Category Archives: FOREX

CFTC Charges Former Hawaii Resident in Forex and Futures Ponzi Scheme

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission today filed a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii against Gregory Demetrius Bryant, Jr., formerly of Hawaii, for fraudulent solicitation, misappropriation, operation of an unlawful commodity pool, and failure to register with the CFTC.

According to the complaint, Bryant fraudulently solicited approximately $426,000 from at least 35 participants for pooled futures and foreign currency (forex) trading—misappropriating at least $356,000 to pay personal expenses, including international travel, shopping, and rent, as well as at least $66,000 to make Ponzi payments to conceal and further his fraudulent scheme.

Case Background

The complaint alleges that since approximately September 2016 through at least June 2020, Bryant—while using the alias “Gregory Surrey England,” purported president of the nonexistent company “Surrey Libor Capital, LLC”—falsely guaranteed monthly futures and forex trading returns of $6,000 to $8,000 in some instances and 60 percent to 80 percent in other instances. It is further alleged that Bryant made numerous false statements to prospective and current pool participants about his trading experience, his trading success, and being registered with the National Futures Association. According to the complaint, Bryant also failed to tell pool participants that he was a convicted criminal with a history of financial problems, including three bankruptcies.

Rather than trade futures and forex as he represented in his solicitations, Bryant, as alleged, misappropriated the vast majority of pool funds for personal expenses and to make purported “returns” to pool participants. Bryant further concealed his fraud and misappropriation of pool participants’ funds by falsely telling them their accounts were “in great shape,” to expect returns or disbursements soon, and/or that his business was being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks restitution, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, permanent trading and registration bans, and a permanent injunction against further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC regulations, as charged.

The CFTC acknowledges and thanks the National Futures Association, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii for their assistance.

The Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Elsie Robinson, Rachel Hayes, Jenny Chapin, Jeff Le Riche, Christopher Reed, Charles Marvine, and former staff member Jo Mettenburg.

CFTC’s Commodity Pool and Forex Fraud Advisories

The CFTC has issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud, including the Commodity Pool Fraud Advisory and the Forex Fraud Advisory, which alert customers these types of fraud and list simple ways to spot them.

The CFTC also strongly urges the public to verify a company’s or individual’s registration with the CFTC before committing funds. If unregistered, a customer should be wary of providing funds to that company or individual. A company’s or individual’s registration status can be found using NFA BASIC.

Customers and other individuals can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the Division of Enforcement via a toll-free hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382), file a tip or complaint online, or contact the Whistleblower Office. Whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 10 and 30 percent of the monetary sanctions collected paid from the Customer Protection Fund financed through monetary sanctions paid to the CFTC by violators of the CEA. 

Guy Debelle: The FX Global Code

Speech by Mr Guy Debelle, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, at Tradetech FX EU, Hybrid Conference, 8 September 2021

Thanks to Matt Boge for his incredible assistance over my term as Chair, as well as Grigoria Christodoulou and the other members of the GFXC Secretariat.

Tonight I will talk about the recently completed review and update of the FX Global Code. The updated Code was released on 15 July.1 Tonight I will remind you about the important role the Code plays in the foreign exchange (FX) market. I will summarise the parts of the Code that have been updated and talk about the accompanying papers on pre-hedging and last look.

FX Global Code

The FX Global Code was launched in May 2017. It was a direct and important response to the lack of trust the foreign exchange industry had been suffering on the back of a number of instances of misconduct in the market and the associated multi-billion dollar fines. This lack of trust was evident both between participants in the market and, at least as importantly, between the public and the market. The lack of trust was impairing market functioning. The market needed to move towards a more favourable and desirable location, and allow participants to have much greater confidence that the market is functioning appropriately.

It is also important to remember what the alternative was in the aftermath of the scandals. There was a decent chance authorities could conclude that a substantial regulatory response was necessary to generate the desired improvement in market structure and conduct. But the Code provided the opportunity for the FX market to address the lack of trust and market dysfunction.

The Code was developed through a public sector–private sector partnership. It was a joint effort of central banks and market participants drawn from all parts of the markets: from the buy side, including corporates and asset managers, and the sell side, along with trading platforms, ECNs and non-bank participants. The membership was also from all around the world, drawing from the various Foreign Exchange Committees (FXCs) across the globe comprising all the top 15 FX markets by turnover, both advanced and emerging markets. The Global Foreign Exchange Committee (GFXC) that maintains the Code has since expanded to 20 members.

The Code set out global principles of good practice in the FX market to provide a common set of guidance to the market. The 55 principles in the Code cover ethics, information sharing, aspects of execution including e-trading and platforms, prime brokerage, governance, risk management and compliance, and confirmation and settlement.

The Code is principles-based rather than rules-based. There are a number of reasons why this is so but, for me, an important reason is that the more prescriptive the Code, the easier it is to get around. Rules are easier to arbitrage than principles. The more prescriptive and the more precise the Code, the less people will think about what they are doing. If it’s principles-based and less prescriptive then market participants will have to think about whether their actions are consistent with the principles of the Code.

The Code is not a procedures manual. Rather, the Code articulates principles that need to be taken into account. Individual firms may then take these principles and reflect them in their own procedures manuals. Our aim in setting out these principles is to provide market participants with the framework in which to think about how they, for example, handle their orders. The emphasis here is very much on the word ‘think’.

