U.S. Banks Close European Funds

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According to Bloomberg, key U.S. money-market funds managers – JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and BlackRock Inc. (BLK) – have curbed new investments in their European money market funds. This move by the banking giants follows the European Central Bank’s (:ECB) announcement of an interest rate cut last week.

ECB has slashed its benchmark rate to a record low of 0.75% after the economic data of Germany reflected a downside. Further, the ECB also reduced the deposit rate to zero.

These three firms have stated that new investments would remain closed until the market stabilizes. However, redemptions of the funds are open to the investors.

Reasons for Closure

Bearing the brunt of record-low interest rates globally and reduction in supply of debt following Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, money-market funds managers are striving hard to make profits by investing client assets.

JPMorgan closed five euro-denominated money-market and liquidity funds. As of July 5, these funds had 23.7 billion euros ($29.2 billion) in assets. The funds that have been ceased by this bank include JPMorgan’s Euro Liquidity Fund (:JPMEULC), Euro Government Liquidity Fund, Euro Money Market Fund, Euro Liquid Market Fund and JPMorgan Series II Funds - EUR.

Goldman also restricted new investments in its GS Euro Government Liquid Reserves Fund. Further, BlackRock has constrained deposits in two of its European funds -- the Institutional Euro Liquidity Fund and the Institutional Euro Government Liquidity Fund.

These managers took this step in order to protect the interests of existing shareholders. Restriction in investments will subdue yield dilution of the current clients. Further, the steps taken by these fund managers to restrict or remove limitations will depend on the economic environment in upcoming years.

Similar Actions in the Past

Previously, with $1.8 trillion in U.S. mutual fund assets, Vanguard Group Inc. closed two of its money funds in 2009 for safeguarding existing shareholders’ dilution. The two funds -- Vanguard Admiral Treasury Money Market Fund and the Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund -- currently have around $18 billion in assets.

Boston-based Fidelity Investments also limited investments in four of its money market funds in December 2008. However, these were reopened in July 2010.

Industry Data

With $2.5 trillion worth of assets, the U.S. money fund industry is struggling hard with the impact of low interest rates after the Federal Reserve reduced rates to near zero in December 2008.

To date, the U.S. money fund industry has recorded revenue of $4.7 billion, down from about $12.5 billion in 2008. Moreover, average yields came at 0.6%, falling from 5% in 2007.

Conclusion

For a long time, the investors have been losing huge amounts of interest income. If this continues along with increasing regulatory pressure on the money fund industry, it would be a huge blow to investors in the ongoing economic situation.

If the European crisis continues further, there will be significant impact on worldwide capital markets. On the other hand, the extremely low interest-rate environment is another manifestation of this uncertain macro backdrop.

Concerns about the European finances and soft U.S. growth prospects have made treasury instruments the choice of safe asset class. As a result, the yields on benchmark treasury bonds are hovering at low levels.

We don’t expect the potency of the sector to return to its pre-recession peak anytime soon. The economic intricacies may even result in further disappointments in the upcoming quarters.

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