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Opalesque Futures Intelligence

News Briefs: Royal Bank of Scotland, Man Group, Barclays Capital, AlphaMetrix, MF Global, and more.

Monday, September 14, 2009

RBS Offers Managed Futures Fund

The Royal Bank of Scotland is offering a UCITS III fund that tracks a managed futures index created by Victor Sperandeo—veteran trader, founder of Alpha Financial Technologies and author of the "Trader Vic" series of books. The Trader Vic Index fund was in preparation for several months. See the April 7, 2009, issue of Opalesque Futures Intelligence for interviews with Mr. Sperandeo and others involved in developing the index and fund.

Barclays Capital Enhances FX Trading

The new version of PowerFill, Barclay Capital's online currency trade execution system, facilitates automatic, anonymous and fast orders while showing the depth of the liquidity pool. Part of the multi-asset BARX electronic trading platform, the FX tool allows users to trade directly from an intraday graph and execute orders from Excel.

Clients asked for new features that give them greater control over trade execution, said John Caccavale, managing director and head of BARX sales in the Americas. What goes on in the system is what goes on in a trader's mind but it is much faster, he says.

Barclays is one of the largest liquidity providers in the world, according to James Bergin, managing director and co-head of foreign exchange sales. He says when you bid on BARX, everybody sees your bid and your chance of executing the trade improves. Increased liquidity reduced the bid-offer spread, thereby lowering transaction costs.

AlphaMetrix Taps Executive for Expansion

AlphaMetrix LLC, a managed account platform for institutional and accredited investors, hired Jodie Gunzberg as managing director of risk, a newly created position. She will be in charge of expanding the company's capabilities from managed futures into other liquid hedge fund strategies.

Previously Ms. Gunzberg was chief investment strategist for Macro Consulting Group and vice president of hedge fund investments at Morningstar/Ibbotson. At MCG she worked with the fiduciary services management committee to establish asset allocation parameters for institutional client portfolios.

"Her experience with top-tier investment management firms and track record building institutional portfolio solutions gives us invaluable perspective as we add to the AlphaMetrix managed account platform," says AlphaMetrix chief executive Aleks Kins.

Currently the firm's managed accounts are traded by commodity trading advisors. The accounts hold more than $1.8 billion in assets and provide transparency, twice-monthly liquidity options and third-party custody of assets. AlphaMetrix services include portfolio construction, research and due diligence, risk management and real-time portfolio analysis and reporting.

Man Seeds Liquid Macro Fund

RMF Global Emerging Managers, part of Man Group's investments arm, provided $50 million seed capital for Minerva Fund, a discretionary global macro investment vehicle focused on Asia and located in Hong Kong

Minerva's founders have impressive pedigree. Manager Stanley Ku previously founded the Hong Kong office of Fortress Investment Group and recently managed $750 million for Fortress' Drawbridge Global Macro Fund. Dorothy Lau, Minerva's risk and business manager, worked for JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

After the redemption freezes of 2008, the fund's liquid strategy was an attraction for RMF. "Stanley Ku's work at Fortress and Goldman Sachs has made him a very well respected money manager in Asia," said Hans Hurschler, head of Man Investments' hedge fund ventures. "But we are also enthusiastic about investing in this fund early in its development because Minerva invests in the kind of highly liquid assets that are especially appealing to investors following last year's problems with gating and side pockets."

Minerva trades only liquid instruments such as interest rate futures, foreign exchange forwards and equity index futures or sector exchange-traded funds. The entire portfolio is designed to be liquidated in 48 hours. Mr. Hurschler says they believe that Minerva has the potential to generate solid, stable returns and that it may attract substantial assets.

Mr. Ku said that the relationship with Man brings not only a stable asset base but also a wealth of marketing and investment management experience.

RMF GEM typically makes four or five investments with emerging managers each year. Earlier this summer it allocated $50 million to a fixed income arbitrage manager. This seeder vehicle invests in funds rather than in investment companies but typically shares some of a fund's costs and revenues.