These principles of good practice have helped to restore confidence and promote the effective functioning of the wholesale FX market. In my view, the FX market is in a better place than it was a few years ago. That is confirmed by surveys of market participants too, including the one conducted by the GFXC a couple of years ago.

The Code has also been adopted by a number of securities regulators round the world as the primary reference for their oversight of the FX market, including in the UK, in China and in my own market Australia.

When we launched the Code, it was agreed that the Code would be reviewed by the GFXC every three years to ensure it remained appropriate and to also ensure it stayed current with the ongoing evolution of the FX market.

Hence, around two years ago, the GFXC surveyed market participants to assess what areas of the Code needed to be reviewed.2 The primary response of market participants was that the Code remained fit for purpose and changes should only be made as necessary. The strong guidance was that changes to the Code should be contained to a few areas. The GFXC identified a few key areas requiring review to ensure that the Code continues to provide appropriate guidance and contributes to an effectively functioning market, and remains in step with the evolution of the market.3 The GFXC also saw the opportunity to provide greater consistency and usability in disclosures.

Over the past 18 months, various working groups of the GFXC, drawing on a diverse group of market participants and central banks, have been working on the review. The proposed updates to the Code have been through a number of rounds of feedback with market participants through the FXCs round the world, as well as a public feedback process. I would like to thank the broad range of market participants who provided us with feedback. I would particularly like to thank the working groups for their hard work, especially given the challenging environment of the pandemic.

The Review of the Code

Following this process of review and consultation with industry, the GFXC has published the updated version of the Code. The July 2021 version of the Code replaces the earlier, August 2018 version. In total, 11 of the Code’s 55 principles have been amended.

The GFXC has also developed disclosure cover sheets and templates for algo due diligence and transaction cost analysis (TCA) to assist market participants in meeting the Code’s principles for disclosure and transparency. Additionally, the GFXC has published guidance papers on the practices of Pre-Hedging and Last Look to support market participants in applying the Code’s principles in these areas.

One area that reflects the development of the market is the role played by Anonymous Trading. The Code has been amended to encourage greater disclosure by those operating anonymous platforms, including of their policies for managing the unique identifiers (‘tags’) of their users. Anonymous trading platforms are also encouraged to make available the Code signatory status of their users.

Recognising the value that data related to trading activity holds for market participants, the Code now states that FX e-trading platforms (including anonymous platforms) should be transparent about their market data policies, including which user types such data is made available to and at what frequency and latency. Platforms are also encouraged to disclose the mechanisms and controls by which they are managing or monitoring the credit limits of their users.

The risks associated with FX settlement are potentially very significant and have come back into view again following the publication of the previous Triennial survey of FX turnover by the BIS.4 Consequently, the GFXC identified a need to strengthen the Code’s guidance on Settlement Risk. Amendments have been made to place greater emphasis on the usage of payment-versus-payment (PVP) settlement mechanisms where they are available and to provide more detailed guidance on the management of settlement risk where PVP settlement is not used. New language on the potential systemic consequences of a market participant’s failure to meet their payment obligations has been included to specifically discourage ‘strategic fails’.

The Code’s guidance on the information that providers of Algorithmic Trading or aggregation services should be disclosing has been expanded to include the disclosure of any conflicts of interest that could impact the handling of client orders (such as those arising from interaction with their own principal market-making desk).5 More broadly, the GFXC believes the market would benefit from greater uniformity of disclosures in this area. To enable clients to more easily compare and understand the services being offered, market participants providing algorithmic trading services are now encouraged to share their disclosure information in a standardised format. To this end, the GFXC has published an Algo Due Diligence Template that market participants may use, as appropriate.

Similarly, the GFXC believes that Transaction Cost Analysis would be aided by greater harmonisation of data reporting within the industry. TCA is central to determining the quality of execution received by users of algorithmic trading services. As the barriers to conducting TCA can be high, a standardised information set could be particularly helpful for less-sophisticated clients or those with limited resources. The GFXC has published a Transaction Cost Analysis Data Template that should assist in bringing about greater standardisation.

Disclosure Cover Sheet and Templates for Algo Due Diligence and Transaction Cost Analysis

Clear and accessible disclosures allow market participants to make informed decisions about the other market participants with whom they interact. A key area of focus for the GFXC was the challenges market participants faced in accessing and evaluating the large amount of varied disclosure information being made available to them.6 To address this, the GFXC has created standardised Disclosure Cover Sheets for liquidity providers and for FX e-trading platforms. They have been developed to improve the accessibility and clarity of existing disclosures. You should be able to more easily compare and contrast disclosures across a set of standardised information.

The Code has also been expanded to include explicit references to the provision of information about trade rejections. Market participants should be making clients aware of the basis on which trades might be rejected, and should be keeping records of the reasons behind electronic trade rejections.

The Disclosure Cover Sheet, the Algo Due Diligence Template and the TCA Data Template can support market participants in meeting the range of disclosure and transparency principles within the Code. They are available on the GFXC website and their use is voluntary. Market participants will be able to post their Disclosure Cover Sheet alongside their Statement of Commitment on participating public registers, further supporting accessibility of disclosure.

