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FX volumes: Damned lies and statistics

Ostensibly, the latest data from the CME, Icap and CLS suggests that the fall off in volumes seen in December may be more than just a cyclical development.

The CME reports that its daily FX turnover averaged 460,000 contracts in January, down 23 percent from a year previously. Icap’s figures look even grimmer. The average daily turnover on its EBS platform fell by 37 percent to $149.1 billion.

Further evidence of a slowdown comes from CLS. The utility saw a 7 percent increase in volume to 515,237 instructions on an annualized basis, but the value of the business settled fell by 25 percent.

The figures reinforce what many market participants have been saying for a while – that liquidity has got shallow on the leading portals. But a degree of caution needs to be expressed before it is assumed that the FX bubble has burst. Although sources at several leading Euromoney banks have admitted they have also seen a fall off in their volumes, they also suggest that it is not in the same magnitude as the decline seen by the CME or EBS.

Clearly the market has changed; as a result many players have scaled back their risk. But to an extent, this is potentially made up for by the increase in volatility, at least for those who have either the tools or expertise to capitalise.

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