Spot FX volumes drop in May as Brexit vote looms

Tue Jun 7, 2016 4:51am EDT
 
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LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) - Daily spot trading volumes on the biggest currency trading platforms run by Thomson Reuters and ICAP continued to fall in May, extending a downward trend seen in recent months, according to figures the companies published.

Senior industry officials have cited uncertainty ahead of Britain's vote on whether to stay in the European Union as one of the reasons for a recent drop in volumes and a drying up of liquidity. Daily volumes have also been hurt by regulatory changes that have crimped banks' risk-taking ability, and by lower global trade flows.

Spot currency trading volume on TR platforms, the leader in Commonwealth currencies like sterling, Australia and New Zealand's dollars , totalled $94 billion, down from $97 billion in April and nearly 15 percent lower than the $110 billion seen in May last year.

ICAP said daily volumes on its electronic platform EBS, where the bulk of the trades in the dollar, the yen and the euro are carried out, was down 21 percent in May from a year ago, at $75.7 billion.

Total foreign exchange trading volume across TR platforms, including forwards, swaps, options and non-deliverable forwards (NDFs), fell to $347 billion a day from $353 billion in the same month last year. On the month, total volumes were also lower.

The electronic currency-trading platforms are hoping volumes will pick up after Britain's vote on the EU on June 23, and history suggests that could happen. Volumes rebounded after a September 2014 referendum on independence for Scotland, amid sharp price swings and palpable relief that the vote was out of the way.

More volatility usually boosts volumes, boding well for banks and traders who make money during sharp moves. Six months after the Scottish referendum, volumes peaked at $5.4 trillion a day following the Swiss National Bank's sudden removal of its cap on the Swiss franc in January 2015, up from $4.9 trillion. (Reporting by Anirban Nag)