Guidance Papers on Pre-Hedging and Last Look

Principles 11 and 17 of the FX Global Code describe good practice for market participants using pre-hedging and last look. They continue to be areas that generate strong and sometimes diverse views across market participants. There was demand for further clarity on the appropriate usage of these trading practices. Hence, the GFXC has published separate guidance papers on these topics. These papers are intended to be read alongside the Code in its entirety. (That is, there are other principles in the Code that cover practices relevant to pre-hedging and last look, not just Principles 11 and 17.)

The Guidance Paper on Pre-Hedging discusses the circumstances in which pre-hedging could be used in the FX market and the controls and disclosures that could help align pre-hedging activity with the Code. As the paper states, in utilising pre-hedging, liquidity providers are expected to behave with integrity both in executing their client activities and in supporting the functioning of the FX market. While the intent of any liquidity provider conducting pre-hedging should be to benefit the liquidity consumer in executing an anticipated order, there is no guarantee that it will always result in a trade, or a trade at a price that is beneficial to the liquidity consumer. Pre-hedging done with no intent to benefit the liquidity consumer, or market functioning, is not in line with the Code and may constitute illegal front-running.

The Guidance Paper on Last Look has generated a larger volume of discussion and feedback than the other parts of the review. The guidance paper reinforces Principle 17 of the Code by emphasising that the last look be applied in a fair and predictable manner. The guidance paper does move the industry forward in providing greater clarity about the intent of Principle 17. In addition, the disclosure sheets provide liquidity consumers with the capacity to better assess in a consistent manner, the way they are being treated in the last look window.

Last look is intended to be used for the price and validity checks only, and for no other purpose. LPs should apply the price and validity check without delay. Anything else that prolongs the last look window is contrary to the intent of the Code. At the end of the guidance paper, it outlines some areas that liquidity consumers should monitor to assess whether last look is being applied appropriately.

We did consider whether to state what some of those other purposes might be that you should not use last look for. We have not done so for a number of reasons. First is that the Code is principles-based, not regulation, and the principle underlying last look makes it clear that there is no other legitimate purpose beyond price and validity checks. Second, if we had a description of some activities that we don’t regard as acceptable, then unless we had a completely exhaustive list, which is close to impossible, we run the risk of providing a safe harbour for anything that wasn’t on the list.

In that regard, some have said we should be more prescriptive about last look. But again, I would remind you that the Code is principles-based. It is not regulation.

Another area of debate was around the word ‘promptly’. Neill Penney, the co-vice chair of the GFXC, makes the point that the use of the word ‘immediate’ could be interpreted by the market as the GFXC indicating that all liquidity providers needed to upgrade their technology to move to a zero hold time. That’s not an outcome we are after.

The disclosure cover sheets ask about the length of last look window. Because the technology has not yet been invented to run processes without taking any time at all, requiring that length to be zero would ban last look. Some people in the market use the term ‘hold time’ to mean length of last look window. In that sense a non-zero hold time is clearly consistent with the Code. Decisions should be prompt and may well be within small fractions of a second in many cases, but cannot truly be immediate. Others use hold time or additional hold time to mean a deliberate delay before starting the price and validity check. Such a delay is not consistent with the code; the guidance paper makes clear LPs should apply the price and validity check without delay.

Because of the inconsistent use of hold time, the guidance paper and cover sheets have deliberately avoided relying on market participants having a single definition of it. If someone in the market talks to you about hold time, ask them to confirm what they mean before replying.

Moreover, trying to define a time period doesn’t work because it’s going to differ in different circumstances, in different markets, with different latencies and different systems, so I don’t see that as feasible. At some level, this is semantics, but the combination of promptly and without delay, makes the intent clear in my view.

As I mentioned, alongside the paper, the GFXC published standardised disclosure cover sheets for liquidity providers which includes a section on last look practices. The intent is to provide a standard form so that liquidity consumers can more easily compare and contrast the offerings from LPs.

Liquidity providers adhering to these principles and providing transparency about their practices though the disclosure cover sheets should help to give their clients greater clarity about the process. Liquidity consumers should then use this information to evaluate their execution, ask questions of their liquidity provider’s last look process, and evaluate whether to trade with liquidity providers that are using last look.

Finally, there is clearly continuing debate in the industry about the application of last look. The GFXC intends to continue to monitor the application of last look and the effect of the guidance paper, and take additional action if necessary. This may include providing further guidance going forward, potentially via updates to Principle 17.

Statement of Commitments

Almost 1,100 entities globally have signalled their adherence to the Code’s principles by signing a Statement of Commitment. With the publication of the updated Code, the GFXC is encouraging market participants to consider renewing their Statements of Commitment, having regard to the nature and relevance of the updates to their FX market activities.

The GFXC acknowledges that the changes to the Code will affect certain parts of the market more than others. For those most affected by the changes, we would anticipate a period of up to 12 months for practices to be brought into alignment with the updated principles. We would expect that the disclosure cover sheets would be posted alongside the Statement of Commitments on a similar timeframe, if not sooner.

Conclusion

To conclude, the GXFC has completed the three-year review of the FX Global Code. The Code has been updated to remain current with the ongoing evolution of the FX market. It will continue to serve its important role of setting the standard for good practice.

But to do so, it requires that you as market participants continue to reflect the principles of the Code in your activities in the FX market. I would strongly encourage you to familiarise yourself with the changes to the Code, and particularly to make good use of the disclosure templates.

