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The CHF blood bath, explained

17 January 2015

48 hours into the CHF debacle, it’s always healthy to carry out some post-mortem analysis to learn the lessons of why it happened, and what we could have been done to weather it better.

Since we’ve done it, why not share it?

The macro-story: Black-Wednesday, redux

What happened is crystal-clear with the benefit of hindsight (as it always is).

The CHF is a currency safe-haven, albeit a rather illiquid one, since it’s only backed by a tiny and financially hypertrophic economy. Ever since the EUR crisis, everyone and their mother placed some of their safety net in CHF – so much so that the Swiss National Bank was forced to ¨intervene¨ to keep the level at 1.20 to the EUR.

The intervention mechanism was: whoever bought CHF close to 1.20 sold to one counterparty, and one counterparty alone – the SNB. In broker parlance, the SNB became the daddy of all market makers by being the only player in the market with “unlimited” access to CHF close to the 1.20 EUR/CHF cliff. This filled the balance sheet of the SNB with foreign currency reserves… above all with a boatload of EUR, for EUR area is the Swiss’ primary commercial partner and the home currency of nervous europeans who by now trust neither their “unbreakable” currency, nor their tax-agency (the latter being food for another post).

With the EUR crisis on its way back (it has never really left…), the EUR has gone on free-fall, and EUR reserves were drilling the daddy of all P&L hits in the SNB balance sheet. That was before Herr Jordan got Mario’s phone call kindly announcing QE. Herr Jordan’s press conference is (financial) history being written as we speak.

Black Wednesday on September 16th, 1992, George Soros hit the headlines. Actually, he didn’t until after the dust had settled.

On the January 15th Donnerstagsdebakel (made this up, but it’s fitting for Thursday is the day of Thor and Thunder, depending on the language you choose), someone else hit the Jackpot.

We don’t know the name of the winner yet: journalists are still chasing around for a name and a photo to head their scoop… but if you want an outline of his likely background, read on.

The (retail) micro-story: Dancing on a cliff

We (traders, brokers, broker-dealers, and dealers) went about our business, nonplussed.

Traders saw juicy price-action dynamics at that level, and brokers readily offered (leveraged!) trading access to the CHF. Again with hindsight, everyone was dancing on a cliff… not wondering too much what would happen if (actually, when) Hoover Dam fell.

Dancing-on-Glacier-Point-03

So far, all pretty standard, really.

The interesting (and sad) bit, and the one that has received the least early attention is that the Fall affected brokers (A-Book) and dealers (B-Book) in tragically different ways – just as you’d expect it, for brokers trade with customers and dealers trade against them.

This effect IS news, because what went belly up on Thursday is the capillary over-the-counter (OTC) system of broker-dealers that makes currencies flow world-wide.

a-book, aka involuntary (unprepared!) contingent market makers

The moment the previous market maker (the SNB) went on strike, Hover Dam fell and sent the EUR on free-fall against the CHF – which called the next market makers to action: customers short the CHF and their collateral posted with their agency-only brokers and Prime Brokers (we’re pure A-Book).

Once that was exhausted (the higher the leverage offered, the quicker), brokers’s and Prime Brokers’ stop-losses triggered, but there was no market, so the margin we had posted with our Prime Brokers was the market. We, a-book brokers became involuntary (and ill equipped) market makers of last resort, not against our retail customers, but our wholesale counterparties.

Technically we ran no risk since actually it was our customers shorting the CHF who got smacked. In practice, FXCM (and others!) now know better: you can’t hire an army of lawyers to track thousands of micro-debts because each debt is smaller than 30 min of lawyer fees.

So there you go.

If you’re looking for victims, you’ll find more than your fair share in the lines of pure agency Brokers and Prime-Brokers who catalysed spot foreign exchange flows between macro (Tier 1 Banks and Central Banks)market makers and micro (Hedge-Funds, retail traders, Tier 2 institutions) price takers.

b-book, unregulated retail bucket shops

The retail spot forex trading arena contains close to 1000 unregulated, undercapitalised, over-levered retail dealers (= bucket shops) who make markets against FX punters.

(How or why they are allowed to invest massive amounts into advertising to earn business in regulated markets escapes our understanding, but that’s for another blog post.)

More to the point, how did they fare? Just fine, thank you.

They kept the deposits of those short the CHF, as they always do – and they didn’t have any losses with wholesale counterparties to match (all they do is trade against customers, remember?).

So how about the winners? You can bet that many of those outfits will keep the P&L of winning customers (there was no market, re-quotes, blah-blah), as they always do. That’s when operating an unregulated casino comes in particularly handy.

So there you go.

If you’re looking for more victims, go find would have been genius… who discovered a tad too late that trading with an unregulated bucket shop is a variation on the age old “heads I win, tails, you lose” coin toss.

They could have been George Soros, but learnt the concept of counterparty risk instead.

Darwinex

We came out of this just fine, mainly because we did most things right, and partially because we were lucky.

