Q1 looking good (so far) for Forex firms – thanks to high gas prices??

Initial volume numbers which we have seen so far for early-reporting Forex firms such as Swissquote Bank, FXCM and IG Group (each members of LeapRate’s Approved List of online Forex firms) seem to point to a nice increase in Forex trading volumes during Q1-2011, following a somewhat lackluster second half of 2010 – see summary results table below.

These decent results are not unexpected given the increase in general volatility since mid-February in certain key Forex pairs, commodities, and stock indices – and in this industry greater volatility (usually) translates into higher volumes. However, we at LeapRate believe that something deeper in happening, with online Forex firms enjoying an increase in activity being seen by all kinds of online and e-commerce businesses.

An interesting report by MasterCard Advisors, as reported in the Financial Times last week (https://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8599616c-7674-11e0-b05b-00144feabdc0.html for those with FT.com online access), showed that general online shopping in the US has grown lately by its fastest rate in nearly four years, with April 2011 up more than 19% from last year. April 2011 was the 21st consecutive month seeing online sales growth, and the fourth consecutive month of accelerating growth.

The reason for the increase? Mainly high gas prices – with prices at the pump continuing to climb, consumers are pumping less gas (US petrol consumption was down 1.9% in April vs. the prior year), and doing more shopping from home, online. We believe this stay-and-do-things-from-home phenomenon is also positively impacting the online trading business, with consumers doing less “stuff” out of the home, spending more and more time at home and in front of the computer. And the impact is even greater, we believe, outside the US. While US consumers are complaining about $4-a-gallon gas prices, in most other places in the world (such as most of Europe) petrol costs about twice as much, eating up an even higher proportion of household expenses, and leading consumers to be even more wary of every trip in the car.

Early next week we should learn more with the Q1 results reports of FXCM and Gain Capital expected (although we already have FXCM’s Q1 volume numbers). Stay tuned…..

For FXCM March 2011 volume results announcement click here.
For IG Group interim results announcement to Feb28-2011 click here.
For Swissquote Q1 results release click here.

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