Swiss Franc’s Surge Sparked a $9.2 Trillion Day for Currencies

The removal of the cap on the Swiss franc led to CLS Group Holdings AG, the operator of the world’s largest currency-trading settlement system, processing a record $9.2 trillion of transactions on Jan. 20.

The Swiss National Bank’s surprise decision to allow the franc to strengthen beyond 1.20 per euro on Jan. 15 pushed the currency up by more than 15 percent against more than 150 counterparts tracked by Bloomberg, sending a gauge of foreign-exchange price volatility to an 18-month high. The New York-based company settled more than 2.26 million payments on Jan. 20, the most since its creation 12 years ago, it said in a statement Wednesday.

The average value of transactions per day in January rose 9 percent from a month earlier to $5.31 trillion. Volumes climbed 16 percent.

The Swiss decision caused turmoil across global financial markets as currency dealers scrambled to process orders and investors sought the safest assets.

The JPMorgan Global FX Volatility Index has since fallen to 10.37 percent from the high of 11.52 percent it reached on Jan. 16. It set a record low on a closing basis of 5.29 percent in July last year.

CLS is owned by financial services institutions such as Bank of America Corp. and Bank of China Ltd. which it says together account for more than half of currency-market transactions.

Banks and their clients rely on CLS Group to process payments for currency transactions. Without a body to settle trades, market participants risk losing money if a counterparty failed to fulfill its side of a deal.

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