Are FX markets playing crazy?

25 March 2015
Juan Colon

More than 2 months after the SNB bloodbath, things should be returning to “normal” in FX markets… but are they?

Is last week’s 1-day dip then re-bound in the EURUSD ¨normal¨? How about the speed with which the USD approaches EUR?

FX Volatility

FXVolatility

The 6 USD TRN a day FX behemoth now seems jumpier than equity markets, and that’s not “normal”.

What if these are not freak-events, but the tail of a volatility wave?

How about bond markets?

Surely things ought to be more rationale in less speculative parts of town?

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Yes, the Greek tragedy will unfold. Surely that’s part of it. But Greece is a small-ish fish in the bigger pond – it really seems as though the rest of the pond is moving too.

Bi-polar trading, anyone?

The underlying theme is interest rate expectations. No-one, least of all the Fed, really knows how the Fed will tighten US interest rates. Similarly, with QE just starting and the ECB entering unknown territory, no-one really knows where the Euro economy is headed, one month before a major milestone for Greece (and the Euro), etc.

With more than your fair share of macro-economic unknowns, who’s surprised by volatilities spiking? Plus traders take sides: check EUR-USD positioning.

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That’s the kind of psychology that delivers (and follows) 22% value gain by the dollar vs. the US main commercial counterparts. It’s not happened in the last 40 years, but you can’t rule out it all happening again next year!

This is NOT a video-game on a trading screen. EURUSD has direct impact on absolute and relative global GDP growth (how import crazy will the US go?), debt servicing costs, commodity prices, etc. etc. This is a recurring them on the Financial Times in the next  3-5 years.

Implications for brokers and independent traders

Volatility is different things to different pockets. When it spikes, institutional money (focus: return OF capital) typically retreats into risk minimisation mode. To speculative money (focus: return ON capital)  this as a boon, the kind of environment to quickly build (and burn, and build again) a great reputation.

FX mean reversion is gone for now. “Hold on and recover when the ebb flows” can get any market making b-book broker out of a hole in normal conditions, but a client B-book over-exposed one way or the other could well be deadly now. Smart b-bookers will a-book more… passing the hot cookie to their LPs.

Problem is: how much risk appetite do they have post SNB? Established LPs may (partially or totally) withdraw as volatility mounts. Flows will perhaps land with less established LPs keener to pick coins in front of steam trains than the big boys.

Altogether, spreads ought to widen for the foreseeable future… which brings us to the implications for traders.

If you haven’t learnt the lesson yet, now is the time.

  • Investor capital is your ONLY viable business model.  You’re likelier to turn 3k into a million by playing the lottery than by trading your own capital with leverage.
  • Adjust your leverage. A 1:1 leverage EURUSD trade today is 2+ times riskier than 3 or 4 months ago.
  • That’s if you consider “average” moments. Spikes could well be significantly larger!
  • Do not trade with unregulated or lightly regulated broker-dealers.
  • Check not only your broker’s solvency, but their liquidity providers’.

Darwinex

It always pays to be an FCA regulated. As does offering FSCS protection up to 50.000 GBP and only offering liquid instruments on a 100% non-market making, pure broker basis.

Plus, this is a great learning opportunity for DARWIN risk management algorithms. Several extreme events in such a short time feed the event data-base, update risk policies and sharpen management scenarios. And with FX volatility making the headlines on a regular basis, expect new entrants into the market – which is not a bad thing.

Time to upgrade your trading?