Crane Data has posted the preliminary agenda and is now accepting registrations for its 2nd Annual European Money Fund Symposium (www.euromfs.com), which will be held Sept. 22-23, 2014, at The London Tower Bridge Hilton in London, England. Crane Data's first European event, held last September in Dublin, attracted over 100 attendees, sponsors and speakers, and we expect our London event to be even bigger and better, and to remain the largest money fund conference in Europe. European Money Fund Symposium offers "offshore" money market portfolio managers, investors, issuers, dealers and service providers a concentrated and affordable educational experience, as well as an excellent and informal networking venue. Our mission is to deliver the best possible conference content at an affordable price to money market fund professionals. Attendee registration for our 2014 Crane's European Money Fund Symposium is $1,500 (or 900 GBP). Thanks for your support, and we hope to see you in London! Finally, also visit www.moneyfundsymposium.com to learn more about our big U.S. show, Crane's Money Fund Symposium which will be held June 23-25, 2014, in Boston, and www.moneyfunduniversity.com to learn more about our "basic training" event, Crane's Money Fund University, which will take place January 22-23, 2015, in Stamford, Conn.
Federated Investors' Senior PM Sue Hill wrote last week in "In short: The downside of qualitative," "What is good for the Federal Reserve is not always good for the market. Markets don't like subtlety and certainly not uncertainty, but that is what the Fed now thinks is the best strategy for policy decisions in an economy that is recovering at such a slow pace. By switching from quantitative to qualitative forward-rate guidance at the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting, it was understandable that Fed policymakers would be concerned about how their message would be perceived by the markets. And rightly so, since its projection chart -- the so-called dots chart -- and Chair Janet Yellen's press conference "around six months" comment afterward showed that some members were expecting higher rates earlier than previously thought. By pulling back from a concrete figure of 6.5% unemployment as a threshold for increasing rates to guidance that takes a broader look at the economy, the Fed has put the market in a position of prediction more than reaction. The volatility of the last few weeks and past few days shows how market-watchers don't handle this well. And that is even after a subsequent speech by Yellen and the minutes from its mid-March meeting, released this week, that were not just dovish, but generally in keeping with policymakers' expressed view on rates since late last year. The content of the minutes was actually not particularly surprising, and the market reaction -- or overreaction -- reflects more a difficulty in understanding what the Fed was trying to say than anything else. With an increased emphasis on the importance of Fed communications going forward, we expect the market's attempts to interpret these messages to be a continued source of volatility."
The Wall Street Journal wrote last week, "J.P. Morgan's Dimon Would Like Corporate Cash to Find a New Home". It said, "Deposits are the lifeblood of banks, so turning them away would be folly. Or so it would seem. J.P. Morgan Chase chief James Dimon suggests that may soon happen, at least when it comes to the business of holding idle corporate cash or nonoperational deposits. In his annual letter to shareholders, Mr. Dimon noted these are "hugely unprofitable," especially given new rules governing the amount of liquid assets banks must hold. As a result, Mr. Dimon wrote, "banks probably will minimize this type of deposit, and clients will seek other alternatives, probably in the money markets."" The piece continues, "So while executives might like to stop holding so much corporate cash, that service will likely stay in place as a loss leader. And, in the longer run, such deposits at banks will come down -- albeit for reasons other than that they have become a burden. A shift is likely to be driven by an eventual turn in short-term interest rates, prompting corporate customers to move money to capture yield. Many expected such an outflow would begin once the government ended unlimited insurance on noninterest-bearing deposits at the end of 2012. But by the end of 2013, such deposits at U.S. commercial banks had grown to $2.61 trillion, up 3% from the prior year and more than 50% over four years. This could be a testament to the continued belief the largest banks still are too big to fail -- so that even though the deposits are no longer explicitly guaranteed, depositors enjoy implicit government support. And with interest rates still at superlow levels, there just isn't enough compensation for corporate clients to take on the additional risk of moving money elsewhere."
