1 Jan 2015

My hope for 2015 - Let's start taxing all trading in Euros - wherever they occur in the world.

Here's my number one wish for 2015. I hope and pray that someone out there will realise that there is a very simple thing that we can do that would go a long way towards resolving our problems. Central Banks, and in particular the European Central Bank, should introduce a flat rate Financial Transaction Tax on all transactions denominated in their currency - wherever they occur in the world.

The ease with which this could be done is made blindingly obvious if you just take a look at the clearing volumes reports on LCH.Clearnet's website. I love these people because they very kindly provide a day by day listing of all trading, with details for each of 16 different currencies.

I just extracted the latest information, which includes all the trading done in 2014.
You can see that LCHClearnet processed a total of nearly $642 trillion in 2014. But the really impressive fact is that nearly 50% of those trades were carried out in Euros - €238,447,455,975,386 to be precise.

LCHClearnet also very obligingly tells us precisely what those trades involved. Here is the breakdown. 
You can see that nearly 47% of those trades involved Overnight Indexed Swaps, with 33% in Forward Rate Agreements, and 19.5% of Interest Rate Swaps. 

So, if the ECB wanted to, it could easily slap a 0.1% transaction tax on all Euro-denominated transactions. And LCHClearnet would have handed over up to €248 billion for its operations in 2014 And that's just one company - a company whose trading activity hasn't even been included in the Bank for International Settlement's annual report since 2009. I've already complained bitterly about that for years. Clearly, the BIS just needs to have someone with internet access and they could do this themselves.

The LCHClearnet website provides plenty of other interesting information. For example, here is their barchart of the volume of trades by month.
Just point your mouse at each column and you get the actual value.The best month was june, where LCHClearnet handled an impressive $69 trillion in a single month.

They also have a chart with the number of trades per month.
So, from those two sets of numbers, I was able to generate the following set of data that shows they handled ovef 2.5 million trades in a year, and that the average trade has a value of around $250 million.
Clearly, it's not the average pensioner who is going to be moving $250 million around with every click of a button.

So, lets do it. Let's have a modest 0.1% tax on all those Euro transactions - collected by which ever central bank is in control (in this case the Bank of England, because we are talking about a trading center based in the London), and transfered to the European Central Bank. The ECB could then (a) distribute the money among the governments of the 17 Eurozone countries simply on the basis of population size, or (b) provide money directly to Eurozone citizens. Or it could do both. I would say that a 50/50 split between governments and citizens would work very nicely thank you.

Note that while LCHClearnet handled just over 2.5 million transactions in 2014, this is peanuts compared with my favourite Clearing centre - the Options Clearing Corporation. They handled over 4.1 billion contracts in 2013 - resulting in 287 million actual transactions - over 100 times more  LCHClearnet. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing either the total value of those trades. Nor do I have any way of knowing what proportion of those trades are in Euros.

But, if the ECB were to do what I propose, we could find out pretty fast.

What are we waiting for? Oh, I remember. Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB was previously the vice chairman and managing director of Goldman Sachs International and a member of the firm-wide management committee (2002–2005). Maybe, just maybe, he might not be too interested in doing what would be good for citizens in the Eurozone. Prove me wrong - please!

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