Tuesday 3rd May 2016
NEWS TICKER: Central bank policy is still dominating the trading agenda, even though most analysts believe that the Fed will, if it does move, move only once this year and will raise rates by a quarter of a percent. The statement of the US FOMC was terse and most likely signals extreme caution on its part, though there is a belief that hawkish voices are rising in the committee. The reality is though that the US economic growth story is slowing. Many think the June meeting will spark the uplift. Let’s see. The US dollar is continuing to lose ground across the board after data showed the US economy expanded at its slowest pace since the second quarter of 2009, according to the BEA, which FTSE Global Markets reported on last Friday. GDP increased at a 0.5% annualised rate - versus an expected 0.7% - after rising 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2015 as personal consumption failed to boost growth in spite of low gasoline prices. Central bank caution makes sense in that context, however timing will be sensitive. If the central bank moves in the autumn it threatens to unbutton the presidential elections; but the reality is that mixed data will emanate from the US over this quarter which will make a June decision difficult. It’s tough being an FOMC member right now. The Bank of Japan meanwhile signalled its intention to stay the course this week with current policy, which discombobulated the markets. The Japanese markets were closed today for a public holiday, so it won’t be entirely clear if the market will suffer for the central bank’s decision. Certainly if fell 3.61% yesterday and is down 5% on the week. so the omens aren’t great. Of course, the pattern that is well established of late is that as the market falls, the yen appreciates. The yen was trading at 107.14 against the dollar last time we looked, compared with 108 earlier in the session, having at times touched 111/$1 yesterday (the lowest point for more than 18 months) The month to date has seen a rise in both the short term and long term volatility gauges. Coinciding with the rise, Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrant activity has also significantly picked up. Nikkei 225 Structured Warrants showed increased activity with daily averaged traded value up 33% month-on-month. The Nikkei 225 Index Structured Warrants had significant increase in trading activity year-on-year with total turnover up by 6.8 times. – ASIAN TRADING SESSION - Australia's ASX 200 reversed early losses to close up 26.77 points, or 0.51%, at 5,252.20, adding 0.3% for the week. The uptick today was driven by gains in the heavily-weighted financials sub-index, as well as the energy and materials sub-indexes. In South Korea, the Kospi finished down 6.78 points, or 0.34%, at 1,994.15, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 1.37%. Chinese mainland markets were mixed, with the Shanghai composite dropping 7.13 points, or 0.24 percent, at 2,938.45, while the Shenzhen composite finished nearly flat. The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 12.42 points or 0.43% lower to 2862.3, taking the year-to-date performance to -0.71%. The top active stocks today were SingTel, which gained 0.26%, DBS, which declined 1.03%, NOL, which gained closed unchanged, OCBC Bank, which declined 1.00% and CapitaLand, with a 0.63% fall. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained 0.60%, while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index rose 0.49%. Structured warrants on Asian Indices have continued to be active in April. YTD, the STI has generated a total return of 1.3%. This compares to a decline of 4.9% for the Nikkei 225 Index and a decline of 6.3% of the Hang Seng Index. Of the structured warrants available on Asian Indices, the Hang Seng Index Structured Warrants have remained the most active in the year to date with Structured Warrants on the Nikkei 225 Index and STI Index the next most active – FUND FLOWS – BAML reports that commodity fund flows went back to positive territory after taking a breather last week, supported again by inflows into gold funds. “The asset class is currently the best performer, with year to date % of AUM inflow at 15%, far ahead of all other asset classes. Global EM debt flows reflected the bullish turn of the market on EMs, recording the tenth consecutive week of positive flows. On the duration front, short-term funds recorded a marginal inflow, keeping a positive sign for the last four weeks. The mid-term IG funds continue to record strong inflows for a ninth week. But it looks like investors have started to embrace duration to reach for yield, as inflows into longer-term funds have recorded a cumulative 0.8% inflow in the past two weeks,” says the BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research team – GREEN BONDS - Banco Nacional de Costa Rica is the latest issuer with a $500m bond to finance wind, solar, hydro and wastewater projects. The bond has a coupon of 5.875% and matures on April 25th 2021. Banco Nacional will rely on Costa Rican environmental protection regulations to determine eligible projects. This is the fourth green bond issuance in Latin America, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI). Actually, Costa Rica is one of the global leaders in terms of renewable energy use. In the first quarter of 2016 it sourced 97.14% of its power from renewables. Hydro's share alone was 65.62%. – SOVEREIGN DEBT - After coming to market with a 100 year bond last week, the Kingdom of Belgium (rated Aa3/AA/AA) has opened books on a dual tranche bond; the first maturing in seven years; the second in 50 years, in a deal managed by Barclays, Credit Agricole, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Natixis and Société Générale. Managers have marketed the October 22nd 2023 tranche at 11 basis points (bps) through mid-swaps and the June 22nd 2066 tranche in the high teens over the mid of the 1.75% 2066 French OAT – LONGEVITY REINSURANCE - Prudential Retirement Insurance and Annuity Company (PRIAC) and U.K. insurer Legal & General say they have just completed their third longevity reinsurance transaction together, further evidence that longevity reinsurance continues to be a vehicle for UK insurers seeking relief from pension liabilities exposed to longevity risk. “This latest transaction builds on our relationship with Legal & General and solidifies the platform from which future business can be written,” explains Bill McCloskey, vice president, Longevity Risk Transfer at Prudential Retirement. “It's also a testament to our experience in the reinsurance space and our capacity to support the growth of the U.K. longevity risk transfer market.” Under the terms of the new agreement, PRIAC will issue reinsurance for a portion of Legal & General's bulk annuity business, providing benefit security for thousands of retirees in the UK. PRIAC has completed three reinsurance transactions with Legal & General since October 2014 – VIETNAM - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has affirmed its 'BB-' long-term and 'B' short-term sovereign credit ratings on Vietnam. The outlook is stable. At the same time, we affirmed our 'axBB+/axB' ASEAN regional scale rating on Vietnam. The ratings, says S&P, reflect the country's lower middle-income, rising debt burden, banking sector weakness, and the country's emerging institutional settings that hamper policy responsiveness. Even so, the ratings agency acknowledges these strengths are offset by Vietnam's sound external settings that feature adequate foreign exchange reserves and a modest external debt burden. The country has a lower middle income but comparatively diversified economy. S&P estimates GDP per capita at about US$2,200 in 2016. “Recent improvements in macroeconomic stability have supported strong performance in the sizable foreign-owned and export-focused manufacturing sector (electronics, telephones, and clothing). This strength will likely be offset by weaker domestic activity as the impetus to growth stemming from low household and company sector leverage is hampered by weak banks and government enterprises, and shortfalls in infrastructure. We expect real GDP per capita growth to rise by 5.3% in 2016 (2015: 5.6%) and average 5.2% over 2016-2019, reflecting modest outlooks for Vietnam's trading partners. Uncertain conditions in export markets and the slow pace in addressing government enterprise reforms, fiscal consolidation, and banking sector resolution add downside risks to this growth outlook – RUSSIA - Russia's central bank held interest rates steady at 11% today, in line with expectations, although it hinted that if inflation kept on falling it would cut soon. Last month, the bank held rates steady, warning that inflation risks remained "high" and that the then oil price rise could be "unsustainable." However, the decision came at a time of renewed hope for Russia's beleaguered economy and the country's oil industry with commodity prices showing tentative signs of recovery. The central bank noted that it "sees the positive processes of inflation slowdown and inflation expectations decline, as well as shifts in the economy which anticipate the beginning of its recovery growth. At the same time, inflation risks remain elevated." Yann Quelenn, market analyst at Swissquote explains: "The ruble has continued to appreciate ever since it reached its all-time low against the dollar in early January. At that time, more than 82 ruble could be exchanged for a single dollar note. Now, the USDRUB has weakened below 65 and even more upside pressures on the currency continue as the rebound in oil prices persists. The outlook for Russian oil revenues is more positive despite the global supply glut. Expectations for increased oil demand over the coming years and the fear of peak oil are driving the black commodity’s prices higher – MARKET DATA RELEASES TODAY - Other data that analysts will be looking out for today include Turkey’s trade balance; GDP from Spain; the unemployment rate from Norway; mortgage approvals from UK; CPI and GDP from the eurozone; CPI from Italy; and South Africa’s trade balance – FTSE GLOBAL MARKETS – Our offices will be closed on Monday, May 2ndt. We wish our readers and clients a happy and restful May bank holiday and we look forward to reconnecting on Tuesday May 3rd. Happy Holidays!

