How London's gold and silver price benchmarks are "fixed"

Fri Jan 17, 2014 12:24pm EST
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* Five 'fixing' banks for gold reduced to four

* Market benchmarks being reviewed in wake of Libor affair

By Jan Harvey and Veronica Brown

LONDON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - European regulators including Germany's Bafin are looking more closely at how banks set benchmarks such as the twice-daily spot gold price fix after the Libor rigging scandal exposed widespread interest rate manipulation.

Deutsche Bank said on Friday it was pulling out of the group of banks that set the benchmarks for gold and silver prices after London's century-old price-setting process, known as 'fixing', came under increased scrutiny last year.

Allegations that currencies and precious metals are being manipulated are particularly serious, Bafin President Elke Koenig said on Thursday, because such reference values are typically based on real transactions in liquid markets, and not on estimates of the banks such as for LIBOR and Euribor.

"It's understandable that this topic is making big waves," she said in a speech. "Markets depend on the trust of the wider public that they are performing and that they work honestly."

Bafin declined to comment on Deutsche Bank's decision to leave the gold fix. The Financial Times reported in December, citing sources, that the regulator demanded documents from Deutsche Bank as part of a probe into suspected manipulation by banks of benchmark gold and silver prices.

A source close to Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the regulator was doing a lot of work on all benchmarks, including commodity benchmarks and gold. "So there is a renewed regulatory focus on that," the source said.   Continued...