In the end, we all have a strong common purpose in ensuring that the FX market continues to operate effectively and with integrity.


1 GFXC (2021), ‘GFXC Updates FX Global Code, Publishes New Templates for Disclosures and Guidance Paper on Pre-Hedging’, Press Release, 15 July. Available at <https://www.globalfxc.org/press/p210715.htm>.

2 GFXC (2020), ‘GFXC 2019 Survey Results’, January. Available at <https://www.globalfxc.org/docs/gfxc_survey_results_Jan20.pdf>.

3 GFXC (2019), ‘GFXC Priorities for the 3-Year Review of the FX Global Code’, 6 November. Available at <https://www.globalfxc.org/events/20191204_summary_3_year_review_feedback.pdf>.

4 Schrimpf A and Sushko V (2019), ‘Sizing Up Global Foreign Exchange Markets’, BIS Quarterly Bulletin, December, pp 21–38. Available at <https://www.bis.org/publ/qtrpdf/r_qt1912f.htm>.

5 For more on algo trading, see BIS (2018), ‘Monitoring of Fast-Paced Electronic Markets’, report submitted by a Study Group established by the Markets Committee, September. Available at <https://www.bis.org/publ/mktc10.pdf>.

6 Hauser A (2019), ‘Run Lola Run! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of FX Market Fragmentation – and What To Do About It’, Speech at TradeTech FX 2019, Barcelona, 13 September. Available at <https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/speech/2019/andrew-hauser-panellist-at-trade-tech-fx-europe-barcelona>.

Riksbank: Brighter outlook, but the risks to financial stability are still elevated

With the help of extensive support measures, the Swedish financial system has coped relatively well during the pandemic and a financial crisis has been avoided. Credit supply has been maintained and important funding markets are now working satisfactorily. However, the risks to financial stability are still elevated. It is important for economic policy to continue to support the economic recovery, while also taking longer-term vulnerabilities into account.

Extensive support measures have prevented a financial crisis

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to restrict economic developments. However, extensive support measures have helped to mitigate the economic consequences, and enabled the financial system to cope relatively well through the pandemic.

Over the winter and spring, further major fiscal policy stimulus packages have been launched and central banks have continued with large-scale asset purchases and extensive lending programmes. At the same time, vaccinations are under way and the outlook is brighter than when the Riksbank’s previous Financial Stability Report was published in November 2020.

Uncertain future and the risk of setbacks

The risks to financial stability are still elevated. Although the global economy has shown itself to be more resilient lately, we still do not know how the pandemic will develop and what effects it may have. Companies and households have been affected with varying severity during the pandemic. With time, the negative effects have become significantly more concentrated to parts of the service sector. Bankruptcies risk increasing in the period ahead, both in Sweden and abroad, particularly if the support measures are phased out quickly. Banks would then also risk major loan losses.

Sharply rising asset prices in several countries during the pandemic, together with increasing indebtedness, are also part of the risk outlook. In Sweden, for example, housing prices have risen sharply, which has probably to do with the unusual economic effects of the pandemic. The ability and willingness of many households to spend money on housing has increased during the pandemic. In addition, the increase in unemployment can be seen primarily among temporary workers, who normally have a weak position on the housing market.

There are vulnerabilities in the financial system that were already there prior to the pandemic. In the euro area, these are mainly a matter of weak banks and public finances, while in Sweden they mainly concern high household indebtedness and high levels of exposure among the major banks to residential and commercial properties. A crisis in the property market could threaten the stability of the Swedish financial system.

Economic policy needs to cooperate to support the recovery and counteract financial imbalances

The economic recovery requires monetary policy and fiscal policy to remain expansionary. At the same time, economic policy also needs to take longer-term vulnerabilities into account. The most appropriate way of combating these is via targeted structural measures, well-designed financial regulation and macroprudential policy. The Riksbank’s measures are having a broad impact on the economy and are therefore not particularly appropriate for counteracting financial imbalances within individual sectors in the prevailing economic situation.

The risks of high household indebtedness and the rapid upturn in prices in the housing market make it important for Finansinspektionen (FI) to allow the temporary exemption from the amortisation requirements to expire in August as planned. If the economic recovery continues as expected, it is also desirable that FI announces that the value of the countercyclical capital buffer will be increased, not least as increases are implemented with a time-lag of twelve months.

It is also important to work on a broad front to rectify identified weaknesses and further strengthen the resilience of the financial system. This is a question of, among other things, managing global challenges such as cyber risks and climate change. It is also a question of achieving a better-functioning Swedish market for corporate bonds and limiting the risks inherent in funds with corporate bond holdings.

RBNZ: Monetary Support Continued

The Monetary Policy Committee agreed to maintain the current stimulatory level of monetary settings in order to meet its consumer price inflation and employment objectives. The Committee will keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 0.25 percent, and the Large Scale Asset Purchase and Funding for Lending programmes unchanged.

The global economic outlook has continued to improve, with ongoing fiscal and monetary stimulus underpinning the recovery. New Zealand’s commodity export prices have benefited from this rise in global demand. However, divergences in economic activity, both within and between countries, remain significant. The sustainability of the global economic recovery remains dependent on the containment of COVID-19.

