Hits & Takes
Thursday’s near half marathon (almost 13.1 hours), CryptoCon 2018 event by FinTank was a smashing success by all accounts with coverage of everything from initial coin offerings to crypto markets from several different vantage points – lawyers, traders, brokers and exchanges. Well done, FinTank. You will see more coverage from the event below and in the coming days.~JK
Wednesday’s Technology Advisory Committee of the CFTC fell on Valentines Day, which was also Ash Wednesday. Each member of the TAC was given a cupcake at their seat. No one was brave enough to eat the cupcake for fear of it being caught on video eating it, except for yours truly. I did snarf it down quickly after lunch before the cameras started rolling. I hope.~JJL
According to Tom Lehrkinder of Tabb Forum, the top 10 FCMs represent 73 percent of total customer assets. Options on futures volumes in 2017 were up 10 percent and futures volumes were up 2 percent. More info in his story, also contained in our “Lead” section. ~SD
Coinbase had a glitch yesterday during which clients’ bank accounts were charged multiples of what they were supposed to and in some cases were emptied. Coinbase blamed Visa. Here is the Business Insider story on it~JJL
ICO Rules and Regs: Initial Coin Offerings Under Regulatory Spotlight and Are More Complicated Than They Seem
Jim Kharouf – JLN
So you want to launch an initial coin offering? Better buckle up and lawyer up.
At the FinTank CryptoCon event in Chicago on Thursday, two attorneys addressed the complexity and pitfalls that come with launching an ICO. Barbara Jones, an attorney with GreenbergTrauig, said there continues to be some ambiguity over regulation of ICOs. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has said numerous times that he has not seen a token from an ICO that is not a security. Meanwhile, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Chris Giancarlo is considering tokens as commodities, and has said the commission will pursue any cases involving token fraud. Interestingly, the CFTC issued a Customer Protection Advisory on Thursday warning customers about pump-and-dump schemes in less liquid and new “alternative” virtual currencies, digital coins or tokens. Both chairmen have said they are working together to address this new instrument. In short, there isn’t a lot of regulatory certainty yet, but it is evolving.
**From the FinTank CryptoCon event in Chicago.~JK
Predata Appoints Hazem Dawani as CEO
Predata, a predictive analytics platform that anticipates the risk of future events, today announced the appointment of Hazem Dawani as Chief Executive Officer. Predata also named Joel T. Meyer as Vice President of Government and Corporate Markets.
**Congrats to Hazem on his new role.~JK
Thursday’s Top Three
DRW’s Richard Gorelick grabbed people’s attention yesterday with his comments at the CFTC Technology Advisory Committee meeting, covered by Risk.net in DRW calls for physical settlement of bitcoin futures. Second went to Bloomberg’s House Votes to Require SEC Subpoena for Traders’ Source Code. And third went to Bloomberg’s IRS to Ban Hedge-Fund Tax Dodge on Carried Interest
|MarketsWiki Statistics Sponsored by Level Trading Field|
US blocks Chinese-led takeover of Chicago exchange; SEC concerned that foreign ownership would stymie its access to bourse’s records
Nicole Bullock in New York – FT
US regulators have rejected the sale of the Chicago Stock Exchange to a Chinese-led consortium in what could be the final twist in a controversial deal.
This Short Seller Pressed ‘Tweet.’ Then the FBI Showed Up; Cohodes’s posts were ‘threat to my life,’ says MiMedx’s Petit; rival sees overreach by the feds.
Greg Farrell, Anders Melin – Bloomberg
Short-sellers aren’t known for restraint and decorum, and that goes double on Twitter, where Marc Cohodes vowed to take down a CEO he accuses of fraud. “I will bury the little fella in a shoe box,” Cohodes tweeted in October.
CFTC Issues First Pump-and-Dump Virtual Currency Customer Protection Advisory
CFTC Warns Customers to Avoid Pump-and-Dump Schemes
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today issued a Customer Protection Advisory that warns customers to beware of and avoid pump-and-dump schemes that can occur in thinly traded or new “alternative” virtual currencies, digital coins or tokens.
Investors Warned of Cryptocurrency ‘Pump-and-Dump’ Schemes; CFTC says such scams seek to capitalize on growing interest in virtual currencies like bitcoin
By Gabriel T. Rubin – WSJ
Regulators on Thursday warned consumers to beware of “pump-and-dump” manipulation schemes in virtual-currency markets as they try to rein in misconduct on unregulated spot exchanges.
