The Swiss central bank’s shock decision to abandon the Swiss franc’s ‘ceiling’ against the euro yesterday (catch up on all the background here) continues to rattle investors.
Around mid-morning, the FTSE 100 was trading roughly 20 points lower at around 6,475. In New York last night, the Dow Jones ended 106.38 points (0.61%) lower at 17,320.
Here are the biggest stories of the morning so far.
Casualties of the Swissie shock: Forex brokers were counting the cost of the Swiss shocker. The basic problem is that traders who had bet that the Swiss franc would remain pegged (so were ‘short’ the Swissie) racked up huge losses when the currency soared. A large proportion of those debts is likely to remain unpaid, resulting in big losses to brokers.
West Ham shirt sponsor Alpari, a leading global forex broker, was put out of business altogether. Alpari’s chief market analyst, James Hughes, yesterday branded the SNB’s shock move as “horribly irresponsible” and described the central bank as “amateurs”, reports the FT. (Though we suspect the SNB wasn’t thinking primarily of forex traders when it ditched the peg.)
Elsewhere, IG Group estimates its losses from the Swiss move will be as much as £30m, according to Bloomberg. And FXCM Inc, the largest US retail forex brokerage said client debts due to the Swiss move total £225m and threatened its compliance with capital rules. And New Zealand’s Global Brokers NZ has been forced to shut down.
Billion-dollar sigh of relief for BP: BP was in demand after a US federal court judged that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 was smaller than the US government had originally believed. It is now reckoned the spill amounted to 3.19 million barrels, well below original estimates of 4.09 million barrels.
As a result, BP will face a maximum fine of $13.7bn. That sounds a lot, but previously it could have been liable for up to $17.6bn. BP led the FTSE 100 in early trading with the share rising 2.46% – 9.65p – to 402.25p on the news.
A whip round for Greek banks: Greece’s precarious position within the eurozone was highlighted again this morning with Greek newspaper Ekathimerini reporting that two of the country’s banks are requesting help from the European Liquidity Assistance fund, with the rest of the Greek banking industry expected to follow suit.
The banks have suffered a cash drought as a result of uncertainty around the country’s bailout arrangements caused by the snap election called earlier this month, says the newspaper.
Cheaper oil = rising demand (eventually): The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) oil market report for January concludes that oil prices could fall further, but “signs are mounting that the tide will turn”.
The agency has cut its outlook for the global oil supply this year, but added that “lower prices do not appear to be stimulating demand just yet” – despite the slide in prices, the IEA still thinks that consumption will only rise by 910,000 barrels a day in 2015, unchanged from December’s report.
Supermarket price war claims food supplier scalps: A report from insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor says more than 100 food suppliers could be forced out of business as supermarkets slash prices to try and hang on to their customers.
Begbies says there are more companies in financial distress in the food sector than in any other, with the number of firms in “significant distress” nearly doubling in the last three months of 2014.