FXCM Inc details institutional FX market dysfunction on January 15 around SNB action

FXCM Inc (NYSE:FXCM) has disclosed detailed information regarding its systems and the broader FX market during the January 15th EUR/CHF Flash Crash.

FXCM has compiled data points which demonstrate the unprecedented and extreme dysfunction of the FX market on January 15th.

FXCM Timeline of Relevant Events on January 15 (Morning, Eastern Standard Time):

  • 04:30 – Swiss National Bank announces the removal of the 1.2000 EUR/CHF floor.
  • 04:30:47 – EUR/CHF drops below 1.2000 for the first time.
  • 04:30:56 – 9 seconds later, the major international banks who provide liquidity to FXCM begin rapidly removing liquidity as quotes go as low as 1.1659.
  • 04:30:57 – FXCM’s system circuit breakers deploy to halt new quotes and trading. These circuit breakers are designed to protect clients against erroneous quotes and off-market trades.
  • 04:31:08 – 21 seconds following the drop below the 1.2000 floor, only 1 liquidity provider is quoting FXCM at 1.1094 (1000 pips from the floor price).
  • 04:31:43 – One major international bank is quoting a bid of 1.0037. Another major international bank is quoting a bid of 1.1556 (1500 pip range in bids between 2 liquidity providers at the same second). EBS quotes 1.0000 at this time.
  • 04:32:41 – The first quote from FXCM liquidity providers below parity – 0.9831. The EBS quote at this time is 1.08115 – 1000 pips away.
  • 04:33:32 – One major international bank quotes a bid of 0.6374. Another major international bank is still quoting 1.1220 at the same time (5000 pip range between 2 liquidity providers at the same second). There is no valid quote on EBS at this time.
  • 04:35:16 – While there are still no valid quotes on EBS, 3 bid quotes from FXCM liquidity provider bounce within a 6000 pip range in 2 seconds: 1.1078, 0.5696, 0.9769
    • *0.5696 is the lowest quote received by FXCM from all its liquidity providers
  • 04:42:28 – EBS shows a bid quote of 0.9550 one second, then a bid quote of 0.5000 the next second (a difference of 4500 pips). The next new price shown is 0.9600, five seconds later.
  • 04:55:40 – The market finally trades somewhat consistently above parity, but volatility is still extreme. The range of bid quotes between major FX industry ECNs is 0.87 to 1.0001 (1300 pips).
  • 05:10:00 – The market begins to stabilize around 1.0400 level. Spreads and consecutive price ticks are still above 100 pips. The range of bid quotes on major FX industry ECNs is 1.0120 to 1.0600 (480 pips).
  • 05:17:00 – FXCM’s quoting circuit breakers are removed and prices begin updating again. Execution is still halted.
  • 05:23:00 – FXCM’s trading circuit breakers are removed and execution of trades begins again. Liquidity levels are as little as 5% of normal levels, and only 3 or 4 liquidity providers are quoting consistently.

FXCM considers January 15 a Flash Crash – The Institutional FX Market Failed And Did Not Function:

As the above timeline demonstrates, the SNB’s surprise announcement caused a complete institutional FX market breakdown impacting liquidity, volatility, spreads, and execution. Unlike other recent major market events where FXCM’s liquidity providers continued quoting and providing consistent levels of liquidity, January 15 saw an extreme lack of liquidity and pricing.

  • No Liquidity – There was almost no available liquidity for approximately 40 minutes
  • Dramatically Low Pricing – External ECN prices went as low as 0.2000 and 0.5000
  • Extreme Spreads – The average spreads of EUR/CHF were more than 2000-3000 pips
  • Extreme Range – The average range of EUR/CHF was 6000 pips.

The January 15 flash crash saw the EUR/CHF drop 40% in seconds whereas the 2010 flash crash in the equities market saw about 9% drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the course of a few minutes.

The Swiss National Bank’s Mishandling of the Swiss Franc:

FXCM has made a commercial statement, affirming that on January 15, 2015, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) caused a flash crash that lead to historic dysfunction never seen before in the FX markets when it announced that it was completely (not gradually) removing the 1.2000 self-imposed floor on the EUR/CHF exchange rate.

The SNB’s shocking announcement was made without any prior warning or notice to the marketplace. As the market perceived the EUR/CHF rate to be real, the abrupt change triggered chaos and a complete FX market breakdown.

In light of what FXCM considers to be the reckless actions of the SNB, FXCM has since ceased offering any currencies which carry significant risk due to potential manipulation by their respective governments either by a floor, ceiling, peg, or band.



For the official announcement from FXCM, click here.

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