Electronic Bond Trading Gains Ground
Matthew Leising and Molly Smith – Bloomberg
TruMid saw January volume more than double to $2 billion; It’s ‘here to stay,’ even as Wall Street maintains its grip
Electronic trading in the $8 trillion U.S. corporate-bond market is beginning to heat up.
Managed Futures Crazy 2018
RCM Alternatives Blog
The last month and a half has been one crazy ride for an asset class that prides itself more on base hits than trying to hit home runs. It started off with a bang, at one point up about 6% (per the SG CTA Index) as many in the industry headed down to Miami for the annual spate of conferences, broad smiles on their faces. It prompted us to write how it could be the best monthly performance from Managed Futures in more than a decade on January 29th – which, as often happens, put the nail in the coffin for the up move in a cruel contrarian headline sort of way.
U.S. Bancorp Charged Over Relationship With Race-Car Driver Scott Tucker; Regional bank fined $613 million for shoddy money-laundering controls; criminal charges to be deferred for two years
Christina Rexrode – WSJ
U.S. Bancorp USB -0.38% was fined $613 million Thursday for what regulators and prosecutors said were shoddy anti-money-laundering controls, a rare regulatory setback for a bank that emerged from the financial crisis relatively unscathed.
Can the Vix index really be tampered with?; The volatility measure may have worsened market turmoil and is now under investigation
Joe Rennison in New York – FT
Never in its 25-year history has the Vix volatility index been in the spotlight the way it has been during recent market turmoil, when wild swings in the S&P 500 frightened investors.
US Futures, Options-on-Futures Poised to Continue Record Run
Tom Lehrkinder – TABB Forum
US futures and options-on-futures volumes finished 2017 at record levels. Futures were up 2% and options grew 10% compared to 2016 totals, and both are poised to set new records in 2018. Meanwhile, though the number of FCMs ended the year down, due to consolidation rather than contraction, a more favorable interest rate environment coupled with global expansion may lead to FCM growth in 2018. TABB’s Q4 2017 futures market review highlights all the activity.
The World Federation Of Exchanges Publishes 2017 Full Year Market Highlights
The World Federation of Exchanges (“The WFE”), the global industry group for exchanges and CCPs, today published its 2017 Full Year Market Highlights report.
La Niña: Calm Before the Storm in Ag Markets?
Erik Norland – CME Group
Corn, soybean and wheat markets are witnessing an odd juxtaposition – the onset of a La Niña and exceptionally low options’ implied volatility (Figures 1 & 2). Why this is unusual is that corn, soybeans and wheat often experienced exceptionally high volatility (about 1.3-1.5x normal) during many of the past eight La Niña episodes (Figures 3, 4, 5). As such, one could wonder: are markets being complacent in the face of approaching danger?
Number of crypto hedge funds soars amid bitcoin volatility
The number of hedge funds focused on trading cryptocurrencies more than doubled in the four months to Feb. 15, despite sharp falls in the value of the virtual coins in recent weeks, data from fintech research house Autonomous NEXT showed on Thursday.
Exchanges, OTC and Clearing
Nasdaq Cited as a Leader in Governance, Risk, and Compliance Platforms by Independent Research Firm
Nasdaq (Nasdaq:NDAQ) was among the select companies that Forrester invited to participate in its 2018 Forrester Wave(TM) evaluation, Governance, Risk, And Compliance (GRC) Platforms, Q1 2018. In this evaluation, Nasdaq was cited as a Leader in Governance, Risk, and Compliance Platforms and received the maximum score of 5 for the evaluation criteria “Risk & Control Management”, “Audit Management”, “Dashboard and Reporting” and “Integration capabilities” for its BWise solutions.
APX Embraces Distributed Ledger Technology For Environmental Commodities
APX, the pioneer of environmental markets infrastructure, is pleased to announce the development of a series of APX smart contracts and a set of APX oracles for the environmental commodity markets. It will also offer a DLT for environmental commodities.
Cboe Global Markets to List SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) Monday-Expiring Weekly Options
Cboe Global Markets, Inc., one of the world’s largest exchange holding companies, today announced that it plans to list SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust options that expire on Mondays, beginning February 16, 2018, subject to rule filing effectiveness. The new series of SPY options are expected to be listed on Cboe Global Markets’ four options exchanges: Cboe Options, C2 Options, Cboe BZX Options and Cboe EDGX Options.
