CFTC metrics, as of March 31, for the 5 U.S. retail forex brokers

Earlier this month, the CFTC released their monthly report titled Selected FCM Financial Data as of March 31, 2020. The data were gathered in April, and published in early May.

For those who don’t know, FCM stands for Futures Commission Merchant, a category which comprises all of the commodity futures brokers and forex brokers regulated in the U.S. by the CFTC — a group totaling 62 brokers, at present.

Of those 62 FCM’s, only 5 are U.S. retail forex brokers — the group we want to focus on.

The CFTC report is issued as a spread-sheet that will make your eyes bleed. Here is a LINK to this month’s CFTC report.

The figures in the far-right column (col. q), which the CFTC labels “Total Amount of Retail Forex Obligation”, represent the dollar-amount of customer funds on deposit with each of the five U.S. retail forex brokers as of the end of March.

I have extracted these figures and listed them in the table below, labeled as “Customer funds on deposit”, March 2020. The previous figures (as of February 29), and the month-over-month changes, are shown for each broker.

Lastly, I have calculated each broker’s share of the retail forex market as of March 31, based on these customer-funds figures.

A lot of customer money was lost or withdrawn from the five U.S. brokers during the month of March, as reflected in this month-end snapshot of customer funds on deposit. Four of the five brokers saw funds on deposit shrink, with only Interactive Brokers posting an increase. Overall, $56.7 million, a little more than 9% of retail customer funds, disappeared from the forex market in March.

IG Markets U.S. subsidiary — the smallest (and previously fastest-growing) of the five brokers — took the biggest hit, shedding 26% of retail customer funds between February 29 and March 31.

Market shares changed only slightly from February to March. Gain Capital (forex .com) reclaimed the top spot over Oanda, by a slim one-percentage-point. Together, Gain and Oanda continue to hold a commanding 73% of the U.S. market.

The substantial decline in customer funds on deposit came as a surprise to many of us, after reading earlier this month that the number of retail forex accounts in the U.S. grew to its largest number ever, during the first quarter of this year. This May 6 article in Finance Magnates tells the story —

Here’s an excerpt from that article —

US FX retail market at an all-time high

… Although we will be publishing the full statistics in our upcoming Quarterly Intelligence Report later this month, we can reveal that the total number of active accounts in the first quarter of this year was 167,608.

This is the largest number of active non-discretionary retail FX customer accounts in the history of the forex market in the United States – even before the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, and currently, the accounts held by IG US is contributing to slightly more than 2.5 percent.

In the final quarter of 2019, the total number of active accounts was 153,434. Therefore, the US FX market has posted an increase of around 9.2 percent quarter-on-quarter.

There seems to be a disconnect between these statistics.

Finance Magnates reports a 9.2% increase in the number of retail forex accounts in the quarter ended March 31, while the CFTC reports a decline of 9.2% in the industry-wide total of customer funds on deposit in these same accounts.

Both statistics may be correct, but some explanation is needed here.

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