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from Breakingviews:

“Seller beware” when profiting from market calm

By Swaha Pattanaik

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Seller beware. That is an unusual warning, but it applies right now to the options market. Sellers of protection against large price moves have been pocketing gains. But many will suffer losses if markets become less calm.

Market torpor has reached historic proportions. One measure is implied volatility, which encapsulates investors’ expectations of how much a particular market will move over a set period. The VIX index of expected U.S. equity volatility hit seven-year lows near 10 percent on July 3. The MOVE index of implied one-month volatility in Treasuries is at 55, near all-time lows just below 50.

volatility

The obvious reason for the declines in implied volatility is a sharp fall in actual volatility. Options traders basically expect the immediate future to look much like the recent past. But something else may also be responsible. Some investors are using the options market as a source of revenue.

from Expert Zone:

Currencies and the collapse of globalisation

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

We live in stirring times. The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, crossed the monetary policy Rubicon and cut one of the euro area’s key interest rates into negative territory. This is dramatic stuff, as even the most economically oblivious are likely to recognise that negative interest rates are a radical policy.A picture illustration of Euro banknotes and coins taken in central Bosnian town of Zenica

At the same time, the United States Federal Reserve is gracefully gliding out of its quantitative policy position - and by October that money printing process is likely to be effectively at an end. The question from most investors is therefore “what next for U.S. monetary policy?”.

from Expert Zone:

The rupee at a crossroads

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The rupee was tossed around quite a bit in the last 10 months. It dropped to a low of nearly 69 to the dollar, creating an economic crisis, before it recovered and is now at 59-60. The threat is not that it may drop once again, but that it may appreciate further and upset the economy in other ways.

Why would the rupee appreciate? Because there are expectations the Narendra Modi government will facilitate development and enable the economy to get back on course. This is what drove the Sensex beyond 25,000. But the currency market was more stable in spite of the huge inflow of $2.2 billion in 10 trading days of May.

from Global Investing:

Buying back into emerging markets

After almost a year of selling emerging markets, investors seem to be returning in force. The latest to turn positive on the asset class is asset and wealth manager Pictet Group (AUM: 265 billion pounds) which said on Tuesday its asset management division (clarifies division of Pictet) was starting to build positions on emerging equities and local currency debt. It has an overweight position on the latter for the first time since it went underweight last July.

Local emerging debt has been out of favour with investors because of how volatile currencies have been since last May, For an investor who is funding an emerging market investments from dollars or euros, a fast-falling rand can wipe out any gains he makes on a South African bond. But the rand and its peers such as the Turkish lira, Indian rupee, Indonesian rupiah and Brazilan real -- at the forefront of last year's selloff --  have stabilised from the lows hit in recent months.  According to Pictet Asset Management:

from Expert Zone:

Why the Fed is not worried by emerging market moves

(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Several emerging market central banks have been forced to react to market events already this year. Interest rate increases in India, Turkey and South Africa followed bond or currency market volatility. Argentina has endured dramatic moves in its currency, and Brazil has been forced to tighten policy.

from MacroScope:

The Bank of Canada is probably not ready to seriously consider cutting rates — yet

With all signs showing the Canadian economic miracle is fading, the Bank of Canada is understandably starting to sound more dovish. The Canadian dollar has got a whiff of that, down about 10 percent from where it was this time last year.

But that doesn't mean Governor Stephen Poloz is ready to signal on Wednesday that his rate shears are about to get hauled out of the shed.

from Counterparties:

Morning Bid: Dollar Bills and Dollar Bulls

The dollar’s performance hasn’t been anything to write home about in the last few years. It has weakened against major currencies like the euro and the Swiss franc, and been held back by lower interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve’s triple-dose of quantitative easing, but there’s been a turn of late, though it’s too early to say whether it will have lasting power.

In 2013, the dollar was at least better than the yen, amassing a 35 percent move against the Japanese currency, which countered the Fed’s QE with Abenomics and a massive monetary dose of its own.

from Global Investing:

Waiting for current account improvement in Turkey

The fall in Turkey's lira to record lows is raising jitters among foreign investors who will have lost a good deal of money on the currency side of their stock and bond investments.  They are also worrying about the response of the central bank, which has effectively ruled out large rate hikes to stabilise the currency. But can the 20 percent lira depreciation seen since May 2013 help correct the country's balance of payments gap?

Turkey's current account deficit is its Achilles heel . Without a large domestic savings pool, that deficit tends to blow out whenever growth quickens and the lira strengthens . That leaves the country highly vulnerable to a withdrawal of foreign capital. Take a look at the following graphic (click on it to enlarge) :

from Global Investing:

Banks cannot ease Ukraine’s reserve pain

The latest data from Ukraine shows its hard currency reserves fell $2 billion over November to $18.9 billion. That's perilously low by any measure. (Check out this graphic showing how poorly Ukraine's reserve adequacy ratios compare with other emerging markets: http://link.reuters.com/quq25v)

Central banks often have tricks to temporarily boost reserves, or at least, to give the impression that they are doing so. Turkey, for instance, allows commercial banks to keep some of their lira reserve requirements in hard currency and gold. Others may get friendly foreign central banks to deposit some cash. Yet another ploy is to issue T-bills in hard currency to mop up banks' cash holdings. But it may be hard for Ukraine to do any of this says Exotix economist Gabriel Sterne, who has compared the Ukraine national bank's plight with that of Egypt.

from Global Investing:

Venezuelan bonds — storing up problems

Last week's victory for Miss Venezuela in a global beauty pageant was a rare bit of good news for the South American country. With a black market currency exchange rate that is 10 times the official level, shortages of staples, inflation over 50 percent and political turmoil, Venezuela certainly won't win any investment pageants.

This week investors have rushed to dump Venezuela's dollar bonds as the government ordered troops to occupy a store chain accused of price gouging. Many view this as a sign President Nicolas Maduro is gearing up to extend his control over the private sector.  Adding to the bond market's problems are plans by state oil firm PDVSA to raise $4.5 billion in bonds next week. Yields on  Venezuelan sovereign bonds have risen over 100 basis points this week; returns for the year are minus 25 percent, almost half of that coming since the start of this month.  Five-year credit default swaps for Venezuela are at two-year highs, having risen more than 200 basis points in November. And bonds from PDVSA, which is essentially selling debt to bankroll the government and pay suppliers, rather than to fund investments, have tanked too.

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