The near-term economic data will continue to be highly variable. While economic growth in New Zealand slowed over the summer months following an earlier strong rebound, construction activity remains robust. The aggregate level of employment has also proved resilient, while fiscal spending continues to support domestic economic activity.

However, tourism-related business activity continues to be affected by the absence of international visitors, with the recent opening of Trans-Tasman travel expected to only partially offset revenue losses. The extent of the dampening effect of the Government’s new housing policies on house price growth and hence economic activity will also take time to be observed.

Overall, our medium-term outlook for growth remains similar to the scenario presented in the February Statement. Confidence in the outlook is rising as the more extreme negative health scenarios wane given the vaccination progress globally. We remain cautious however, given ongoing virus-related restrictions in activity, the sectoral unevenness of economic recovery, and the weak level of business investment.

A range of international and domestic factors are currently resulting in rising costs for businesses and consumers. These factors include disruptions to global raw material supplies, higher oil prices, and pressure on shipping arrangements. These price pressures are likely to be temporary and are expected to abate over the course of the year.

The Committee noted that medium-term inflation and employment would likely remain below its Remit targets in the absence of prolonged monetary stimulus. The Committee also noted that while the low interest rate environment has supported house prices, other factors such as recent tax changes, the growing supply of housing, and lending restrictions, are providing offsetting pressures.

The Committee agreed to maintain its current stimulatory monetary settings until it is confident that consumer price inflation will be sustained near the 2 percent per annum target midpoint, and that employment is at its maximum sustainable level. Meeting these requirements will necessitate considerable time and patience.

Summary Record of Meeting

The Monetary Policy Committee discussed economic developments since the February Statement, and their implications on the outlook for inflation and employment. The Committee noted the ongoing improvement in global economic activity and the associated rise in long-term wholesale interest rates. Fiscal and monetary stimulus are continuing to underpin the global recovery. However, the varied pace of national vaccination programmes, and the re-introduction of COVID-19 containment measures in some countries, means that the growth outlook remains uncertain, and uneven within and across countries.

Economic activity in New Zealand has returned to close to its pre-COVID-19 level. The increase in economic activity has been supported by ongoing favourable domestic health outcomes. This has led to a catch up in consumer spending, supported by substantial monetary and fiscal stimulus.  Improving global demand and higher prices for New Zealand’s goods exports are also contributing to economic activity.

The Committee discussed the key factors underpinning the economic recovery and agreed that the outlook was unfolding broadly as outlined in the February Statement. The improvement in global and domestic economic indicators, such as New Zealand’s terms of trade, have provided members more confidence in this outlook. However, the Committee agreed on the need for caution as domestic activity remains uneven across sectors of the economy.

The Committee noted areas of the economy where business activity levels remained low. The sectors most exposed to international tourism remain weak, despite the recent re-opening of travel with Australia. Business investment also remains below its pre-COVID-19 level, although recent indicators of investment intentions suggest signs of recovery.

The Committee noted that the level of employment has remained resilient. Reports of specific skill and seasonal worker shortages have the potential to put upward pressure on some wage costs. The economy is experiencing pockets of both labour shortages and employment slack, consistent with the economic disruption caused by COVID-19.

The Committee agreed that, in aggregate, the current level of employment remains below their estimates of the maximum sustainable level but expect it to converge to that level over time. They also expect to see wage growth lift as firms compete for labour, in particular given the current low levels of immigration.

The Committee noted that underlying CPI inflation currently remains slightly below their target midpoint of 2 percent per annum. A range of domestic and international factors are expected to lift headline inflation above 2 percent for a period. Members noted these factors are expected to be temporary and include higher international transport costs, disruptions to global raw material supplies and resulting higher prices for many commodities, and administrative charges.

The Committee discussed the risk that these one-off upward price pressures may promote a rise in more general inflation and inflation expectations. However, the Committee agreed that these risks to medium-term inflation were mitigated by ongoing global spare capacity and well-anchored inflation expectations.

The Committee assessed the effect of its monetary policy decisions on the Government’s objective to support more sustainable house prices, as required by its Remit. It was noted that the current level of house prices result from a range of factors including low global and domestic interest rates, housing supply shortages, land use regulations, and strong investor demand.

However, the Committee acknowledged that some of the factors supporting house price growth have eased. In particular they noted the current high rate of housing construction, historically low population growth, increased loan-to-value ratio restrictions, and the Government’s recent changes to housing tax and supply policies. These factors place downward pressure on the longer-run level of sustainable house prices and are consistent with a period of significantly lower house price growth.

The Committee noted risks remain to economic growth both on the upside and downside. However, they expressed greater confidence in their outlook for the economy given the reduced risk of extreme downside shocks to the economy from COVID-19.

The Committee noted that on current projections the OCR eventually increases over the medium term, but agreed that this is conditional on the economic outlook evolving broadly as anticipated. In line with their least regrets framework, members reinforced their preference to maintain the current level of monetary stimulus until they were confident that the inflation and employment objectives would be met. They agreed this would require considerable time and patience.

The Committee discussed the effectiveness of monetary policy settings since the February Statement. The Committee noted staff advice that the LSAP programme has provided substantial monetary policy stimulus to date.

