FX Volatility Disappoints Some

Terry Flanagan

The macroeconomic landscape is highly turbulent, as the European debt crisis holds wide-ranging implications not only for the EU countries, but also for North American and Asian economies.

One could expect the situation, and its attendant effects on cross-border trade flows and interest rates, to spark massive volatility in the foreign-exchange markets. But that generally has not been the case, simply because the drama is unfolding at a very slow pace, say market participants.

Perhaps counterintuitively, “some volatility has been down” rather than up in the FX space, noted a panelist at a CME Group derivatives event held in New York last week.  “It’s a function of how slow the process has been,” the person said.

Indeed, it has been a slow process. While government-debt levels had been building up for years, it wasn’t until late 2009 that the problem drew widespread attention. In the two and a half years since then, Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland’s finances have all come under the spotlight, amid increasing speculation that the euro currency may contract or even go away altogether. Market participants do not expect a resolution anytime soon.

The slow pace has given FX traders more time to adjust their positions; this is perhaps good for longer-term holding positions, but it also doesn’t provide an urgency to trade like a overnight development or near-term deadline might.

To be sure, FX volatility has been ample in the markets given the uncertainty and pending developments – it just hasn’t been the smorgasbord some traders would prefer, and outside some short-term spikes, it may remain relatively placid.

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