SIFMA, formerly the Bond Market Association, will host its annual Asset Management Account (AMA) Roundtable and its Operations Conference April 28-30 in Boca Raton, Fla. This year's event will include a panel on "Money Market Reform," which will be moderated by Joan Ohlbaum Swirsky of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young and which will feature Pete Crane of Crane Data, John Hammalian of BNY Mellon/Dreyfus, Craig Collier of Thomson Reuters, and Mark Heckert of Interactive Data. SIFMA's AMA Roundtable includes presentations and networking for brokerage and "cash" account product managers. The group is seeking more attendees (registration is $375) -- e-mail Theresa Andino at firstname.lastname@example.org for a meeting registration form. The description for the MMF Reform panel says, "Money market fund reform is coming! It has been top-of-mind for regulators and market participants alike over the past year, but a final rule is expected around Q2 2014. This panel will explore the current landscape of the money market fund industry, explore the floating NAV and "gates" regulatory proposals under consideration at the SEC, and help you understand what changes may be necessary in operations, customer relations, and across your firm to implement these reforms."
GTNews Offers a "Guide to Investing Operating Cash", underwritten by State Street Global Investors (SSgA). The description says, "This guide is written to support treasury practitioners whose responsibility is to invest short-term surplus cash. While most companies are likely to have varying cash balances over the course of a year, it is appropriate for treasurers to try to consider cash as falling into three separate categories for investment purposes: operating cash, short-term strategic cash and longer-term cash. The focus in this guide is on investing the operating cash used to finance working capital. We consider a number of key questions to help treasury practitioners to review any existing policy and processes, as well as to design new ones. The guide also includes a document highlighting the key elements to include in a standalone short-term investment policy, and the points to cover when developing investment management procedures." In other news, the ICI released its latest "Money Market Fund Assets", which says, "Total money market fund assets decreased by $17.70 billion to $2.61 trillion for the week ended Wednesday, April 9, the Investment Company Institute reported today. Among taxable money market funds, treasury funds (including agency and repo) decreased by $12.04 billion and prime funds decreased by $3.37 billion. Tax-exempt money market funds decreased by $2.29 billion."
Fitch writes in a "South African Money Market Funds Sector Review", "Fitch Ratings has completed a sector review of South African money market funds (MMFs), which resulted in the affirmation of the National Fund Credit Ratings (NFCRs) and National Fund Volatility Ratings (NFVRs) of the following six MMFs at 'AA+(zaf)'/'V1(zaf)' -- Absa Money Market Fund, Investec Corporate Money Market Fund, Investec Money Market Fund, Nedgroup Investments Corporate Money Market Fund, Nedgroup Investments Money Market Fund, and STANLIB Corporate Money Market Fund.... As of end-February 2014 the funds' combined assets under management (AUM) was approximately ZAR133bn, equivalent to just over half of the total domestic AUM in the MMF sector in South Africa as of end-December 2013, according to statistics from the Association for Savings and South Africa (ASISA). Total domestic AUM in the South African fund management industry continues to rise, reaching ZAR1.4trn in December 2013. MMFs account for around 20% of that total -- a declining proportion of the total in relative terms, but broadly stable in cash terms. The MMF sector is evenly split between institutional and retail investment. As in other jurisdictions, corporate treasurers are major users of MMFs, as part of their cash management strategy.... Fitch monitors the rated funds continuously, based on a monthly review of portfolio holdings as well as summary statistics on the portfolio and investment activities. The MMFs are constant net asset value (NAV) funds, therefore: The funds are regulated by South Africa's Financial Services Board under the Collective Investment Schemes Control Act of 2002 (CISCA, specifically Notice 80 of 2012). Changes have been proposed to CISCA, including the introduction of a monthly mark-to-market process. The new regulations also pave the way for variable net asset value MMFs. All of the Fitch-rated MMFs in South Africa have a constant net asset value. Therefore the NFVRs are driven by the market risk exposure of the underlying portfolios, which may not necessarily be reflected in the funds' NAVs. The new regulatory proposals also envisage that all MMFs hold at least 4% of the portfolio in assets in liquid form. This falls below the level proposed by regulators in Europe (10%) and the requirement in Fitch's Global Money Market Fund Rating Criteria (published 13 January 2014) of 10%."