Latest Video

Gary Gensler talks on derivatives and swap market reforms at IIB lunch

Thursday, 14 June 2012
Gary Gensler talks on derivatives and swap market reforms at IIB lunch With just the click of a mouse, swap market risk can spread around the globe. AIG’s subsidiary, AIG Financial Products, brought down the company and nearly toppled the US economy. How was it organized? It was run out of London – actually as a branch of a French-registered bank – though technically organised in the United States. It was sobering evidence of how overseas risk can come crashing back to our shores to affect middle-class taxpayers, many of whom had never heard of swaps, CFTC chairman Gary Gensler told an IIB members  lunch. The full transcript is reproduced below. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

With just the click of a mouse, swap market risk can spread around the globe. AIG’s subsidiary, AIG Financial Products, brought down the company and nearly toppled the US economy. How was it organized? It was run out of London – actually as a branch of a French-registered bank – though technically organised in the United States. It was sobering evidence of how overseas risk can come crashing back to our shores to affect middle-class taxpayers, many of whom had never heard of swaps, CFTC chairman Gary Gensler told an IIB members  lunch. The full transcript is reproduced below.

Swaps – developed to help manage and lower risk for commercial companies – also concentrate and heighten risk in international financial institutions. When these entities fail, as they have and surely will again, swaps can quickly spread risk across borders.

Following the crisis, when President Obama gathered together the G-20 leaders in Pittsburgh in 2009, a new consensus formed internationally. Swaps, which were basically not regulated in the United States, Japan or Europe, should now be brought into the light of regulation.



Despite different cultures, political systems and financial systems, we've made significant progress on a coordinated and harmonized international approach to reform.

In 2010, the U.S. Congress passed the historic Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act). To date, the CFTC has completed 33 swaps market reforms. We are on track to finish the nearly 20 remaining reforms this year.

Japan, Europe and the largest provinces in Canada have also made substantial legislative progress on reform.

I would like to highlight the progress we're making together on transparency, clearing and margin.

Promoting transparency to the public in the swaps market is critical to both lowering the risk of the financial system, as well as to reducing costs to end users.

The CFTC has completed key transparency rules. Starting as early as September, real-time reporting to the public and to regulators will become a reality. We are nearing consideration of the final swap execution facility rule, which will bring pre-trade transparency to the marketplace.

The G-20 leaders recognized reporting to regulators is not enough. Public market transparency is critical to promoting competition and lowering risk. The Japanese and Europeans have public transparency proposals in front of their legislative bodies that would further align international reform efforts.

Clearinghouses also significantly benefit from public market transparency, as they need to mark their positions to market daily, as well as rely on liquid markets when a clearing member defaults.

While our approaches are not identical, there is a great deal of consistency among the major market jurisdictions in lowering risk by bringing standardized swaps into central clearing. We are collaborating internationally on clearinghouse rules, as well as on determinations as to which swaps must be cleared. It is my hope that the CFTC’s first clearing determinations will be put out for public comment this summer and completed this fall.

The CFTC’s determinations are likely to begin with standard interest rate swaps in U.S. dollars, Euros, British pounds and Japanese yen, as well as a number of credit default swap indices.

The CFTC is working with the Federal Reserve, the other U.S. banking regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and international regulators and policymakers to align margin requirements for uncleared swaps. I think it is essential that we align these requirements globally, particularly between the major market jurisdictions. An international release on margin requirements will be put out for public comment shortly. The approach will be consistent with the approach the CFTC laid out in its margin proposal last year. We anticipate, in addition, formally reopening the comment period on our initial proposal so that we can hear further from market participants in light of the international release.

Cross-border Application of Swaps Market Reforms

Though what I've reviewed so far may have been of interest, I guess that Rich and Sally Miller invited me here today mostly to tell you how reforms will affect those of you in the international banking community.

Section 722(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act, states that swaps reforms shall not apply to activities outside the United States unless those activities have “a direct and significant connection with activities in, or effect on, commerce of the United States.”

The CFTC plans to soon put out to public comment our interpretation and related guidance on this provision to get public feedback, including from your members.

Let me touch upon how it relates to U.S. financial institutions, and then discuss how it relates to international institutions.

Recent events at JPMorgan Chase are a stark reminder of how swaps traded overseas can quickly reverberate with losses coming back into the United States.

We've seen this movie before. Financial institutions set up hundreds, if not thousands of legal entities around the globe. During a default or crisis, risk of overseas' branches and affiliates inevitably flows back into the United States.

We saw this with AIG.

We saw this with Lehman Brothers. Among Lehman Brothers’ complex web of affiliates was Lehman Brothers International (Europe) in London. When Lehman failed, this London affiliate, with more than 130,000 outstanding swaps contracts, failed as well. Who stood behind these swaps contracts? The U.S. mother ship, Lehman Brothers Holdings, had guaranteed many of them.

We saw this with Citigroup. It set up numerous structured investment vehicles (SIVs) to move positions off its balance sheet for accounting purposes, as well as to lower its regulatory capital requirements. Yet, Citigroup had guaranteed the funding of these SIVs through a mechanism called a liquidity put. When the SIVs were about to fail, Citigroup in the United States assumed the huge debt, and taxpayers later bore the brunt with two multi-billion dollar infusions. And where were these SIVs set up? They were launched out of London and incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

We saw this with Bear Stearns. Its two sinking hedge funds it bailed out in 2007 were incorporated in the Cayman Islands. Yet again, the public assumed part of the burden when Bear Stearns itself collapsed nine months later.