CME's New Carbon, Electricity and Gasoline Contracts

CME Group launched trading and clearing services for 12 new petroleum product futures and options, to start September 20th. Trading will be available on the New York trading floor and clearing through CME ClearPort. Among the new contracts are Singapore Mogas 95 unleaded swap futures and Diesel 10 ppm Northwest Europe Le Havre swap futures.

According to CME, the Asian products will help mitigate risk in the Singapore regional gasoline and fuel oil markets while the European products are being listed to meet a new regulatory requirement for lower sulfur content. The first listed month will be the October 2009 contract.

Separately, the derivatives exchange started trading and clearing for new European Union Allowance and Certified Emission Reduction serial options contracts. These are listed on a quarterly basis and will expire into the December contract of the same year. CME says the year-end European carbon contracts are typically the most liquid and accessing these by means of the serial options will allow market participants to benefit from the lesser time value of the instruments.

Also starting this month, the exchange will provide trading and clearing for 18 new peak and off-peak electricity futures and options for various time zones. CME expects that utilities and marketers will use these contracts to get liquidity and transparency as they hedge their risk.

Gain Capital Adds Oil

The Forex.com UK division of Gain Capital added Brent crude oil to its currency and spot metals trading platform. "Economic fundamentals have become a significant driver of oil prices. This factor and the inverse relationship between oil and the US dollar means trading oil is a fairly natural extension and an interesting alternative to currency trading," stated Jane Foley, director of research for Forex.com.

The Forex.com oil contract tracks the price of Brent crude on the Intercontinental Exchange. Gain chief executive Glenn Stevens says that after launching gold and silver contracts on the platform earlier this year, oil is the next logical step and Gain will continue to add new products to all its platforms to help clients take advantage of global trading opportunities.

ICE Energy Contracts, Dollar Futures Record, CDS Advances

Futures exchange operator IntercontinentalExchange Inc. introduced 43 new over-the-counter contracts for North American electricity, natural gas, liquid natural gas and oil. ICE plans to make these OTC swaps and options available for clearing beginning September 28. With the addition of these products, ICE offers 240 OTC energy contracts.

Separately, ICE announced that its US dollar index futures contract set a daily volume record on September 8, with 47,404 contracts traded. The previous record of 45,614 contracts was established on September 10, 2008. The USDX is a widely used benchmark that allows traders to hedge moves in the value of the US dollar relative to a basket of world currencies in a single transaction.

In other developments, BNP Paribas was approved as a clearing member of ICE Trust US, a regulated credit default swap clearinghouse, and credit default swaps cleared by ICE in the US and Europe reached $2.2 trillion notional value with 24,000 transactions as of September 3.

Governments, including the US, have pushed for regulated clearing of CDS because the derivatives are seen as responsible for some of last year's problems, in particular big losses at insurance giant AIG.

MF Global Expands Team

Brokerage MF Global Ltd. appointed Robert Lyons as North American chief operating officer and Paul Farrell as global head of foreign exchange. Previously Mr. Lyons was chief operating officer at Watermill Trading LLC and before that worked for Bear, Stearns & Co. Mr. Farrell was at JP Morgan Chase, where as a managing director he headed FX sales and trading teams.

In August the firm added more than 20 professionals to its fixed income units in New York and London. The hires include MacDonald Budd, Mark Gannon, Michael Marsallo and Brett Benzaalso, all previously from UBS AG; Rich Bryant from Citigroup Global Markets; Michael Wieczorek from Nomura Securities; and Matthew Troy from Merrill Lynch.

MF Global chief executive Bernard Dan says they have implemented a number of changes throughout the company within the last year and strengthened the already talented team.

Also in the past few weeks MF Global launched a Japanese equities research, sales and execution group led by Graham Elliott, former chief executive of Jefferies Japan. The group will provide clients worldwide with insight and analysis on Japan's most liquid stocks.



 
This article was published in Opalesque Futures Intelligence.
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