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商业 - 金融

纽交所合并案的重头戏:衍生品

Cyrus Sanati 2011年03月07日

随着监管者开始仔细审查拟议的纽约证券交易所和德意志交易所合并案,他们需要考虑的,远不仅仅是股票交易这一项。

    由于纽约证券交易所(New York Stock Exchange)的命运仍然悬而未决,关于华尔街之魂的争夺战还在继续。纽交所试图以100亿美元将自身出售给德国的德意志交易所(Deutsche Börse),此举需要在今后数月中通过严苛的监管审查,可能会令这笔交易陷入繁文缛节之中。

    一些人担心这笔拟议的合并案以及正在进行的其他交易所合并案可能会导致股票市场更加动荡,他们认为也许会再次出现“闪崩”或者更糟糕的情况。

    但是,自纽交所鼎盛时期以来,交易业务已经发生翻天覆地的变化。实际上,本次纽交所-德交所交易与股票交易关系不大,倒是与交易所保持竞争优势所需要的业务其他部分——技术和衍生品关系更大。

    的确,纽交所的股票交易量仅占美国股票交易总量的24%左右,低于15年前的70%。这是由于十年前美国政府下令,允许其他交易所交易在纽交所上市的股票。目前有50多家新兴交易所可以促成股票交易,所需的费用远低于纽交所。

    但是利润率如此之低,以至于即便在群雄割据的新兴平台中,其中的主要交易所也已开始进行合并。最大的新兴交易所之一——BATS上月宣布正在收购竞争对手Chi-X ,以打造一个规模更大的平台。这两家交易所均拥有相当庞大的股票市场份额,经费开支也极低,因此它们可以转而提供更低的交易费,从而赢得竞争。

    与此同时,希望使大量交易摆脱市场视线的投资者正日渐转投所谓的“暗池”,以便他们进行交易。这些交易平台大多由投资银行运营,交易量占美股交易量的12%左右。规范这一领域的各种措施正在实施当中,但华尔街继续选择利用这些秘密的交易所,使自身活动不为普通大众所知。

未来的交易所

    数年来,纽交所已扩大业务范围,以弥补部分由股票交易量减少造成的亏损。该交易所将其交易技术出售给诸如卡塔尔证券交易所等其他规模稍小的交易所,同时还销售市场数据。这是该交易所仅有的增长领域之一,2010年营收较2009年同期增长22%。此项业务的利润占纽交所2010年总利润的16%。与此同时,来自公司上市和交易执行业务的利润只占该交易所2010年利润的13%。

    尽管德意志交易所无疑将欢迎纽交所带来的营收,但真正的精华在于衍生品领域。衍生品交易费2010年增长14%,达到8.26亿美元,占纽交所净营收总额的三分之一和利润的40%。纽交所拥有位于欧洲的强大衍生品平台Liffe,而德交所拥有欧洲期货交易所(Eurex)的一半股权,后者是全球最大的衍生品交易所,也以欧洲交易为主。与股票不同,衍生品通常是与交易所挂钩的预订合约。这意味着这些交易产生的收入基本不会被市场新入者抢走。 由于新规定最终强制要求绝大多数场外衍生品通过交易所结清,预计衍生品市场今后数年将出现增长。

    继纽约商品交易所和芝加哥商品交易所同意剥离其金属业务之后,美国监管部门允许了这两家美国最大的期货交易所在2008年进行合并。在欧洲可能也会出现类似情况,欧洲监管部门可能希望纽交所和德交所剥离一部分欧洲衍生品业务。这也许会稍稍伤及本次交易存在的理由,但不会破坏交易。

“通往美国衰落之路的指示牌”

    不过,在见识过“闪崩”的危害后,监管部门可能对交易所合并更为敏感。因为交易过程简化、费用降低会加剧市场的波动性,并导致恶性市场事件。

    例如,芝加哥商品交易所(CME)本周就宣布,对于其两项产品——欧洲银行美元定期存款和美国国债期货的保证金标准可能下降65%, 此举与纽交所Liffe交易所采取的一项类似措施相一致。这两家交易所与银行共同采用的跨市场保证金担保,将允许交易员以少得多的资金投出更大的赌注。而市场中杠杆率上升会导致交易员轻率投注,并造成重大市场波动。

    美国特拉华州前任民主党参议员泰德•考夫曼在其任职2年期间倡导市场改革,他在闪崩发生当天对《财富》表示:“各交易所争相降低标准,越来越多的迎合高频率交易者 ,这已经成为一项利润率极低的业务。看起来我们似乎将迎来一波全球交易所合并热潮,在美国证券交易委员会(SEC)确定自己对市场的看法之前,这些合并将再次重塑市场结构格局。”

    到目前为止,阻止合并的理由主要是担心大量美国股票交易落入外国人之手。但美国政府官员已经出面表示,本次交易或许不会造成安全威胁,从而使监管部门在作决断时难以提出这条理由 。

    考夫曼最近取代伊丽莎白•沃伦出任不良资产救助计划(TARP)国会监督委员会主席一职,他认为“这远不止是在合并后的公司名称 里,‘纽约证券交易所’这几个字是排在前面还是后面的问题。如果我们不停下来,恢复美国市场的可信度,这就是通往美国衰落之路的指示牌。”

    但并不清楚是否能采取任何措施,停止交易所领域的合并。伦敦证券交易所正对多伦多证券交易所进行收购,而新加坡交易所正试图收购澳大利亚证券交易所。围绕其他潜在兼并的传闻还有芝加哥商品交易所、纳斯达克(NASDAQ)的母公司和其他交易所抢购规模较小的交易所。当然,监管部门可以叫停兼并狂潮,但眼下他们恐怕没有理由这么做。

    The battle for the soul of Wall Street continues as the fate of the New York Stock Exchange remains up in the air. The NYSE's tentative $10 billion sale to Germany's Deutsche Börse will need to pass through a regulatory gauntlet in the next few months, which could ensnarl the deal in red tape.

