Fighting inflation with FX, a real traders market

(GLOBALINTELHUB.COM) Dover, DE — 7/18/2017 — Hidden in plain site, as the Trump administration finally released something of substance regarding the so called promised “Trade Negotiation” we see FX take center stage in the global drama unfolding.  As noted on a Zero Hedge article:

The much anticipated document (press release and link to full document) released by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the Trump administration aimed to reduce the U.S. trade deficit by improving access for U.S. goods exported to Canada and Mexico and contained the list of negotiating objectives for talks that are expected to begin in one month. Topping Trump’s list is a “simple” objective: “improve the U.S. trade balance and reduce the trade deficit with Nafta countries.” Among other things the document makes the unexpected assertion that no country should manipulate currency exchange to gain an unfair competitive advantage, which according to Citi’s economists was the only notable surprise in the entire document: That line of focus centers on FX: “Through an appropriate mechanism, ensure that the Nafta countries avoid manipulating exchange rates in order to prevent effective balance of payments adjustment or to gain an unfair competitive advantage.”  ..While Canada and Mexico are not formally considered currency manipulators by the US Treasury, the reference in the list of objectives will likely set a template for future trade deals such as the pending negotiation to modify a 5 year old free trade deal with South Korea, a country in far greater risk of being branded a currency manipulator as it sits on the Treasury’s monitoring list for possible signs of currency manipulation.

As we have explained in previous articles and in our book Splitting Pennies – Trade is FX.  Tariffs can discourage trade, but so can a high price – effectively they are the same thing.  Conversely, a cheap price encourages trade.  This is why Japan has logically and rationally destroyed the value of its own currency in order to boost trade, in their case – exports – because Japan is not only a net exporter, they are a near 100% OEM manufacturer.

forex

But it’s not clear that whoever wrote this document understands FX – every currency is currently a ‘manipulator’ – including Japan, and the US Federal Reserve Bank.  In fact, the global FX market has become a race to the bottom, with each currency competing with each other who can go down more, faster.  It’s a race into oblivion.  Contrary to what you may read in the current doom journalism popular online, the global financial collapse is happening right before our eyes – over a long time horizon.  The big mistake that many economists, analysts, and investors have made in the ‘doom and gloom’ crowd is that they all expected a ‘date’ or a ‘time’ when everything would ‘collapse’ – they didn’t think that it can happen over a period of 50 years.  We are in the demise, it’s happening right before our eyes.

Today someone asked me if Bitcoin can really be 500,000 – and why not?  My answer was that, it isn’t that Bitcoin is going UP it’s that the value of the US Dollar is going DOWN.  So if Bitcoin is 500,000 – that property in the hamptons that’s listed for $150 Million, it will be listed for $15 Billion, or why not $1 Trillion.  There is no limit to the amount of money the Federal Reserve can create – but there is a limited amount of Bitcoin.  Those who have lived in exSSR countries or Russia for example, understand how quickly money can be worthless.  Quantitative Easing is itself a global ‘reset’ if you understand how it works, and it happens over a long timeframe.

So where is one to invest, to protect from the deteriorating value of FX?  Bitcoin is by itself not a solution and by no means even something that should be part of any portfolio, it’s a test of the new world order’s global currency payments and monetary control system, whatever you want to call it – and it’s very volatile – just as it goes up 100% it can go down 90%.  The answer is that even with Bitcoin – the point is to TRADE it not INVEST in it.  Let’s dissect FX to understand this.  Take a look at this Daily EUR/USD chart going back 3 years:

eur usd

The EUR/USD goes up, it goes down.  There’s an election in France, an election in the US.  It’s practically one currency.  But the ECB has a similar QE program that’s destroying the value of the Euro as well.  So the way to protect yourself here is to ‘trade’ this.  For example, take a look at a snapshot from 2016 of Magic FX Strategy, that has returned on average 1.5% per month for the last 4 years:

magic

This is not a solicitation of this particular strategy, simply it provides a good example of how to ‘trade’ FX for a consistent profit, to combat inflation.  Investing in CDs and other interest rate products are not going to give you the 15%+ per year needed to stay ahead of the Fed.  This is the game of hot potato that Elite bankers have designed that’s built into the modern electronic financial system.  The stock market is great unless there’s a down year, but still just barely keeps you ahead of the game (if you stick to the traditional blue chips, industrials, utilities, etc) and certainly is not going to give you the 15% – 30% per year returns needed to really grow your portfolio.  30% + is the magic number Elite portfolios target (ironically, it’s about a 2x allocation to Magic FX strategy, in line with the natural fluctuations of the FX market, using reasonable, modest leverage).

