen.

By Celilia Kok The Star/Asia News Network

Weakening ringgit forces parents to rethink study options


PETALING JAYA: Parents planning to send their children to study overseas, particularly the United States, are beginning to feel the pinch with the ringgit continuing its slide against the greenback.

Many are reconsidering their options by looking at other destinations for their children’s higher studies.

Some are also planning to shorten the study period of their children to cope with the extra costs incurred, while there are those who are thinking of asking their children to take up part time jobs to help finance their education.

The ringgit has slipped to its lowest since August 2009 at 3.5280 to the US dollar.

A media practitioner said he enrolled his daughter for an American degree programme with a local college two years ago.

“She’s doing a twinning course with two of the four years to be spent in the US. At that time, the ringgit was holding up fairly well against the US dollar.

“With the ringgit’s slide now, I’ll have to cough up much more to finance my daughter’s studies in the US,” he said.

Retired pilot Wong Yoon Fatt, a father of two, said he planned to send his 18-year-old daughter overseas as he had saved up funds for his children’s education.

“However, if the ringgit continues to weaken, I may shorten the duration of their studies abroad. From three years, I may consider cutting it to just a year or two abroad,” he said, adding that he would encourage his children to take up part-time jobs during their vacation.

Housewife Noorhaidah Mohd Ibrahim, 61, said if the economic situation worsened, she was prepared to send her 21-year-old daughter Tasneem to study at a local university.

“If we can get the same quality of education here, then why not?” she said, adding that she was planning to send Tasneem to pursue higher education in Britain.

Mass communication student S. Samhitha, 21, said she had a choice of continuing her final-year overseas but opted to stay back because of increasing costs to study abroad.

“I can still get the same degree here. However, the thing I will miss is the exposure of studying in a different country,” she said.

Law student Janani Silvanathan, who is in Britain, said she would feel the pinch of the weakening ringgit in her next term when she would have to travel back and forth from Bristol to London weekly.

“Transportation will be more expensive. A train ticket from Bristol to London costs RM180 each now,” the 24-year-old lamented.

A 20-year-old film making student who identified herself as Stephanie said she was planning to study in Canada but would have take up a part-time job.

“The depreciating ringgit will not severely affect me but my parents will definitely incur higher costs,” she said.

Law student Lisa J. Ariffin, 25, who is studying in Cardiff, Wales, said she was more careful in spending money, even on food.

“I can’t eat out as often and will always look out for good bargains or offers,” she said.

By Yuen Meikeng The Star/Asia News Network

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Currency spikes in London provide rigging Clues!

An employee counts a stack of U.S. one hundred dollar bills inside a currency exchange center in Mexico City. Photographer: Susana Gonzalez/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.


Fund managers and scholars say the volatile forex trading patterns look like an attempt by currency dealers to manipulate rates -AFP

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. Bloomberg News reported in June that dealers shared information and used client orders to move the rates to boost trading profit. The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority is reviewing the allegations, a spokesman said.

“We see enormous spikes,” said Michael DuCharme, head of foreign exchange at Seattle-based Russell Investments, which traded $420 billion of foreign currency last year for its own funds and institutional investors.

“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.”

Global Probes

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

Barclays Plc (BARC), Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and UBS AG (UBSN) were fined a combined $2.5 billion for rigging the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, used to price $300 trillion of securities from student loans to mortgages.

More than a dozen banks have been subpoenaed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission over allegations traders worked with brokers at ICAP Plc (IAP) to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark used in interest-rate derivatives. ICAP Chief Executive Officer Michael Spencer said in May that an internal probe found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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, DuCharme said. Dealers say they have to trade during the window to meet client demand and minimize their own risk.

