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Foreign Currency


 
I’ve got all this foreign currency left over from my travels. I just never changed it back into dollars. Let’s see: I’ve got some Russian rubles, some Malaysian ringgit, uh here’s a twenty pound note from Britain.
Like any tourist here in Time Square I can go inside here and change them back into dollars at the going rate. But if I’m a big bank or a big global company like, say Apple that makes things in one place and sells it in another, I have a lot more currency to trade.
And now authorities are worried that where the big guys go to trade is a sight of some seriously shady dealings.
There are about 180 different types of currencies and every day about 5.3 trillion dollars changes hands. That’s 30 times the daily trading in the stock market.
All these different transactions happen in the Foreign Exchange Market. It’s the biggest financial marketplace in the world.
When traders buy one currency for another, say dollars for yen, euros for pounds, they get the going price at that very moment: the exchange rate.
24/7, 365 the FX market is like New York. It never sleeps. But at four o’clock in London all trading stops for one minute. It’s called “The Fix.”
That sixty second fix is important, setting a benchmark and giving everyone a supposedly credible yardstick to measure one currency against another. It’s the closest thing this market has with a closing bell. And for many customers big and small, having that one daily value is key.
The problem is: authorities in the US and around the world say “the fix” has been fixed. They say some traders in London have been rigging it to their own advantage.
The rap is: these London traders have been colluding with each other, giving themselves names like “The Cartel,” “The Mafia,” and “The Bandits Club.” They supposedly met up in electronic chat rooms to push currencies, one way or another, at the very last seconds; the process called, get this “Banging the Close”
If it all sounds a bit Wolf of Wall Street, keep in mind that City Group, Barclays, HSBC and some other big banks have already been swept up in the investigation. And that’s the thing whether it’s oil or currencies or interest rates whenever one small group can set the price for everyone, odds are they’ll try to turn it to their advantage. And who loses when that happens? Well, anyone who thinks they got a fair shake.

Source: nytimes

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