Lesson 5: Forex Market Participants 1: Central Banks
Lesson 5: Forex Market Participants 1: Central Banks
In our last lesson we looked at how the advent of online trading platforms has begun to level the playing field for individual traders, allowing a much greater access to favorable pricing than was previously available. In today’s lesson we are going to continue our discussion on the structure of the FX market, with a look at who the different players in the market are and how the motives of each affect us as individual traders.
While the 10 largest banks which make up the forex Interbank market account for over 75% of the over $3 Trillion in daily trading volume, there is actually a level of participants with even more clout in the market. While generally no where near as active as the banks just mentioned, the Central Banks of countries also participate in the forex market, and as they have such deep pockets, have huge clout when they decide to enter the market.
There are two main reasons why a central bank would participate in the forex market which are:
1. To fix the value of its currency to a particular level: Unlike the main currencies which we are going to be focusing on in this course, the currencies of many developing countries are fixed in value to the dollar or to some other currency or basket of currencies. This is done to try and promote international competitiveness in the market and a currency environment that is more conducive to economic stability.
Probably the most talked about example of a country that does this is China who up until recently maintained a fixed value of their currency against the US Dollar. A central bank normally accomplishes this by buying their own currency when the value gets too weak creating more demand for the currency and therefore driving the value up, and selling their own currency when it gets to strong creating a greater supply of that currency and therefore lowering its value back to the desired level.
2. To protect the value of a floating currency from extreme movements: Unlike China and many other developing economies in the world, the US, The Euro Zone, Japan and the other major economies of the world have what is known as a floating exchange rate. Very simply what this means is that instead of having the value of the currency pegged to something else which therefore determines its value, the value of the currency is determined by market forces.
Although the values of these currencies float freely in the market most of the time, as a currency’s strength or weakness in the market has such a dramatic affect on a country’s international competitiveness, there are rare instances where a central bank will intervene in the market even with the major currencies. Normally this is only seen after large one directional moves in the market over a long period of time, to the point where the country’s stability or competitiveness is being severely damaged. As Japan’s economy relies heavily on exports the most notorious central bank for interventions is the Bank of Japan, however both the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve have intervened in the currency markets in the pasts.
While some interventions have limited affect on exchange rates others, as you can see from the chart here of a past Bank of Japan intervention, can have a dramatic affect on the market.
Because of this often times a central bank can do what is termed a verbal intervention, where simply the talk of intervention is enough to have the desired affect on the market.
That’s our lesson for today, In tomorrow’s lesson we will look at the next level of participants in the market and how they affect us as individual traders, so we hope to see you in that lesson.
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20 Feb Mon
00:00 US- Holiday 21 Feb Tue
All Day flash PMIs 22 Feb Wed
09:00 DE- IFO Survey
09:30 GB- GDP
10:00 EZ- Final HICP
13:30 CA- Retail Sales
15:00 US- Existing Homes Sales
19:00 US- Fed Policy Minutes
20:30 US- API Crude 23 Feb Thu
13:30 US- Weekly Jobless
14:45 US- flash Service PMI 24 Feb Fri
13:30 CA- CPI
15:00 US- New Homes Sales
15:00 US- final Univ of Mich Survey
Odds are Monday will ba a subdued trading session with no major data slated and U.S. markets closed for the President' Day holiday. Key data are due over the week with the first round of PMI releases (flash) along with the German IFO Survey. These tend to be important items for analyst but not as much so for the markets in terms of price fluctuations.
As for where the forex markets are headed, my focus is on market sentiment vis-a-vis economic growth in the U.S. The Fed appears to be embarking on a policy "normalization" path starting with a rate hike on March 15. Market odds on a hike are only 38%. Traders simply don't believe the Fed has the courage to go through with a rate hike. For Yellen to have any future credibility she should hike rates. I'm not sure what this Fed is made of. A 25bp rate hike will not decimate the economy. We will see.
I feel that equity markets are currently of two minds about U.S. economic growth. They are hopeful that the new U.S. administration will be able to come through with its promises, primarily a significant tax cut. However, the establishment opposition (in both parties) are doing all they can to sabotage and obstruct major reform. They have a lot to lose. In addition to tax reform, Obamacare is a quagmire. It is a financial disaster that is going to be nearly impossible to fix in the short run. Whether it all can be fixed will depend on how well Trump delegates power and on how strong his Cabinet will be.
So the equity markets are of two minds. One is optimistic about growth and the second is pessimistic that major change will sabotaged by the establishment. The USD will be suported by positive prospects for growth and undermined by fears of no change.
As of late Friday Fed Funds futures odds for a March Fed rate hike were 38% (44%). Markets now place the odds for rate hikes by June at 112% (12%). That is 100% for one hike (March?) plus 12% for a second move.
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