Mumbai: It’s a different Christmas for foreign exchange dealers in India’s financial capital, who are still waiting for their annual ritual—the quiz.
Currency tracking: The rupee has risen 11% against the dollar since the beginning of the year.
Every December, when trading volumes thin in the foreign exchange market due to Christmas holidays, forex dealers in India stop staring at the movement of the rupee against the dollar on their screen all the time. Instead, they try to find out who stays at 221(A) Baker Street (Lord Swaraj Paul) or which bank finds a mention in one issue of Asterix comics (Barclays Plc. in Asterix and the Cauldron).
That is because they all compete in a quiz that runs on Reuters Plc.’s trading terminals.
Generally, two or three banks take the initiative and almost all dealers join the competition that runs for three to four days. It also carries small prizes for the winners, such as a champagne bottle or a dinner at a fancy restaurant. The exact timing of when the quiz starts depends on what is happening in the forex markets.
For instance, if the market is extremely dull, the quiz could sometimes start as early as the first week of December. However, there is no sign of the quiz so far as dealers seem to be busy dealing with volatility in the foreign exchange market. The average daily volume in a foreign exchange market is about $7-8 billion (Rs27,720-31,680 crore) but, in December, the volume normally falls to about $3 billion.
While forex dealers in the West tend to revel in Christmas holidays, the market in India carriers in during the week, but is quite dull because of limited activity on the global currency front.
So far this year, it has been a different story with the daily trading volume in December significantly higher than, say, last year. The rupee has risen 11% against the dollar since the beginning of the year.
The rise has been accompanied by volatility in the market with increased intervention by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the country’s central banker. RBI has bought about $95 billion from the market since January to rein in the runaway appreciation of the rupee that pushes down the income of exporters in rupee term. In November, the rupee touched 39.16 a dollar, its strongest since March 1998.
According to a dealer with a foreign bank, who does not wish to be quoted, traders are a little unsure and nobody wants to take a long position in the foreign exchange market. “Unlike in past few years, the spot market this December is quite active,” he says.
Meanwhile, the quiz waits.