If you’re not making 15% + per year inflation is eating you away.  So where can you invest and get 15% with reasonable risk?  The answer is practically no where in the markets, maybe in the private equity world, complex real estate, and other special situations but clearly there is no vanilla answer like “Buy Gold” or “Buy Bitcoin” as there may have been post 9/11.  This will be more and more true as QE matures, because QE is distorting asset prices in complex ways.  This is the ‘trap’ which has been set.  Not only does it cull the herd, as the Elite like to do every 20 years or so, it forces investors into a situation where they have to take more risk – if they don’t, their assets will ultimately be eaten away by inflation.  They have to play the game because if they sit on the sidelines they will lose out.  Of course it’s not fair – but that is the nature of the global capitalist financial system, at the moment, and it’s not going to change in our lifetime, so one can understand it and master it, or be the victim of it, SIMPLE!

And in the case of FX it’s not so complex to understand.  Let’s look quickly at the last currency of investment, the Swiss Franc.

Here’s a historical chart of CHF/USD (usually it’s quoted USD/CHF which is the inverse – opposite)

Investors in Swiss Francs over this period – which includes Americans just sending their money to Switzerland, enjoyed a 400%+ return over the 40 year period, non-compounded, without considering interest (just FX).  The small blip in the 80s when this investment declined was due to the US Dollars aggressive double digit interest rates, but that ended in 1986 when Swissie just took off and never looked back.  That was until the post 2008 world, where Switzerland became the target of a number of investigations by hungry US agencies looking for someone to blame and money to pay for damage done by the credit crisis, including the IRS, FBI, and DOJ in general, but there were a number of other US interests interested in financially ‘toppling’ the Gnomes of Zurich – namely, by closing the only way out of QE.  The Swiss Franc (CHF) was really the only currency that had any value, it was 40% backed by Gold, and upheld by a 1,000 + year banking tradition, a stable economy, and banking privacy laws.

In order to solidify the US Dollar as the primary world’s reserve currency, that had to be smashed.  So they did it in a number of ways, including but not limited to activating assets there such as corrupt central bankers (which really was a non-issue) and squeezing the Gnomes back into submission.  So the conclusion to this drama is now the CHF previously being the only real currency to invest in for the long term and forget about it, is now a central bank manipulated currency that is subject to SNB interventions, caps, trading ranges, and other direct central bank manipulation (like all other currencies).

So the reason for that story is simply that there is no where to just ‘invest’ your money and forget about it anymore (there was, such as the example of the Swiss Franc).  The good news though, FX is a traders market.  If investors are not too greedy, there’s a number of strategies in FX that can return the 15% + needed to beat inflation and possibly even grow.  Magic FX is certainly not the only strategy in the world with such low-volatility and consistent returns.  But due to the recent Dodd-Frank regulations such strategies are only available to ECP investors, which is a step above being accredited – basically you need to be liquid for $10 Million.  Oh, and to make fighting inflation really fun for the retail US investor, you aren’t allowed to hedge (no buying and selling of the same currency) and you must exit your positions in the same order in which you entered them (FIFO) and you have reduced leverage.  Basically, the Fed is creating pressure forcing the hand of investors to trade to stay ahead of the game, and the regulators are making it difficult (and in fact, more risky) to trade.  With US rules it’s a miracle any US retail investor can be profitable.  The rules have really turned FX into the casino that people are afraid of, because they are literally telling you when to exit your trades (FIFO).