What we did right was to anticipate the on-exchange move. We have been clearing all our flow with LMAX (a MiFID regulated MTF), partially because we think that there’s too much information asymmetry in OTC forex, partially because Exchanges facilitate clearing and settlement (go ask Saxo customers being re-quoted on their CHF trades), and generally because we think that on Exchange is the proper way of doing things.

We had minimal CHF exposure, both in absolute terms and in relative terms both to the bulk of our business and our capital base. We weren’t watching much (there was no need), took a tiny hit. 3-quarters design, 1 quarter luck, bottom line is we came out just fine, and a lot of our users are now migrating incremental funds to us, which is a great honor.

All in, this was the cheapest life-saving lesson we will ever learn. And you bet we’ve learnt it.

The road from here

It was probably going to happen, and the regulators were probably looking for a justification… and now they’ve got it.

The Spot currency exchange market is the biggest OTC market in the world. Because it’s also the oldest, it stayed OTC way after technology and common sense recommended the move on exchange. What held that back was the mess of having to put in place an alternative to the network of broker-dealers that kept currencies flowing, unknown to the general public and most of even informed people in finance . It was clunky alright, but it worked.

If anything blew last Thursday, it was the very internal pipes that kept the OTC foreign exchange market flowing. Tens of legitimate financial outfits will spend some time working out just how much they lost… others are simply gone. With the pipes gone, the regulatory ought to do do has become an urgency must do

If you have an opportunity to invest into a Multi-Lateral Trading facility that clears foreign currency, you can bet they’re going to be faceless big time winners of this, alongside the next George Soros. We, for one, have been trading with one because this bit we did see coming.

Last News

Trading Hours for US Presidents’ Day on 18th February 2019

12 February 2019

Please note that the following trading hours will apply on Monday 18th February 2019.

Please note that the following trading hours will apply on Monday 18th February 2019. All times are in GMT+0 (London) time.

Commodities   Monday 18th Febuary 2019
Gold 23:01 Sun – 18:00 Mon
Silver 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
Platinum 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
Palladium 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
US Crude 23:00 Sun – 17:45 Mon
US Natural Gas 23:00 Sun – 17:45 Mon
Indices
J225 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
SPX500 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
NDX 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
WS30 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
US Stocks
All US stocks CLOSED

 


The rest of the assets will trade according to their usual trading time.

As always, at info@darwinex.com we’ll be happy to assist you!

Trading Hours On Australia Day on 28th January 2019

22 January 2019

Please note that the following trading hour will apply to the AUS200 asset on Monday 28th January 2019 due to Australia Day.

Please note that the following trading hours will apply on Monday 28th January 2019. Times in GMT+0 (London) time.


 

Indices  Monday 28th January 2019
AUS200 06:10 – 22:00

 


The rest of the assets will trade according to their usual trading time.

As always, at info@darwinex.com we’ll be happy to assist you!

Trading Hours for the US Martin Luther King Day on 21st January 2019

15 January 2019

Please note that the following trading hours will apply on Monday 21st January 2019. All times are in GMT+0 (London) time. Commodities   Monday 21st January 2019 Gold 23:01 Sun – 18:00 Mon Silver 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon Platinum 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon Palladium 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon US Crude 23:00 Sun – 17:45 […]

Please note that the following trading hours will apply on Monday 21st January 2019. All times are in GMT+0 (London) time.

Commodities   Monday 21st January 2019
Gold 23:01 Sun – 18:00 Mon
Silver 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
Platinum 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
Palladium 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
US Crude 23:00 Sun – 17:45 Mon
US Natural Gas 23:00 Sun – 17:45 Mon
Indices
J225 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
SPX500 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
NDX 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon
WS30 23:00 Sun – 18:00 Mon

 


The rest of the assets will trade according to their usual trading time.

As always, at info@darwinex.com we’ll be happy to assist you!

Navidad

Darwinex Trading Hours for the 2018 Christmas & New Year Holiday Period

18 December 2018

Christmas is around the corner! Please find below the Darwinex Trading Schedule for the 2018 Christmas and New Year Holiday Period (all times are displayed in UK time and changes to regular trading hours are highlighted in red). Also note that during the Cristmas and New Year holiday period spreads may widen and swaps may […]

Christmas is around the corner!

Please find below the Darwinex Trading Schedule for the 2018 Christmas and New Year Holiday Period (all times are displayed in UK time and changes to regular trading hours are highlighted in red).

Also note that during the Cristmas and New Year holiday period spreads may widen and swaps may be affected by the ‘turn’ effect. The ‘turn’ effect is a phenomenon that exists in financial markets which is caused by supply and demand for funding over key dates such as year or quarter-end. This can create anomalies in the forward curves for certain currencies, and we are already beginning to see this priced into the year-end swap points that we receive from our liquidity providers.