And remember Long-Term Capital Management? When this hedge fund failed in 1998, its swaps book totaled in excess of $1.2 trillion notional. The vast majority were booked in its affiliated partnership… in the Cayman Islands.

There are some in the financial community who want us to ignore these hard lessons of past financial institution failures.

They might tell you that swap trades booked in London branches of U.S. entities shouldn't be brought under Dodd-Frank reform.

They might tell you that affiliates, even when guaranteed by the mother ship back here in the United States, shouldn't come under Dodd-Frank reform.

They might tell you that affiliates acting as conduits for swaps activity back here shouldn't be brought under Dodd-Frank reform.

If we follow their comments, the result would be that American jobs and markets would move offshore, but, particularly in times of crisis, risk would come back to affect our economy.

So what has the CFTC staff recommended to the Commission?

First, when a foreign entity transacts in more than a de minimis level of U.S. swap dealing activity, the entity would register under the CFTC’s swap dealer registration rules.

Second, the staff recommendation includes a tiered approach for overseas swap dealer requirements. This is largely consistent with comments received from major international swap dealers. Some requirements would be considered entity-level, such as for capital, risk management, recordkeeping and reporting to swap data repositories (SDRs). Some requirements would be considered transaction-level, such as clearing, margin, real-time public reporting, trade execution and sales practices.

Third, entity-level requirements would apply to all registered swap dealers, but in certain circumstances, overseas swap dealers could meet these requirements by complying with comparable and comprehensive foreign regulatory requirements, or what we call “substituted compliance.”

Fourth, transaction-level requirements would apply to all U.S. facing transactions. For these requirements, U.S. facing transactions would include not only transactions with persons or entities operating or incorporated in the United States, but also transactions with their overseas branches. Likewise, this would include transactions with overseas affiliates that are guaranteed by a U.S. entity, as well as the overseas affiliates operating as conduits for a U.S. entity’s swap activity.

Fifth, for certain transactions between an overseas swap dealer (including a foreign swap dealer that is an affiliate of a U.S. person) and counterparties not guaranteed by or operating as conduits for U.S. entities, Dodd-Frank transaction-level requirements may not apply. For example, this would be the case for a transaction between a foreign swap dealer and a foreign insurance company not guaranteed by a U.S. person.

What does this mean for your membership?

So it means that if a legal entity has over $8 billion in market making swaps activity with U.S. market participants, it should be preparing to register as a swap dealer. For foreign financial institutions, swaps with U.S. persons or their overseas branches would count toward the de minimis threshold. In the midst of a default or a crisis, there is no satisfactory way to really separate the risk posed to a branch from being transmitted to its parent bank.

Swap dealer registration will be required two months after we finalize with the SEC the joint rule further defining the term "swap." The further definition rule is now before Commissioners at both agencies.

It means the entity would have to comply with the various Dodd-Frank provisions applicable to swap dealers, though in certain cases, this may be done through substituted compliance.

In addition to the interpretive guidance, the CFTC also is considering a release on phased compliance for foreign swap dealers. The separate release addresses comments from international and U.S. market participants. For overseas swap dealers that register with the CFTC, the release provides for phased compliance in the following manner:

Compliance with transaction-level requirements with U.S. persons and branches of U.S. persons would be required;

Entity-level requirements (other than reporting to SDRs) that might come under substituted compliance may be delayed for up to one year. During that time, the CFTC would be moving to complete the cross-border interpretive guidance and would work with market participants and foreign regulators on plans for substituted compliance; and

For overseas swap dealers, swap transactions with U.S. persons and branches of U.S. persons would be required to be reported to a SDR (or the CFTC).

The CFTC has had a long history of recognizing comparable regulations of foreign regimes. We have entered into numerous memoranda of understanding on both information sharing and supervisory coordination with our international counterparts with regard to foreign clearinghouses, exchanges and intermediaries.

Conclusion

The 2008 crisis – caused in part by swaps – was the worst financial and economic crisis Americans have experienced since the Great Depression. Eight million Americans lost their jobs, and millions of families lost their homes.

The crisis was a failure of the financial system and of financial regulation. The high levels of debt and excessive risk that contributed to the crisis continue to reverberate in Europe and the United States.

The CFTC is well over halfway to finishing critical swaps market reforms bringing transparency to this market and lowering its risk to the public. We’ve taken into account more than 30,000 comment letters, held 1,600 meetings with the public and hosted 18 roundtables. But now it's time to finish the job.

Some in the financial community have suggested that we retreat from these critical reforms. But the ever-growing financial storm clouds hanging over Europe and the lessons from the U.S. financial crisis should guide us that now is not the time to retreat from reform. Now is the time to promote transparency and protect the public.

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