Swaps data: the monopoly effect in clearing
Amir Khwaja, Clarus via Risk.net
Regulators made swaps clearing a plank of their post-crisis reforms for good reasons – they wanted the management of counterparty risk to be carried out by tightly regulated, centralised hubs, in a more visible, standardised way. They probably did not want to create a tiny group of systemically important monopolies, but that was always one possible outcome.
Coinbase is erratically overcharging some users and emptying their bank accounts
Adrianne Jeffries – The Verge
A growing number of Coinbase customers are complaining that the cryptocurrency exchange withdrew unauthorized money out of their accounts. In some cases, this drained their linked bank accounts below zero, resulting in overdraft charges.
Update on credit and debit cards
The Coinbase Blog
Over the last few days, some Coinbase customers may have experienced additional charges and/or refunds when purchasing digital currency with a credit or debit card. We know this experience is frustrating. We are actively working with the card networks and processors to investigate these issues.
ISDA Appoints REGnosys to Develop Digital Common Domain Model
ISDA has announced that regulatory fintech firm REGnosys has been appointed to develop a digital version of the ISDA Common Domain Model (CDM).
Pay With Cryptocurrency Using Coinbase’s New PayPal Competitor
Lucinda Shen – Fortune
The largest U.S.-based cryptocurrency exchange, Coinbase, is releasing a PayPal-like service of its own.
Linedata adds Bitcoin in Global Hedge platform upgrade; Users will be able to trade, book and track bitcoin and other cryptocurrency derivatives.
Hayley McDowell – The Trade
Linedata has released a new version of its Global Hedge platform to include functions relating to cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain engineers are in demand
Samantha Stein -nTechCrunch
Demand is off the charts for blockchain talent, and the capital is waiting to back it up. Over $3.7 billion has been raised through ICOs in the United States alone. Blockchain-related jobs are the second-fastest growing in today’s labor market; there are now 14 jobs openings for every single blockchain developer. And as Nick Szabo, the developer who coined “smart contracts” pointed out there is an extreme “$/knowledge” ratio in the blockchain space, where capital by far outpaces talent.
As Stripe backs away from crypto payments, Coinbase offers a new solution for e-commerce
Jon Russell – Techcrunch
Popular payment enabler Stripe announced plans to end support for bitcoin last month, but crypto exchange Coinbase is stepping into the gap after it released a new option for online merchants.
GOP Senators Pan Trump Plan to Make Futures Industry Pay User Fees; Republican lawmakers show some willingness to consider more funding for CFTC, but not by charging fees
By Gabriel T. Rubin – WSJ
Senate Republicans on Thursday criticized the Trump administration’s proposal to impose fees on the futures industry to fund the top U.S. derivatives regulator, which has requested a bigger budget.
Trump ‘Strongly’ Favors Imposing Online Sales Tax, Mnuchin Says
Toluse Olorunnipa – Bloomberg
Legislation pending to permit states to tax online sales; Supreme Court 1992 ruling exempted out-of-state retailers
President Donald Trump “feels strongly” that the U.S. should impose a sales tax on purchases made over the Internet, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.
Mnuchin expects withholding calculator to be released next week
Naomi Jagoda – TheHill
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the IRS plans to release a new calculator next week to help people figure out if they need to adjust their tax withholding in light of the new tax law.
U.S. spending bill expands carbon tax credit, boosting oil producers
Ernest Scheyder – Reuters
A little-noticed addition to the U.S. budget deal approved last week will help Occidental Petroleum Corp and other oil producers by more than tripling a tax credit for injecting carbon dioxide back into the earth to increase crude output.
The Truth in Donald Trump’s Tweets; There’s not much of it. Plus, Jonathan Bernstein’s morning links.
By Jonathan Bernstein – Bloomberg
We know the feeling. Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Why do people say that President Donald Trump doesn’t tell the truth? Let’s see one tweet from the weekend:
U.S. regulator warns of ‘pump-and-dump’ cryptocurrency frauds
Kate Rooney – CNBC
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) joined other regulators sounding the alarm on “pump-and-dump” cryptocurrency investing schemes.
U.S. Bancorp to Pay About $600 Million Over Money Laundering
Christian Berthelsen, Jesse Hamilton and Jennifer Surane – Bloomberg
Government agrees to defer prosecution in case for two years; Bank failed to report Scott Tucker’s suspicious activity
U.S. Bancorp agreed to plead guilty and pay about $600 million to settle U.S. allegations that it failed to guard against money laundering, under a deal announced Thursday in New York.