Wells Fargo's latest "Portfolio Manager Commentary" says, "At its current pace, the Fed's asset purchases will end sometime in the fourth quarter of 2014, and if "considerable time" really means six months, as we have been told, then we are looking at our first rate hike in the April–June 2015 time frame. So, how does that square with the committee's forecast for a 1% federal funds rate at the end of 2015? In the past, others have noted a disconnect between the FOMC's economic and federal funds forecasts, so this could just be a similar situation. Alternatively, it could also mean that since the policy of optimal control not only calls for rates to be lower for a longer period of time than other models might call for, there could also be a more rapid rise in rates once policy shifts. Market participants who are expecting a gradual tightening on the order of 25 basis points (bps; 100 bps equals 1.00%) every other meeting or so may be surprised at the magnitude of rate hikes when they do occur, and portfolios positioned for a gradual increase may find themselves terribly out of sync with market conditions. But who can really blame them? For a group that has promoted transparency in an effort to provide clearer forward guidance for investors about its monetary policy, the Fed left the waters very muddied after this meeting. Is there a surprise rate spike in store? While interest-rate movements are not solely dependent on central bank intentions -- at least not yet -- and market forces still determine the path of interest rates, those forces are not exclusively influenced by the invisible hand. Regulatory activities can create incentives that alter the behavior of market participants and affect activity and pricing, sometimes wildly. One market that is ripe for such a disruption is the federal funds market."
Federated Investors wrote last week "The end of low-rate frustration is almost in sight", They said, "From a rate perspective, the frustration is ending. We haven't seen the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but we can at least imagine seeing it. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting last month furthered this optimism when new chair Janet Yellen announced the continuation of its monthly tapering of asset purchases, lowering the amount of Treasuries and agencies being purchased to $55 billion from $65 billion per month. The Fed also moved away from the quantitative approach to forward guidance that had been in place. It is not that the Fed was saying that unemployment and inflationary statistics are no longer important, but rather that they felt a broader, less-quantitative approach was merited. The FOMC statement indicated that the current target range would be in place for a considerable period of time after QE ends, which, if the Fed keeps on the current pace of reduction, could be in late 2014. Or will it? In her question-and-answer press conference after the FOMC announcement, Yellen went on to describe "considerable" as around six months. Many analysts felt Yellen misspoke, perhaps flustered by the peppering of reporters' questions, but FOMC members didn't race to soften her comments. Maybe more telling was the summary of economic projections released at the time of the announcement; here, the majority of FOMC members thought that tightening would commence in 2015, with an average projection for the fed funds target at year-end 2015 in excess of 1%. With that outlook, in the second half of 2014 we would expect to see a slight steepening of a yield curve that is quite flat now. The bond market seems to bear this out by the fact that few are buying March bonds. With an expectation that rates might actually be increasing, the portfolio strategy is not to buy the longest thing out there at this point in time. Instead, investors are keeping weighted-average-maturities relatively steady, buying more floating-rate positions and shortening the barbell."
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York issues a "Statement to Revise Terms of Overnight Fixed-Rate Reverse Repurchase Agreement Operational Exercise" late Friday, which says, "As noted in the September 20, 2013, Statement Regarding Overnight Fixed-Rate Reverse Repurchase Agreement Operational Exercise, the Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has been conducting daily, overnight fixed-rate reverse repo operations as part of an operational readiness exercise. Beginning with the operation to be conducted on Monday, April 7, the maximum allotment cap will be increased from its current level of $7 billion per counterparty per day to $10 billion per counterparty per day. All other terms of the exercise will remain the same. As an operational readiness exercise, this work is a matter of prudent advance planning by the Federal Reserve. These operations do not represent a change in the stance of monetary policy, and no inference should be drawn about the timing of any change in the stance of monetary policy in the future."