Currency Patterns

“There are some patterns in currencies that are very similar to what I have seen in other markets, such as the way the price-fixings’ effects disappear so often by the following day,” said Rosa Abrantes-Metz, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, whose August 2008 paper, “Libor Manipulation?,” helped trigger the probe into the rigging of benchmark interest rates. “You also see large price moves at a time of day when volume of trading is high and hence the market is very liquid. If I were a regulator, it’s certainly something I would consider taking a look at.”

WM/Reuters rates, which determine what many pension funds and money managers pay for their foreign exchange, are published hourly for 160 currencies and half-hourly for the 21 most-traded. The benchmarks are the median of all trades in a minute-long period starting 30 seconds before the beginning of each half-hour. Rates for less-widely traded currencies are based on quotes during a two-minute window.

London Close

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. Index funds, which track global indexes such as the MSCI World Index, also trade at the rates to reduce tracking error, or the drag on funds’ performance relative to the securities they follow caused by currency fluctuations.

The data are collected and distributed by World Markets Co., a unit of Boston-based State Street Corp. (STT), and Thomson Reuters Corp. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, competes with Thomson Reuters and ICAP in providing news and information as well as currency-trading systems.

Reuters and World Markets referred requests for comment to State Street. Noreen Shah, a spokeswoman for the custody bank in London, said in an e-mail that the rates are derived from actual trades and the benchmark is calculated anonymously, with multiple review processes to monitor the quality of the data.

“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,” Shah said.

Opaque Market

The foreign-exchange market is one of the least regulated and most opaque in the financial system. It’s also concentrated, with four banks accounting for more than half of all trading, according to a May survey by Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc. Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) is No. 1 with a 15 percent share, followed by Citigroup Inc. (C) with almost 15 percent and London-based Barclays and Switzerland’s UBS, which both have 10 percent. All four banks declined to comment.

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.

‘Incredibly Large’

Even small distortions in foreign-exchange rates can cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars a year, eating into returns for savers and retirees, said James Cochrane, director of analytics at New York-based Investment Technology Group Inc., which advises companies and investors on executing trades.

“What started out as a simple benchmarking tool has become something incredibly large, and there’s no regulatory body looking after it,” said Cochrane, a former foreign-exchange salesman at Deutsche Bank who has worked at Thomson Reuters. “Every basis point is worth a tremendous amount of money.”

An investor seeking to change 1 billion Canadian dollars ($950 million) into U.S. currency on June 28 would have received $5.4 million less had the trade been made at the WM/Reuters rate instead of the spot rate 20 minutes before the 4 p.m. window.

“Funds that consistently trade using the WM/Reuters fix are basically trading against themselves, and their portfolio is taking a hit,” Cochrane said.

FCA Complaint

One of Europe’s largest money managers, who invests on behalf of pension holders and savers, has complained to the FCA, alleging the rate is being manipulated, said a person with knowledge of the matter who asked that neither he nor the firm be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

The regulator sent requests for information to four banks, including Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank and New York-based Citigroup, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Chris Hamilton, a spokesman for the FCA, declined to comment, as did spokesmen for Deutsche Bank and Citigroup.

Bloomberg News counted how many times spikes of at least 0.2 percent occurred in the 30 minutes before 4 p.m. for 14 currency pairs on the last working day of each month from July 2011 through June 2013. To qualify, the move had to be one of the three biggest of the day and have reversed by at least half within four hours, to exclude any longer-lasting movements.

The sample was made up of currency pairs ranging from the most liquid, such as euro-dollar, to less-widely traded ones such as the euro to the Polish zloty.

Pounds, Kronor

End-of-month spikes of at least 0.2 percent were more prevalent for some pairs, the data show. They occurred about half the time in the exchange rates for U.S. dollars and British pounds and for euros and Swedish kronor. In other pairs, including dollar-Brazilian real and euro-Swiss franc, the moves occurred about twice a year on average.

Such spikes should be expected at the end of the month because of a correlation between equities and foreign exchange, said two foreign-exchange traders who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on behalf of their firms. A large proportion of trading at that time is generated by index funds, which buy and sell stocks or bonds to match an underlying basket of securities, the traders said.