Cohen’s Point72 wants lawsuit over hostility to women sent to arbitration
Jonathan Stempel – Reuters
Billionaire investor Steven A. Cohen asked a U.S. judge to force a female executive to arbitrate her claims that his firm, Point72 Asset Management LP, maintains a hostile working environment where women are mistreated and paid less than men.
Giancarlo: We’re Making Government Function More Efficiently for Taxpayers and Market Participants
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today unanimously approved an amendment replacing the complex and confusing lettering for defined terms with a simple alphabetical list.
U.S. financial regulatory panel to review Prudential risk designation
Michelle Price, Pete Schroeder – Reuters
A panel of U.S. regulators will next week discuss whether insurer Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N) should continue to be subject to stringent oversight, according to a public notice and a company statement.
U.S. regulator moves to clear market barriers for energy storage technology
Valerie Volcovici – Reuters
In a boost for electric storage technology, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday approved a new rule to remove barriers to batteries and other storage resources in U.S. power markets.
Kyle Moffatt Named Chief Accountant In Division Of Corporation Finance
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Kyle Moffatt has been named Chief Accountant in the Division of Corporation Finance.
Karen Garnett, Associate Director Of Division Of Corporation Finance, To Leave Agency After 23 Years Of Service
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Karen Garnett, an Associate Director in the Division of Corporation Finance, will leave the agency in February.
****SD: You can tell the NBA is on my mind because I definitely read this as “Kevin Garnett…”
Sebi suspects price rigging by PSBs, examines stock trading pattern
Business Standard News
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) is examining the trading pattern in the stocks of state-run banks, following the announcement of the government’s recapitalisation programme on January 25.
Written Testimony of Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo before the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee
FinCEN issues an Advisory on the FATF-identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies
On February 9, 2018, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an Advisory announcing that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had updated its list of jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. NFA Member FCMs and IBs should review this Advisory to ensure that their AML programs have the most current information on FATF identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies and revise their AML programs accordingly. A copy of the Advisory is available on FinCEN’s website.
Podcast: CFTC Talks EP031: Northwestern Mutual Chief Investment Strategist Brent Schutte
This week on CFTC Talks, we have on Northwestern Mutual Chief Investment Strategist Brent Schutte. We cover market..
What Does It Mean to Be Pre-Tax or Tax-Advantaged?
Kaitlyn Kiernan – FINRA
From commuter and childcare benefits to retirement accounts, pre-tax benefits and tax-advantaged accounts offer some sort of tax benefit, whether that means contributions are tax-deferred or tax-free. Either way, this could mean more money in your pocket at the end of the tax year.
Director excluded from financial services industry for five years and agrees to pay $400,000 to financial literacy fund
ASIC has accepted an Enforceable Undertaking from director Mr David Orth under which he will cease to provide financial services for five years. In addition, Mr Orth will make a community benefit payment in the amount of $400,000 to Financial Literacy Australia to support the financial capability of vulnerable people.
FCA to deliver keynote address at MiFID II: Check In; UK financial watchdog to open The TRADE’s first event of 2018 on 28 February.
Editors – The Trade
Stephen Hanks, head of market policy at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will deliver the keynote address at The TRADE’s MiFIDII: Check In event on 28 February.
Investing and Trading
Low-Carbon Investing Is Growing
Emily Chan, Brian Eckhouse, Eric Roston – Bloomberg
Amundi sees low-carbon strategies with little tracking error; Can reduce risk and change corporate incentives on climate
Investors may not know how to solve climate change, but low-carbon indexes are growing as a way to start managing the portfolio risks associated with a warming planet, according to Fred Samama, deputy global head of institutional clients at Amundi Asset Management, Europe’s largest asset manager overseeing about 1.4 trillion euros ($1.7 trillion).
Markets Face a New Paradigm. Get Used to It
Steven Englander – Bloomberg
The period of financial markets being supported by central banks’ easy money policies is ending. Higher equity prices will now require evidence of stronger growth and moderate inflation, meaning it is unrealistic to expect selloffs to be followed by sharp rebounds as quickly as they have in the recent past.
These Naked U.S. Treasury Buyers Are Packing Up for Good Japan Yen Dollar
Marcus Ashworth – Bloomberg
The bad times are back for U.S. bonds, and it’s not just a matter of inflation fears combining with fiscal profligacy. There is a third source of pain from an outside source: Japan.
The Vix horror show will not deter future suckers; Investors looking for safer products should look to the municipal bond market, writes John Dizard
John Dizard – FT
“There’s one born every minute.”