In conclusion – FX is a real traders market.  It’s better than stocks, bonds, options, futures, etc.  Now with the influx of Cryptocurrencies FX is about to get even more interesting.  By trading FX successfully, or finding a manager who can do it for you – it’s the only way to fight inflation, to at least maintain the value of your hard earned dollars.  As we mentioned earlier in the article, there are of course other methods such as private equity and niche businesses (such as lawyers selling rights to settlements) that can generate the 30% + needed to grow a portfolio – but it’s not available publicly, in the markets.  But FX is there – it’s there for the taking – and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Open a Forex Account or Learn Forex with Fortress Capital Trading Academy.

Article written by Elite E Services for Global Intel Hub.

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By 
Emily Glazer
The whispers among employees had been around for years. They finally heard some facts during a conference call in June led by managers in Wells Fargo WFC +3.17% & Co.’s foreign-exchange operation: Some of its business customers had been cheated, according to two employees who were on the call.
An internal review showed that out of roughly 300 fee agreements based on anything from informal handshakes to emails to signed documents, only about 35 companies were charged the actual price they had been offered for currency trades handled by Wells Fargo, the employees say.
The phone call was part of a continuing cleanup that has led Wells Fargo to fire four foreign-exchange bankers and federal prosecutors to open their own investigation of the operation, people familiar with the matter have said.
“Wells Fargo remains committed to our foreign exchange business,” the bank said in a statement Monday. “If we find a problem, we fix it.” The bank said its foreign-exchange business is “under new management.”
The business is tiny compared with foreign-exchange operations at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. but could become another huge headache for the San Francisco bank, still grappling with fallout from the sales-practices scandal in its retail operations. The scandal led to last year’s abrupt retirement of Wells Fargo’s chief executive, a $185 million regulatory settlement and numerous federal and state investigations, which are continuing.
Wells Fargo retail employees had to hit lofty goals to keep their jobs or get bonuses, which led some employees to open potentially 3.5 million accounts with fictitious or unauthorized customer information from 2009 to 2015.
Foreign-exchange employees got bonuses based solely on how much revenue they brought in, say more than a dozen current or former Wells Fargo employees. No other big bank in the U.S. calculated bonuses of currency traders in such a defined and individual way. Wells Fargo said Monday that it began making changes to those compensation plans earlier this year.
The bank also charged some of the highest trading fees around, according to current and former employees. For more than a decade, customers were sometimes charged anywhere from 1% to 4% on basic transactions such as converting euros to dollars and complicated trades like hedging.
Those percentages can be at least two to eight times higher than the middle-market industry average of 0.15% to 0.5%, depending on the trade, customer and volume, according to foreign-exchange bankers throughout the industry.
Wells Fargo disputes the descriptions of its foreign-exchange fees by current and former employees. The bank said Monday its fees in 2016 had a weighted average of 0.09 percentage point across all transaction sizes. Clients served by its middle-market banking team were charged a weighted average of 0.18 percentage point, according to Wells Fargo.
Some foreign-exchange bankers at Wells Fargo relied on the fact that customers often didn’t bother to double-check how much they were charged, fee levels weren’t straightforward, and complaints could be batted away, the current and former employees say.
‘Time fluctuation’
One former Wells Fargo manager says employees would tell customers who expressed surprise at the size of a trading fee that market prices were different at the moment when the transaction was executed and blame “time fluctuation” for any difference.
The bank’s foreign-exchange customers have included telecommunications firm CenturyLinkInc., vehicle-parts supplier Federal-Mogul Holdings Corp. and nonprofit groups such as the National Bone Marrow Donor Program.
Regulators have been investigating the foreign-exchange business at Wells Fargo, including a big trade involving Restaurant Brands International Inc., the owner of Burger King, Tim Hortons and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, according to people familiar with the matter.
A Burger King in Tokyo. The fast-food chain’s owner got a refund from Wells Fargo after disputing a trade handled by the bank.
A Burger King in Tokyo. The fast-food chain’s owner got a refund from Wells Fargo after disputing a trade handled by the bank. PHOTO: KIM KYUNG-HOON/REUTERS
The trade resulted in a loss to Restaurant Brands, people familiar with the matter have said, which led to a dispute between the Oakville, Ontario, company and the bank. The dispute centered on how bank employees handled the trade, rather than its pricing. Wells Fargo refunded about $900,000 to Restaurant Brands, people familiar with the refund say.
The foreign-exchange business’s problems run far deeper than what is known inside Wells Fargo as “the Burger King trade” or what has been previously reported. The extent of the trouble seems to have become apparent to top Wells Fargo executives earlier this year.
Small FryForeign-exchange spot contracts as apercent of a bank's total derivativesportfolioTHE WALL STREET JOURNALSource: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Bank ofAmericaCitigroupJ.P. MorganWells Fargo0%102030
The business was moved in early 2017 from Wells Fargo’s international division into its investment-banking and capital-markets operation. Since then, executives have changed internal systems, added more stringent rules around pricing and required more frequent compliance checks, current and former employees say.
Issues with the Burger King trade were found following those checks and customer complaints, people familiar with the matter say. The continuing internal review of Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange operation is separate from the review sparked by the sales scandal, some of the people said.
A compliance training session in early November detailed what Wells Fargo called “approved margins” for different volumes of foreign-exchange transactions, according to an internal document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Employees say fee levels remain higher than industry norms, and some compensation practices aren’t due to change until next year.

