Interbank market news scan: Could banks be relegated to money changers and merchant lending?

Links to follow today …

Banks, yields. Shares of banks and other financial institutions ticked down as Treasury yields remained well below recent highs. Financials Down As Treasury Yields Remain Under Pressure – Financials Roundup | Morningstar

Central banks, digital currency. Wall Street is warming up to the idea that the next big disruptive force on the horizon is central bank digital currencies, even though the Federal Reserve likely remains a few years away from developing its own. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/19/central-bank-digital-currency-is-the-next-major-financial-disruptor.html

Central banks, economy. The aggressive rebound in global economic growth still isn’t enough for most of the world’s central banks to pull back on their emergency stimulus. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/robust-rebound-won-t-augur-230100088.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAANIO_W4fWKspPdO0lmCF0BtRtybmUhLQrCrS7IiHsU3ox1D7lAQb3Wr7TRZVJl15aCZ4xuL-XKYMkGxjA9ibNTxZoMNfYd4a7dwMtWJG6VTw9RAdKO8fNl33Lu9oNBs6ZyOcLW0nqTwH9A17TmPzaaGMMUFN9VmVdSnCPC9aRR6X

Central banks, economy, pandemic. With a policy change pretty much off the table this week, European Central Bank watchers will have to closely monitor finer details about its pandemic stimulus program as policymakers wait for more data before taking decisive action. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/21/european-central-bank-meets-as-covid-lockdowns-complicate-recovery.html

The market opening. The rates to start your day ….

As of 9:40 am EST, Bloomberg reports that the yield on the three-month Treasury note is at 0.03% while the two-year note comes in at 0.15%. The ten-year and thirty-year Treasurys are trading at 1.56% and 2.25%, respectively.

The Federal Funds rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other overnight in support of their reserve requirements, is at .07%, while the Fed Funds target rate is still at .25%. The prime lending rate is 3.25%.

Exchange rates of interest as of 9:55 am EST….

Currency PairsRates as of 9:55 am EST 21 April 2021
EUR/USD1.2024
GBP/USD1.3891
USD/CAD1.2629
CAD/XCD2.1462
USD/XCD2.7000
USD/TTD6.6721
USD/BBD2.0000
CAD/TTD5.3012
CAD/BBD1.5986
Source: OANDA

The Opening Takeaway: Could banks become mere currency agents?

Yesterday I shared my expectations on the possibility of the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, and other central banks and finance ministries prohibiting cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange. Using the policy rationale of the government being the sole issuer of currency, cryptocurrency issuers may find themselves limited to generating digital assets for sale as investments or safe havens. But what about the banks? What would their role be?

Wall Street appears to be hedging its bets on digital currencies (see second link above) as they prepare for the disruption a central bank issued digital currency could cause. Cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase (Nasdaq: COIN) were receiving big boosts from what appears to be growing acceptance of cryptocurrency as at least a digital asset. Uncertainty in the markets drove capital toward bitcoin and other crypto-assets, making crypto the equivalent of gold in some minds. But with the vaccine rollouts and increases in the number of people, at least in western European countries and the United States on the increase, “risk on” seems to be the quiet rally cry accompanying a pullback in crypto prices. Acompanying the pull back are an increasing number of central banks exploring issuing a digital currency.

One arguable benefit from a central bank issued digital currency is the likelihood of turning more consumers into bank deposit holders. Rather than holding a deposit at a commercial bank, the “unbanked” along with those already holding commercial bank accounts, would have a default account at one of the Federal Reserve’s 12 central banks. yes, more account holders but not necessarily account holders at commercial banks. If the efficiencies promised by a central bank issued digital bank come to fruition, then why bother with holding another account? As part of the payment system, the check I write to and deposit into my son’s account goes through the Federal Reserve’s payment system anyway so why include another middle man? Commercial banks will have to consider these scenarios spawned by digital coin efficiencies when contemplating their new roles.

I see the larger banks easily leveraging their scale to ramp up already existing roles. They could focus more on lending, hopefully in a higher yield environment. They could also lobby for relaxation of Dodd-Frank restrictions on proprietary trading, opening up additional income making opportunities to offset income (if any) made currently from depositors. Large banks will not want to waste investments in their infrastructure by being relegated to mere currency issuer status, competing with check cashing facilities located at Walmart or around the corner at a pawnshop.

