EU watchdog says gathering data on forex market

LONDON, March 17 Mon Mar 17, 2014 8:27am EDT

LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - The European Union's markets watchdog is studying the foreign exchange market following allegations that some of its benchmarks may have been manipulated by banks.

Regulators from Britain, the United States and elsewhere are probing the role of several banks and their staff in compiling foreign exchange benchmarks that are widely used.

In the $5.2 trillion a day foreign exchange market, benchmark "fixes" offer set times of the day when asset managers do a lot of business through the banks. It gives them an identical daily reference point for both the value of funds and foreign exchange conducted that day.

"We are looking at the sector and we are collecting data, but we have no direct powers regarding any enforcement issues," European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) Chairman Steven Maijoor told Reuters, declining to elaborate.

"It's clearly a national issue when it comes to enforcement," Maijoor added.

ESMA coordinates the application of EU securities rules, such as those to stop market abuses, across the 28-country bloc.

The watchdog has already introduced changes to the compilation of another market benchmark, the euro interbank offered rate or Euribor, after banks were fined for manipulating it.

The European Union is working on a new law to regulate all benchmarks, which is likely to include those used in the foreign exchange markets, and ESMA will be responsible for fleshing out measures to implement it, probably sometime in 2015.