    Some fear that the proposed tie-up, along with a number of other exchange mergers in the works, could lead to a more volatile marketplace for equities, which they believe could lead to another "flash crash" or something even worse.

    But the business of trading has changed dramatically since the NYSE's heyday. In fact, the NYSE-Deutsche Börse deal has less to do with equity trading than it does with other parts of the business the exchanges need to maintain a competitive advantage: technology and derivatives.

    Indeed, the NYSE only trades around 24% of the volume of US equities, down from 70% 15 years ago. That's thanks to a government directive a decade ago that allowed other exchanges to trade NYSE-listed stocks. There are now over 50 alternative exchanges that can facilitate equity trades much cheaper than the NYSE (NYX).

    The margins are so low that even elements in the fragmented world of alternative platforms have started to merge. BATS, one of the largest alternative exchanges, announced last month that it was acquiring rival Chi-X to create an even larger platform. Both have sizable chunks of the equity markets and extremely low overhead, so they may move to offer even lower transaction fees to fight off the competition.

    Meanwhile, investors that want to move large blocks of trades out of the sight of the market are increasingly turning to so-called 'dark pools' to facilitate their trades. These trading platforms, run mostly by investment banks, trade around 12% of US equities volume. Moves to regulate this space are afoot, but Wall Street continues to turn to these stealth exchanges to cover their activities from the general public.

The exchange of the future

    The Big Board has branched out over the years for make up for some of the loss of income from equity volume. It sells its trading technology to other smaller exchanges, like the Qatar stock exchange, and it also sells market data. It's one of the only areas of growth for the company, with revenues up 22% in 2010 over the same period in 2009. The business represented 16% of the NYSE's profits in 2010. Fees from listing companies and executing trades, meanwhile, comprised just 13% of the company's profit for 2010.

    While the Deutsche Börse will certainly welcome those revenue streams from the NYSE, the real gem is in the derivatives space. Fees from derivatives trading were up 14% in 2010 to $826 million, comprising a third of the NYSE's total net revenue ad 40% of its profits. The NYSE owns Liffe, a powerful derivatives platform based in Europe, while the German exchange owns half of Eurex, the largest derivatives exchange in the world, which also focuses on European trades. Unlike equities, derivatives are usually bespoke contracts tethered to exchanges. That means the revenue stream from these trades is somewhat protected from new entrants into the market. The market for derivatives is expected to grow in the coming years as new regulations eventually force most over-the-counter derivatives to clear through an exchange.

    The US regulators allowed the two largest futures exchanges in the US -- the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange -- to merge in 2008 after the two agreed to spin off their metals business. Something similar could happen in Europe, where regulators might want the two to divest part of their European derivatives businesses. That could hurt the deal's raison d'etre a bit, but it probably won't kill it.

"A signpost on the road to American decline"

    But in the post "flash crash" world, there is a chance regulators could be a bit more sensitive to exchange tie-ups. Making it easier and cheaper to trade could bring more volatility to the market and lead to undesirable market events.

    For example, the CME (CME) announced this week that the margin requirements on two of its products, eurodollars and US Treasury bond futures, could fall by 65%, matching a similar move by NYSE's Liffe exchange. And the cross-margining guarantee that both exchanges are employing with banks will allow traders to make bigger bets with far less money. The increased leverage in the markets could lead to reckless betting by traders and lead to major market volatility.

    "More and more, the exchanges, in a kind of rush to the bottom, have to cater to the high frequency traders, and it has become a very low margin business," Ted Kaufman, the former Democratic Senator from Delaware, who championed for market reform in his two years in office, told Fortune. "It looks like we will have a wave of global exchange mergers, reshaping the market structure landscape again before the SEC can figure out what it thinks about the markets as they existed on," the day the flash crash occurred.

    So far, arguments for blocking the merger have centered on the fear of a large chunk of US equity trading falling into foreign hands. But US government officials have come out and said that the deal probably doesn't pose a security threat, making it hard for regulators to raise that concern when making their judgment.

    "This is about far more than whether 'New York Stock Exchange' stays first in the name of the merged company," says Kaufman, who recently replaced Elizabeth Warren as Chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the TARP. "This is a signpost on the road to American decline, if we don't stop and restore the credibility of our markets."

    But it is unclear if there is anything that can be done to stop mergers in the exchange space. The London Stock Exchange is moving to acquire the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Singapore Exchange is moving to acquire the Australian Securities Exchange. Rumors abound of other potential tie-ups that could see the CME, the parent of the NASDAQ (NDAQ), and other exchanges snap up smaller exchanges. Regulators could put an end to the merger mania but they may have little to hang their hat on at the moment.

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