PT Barnum, American carnival promoter who may have foreseen the Vix contract Over the years, Vix products — which track stock market volatility — have proven similar to the Trump White House. For both there is no such thing as bad publicity. I have been denouncing the Vix index and all its works since 2005, with every bit of reason and bile I can muster. Yet even though you would have lost almost all your money “investing” in a Vix ETF, or, on the other side, betting against the Vix with an inverse ETF, people still watch the thing like a presidential press conference.
Book Review: The End of Theory
Robert Farago – CFA Institute Enterprising Investor
The use of mathematical models in economics dates back to 1862, with the introduction of marginal utility by William Stanley Jevons. The misuse of financial models in economics followed soon after. Jevons was determined to link economic cycles to sunspots, but the failure of his exotic models had no consequences. In contrast, the repercussions of the failure of economic models to predict the global financial crisis can still be felt a decade later. Richard Bookstaber explores the limitations of our current risk models and proposes a new approach — agent-based modeling.
Harvard Alums Have Idea to Boost Endowment: Buy Index Funds
By Michael McDonald
Group from Class of 1969 send letter to incoming president; Half of $37.1 billion fund should track S&P 500, alumni say
Harvard Alums Criticize Compensation at the University’s Endowment
A group of Harvard alumni proposed a solution for how the university’s endowment can pay for a new tax on investment income and boost returns: don’t think so much.
Failings of RBS must be met with consequences; A big clearing bank is more than merely an enterprise for its shareholders
Neil Collins – FT
The leaked report from the Financial Conduct Authority into Royal Bank of Scotland’s treatment of small businesses is a truly shocking document. Perhaps because it was not designed to be published, there are few of the weasel words that so often blunt the impact of such inquiries, with the result that there is a clear path of responsibility extending right to the top of the bank.
Ripples spread from Bridgewater’s $22bn Europe short; Series of hedge fund’s positions includes EU companies with big businesses outside continent
Miles Johnson and Chloe Cornish – FT
A $22bn bet against European stocks by Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, has seen it build large short positions in companies that generate the majority of their business outside the continent.
Investment-Grade Bond Fund Hit by Biggest Outflow in Its 15-Year History
Sid Verma – Bloomberg
As stocks boogied to the risk-on beat Wednesday, investors in the world’s third-largest fixed-income exchange-traded fund left the party at a frenetic pace.
Hedge Fund Decca Lost 25% of Its Value in Rout
Nishant Kumar, Alastair Marsh – Bloomberg
A hedge fund managed by former Hutchin Hill Capital trader Shahraab Ahmad lost a quarter of its value last week after its bets against volatile markets backfired, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
HNA Plans to Keep Deutsche Bank Stake at 8.8% After Cuts
By Michael J. Moore, Steven Arons – Bloomberg
Struggling Chinese conglomerate used to own 9.9% in lender; Group took out new collar options, more financing from UBS
HNA Intends to Hold Deutsche Bank Stake at 8.8%
HNA Group Co., the troubled Chinese conglomerate, said it won’t cut its stake in Deutsche Bank AG further after reducing the holding in the past two weeks.
Hedge-Fund Mediocrity Is the Best Magic Trick; Never have so many investors paid so much for such uninspiring returns.
By Barry Ritholtz
Hedge funds have accumulated $3 trillion, with a substantial portion of it coming from public pensions. That these funds don’t deliver outperformance is almost beside the point. What they are selling is an inflated estimate of expected returns. This serves a crucial purpose for elected officials, letting them lower the annual contributions states and municipalities must make to the pension plans for government employees.
Global crude producers to formalise oil alliance — UAE energy minister
Anjli Raval – Financial Times
Crude producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia will aim to draft an agreement to formalise their partnership for oil market co-operation by the end of 2018, the UAE’s energy minister said.
Sweden Is on the Hunt for Cobalt
Government to fund project to map potential mineral reserves; Battery technology seen fuelling demand for lithium, cobalt
Sweden will step up efforts to find precious minerals such as cobalt and lithium, key battery components that are increasingly in demand among makers of electric vehicles.
Barnier Sticks to His Brexit Guns, Warns U.K. Against Dumping
By Patrick Donahue, Nikos Chrysoloras – Bloomberg
De-regulation would put future trade pact at risk, he says; EU’s Brexit negotiator speaks at Munich Security Conference
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier reiterated that the U.K.’s red lines effectively exclude the prospect of a preferential relationship with the bloc after their separation, while warning that British de-regulation would put a future trade accord at risk.