Staff noted that reduced government bond issuance was placing less upward pressure on New Zealand government bond yields. This also provided less scope for LSAP purchases with the limits outlined in the letter of indemnity, specified as a percentage of government bonds outstanding. Based on current Treasury projections for the issuance of New Zealand government bonds, the Committee acknowledged that the LSAP programme could not reach the $100bn limit by June 2022.  Members affirmed that this dollar figure was a limit, not a target.

Members endorsed staff continuing to adjust weekly bond purchases as appropriate, in particular taking into account market functioning. The Committee agreed that weekly changes in the LSAP purchases do not represent a change in monetary policy stance, and that any desired change in stance would be made via the usual Monetary Policy Committee communication channel.

The Committee agreed that the OCR is the preferred tool to respond to future economic developments in either direction.

The Committee agreed to maintain its current stimulatory monetary settings until it is confident that consumer price inflation will be sustained near the 2 percent per annum target midpoint, and that employment is at its maximum sustainable level. The Committee agreed it will take time before these conditions are met.

On Wednesday 26 May, the Committee reached a consensus to:

  • hold the OCR at 0.25 percent;
  • maintain the existing LSAP programme; and
  • maintain the existing Funding for Lending Programme (FLP) conditions.

Attendees:
Reserve Bank staff: Adrian Orr, Geoff Bascand, Christian Hawkesby, Yuong Ha
External: Bob Buckle, Peter Harris, Caroline Saunders
Observer: Bryan Chapple
Secretary: Sandeep Parekh

Riksbank: Minutes of the Monetary Policy Meeting held on 26 April

The recovery is well underway, but it will take time before inflation is more permanently close to the target of 2 per cent. Continued expansionary monetary policy is therefore needed to support the economy and inflation. At the monetary policy meeting on 26 April, the Executive Board of the Riksbank decided to hold the repo rate unchanged at zero percent and it is expected to remain at this level in the years to come. The Riksbank is also continuing to purchase assets within the envelope of SEK 700 billion and to offer liquidity within all the programmes launched in 2020.

The recovery is continuing in the global economy despite an increase in the spread of infection. Rapid and powerful fiscal and monetary policy measures abroad and in Sweden have mitigated the economic downturn and prevented a financial crisis. The economic outlook is somewhat brighter now that at the monetary policy meeting in February. But at the same time, the board members noted that the crisis has resulted in a divergence across countries, sectors and various groups in the labour market. Parts of the service sectors are still weighed down by the restrictions. The ongoing vaccinations are an important condition for slowing down the spread of infection, easing the restrictions and enabling production in contact-intensive service sectors to pick up again.

The board members pointed out that there will be substantial volatility in inflation during the coming year, as a result of the pandemic and volatile energy prices. In this context, the importance of longer-term inflation expectations remaining stable at 2 per cent was also pointed out.

The recovery in the Swedish economy is well underway, but cost pressures are expected to rise relatively slowly and, as in the February forecast, it will take time before inflation is more permanently close to the target of 2 per cent. It is the assessment of the Executive Board that continued expansionary monetary policy will be needed over the coming years to support the economy and bring inflation close to the target more permanently. The members were therefore in agreement on leaving the repo rate unchanged at zero per cent and on the distribution of asset purchases during the third quarter of 2021. Several stressed the importance of, as announced, utilising the entire envelope for asset purchases of SEK 700 billion in 2021 and after that keeping the holdings more or less unchanged over next year. This is to avoid the risk of an unwanted tightening of financial conditions.

The members also discussed how monetary policy may be adapted if economic developments turn out differently to the main scenario. Several noted that if the recovery is stronger than expected and inflation overshoots the target, this does not need to be a reason to make monetary policy less expansionary. If monetary policy needs to be made more expansionary, a few members pointed out that a rate cut is fully possible.

At the meeting, some members highlighted the risks associated with developments in the housing market and underlined how important it is that Sweden gets to grips with existing structural problems in the housing market.

RBNZ: Monetary Stimulus Continued

The Monetary Policy Committee agreed to maintain the current stimulatory level of monetary settings in order to meet its consumer price inflation and employment objectives. The Committee will keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 0.25 percent, and the Large Scale Asset Purchase and Funding for Lending programmes unchanged.

The global economic outlook has continued to improve since the February Monetary Policy Statement. Ongoing fiscal and monetary stimulus are continuing to underpin the global recovery in economic activity. However, economic uncertainty remains elevated and divergences in economic growth both within and between countries are significant. New Zealand’s commodity export prices continue to benefit from robust global demand.

Economic activity in New Zealand slowed over the summer months following the earlier rebound in domestic spending. Short-term data continues to be highly variable as a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19.

The planned trans-Tasman travel arrangements should support incomes and employment in the tourism sector both in New Zealand and Australia. However, the net impact on overall domestic spending will be determined by the two-way nature of this travel. The extent of the dampening effect of the Government’s new housing policies on house price growth, and hence consumer price inflation and employment, will also take time to be observed.

Overall, our medium-term outlook for growth remains similar to the scenario presented in the February Statement. This outlook remains highly uncertain, determined in large part by both health-related restrictions, and business and consumer confidence.

Some temporary factors are leading to specific near-term price pressures. These factors include disruptions to global supply chains and higher oil prices. However, the Committee agreed that medium-term inflation and employment would likely remain below its remit targets in the absence of prolonged monetary stimulus.