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Foreign-exchange trading has been a problem area for many banks. In 2015, several large U.S. and European banks agreed to multibillion-dollar settlements with U.S. regulators and pleaded guilty to criminal charges filed by U.S. authorities over alleged collusion among currency traders.
Bank of New York Mellon Corp. agreed in 2015 to pay $714 million to resolve allegations it defrauded pension funds and other clients by overcharging them on currency transactions.State Street Corp. agreed in 2016 to pay $530 million to settle similar allegations.
Both banks admitted giving some clients far worse pricing on currency transactions than the banks implied the clients would get.
The Journal reported in October that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California is investigating the Restaurant Brands currency trade and has subpoenaed information from Wells Fargo.
Potential issues related to that trade also are being examined by the Federal Reserve, the Journal reported. Examiners from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are auditing Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange business, according to employees at the bank. A Wells Fargo executive says the audit is “normal course of business.”

Payment Plans

Some current and former Wells Fargo employees say its charges on foreign-exchange trades encouraged employees to cheat customers.

Fees for some currency trades
Industry average
Wells Fargo
Fee: 0.15 - 0.5%
Fee: 1% - 4%
For a $10 million trade
Fee:
$100,000 - $400,000
Fee:
$15,000 - $50,000
How Wells Fargo compensated bankers
If a banker had a revenue target of $5 million
and brought in $6 million ...
Revenue target: $5 million
Revenue that exceeded target: $1 million
.. the banker would earn a bonus of $100,000,
or 10% of the $1 million
Bonus
Source: People familiar with the bank
Current and former bank employees say its pricing practices were rooted in a culture and compensation system that looked to maximize revenue. Bonuses were defined as 10% of revenues exceeding revenue targets.
If a banker’s revenue target was $5 million and the person brought in $6 million, he or she would earn a $100,000 bonus, or 10% of the additional $1 million in revenue. Bankers typically received such bonuses twice a year in cash, rather than stock, as part of a signed contract, they added.
It’s rare among foreign-exchange groups in other banks to have so-called defined-bonus plans focused on individual earnings, according to people in the industry.
After Wells Fargo moved the foreign-exchange business into its investment bank earlier this year, managers began telling employees that bonuses would become “discretionary” by the end of 2017. Under this more typical arrangement, management would decide employee bonuses, and bankers wouldn’t know exactly how much they would receive. It would be based on a variety of factors, not just revenue.
Wells Fargo has 18 foreign-exchange sales and trading offices, including in New York, San Francisco, Charlotte, N.C., London and Hong Kong. A few hundred people work in the group world-wide.
Current and former employees say Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange customers are largely midsize businesses that don’t tend to trade in large volumes. As a result, those clients don’t have the same insight into the market as larger firms that are more-active traders.
Some Wells Fargo clients have complained to the bank. In November 2016, Ecolab Inc., a water, hygiene and energy company based in St. Paul, Minn., bought and sold currency in a so-called swap arranged by the bank, according to people familiar with the deal. These people say Wells Fargo collected 1% on one part of the $100 million deal.
Ecolab contested the fee charged by Wells Fargo on a transaction arranged by the bank.
Ecolab contested the fee charged by Wells Fargo on a transaction arranged by the bank. PHOTO:ARIANA LINDQUIST/BLOOMBERG NEWS
After Ecolab compared the full trade, including fees, to overall market prices, the company contested the bank’s fee. Wells Fargo refunded hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ecolab in December 2016, according to current and former employees.
