There was a four year stretch where I was responsible for big currency spec positions. I was regularly over a billion dollars long short in either USDJPY or USDDM (this was before the Euro). This happened many years ago. I don’t things are any different today, there are plenty of folks making mega-billion dollar currency bets in April 2013.
The numbers back then were surreal. Daily P/L changes were regularly $5m. It was not unusual to make or lose $25 million in a week. There were a number of us involved in this effort – trading at this level requires a 24/7 effort. We all had a percentage due to us based on the annual results. Of course we tracked what our share of the daily gains and losses were. At one point someone started to measure the personal results in cars, not money. It was either dark comedy, or a way of obfuscating the big numbers we were confronted with on a daily basis. I can understand how some readers will find this repugnant, it’s the way of fast money.
How’d I do today?…..You lost a 7 series BMW.
What was your weekly nut?…..Three Corvettes.
I did if for four years, it wore me down more than you can imagine. I had to give it up. The FX market doesn’t owe me a thing, but I still have the tire tracks on my back. The money was one thing, the stress was a different story.
The markets were very liquid. To buy or sell $1b was a few phone calls; it took only a minute or two. From 6pm Sunday in NY, to around 4 on Friday there is an active FX market someplace on the globe. If you had to turn-and-run on a position, you could do it. But after 4 PM on Friday, you were dead in the water. For the next 50 hours you were stuck with what you had. And of course, these are the hours when big things happen.
To be “square” on Friday night meant you could sleep through the weekend. But you didn’t make money that way. We were paid to take big risks. I sweated through dozens of those weekends.
I bring this up as I was reminded of those times with the 4:30 pm Friday release of information by Treasury Secretary Lew (Link):
There are two potentially market moving sections in the report. The Treasury Department planted a “dirty bomb” at the Bank of Japan, and tossed a grenade at the Swiss National Bank. I’m thinking of all the folks who are big long USDJPY. They are going to have to sweat the next 50 hours. They have to hold their cards and wait. I suspect that quite a few FX players will have their weekends ruined.
The key words on Japan:
We will continue to press Japan to adhere to the commitments agreed to in the G7 and G 20, to remain oriented towards meeting respective domestic objectives using domestic instruments and to refrain from competitive devaluation and targeting its exchange rate for competitive purposes.
- Jack Lew will replace Geithner as Treasury Secretary. This choice will be driven by Lew’s knowledge and experience with budget matters. But Lew knows nothing of the capital markets and this will be a problem when a non-budget crisis emerges. Lew will say something about the currency markets that causes a big flap. There will be calls for his resignation as a result.