The Committee agreed to maintain its current stimulatory monetary settings until it is confident that consumer price inflation will be sustained at the 2 percent per annum target midpoint, and that employment is at or above its maximum sustainable level. Meeting these requirements will necessitate considerable time and patience. The Committee agreed that it was prepared to lower the OCR if required.

IMF praises Switzerland’s handling of the pandemic

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Switzerland has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic well up to now and has been able to limit the decline in economic output. Economic measures should now be geared towards a strong and sustainable recovery. The IMF expects Swiss growth to reach 3.5% in 2021. It sees pension reforms and climate change as long-term challenges.

In 2020, the Swiss economy contracted by 2.9%, less than other European advanced economies. According to the IMF, the impact was cushioned by the solid public and household finances, competitive export industries, the large and well-capitalised financial sector, low dependency on contact-intensive sectors, the well-resourced healthcare system and targeted containment measures. The swift emergency measures exceeding 10% of GDP to provide targeted support for households and businesses were also crucial in curbing the economic slowdown.

Given the ongoing uncertainty and fiscal policy leeway, the IMF recommends maintaining targeted support for demand until the recovery is secured. In view of the still subdued outlook for inflation, the IMF additionally advises keeping monetary policy accommodative. In the event of large capital inflows into Switzerland and strong appreciation pressure on the Swiss franc, this could also include forex market interventions.

The Swiss banking sector entered the COVID-19 crisis with strong buffers and has incurred only limited losses so far. The IMF recommends continuing to keep an eye on real estate price developments, monitoring financial market participants’ risk controls and buffers, and taking early action if needed.

In order to preserve jobs, the IMF believes that crisis-related support measures in the labour market should be maintained until a sustained recovery is under way. At the same time, it cautions that keeping support measures too long could impede necessary structural adjustments.

In the longer term, the IMF recommends supporting digital and sustainable growth with efficient and targeted measures. The required investments, including in the energy system, transport and building renovation, must take account of synergies with ongoing programmes and ensure high effectiveness and efficiency of expenditure.

Finally, the IMF considers more far-reaching reforms to secure pension benefits in the longer term to be important, especially in view of rising life expectancy. Among other things, the retirement age should be raised more significantly and linked to life expectancy.

The IMF delegation conducted this year’s Article IV Consultation from 17 March to 7 April 2021 via video conferences, following the cancellation of last year’s evaluation because of the pandemic. The regular evaluation of the economic and financial situation of its member states within the scope of the Article IV Consultation is a core element of the IMF’s economic policy monitoring activities.

Norges Bank: Policy rate unchanged at 0%

Norges Bank’s Monetary Policy and Financial Stability Committee has unanimously decided to keep the policy rate unchanged at zero percent. In the Committee’s current assessment of the outlook and balance of risks, the policy rate will most likely be raised in the latter half of 2021.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sharp downturn in the Norwegian economy. Activity has picked up since spring 2020, but the recovery is being held back by higher infection rates and strict containment measures. On the other hand, information from the health authorities suggests that a large portion of the adult population in Norway will be vaccinated before the end of summer. At the same time, global economic developments are better than expected. This may result in a faster pick-up in economic activity than previously projected. Nevertheless, it will probably take time for employment and unemployment to return to pre-pandemic levels. Underlying inflation is still above the target, but has moderated in recent months.

The Committee placed weight on the contribution of low interest rates to speeding up the return to more normal output and employment levels. This reduces the risk of unemployment becoming entrenched at a high level. There are some signs of higher cost growth both globally and in Norway, but the krone appreciation and prospects for moderate wage growth suggest that inflation will move down ahead. The Committee also placed weight on the marked rise in house prices since spring 2020. A long period of low interest rates increases the risk of a build-up of financial imbalances.

“The overall outlook and balance of risks imply a continued expansionary monetary policy stance. When there are clear signs that economic conditions are normalising, it will again be appropriate to raise the policy rate gradually from today’s level,” says Governor Øystein Olsen.

There is substantial uncertainty surrounding the economic recovery ahead, but there are prospects that economic activity will approach a normal level earlier than projected in the December 2020 Monetary Policy Report. The policy rate forecast implies a gradual rise from the latter half of 2021. This implies a somewhat faster rate rise than projected in December.

Fitch Ratings: World GDP Forecasts Revised Up After US Fiscal Stimulus Package

Global growth prospects are improving as fiscal support is stepped up sharply, economies adapt to social distancing and vaccination rollout gathers momentum, says Fitch Ratings in its latest Global Economic Outlook (GEO) released today.

We now expect global GDP to expand by 6.1% this year, revised up from 5.3% in our December 2020 GEO. GDP outturns were stronger than expected in 4Q20 – particularly in Europe and emerging markets (EM) – and world GDP declined by 3.4% in 2020 as a whole, compared to our previous forecast of a 3.7% decline. World GDP is now expected to be 2.5% higher in 2021 than in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

“The pandemic is not over, but it is starting to look like we have entered the final phase of the economic crisis” said Brian Coulton, Chief Economist.

Fitch now forecasts US GDP growth at 6.2% in 2021 (revised up from 4.5%), China at 8.4% (from 8.0%) and the eurozone at 4.7% (unchanged). Growth in EM excluding China is forecast at 6.0% (up from 5.0%).