ICI's latest weekly "Money Market Fund Assets" report says, "Total money market fund assets decreased by $13.12 billion to $2.63 trillion for the week ended Wednesday, April 2, the Investment Company Institute reported today. Among taxable money market funds, treasury funds (including agency and repo) decreased by $3.02 billion and prime funds decreased by $11.39 billion. Tax-exempt money market funds increased by $1.29 billion. Assets of retail money market funds increased by $1.04 billion to $922.76 billion. Treasury money market fund assets in the retail category decreased by $220 million to $203.64 billion, prime money market fund assets increased by $890 million to $524.28 billion, and tax-exempt fund assets increased by $370 million to $194.84 billion. Assets of institutional money market funds decreased by $14.17 billion to $1.71 trillion. Among institutional funds, treasury money market fund assets decreased by $2.80 billion to $714.68 billion, prime money market fund assets decreased by $12.28 billion to $915.34 billion, and tax-exempt fund assets increased by $910 million to $76.98 billion." Money fund assets have fallen for 5 straight weeks and have decreased by $89 billion, or 3.3%, year-to-date.
The latest update on the SEC's "Comments on Proposed Rule: Money Market Fund Reform; Amendments to Form PF" website is from Federated Investors' counsel Peter J. Germain, who writes, "I am writing as a follow up to our visit with the SEC staff on March 11th. First, I wanted to thank you for taking time out of your schedules to meet with us on the subject of money market fund reform. As you may recall, during our meeting a request was made for information as to the total amount of cash sweep assets in prime money market funds. Since the date of our meeting we have made numerous attempts to ascertain that information. For example, we queried iMoneyNet, the ICI, Peter Crane and Treasury Strategies. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be reliable industry data indicating the total amount of sweep assets in prime money market funds. Federated has looked at its own records and has been able to determine that as of January 31, 2014, it had approximately $48.8 billion in prime sweep assets out of a total of $89.7 billion in prime assets. You may want to consider looking at the 54.4% of prime sweep assets as a rough proxy for industry numbers in the absence of other available data. There is a consensus that prime sweep cannot be adapted for a floating NAV fund. It also presents a challenge for implementing an retail exemption, due to its omnibus nature. Bank products are the most common alternatives to prime funds in sweep programs, followed by retail repurchase agreements, so any sweep money leaving prime funds would likely migrate to these products. I hope this information is helpful. Please call me at the number below if you have any questions. Thank you again for meeting with us."
The latest figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (under "Temporary Open Market Operations") show Fed reverse repos totaling $242 billion as of March 31. The site explains, "To implement monetary policy, short-term repurchase and reverse repurchase agreements are used to temporarily affect the size of the Federal Reserve System's portfolio and influence day-to-day trading in the federal funds market." Wells Fargo Securities' Garret Sloan explained Tuesday in his daily commentary, "Participation in the Federal Reserve reverse repo program rose to a record high of $242 billion yesterday, surpassing the previous record of $197 billion that was set on December 31. Participation in the program had declined in early-to-mid March as the increase in Treasury collateral available put upward pressure on repo rates which reduced the demand for the 5 basis point Federal Reserve program. However, the amount of Treasury collateral is beginning to decline as there will be a net pay down this week just shy of $17 billion which should put downward pressure on repo rates. The decline in supply is expected to continue as the Treasury will cut bill sizes as we approach the deadline for the filing and payment of taxes on April 15. The weighted average Treasury repo rate did increase yesterday to 9.9 basis points but now that quarter end is behind us it is expected to fall back to the 6 basis point range as repo is opening this morning at 5-6 bps." Note: Crane Data will release its March 31 Money Fund Portfolio Holdings collection next Tuesday, April 8.Archives »