Banks that have agreed to make transactions for funds at the 4 p.m. WM/Reuters close need to push through the bulk of their trades during the window where possible to minimize losses from market movements, the traders said. That leads to a surge in trading volume, which can intensify any moves.

Index Funds

For 10 major currency pairs, the minutes surrounding the 4 p.m. London close are the busiest for trading at the end of the month, quarter and year, according to Michael Melvin and John Prins at BlackRock Inc. who examined trading data from the Reuters and Electronic Broking Services trading platforms from May 2, 2005, to March 12, 2010.

Reuters and ICAP, which owns EBS, declined to provide data on intraday trading volumes for this article.

Index funds, which manage $3.6 trillion according to Morningstar Inc., typically place the bulk of their orders with banks on the last day of the month as they adjust rolling currency hedges to reflect relative movements between equity indexes in different countries and invest inflows from customers over the previous 30 days. Most requests are placed in the hour preceding the 4 p.m. London window, and banks agree to trade at the benchmark rate, regardless of later price moves.

Opposite Effect

“Since the major fix-market-making banks know their fixing orders in advance of 4 p.m., they can ‘pre-position’ or take positions for themselves prior to the attempt to move prices in their favor,” Melvin and Prins wrote in “Equity Hedging and Exchange Rates at the London 4 P.M. Fix,” an update of a report for a 2011 Munich conference. “The large market-makers are adept at trading in advance of the fix to push prices in their favor so that the fixing trades are profitable on average.”

Recurring price spikes, particularly during busy times such as the end of the month, can indicate market manipulation and possibly collusion, according to Abrantes-Metz.

“If the volume of trading is high, each trade has less importance in the overall market and is less likely to impact the final price,” said Abrantes-Metz, who’s also a principal at Chicago-based Global Economics Group Inc. and a World Bank consultant. “That’s exactly the opposite of what we’re seeing here. That could be a signal of a problem in this market.”

‘Massive Trades’

U.S. regulators have sanctioned firms for banging the close in other markets. The CFTC fined hedge-fund firm Moore Capital Management LP $25 million in April 2010 for attempting to manipulate the settlement price of platinum and palladium futures. The regulator ordered Dutch trading firm Optiver BV to pay $14 million in April 2012 for trying to move oil prices by executing a large number of trades at the end of the day.

Melvin, head of currency and fixed-income research at BlackRock’s global markets strategies group in San Francisco, and Prins, a vice president in the group, said that because banks could lose money if the market moves against them, their profit may be viewed as compensation for the risk they assume. Both declined to comment beyond their report.

“Part of the problem is it’s all concentrated over a 60-second window, which gives such an opportunity to bang through massive trades,” said Mark Taylor, dean of the Warwick Business School in Coventry, England, and a former managing director at New York-based BlackRock.

World Markets, the administrator of the benchmark, could extend the periods during which the rates are set to 10 minutes or use randomly selected 60-second windows each day, said Taylor, who began his career as a currency trader in London.

‘Fiduciary Duty’

Trading at the highly volatile 4 p.m. close instead of at a daily weighted average could erase 5 percentage points of performance annually for a fund tracking the MSCI World Index, according to a May 2010 report by Paul Aston, then an analyst at Morgan Stanley. (MS) For an asset manager trading $10 billion of currencies, that equates to $500 million that would otherwise be in the hands of investors. Aston, now at TD Securities Inc. in New York, declined to comment.

Fund managers rarely complain about getting a bad deal because they’re assessed on their ability to track an index rather than minimize trading costs, according to consultants hired by companies and investors to help execute trades efficiently.

“Where possible, I would always advise clients not to trade at the fix — but minimizing tracking error is so important to them,” said Russell’s DuCharme. “That doesn’t seem to be the right attitude to take when you have a fiduciary duty to seek the best execution for pension holders.”

– Contributed by 

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