(Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc, one of the largest players in the gold market, was caught out in March as lockdowns disrupted physical shipments of bullion and caused prices to diverge dramatically in key trading hubs.
In a filing, the bank cited “delivery disruptions in the gold market” as one reason why it breached its value-at-risk limits 12 times in March -- something it would normally expect to occur only two or three times a year.
The price of gold futures in New York and spot gold in London diverged by the most in four decades at the end of March, after refinery closures and grounded planes strangled the supply routes that allow physical gold to move around the globe. HSBC said that the gold market “became highly illiquid on news of refinery closings,” contributing to its unusual swings in trading profits in March.
The price difference between the New York and London markets, usually no more than a few dollars an ounce, blew out to as much as $70. The divergence hit banks that are active in trading the so-called EFP, or Exchange for Physical, the mechanism by which traders switch positions between the New York and London markets.
Read More: Nervous Bankers Leave Gold Market Stuck in Disconnect
HSBC said that its trading revenue from metals had decreased due to “market volatility and unfavorable valuation adjustments on exchange for physical transactions.” It reported a $1 million loss in metals trading revenue for the quarter, compared with a $38 million profit for the same period a year earlier. The bank has reported metals trading revenues averaging $215 million a year in the past three years.
Gold was not the only reason why HSBC’s trading models breached its daily expected profit-and-loss threshold so many times in the first quarter. The bank also cited volatility in credit spreads and interest rates in March, and said there were two unusual profits and one unusual loss in January because of volatility in palladium. The precious metal surged more than 30% in the first three weeks of January, before tumbling at the end of the month.
Read More: HSBC, BNP Repeatedly Breached Trading Limits in Market Chaos
HSBC is not alone in its recent struggles with precious metals. Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia, for years one of the leading traders in the market, is shuttering the business, Bloomberg reported last week.
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