A spokeswoman for Ecolab confirmed the details of the trade and said it was the only fee issue Ecolab had with Wells Fargo.
Fee issues arose for some Wells Fargo clients even when they had a pricing agreement. The bank agreed within the past 18 months to a specified rate with data-management firm Veritas Technologies LLC, according to bank employees. After making one trade on behalf of Veritas, Wells Fargo bankers told Veritas that the bank’s fee was 0.05 percentage point higher than the agreed rate, the employees say.
Unusually high fees
The result: The bank made an extra $50,000 on a $100 million trade, the employees say. Wells Fargo later made a refund to Veritas, according to people familiar with the matter. A Veritas spokeswoman declined to comment.
Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange business also charged unusually high fees for trades with different currency conversions, known as “Bswift” transactions, current and former employees say.
“And if anybody did complain, it was an easy tap dance,” one former employee says. He says employees would say the pricing had been done automatically by the bank’s computer system so “there’s no accountability for the spread.”
Wells Fargo sent an internal email Nov. 2 detailing new guidelines for Bswift transactions, according to a copy of the email reviewed by the Journal. The guidelines include specific handling and pricing procedures for those trades.
The operation also charged high fees to other parts of Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo Rail, which leases locomotives and railcars, and the bank’s corporate-trust division are often charged 1% to 1.5% on currency transactions, according to current and former employees.
The bank’s foreign-exchange management often celebrated big trades and the money they made for the bank, the current and former employees say. Sara Wardell-Smith, who led the foreign-exchange group, emailed the group to hail big trades, naming clients and spelling out revenue generated. The employees say managers used to encourage employees to ring a brass bell in the San Francisco office when the bank made a lot of money on a trade.
In mid-October, the bank announced that Ms. Wardell-Smith would lead its financial institutions group in the Americas region, according to a memo reviewed by the Journal and confirmed by a bank spokeswoman.
Current employees say the move was viewed within Wells Fargo as a demotion, coming just months after Ms. Wardell-Smith had been promoted to co-lead the bank’s division focusing on trading of rates, currencies and commodities. She didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The other co-leader, Ben Bonner, now leads that group on his own and is overseeing foreign-exchange trading, a bank spokeswoman confirms.
Mr. Bonner has been working with other executives to fix the problems in the currency business, according to several current employees.
Last month, the bank sent a memo to foreign-exchange employees that instructs them not to create informal or oral pricing agreements. The memo, reviewed by the Journal, also said employees are “responsible for ensuring customers are not misled regarding” pricing.
Current and former employees say some Wells Fargo employees expressed concerns about pricing practices to top executives before the bank’s internal cleanup efforts began earlier this year. Some employees say they were reluctant to press for sweeping changes, citing what they saw happen to one manager in the foreign-exchange operation about a decade ago.
During a meeting of foreign-exchange managers in the mid-2000s, Cathy Witt said it wasn’t right to celebrate high fees by ringing a bell, people familiar with the situation say. Ms. Witt, an employee in the bank’s Chicago foreign-exchange group, warned that Wells Fargo could become known as a “bucket shop,” a derisive term for a disreputable finance firm, some of the people say.
A few weeks later, Ms. Witt was summoned to a meeting in St. Louis, told that her comments had been offensive and demoted on the spot, according to people familiar with the matter. She also was told to apologize to other managers for her unprofessional behavior, the people say. She later left the bank.
—Aruna Viswanatha contributed to this article.

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