For the smaller banks, they will want to leverage their community relationships to counter any new found competition from larger banks as they face the irony of central bank issued digital coin taking away their customers.

Alton Drew

Interbank market news scan: The United Kingdom moves closer to adopting a central bank digital currency; other news…

Links you should be following:

Central banks, Bank of England. The UK is ahead of the curve when it comes to digital currency adoption, according to new research. A report by PwC reveals the UK is fifth in the world when it comes to preparing for the adoption of a central digital currency although a consumer offer remains a while off yet. UK leads race across Europe to introduce interbank digital currency (msn.com)

Central banks, Central Bank of Nigeria. It is the norm to hear talks around the need for convergence in Nigeria’s foreign exchange (FX) markets. This implies that there is mispricing. Historically, this mispricing has always been between the parallel market rate, which trades at a premium to the CBN’s managed rates across different FX windows. Liquidity, price discovery in Nigeria’s FX market Opinion — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

Central banks, Federal Reserve. Excess cash in the financial system has pressured overnight interest rates, in some instances pushing them negative, which, analysts said, could prompt the Federal Reserve to lift the short-term rates it manages. EXPLAINER-U.S. repo market flirts with negative rates as Fed seeks to absorb excess cash | Nasdaq

Central Banks, Central Bank of the Bahamas. The Bahamas and Cambodia rank as the two top central bank digital currencies. Bahamas Ranks First in CBDCs, China’s Digital Yuan Third: PwC Report – BeInCrypto

Central banks, Central Bank of India. The rupee advanced by 23 paise to 74.64 against the US dollar in opening trade on Tuesday, tracking weaker dollar against key rivals and a positive trend in the domestic equity market. Forex traders said the government’s decision to open COVID vaccination to all above 18 years from May 1 lifted investor sentiment. Rupee Rises 23 Paise to 74.64 Against US Dollar in Early Trade (msn.com)

The market is opening. The rates to start your day:

As of 8:59 am, Bloomberg reports that the three month yield on U.S. Treasurys is at 0.02% while the two-year comes in at .16%. The ten-year Treasurys are trading at 1.60% and 2.30%, respectively.

The Federal Funds rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other overnight in support of their reserve requirements, is at .07%, while the Fed Funds target rate is still at .25%. The prime lending rate is 3.25%.

The Opening Takeaway: I Expect the Federal Reserve, US Treasury to Pull the Trigger on Cryptocurrency.

Yesterday, the markets saw some pull back in shares for Coinbase (Nasdaq:COIN) with the cryptocurrency exchange closing yesterday at $332.75, down from a high of $409.62 back on 14 April. The pull back was reportedly expected among some analysts as some investors took a little cream off the top. From a market perspective, I was not impressed with the offering. In the end, Coinbase is a market exchange platform for cryptocurrency relying on transactional fees for its survival and maintaining credibility among market participants as an information finder and margin provider for traders.

How well Coinbase does is a direct function of how well cryptocurrency does. As long as cryptocurrency stays in its digital asset lane, it may need not worry about too much regulation. Should it dip its toe further into the currency lane, that is where bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin, etc., may find themselves in a world of hurt.

A currency’s legitimacy comes from the “king.” The king airdrops the currency throughout his jurisdiction for the purpose of washing and compounding it through a jurisdiction’s merchants, producers, and consumers. The currency says a lot about the economic value of the king’s jurisdiction and to maintain the prevailing narrative the currency represents, the king must control or heavily influence its value and circulation. The decentralized financial mechanism that cryptocurrency survives on does not fit into the command and control scheme of the king.

So far the US Federal Reserve has been ambivalent about its view of cryptocurrency. The US Treasury has been a bit clearer about its view of cryptocurrency as a currency based on Janet Yellen’s concerns about cryptocurrency being used for nefarious activities such as money laundering and drug trafficking. Neither the Federal Reserve or the US Treasury has expressed their concerns based on the philosophical underpinnings of currency, but I believe that when it is time for the central bank and the Treasury Department to pull the public policy trigger, control of the currency will be the ultimate public policy rationale.

