Brexit Bulletin: Banks Throw in the Towel on Clearing

Executives think it’s all over.

London Banks Fear Loss of Euro Derivatives Clearing

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Global investment banks are throwing in the towel in the battle to keep London the home for clearing of $570 billion of euro derivatives.

Executives tell Bloomberg’s Gavin Finch and John Detrixhe they expect France or Germany to prevail in the tussle once Brexit is underway and are making plans to cope.

While it might take years for the transitions to happen, jobs and operations central to the clearing function will be among the first moved to the continent once the U.K. triggers its withdrawal from the European Union, one person said.

It would mark a defeat for Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who pledged this month to seek to protect London’s status as the epicenter for European trading in interest-rate swaps, accounting for about 39 percent of the global market. 

European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, the bloc’s financial-services chief, and European Parliament President Martin Schulz both today reiterated that the U.K. faces a choice between imposing immigration controls and letting its financial firms continue to trade freely with the EU.

Separately, Euronext Chief Executive Officer Stephane Boujnah said in an interview that Chinese investors may be more willing to consider using his exchange in the future given Brexit will diminish London’s role as a financial center.

Hammond Meets Businesses

With the background noise growing over the future of financial services after Brexit, Hammond sought to pacify business leaders that the government will ensure they can continue to trade with the EU single market after Britain leaves.

While officials have told Bloomberg the chancellor increasingly thinks the current terms of membership will not be possible if the government prefers to crack down on immigration, he said yesterday he will offer support to firms through any period of adjustment. Among those he met at a London meeting were British Airways CEO Alex Cruz, and J Sainsbury Chairman David Tyler.

In a statement, Hammond said:

“In our negotiations to leave the EU, we will work hard to get the best deal for Britain and that includes ensuring that British companies can continue to trade with the single market in goods and services. We have an opportunity to forge a new role for ourselves in the world, to negotiate our own trade deals and be a positive and powerful force for free trade and it is crucial that government and business work together to make it happen.”

He may have some outreach work to do. For the first time since 2012, an index of sentiment compiled by the Federation of Small Businesses fell below zero in the third quarter, meaning that more firms were pessimistic than optimistic about prospects. It was the third straight quarterly decline. 

The Bank of England today said it plans to hold a key bank capital buffer at zero until at least June 2017 as the outlook for U.K. financial stability remains “challenging.”

Obama Means What He Said

President Barack Obama meant what he said when he warned striking a trade deal with the U.K. wasn't a U.S. priority, Trade Representative Mike Froman said.

Froman, the White House’s top trade negotiator, also poured scorn on the idea put forward by the U.K.’s pro-Brexit camp that the country can immediately start discussing deals with other parts of the world.

“The U.K. first and foremost needs to focus on how to define its future relationship with the EU and that will be its overwhelming preoccupation and it’s really impossible for anybody else to negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.K. until you know what is its competence,” Froman said in an interview in New York.

Anyone Need a Room?

Finding a hotel room in London will be easier next year because companies will cut their travel budgets amid concern that U.K. economic growth will slow, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Occupancy rates in 2017 will fall one percentage point to 80 percent, the lowest level in nine years, the consultancy said in a report. Revpar, an industry measure of profitability, will decline by 2.8 percent this year and 0.5 percent in 2017.

More than 3.7 million people visited London from overseas for business reasons last year, according to data compiled by the U.K.’s national tourism agency.

On the Markets

 The pound got a respite from its recent Brexit-related downdraft, advancing for a second day as the Federal Reserve maintained status quo on interest rates and scaled back the outlook for increases beyond this year.

European markets were up again, with all key indexes rising by more than 1 percent in Thursday trading.

And Finally...

Political pundits are drawing comparisons between Prime Minister Theresa May and her predecessor but one, Gordon Brown. Neither is flashy and both delayed decisions or sometimes alienated colleagues, Robert Hutton reports today. On Brexit, May's approach so far has been to wrest control of all the levers of government, while keeping her thoughts to herself.

Brown was lauded for his role stabilizing the global financial system after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, but was booted out of Downing Street in the 2010 election. Brexit presents May with her own daunting challenge. How will her story end?

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