Christmas 2018

DARWINs Monday 24th December Tuesday 25th December Wednesday 26th December
All DARWINs 22:05 Sun – 18:45 Mon Closed 22:05 Tue – 21:59 Wed
FX Monday 24th December Tuesday 25th December Wednesday 26th December
All FX Instruments 22:05 Sun – 18:45 Mon Closed 22:01:01 Tue – 21:59:50 Wed
Commodities Monday 24th December Tuesday 25th December Wednesday 26th December
Gold 23:01 Sun – 18:45 Mon Closed 23:01 Tue – 21:59 Wed
Silver 23:00 Sun – 18:45 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 21:50:50 Wed
Platinum 23:00 Sun – 18:45 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
Palladium 23:00 Sun – 18:45 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
US Crude 23:00 Sun – 18:30 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
US Natural Gas 23:00 Sun – 18:30 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
Indices Monday 24th December Tuesday 25th December Wednesday 26th December
AUS200 23:00 Sun – 03:30 Mon Closed Closed
STOXX50E Closed Closed Closed
FCHI40 23:00 Sun – 13:00 Mon Closed Closed
GDAXI Closed Closed Closed
J225 23:00 Sun – 18:15 Mon Closed Closed
SPA35 07:00 – 13:00 Closed Closed
UK100 23:00 Sun – 12:50 Mon Closed Closed
SPX500 23:00 Sun – 18:15 Mon Closed Closed
NDX 23:00 Sun – 18:15 Mon Closed Closed
WS30 23:00 Sun – 18:15 Mon Closed Closed
US Stocks Monday 24th December Tuesday 25th December Wednesday 26th December
All US stocks 14:31 – 17:59 Closed 14:31 – 20:59
Crypto Monday 24th December Tuesday 25th December Wednesday 26th December
All Crypto Instruments 22:05 Sun – 22:00 Mon 22:05 Mon – 22:00 Tue 22:05 Tue – 22:00 Wed


New Year 2019

DARWINs Monday 31st December Tuesday 1st January Wednesday 2nd January
All DARWINs 22:05 Sun – 21:59 Mon Closed 22:05 Tue – 21:59 Wed
FX Monday 31st December Tuesday 1st January Wednesday 2nd January
All FX Instruments 22:05 Sun – 21:59:50 Mon Closed 22:01:01 Tue – 21:59:50 Wed
Commodities Monday 31st December Tuesday 1st January Wednesday 2nd January
Gold 23:01 Sun – 21:59 Mon Closed 23:01 Tue – 21:59 Wed
Silver 23:00 Sun – 21:59:50 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 21:50:50 Wed
Platinum 23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
Palladium 23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
US Crude 23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
US Natural Gas 23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
Indices Monday 31st December Tuesday 1st January Wednesday 2nd January
AUS200 23:00 Sun – 03:30 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
STOXX50E Closed Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
FCHI40 23:00 Sun – 13:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
GDAXI Closed Closed 07:00 – 21:00
J225 23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
SPA35 07:00 – 13:00 Closed 07:00 – 19:00
UK100 23:00 Sun – 12:50 Mon Closed Closed
SPX500 23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
NDX 23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
WS30 23:00 Sun – 22:00 Mon Closed 23:00 Tue – 22:00 Wed
US Stocks Monday 31st December Tuesday 1st January Wednesday 2nd January
All US stocks 14:31 – 20:59 Closed 14:31 – 20:59
Crypto Monday 31st December Tuesday 1st January Wednesday 2nd January
All Crypto Instruments 22:05 Sun – 22:00 Mon 22:05 Mon – 22:00 Tue 22:05 Tue – 22:00 Wed

 


As always, if you have any queries, please feel free to contact us at info@darwinex.com.

The Darwinex Team wishes you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

apalancamiento esma

UK Parliament Vote on EU Withdrawal Bill (11 December 2018)

9 December 2018

We would like to remind you that the UK Parliament will vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill on 11th December 2018. There is a high degree of uncertainty as to the outcome of the vote and all GBP currency crosses are likely to experience significant volatility with increased risk of market gaps. It is important that you […]

We would like to remind you that the UK Parliament will vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill on 11th December 2018.

There is a high degree of uncertainty as to the outcome of the vote and all GBP currency crosses are likely to experience significant volatility with increased risk of market gaps.

It is important that you have sufficient margin coverage and are comfortable with the exposure on your account as our margin requirements may change going into the vote or depending on the outcome of the vote.

Please feel free to contact us at info@darwinex.com should you need assistance in this regard.

Amended Trading Hours US National Day of Mourning on December 5th 2018

4 December 2018

Please note the amended Darwinex trading hours for the upcoming US National Day of Mourning on December 5th 2018. All times are in UK (GMT+0) time.    Instrument December 5th 2018  INDICES    US SPX 500 23:00 Tue – 14:45 Wed  US Tech 100 23:00 Tue – 14:45 Wed Wall Street 30 23:00 Tue – 14:45 Wed […]

Please note the amended Darwinex trading hours for the upcoming US National Day of Mourning on December 5th 2018. All times are in UK (GMT+0) time.


 

 Instrument December 5th 2018
 INDICES  
 US SPX 500 23:00 Tue – 14:45 Wed
 US Tech 100 23:00 Tue – 14:45 Wed
Wall Street 30 23:00 Tue – 14:45 Wed
 STOCKS  
US Stocks CLOSED

 


The rest of the assets will trade according to their usual trading time. As always, at info@darwinex.com we’ll be happy to assist you!

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