The main driver of our global forecast revision is the much larger-than-expected fiscal stimulus package recently passed in the US. The USD1.9 trillion price tag represents more than 2.5% of global GDP. Fiscal support had a powerful cushioning impact in 2020.

Further fiscal easing has also been announced in the UK, Italy, Japan, Germany and India, while the EU’s Next Generation EU recovery fund (NGEU) should provide a sizeable boost to eurozone growth in 2022. China is the only major economy that is starting to normalise macroeconomic policy settings, where the fiscal deficit is being scaled back and credit growth is slowing as the economic recovery matures.

Unemployment forecasts for the major economies have been cut but job market recoveries continue to lag. Leisure and transport (L&T) industries are labour-intensive and are still afflicted by social distancing. US employment is still 6.1% below pre-pandemic levels (compared to GDP which is 2.4% lower), while L&T accounts for more than one-third of furloughed workers in the EU.

Vaccine rollout has gained momentum, particularly in the UK and US. The eurozone has had a slower start but the programme should accelerate in 2Q21. It is still reasonable to assume that the health crisis will ease by mid-year, allowing social contact to start to recover. But immunisation delays or problems remain the key downside risk to the forecast.

Improving growth prospects, commodity price increases, and short-term supply constraints in some manufacturing sectors have renewed focus on inflation risks. US bond yields are up by 60bp this year.

The rate of headline US inflation could rise above 3% yoy in April but underlying inflation will increase much more gradually given labour market slack. The Fed is focused on unemployment, more tolerant of higher inflation and will remain patient. Core inflation will stay well below target in the eurozone and the ECB will continue to purchase assets through 2022.

The full report, ‘Global Economic Outlook March 2021: The Final Stretch’, is available at the above link or www.fitchratings.com

Statement by Philip Lowe, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision

At its meeting today, the Board decided to maintain the current policy settings, including the targets of 10 basis points for the cash rate and the yield on the 3-year Australian Government bond, as well as the parameters of the Term Funding Facility and the government bond purchase program.

The outlook for the global economy has improved over recent months due to the ongoing rollout of vaccines. While the path ahead is likely to remain bumpy and uneven, there are better prospects for a sustained recovery than there were a few months ago. Global trade has picked up and commodity prices have increased over recent months. Even so, the recovery remains dependent on the health situation and on significant fiscal and monetary support. Inflation remains low and below central bank targets.

The positive news on vaccines together with the prospect of further significant fiscal stimulus in the United States has seen longer-term bond yields increase considerably over the past month. This increase partly reflects a lift in expected inflation over the medium term to rates that are closer to central banks’ targets. Reflecting these global developments, there have been similar movements in Australian bond markets. Changes in bond yields globally have been associated with volatility in some other asset prices, including foreign exchange rates. The Australian dollar remains in the upper end of the range of recent years.

In Australia, the economic recovery is well under way and has been stronger than was earlier expected. There has been strong growth in employment and a welcome decline in the unemployment rate to 6.4 per cent. Retail spending has been strong and most of the households and businesses that had deferred loan repayments have now recommenced repayments. The recovery is expected to continue, with the central scenario being for GDP to grow by 3½ per cent over both 2021 and 2022. GDP is expected to return to its end-2019 level by the middle of this year.

Wage and price pressures are subdued and are expected to remain so for some years. The economy is still operating with considerable spare capacity and the unemployment rate remains higher than it has been for some years. Further progress in reducing spare capacity is expected, but it will be some time before the labour market is tight enough to generate wage increases that are consistent with achieving the inflation target. In the central scenario, the unemployment rate will still be around 6 per cent at the end of this year and 5½ per cent at the end of 2022. In underlying terms, inflation is expected to be 1¼ per cent over 2021 and 1½ per cent over 2022. CPI inflation is expected to rise temporarily because of the reversal of some COVID-19-related price reductions.

The current monetary policy settings are continuing to help the economy by keeping financing costs very low, contributing to a lower exchange rate than otherwise, and supporting the supply of credit and household and business balance sheets. Together, monetary and fiscal policy are supporting the recovery in aggregate demand and the pick-up in employment.

Lending rates for most borrowers are at record lows and housing prices across Australia have increased recently. Housing credit growth to owner-occupiers has picked up, but investor and business credit growth remain weak. Lending standards remain sound and it is important that they remain so in an environment of rising housing prices and low interest rates.

The Bank remains committed to the 3-year yield target and recently purchased bonds to support the target and will continue to do so as necessary. Also, bond purchases under the bond purchase program were brought forward this week to assist with the smooth functioning of the market. The Bank is prepared to make further adjustments to its purchases in response to market conditions. To date, a cumulative $74 billion of government bonds issued by the Australian Government and the states and territories have been purchased under the initial $100 billion program. A further $100 billion will be purchased following the completion of the initial program and the Bank is prepared to do more if that is necessary. Authorised deposit-taking institutions have drawn $91 billion under the Term Funding Facility and have access to a further $94 billion. Since the start of 2020, the RBA’s balance sheet has increased by around $175 billion.

The Board remains committed to maintaining highly supportive monetary conditions until its goals are achieved. The Board will not increase the cash rate until actual inflation is sustainably within the 2 to 3 per cent target range. For this to occur, wages growth will have to be materially higher than it is currently. This will require significant gains in employment and a return to a tight labour market. The Board does not expect these conditions to be met until 2024 at the earliest.