Countries such as The Bahamas and Cambodia (see the links above) are not waiting. In the interbank, foreign currency exchange world, The Bahamas and Cambodia are near non-existent, but in the digital space they are the leaders in issuing central bank digital currency, taking digital payments to the next level. Over 60 countries are experimenting with or planning deployment of central bank digital currencies where their fiat currencies are tethered to block chain digital technology. Critics argue the point that outside of the digital tethering, a central bank issued digital currency does not increase the value of the fiat currency much. Maybe.

Other than requiring more use out of your cellphone or apps on your desktop, a central bank bank-issued digital coin may seem like mere aesthetics, but what is being ignored is the increased control that the government and central banks can exercise over the currency. Taking it to the extreme, I can see a government requiring that all transactions conducted within its jurisdiction be done via its central bank-issued digital currency with the primary reason being ensuring the collection of taxes on these transactions while better monitoring nefarious activities. I can see such a move beginning in countries that place less emphasis on free markets or individual privacy. The US will hem and haw over such a move especially when it sees China doing it, but if digitisation puts China out further ahead then I can see the United States capitulating to the new digital reality.

As for bitcoin, ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies, they may end up staying in the digital asset space. Their calling card is built on decentralized finance and opaqueness. They won’t become universally used currency for the masses.

Interbank market news scan: Jamaica closer to testing central bank digital currencies; Bitcoin is the world’s 3rd largest currency in total value …

The Strategic Takeaway: Governments of varying size from the United States to Jamaica are ready to compete with the threat alternative digital currencies like bitcoin poses to nation-state payment systems. Traders and investors should keep their eyes on the long term viability of cryptocurrencies in the current political environment. Even as larger financial institutions consider bitcoin as a hedge against declines in other assets including the dollar and consumers see more opportunities to use cryptocurrencies to purchase goods and services, nation-states will only tolerate the threat to their payment systems for so long.

Cryptocurrency issuers and the exchanges that support them will have to make the political and legal arguments that support their incorporation into a nation-state’s payment system. Central bank digital currencies have the potential of offering a faster payments system for the average consumer. Claims of decentralization, anonymity, and democratization of finance may fall on deaf ears if central bank digital currencies offer the average consumer a significant improvement over what the consumer is comfortable with.

In the meantime, cryptocurrency stakeholders should be prepared for closer regulatory scrutiny including threats of stringent regulation especially if there are either mass losses in cryptocurrency valuations or if investors are subjected to massive and/or frequent amounts of fraud.

Cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies have emerged as a financial instrument over the last year, but have reached new heights over the last quarter, becoming financial equality tools and placing power back in the hands of investors. How cryptomarkets revolutionised financial freedom (raconteur.net)

Stablecoins. Thailand’s central bank said it will issue regulations on asset-backed stablecoins this year after warning against the illegal use of a new baht-denominated stablecoin that was created outside the country. Thai Central Bank to Regulate Stablecoins This Year | Nasdaq

Cryptocurrencies. Now the third-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, Cardano (CCC:ADA-USD) is alive with buzz in the crypto community. Indeed, Cardano is one of those alt coins that gets less attention these days, mainly due to the sheer size of rivals Bitcoin (CCC:BTC-USD) and Ethereum (CCC:ETH-USD) 3 Reasons Why Cardano Has Outperformed So Impressively (yahoo.com)

Central Bank Digital Currency. Most of global payments are already digital, yet a central bank digital currency would provide risk-free, central-bank backed money denominated in a national unit of account — like cash, though updated to the demands of a digital financial system. Here’s How a Central Bank Digital Currency Could Work (msn.com)

Central Bank Digital Currency. After quietly exploring the viability of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for some time, Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) took the decision in May 2020, as a part of our ongoing retail payments reform, to venture into this digital innovation that is fast becoming a feature of global central banks. A primer on BOJ’s central bank digital currency (jamaicaobserver.com)

Cryptocurrency. Deutsche Bank has published a report stating that bitcoin is too important to ignore, noting that it is now the third-largest currency in terms of the total value in circulation. Deutsche Bank: Bitcoin Now 3rd Largest Currency, Too Important to Ignore – Markets and Prices Bitcoin News

Currency pair20 January 202122 March 2021Percentage change
ADA/USD *.381.18210.5
BTC/USD36,841.7058,335.0058.3
ETH/USD1,358.491,813.6833.5
LTC/USD159.13200.6526.1
Source: OANDA *Yahoo Finance

Interbank market news scan: Digital currency won’t replicate cash characteristics …

It would be misguided to expect cash-like features of a central bank digital currency, according to one of the monetary authorities furthest ahead in exploring such a system. Central Bank Digital Money Won’t Replicate Cash, Sweden’s Riksbank Says (msn.com)

Fluency, the UK-based fintech created by Polish emigrants, plans to sell its cryptocurrency banking business and focus on working with central banks’ digital currency efforts, newspaper Puls Biznesu reported on February 15. bne IntelliNews – Polish-UK fintech Fluency to focus on central banks’ digital currency

Democratic Republic of Congo’s economy grew 0.8% in 2020 on the back of strong performance in its mining sector, and is projected to grow 3.2% this year, a central bank advisor said on Tuesday. Congo’s economy grew 0.8% in 2020, to rise 3.2% this year, says central bank | Reuters

Bank of Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Tuesday the recent stock price rally reflected market optimism over the global economic outlook, brushing aside views its ultra-loose monetary policy was fueling an asset price bubble. BOJ’s Kuroda says stock boom reflects economic optimism, defends ETF scheme (cnbc.com)

With global demand returning and supply bottlenecks likely to drive up shipping, food and energy prices, Bank of America believes emerging market inflation could be on the horizon. BofA recommended buying currencies backed by hawkish central banks or a robust balance of payments — namely the Brazilian real, Chinese yuan, Czech koruna and South Korean won — along with oil exporters, most notably the Russian rouble and Russian equities. Bank of America names the emerging market currencies to back as inflation risks mount (cnbc.com)

Currency pairsExchange Rate as of 4:15 pm 8 February 2021(1) As of 12:36 pm EST Exchange Rate as of 16 February 2021(2)(3)
AUD/USD0.7656 0.7759
USD/CAD1.2781 1.2698
USD/CNY6.4664 6.4542
EUR/USD1.2035 1.2102
USD/INR72.8500 72.8160
GBP/USD1.3714 1.3905
USD/JPY105.4400 105.8800
USD/MXN20.1300 20.2100
USD/DKK6.1785 6.1383
USD/NOK8.5428 8.4407
BTC/USD  45,471.7000
ETH/USD  1,683.8900
Sources: Federal Reserve (1) ; Reuters-foreign exchange rates (2); OANDA-crypto rates (3)

Interbank market scan, as of 11:17 am AST: Central banks, cryptocurrency, foreign exchange

Beijing is keen to end the dollar hegemony that affords Washington vast power and ultra-low borrowing costs. It also wants to pull in more foreign capital to accelerate its economic development. Opinion | How Trump made China’s currency great again – The Washington Post

The USD/JPY bottoms are close at 102.00’s and nearly 200 pips. USD/CAD 200 pip bottoms at 1.2500’s. USD 200 pip bottoms means all currencies listed as USD/Other pair are all close to major bottoms at 200 ish pips. Currency market: USD/PLN and USD/BRL (fxstreet.com)

Brussels faces a steep climb in its effort to boost the international role of the euro as part of its quest to strengthen the EU’s self-reliance, investors and analysts said after the bloc set out new ambitions for the single currency. EU faces barriers to boosting single currency’s global status | Financial Times (ft.com)

European multinational corporations suffered the brunt of the $9.82 billion reported lost due to currency volatility in the third quarter of 2020. Kyriba’s Currency Impact Report Reveals $9.82 Billion in Total Quarterly FX Losses for European and North American Multinational Corporations (apnews.com)

The negative impact of currency fluctuations on North American company results fell sharply in 2020’s third quarter, reversing an upward trend, according to data from treasury and financial management firm Kyriba released on Tuesday. Currency Hit to North American Companies Dropped in Third Quarter: Kyriba | Investing News | US News

Banque de France has successfully conducted a central bank digital currency (CBDC) experiment using a blockchain platform for interbank settlement. French Central Bank Trials Digital Currency for Interbank Settlement | Nasdaq