Commodity trade in Pakistan

Commodity trade in Pakistan

A commodity exchange is a market where buyers and sellers of commodities can interact.

Typically these exchanges offer standardised contracts with varying maturities called ‘futures contracts’.

These contracts may be ‘cash settled’ or ‘physical delivery-backed’.To understand the difference between these two kinds of futures contracts, assume that party A enters a one-month futures contract for one ton of wheat, with party B.

One month after the contract was entered; the price of a ton of wheat had risen by Rs 200.

If the futures contract were cash settled, party B would pay party A the differential amount of Rs 200.

In case of a physical delivery contract, party B would deliver one ton of wheat to party A, as stipulated by the prior agreement.Formerly known as the National Commodity Exchange Limited; Pakistan Mercantile Exchange (PMEX) is the country’s first and only online commodity futures exchange.

PMEX was formed in 2002, although it formally began operations in May 2007 with the launch of its first product, ‘gold futures contract’.

This listing was followed by the first gold physical delivery in August of 2007.

Subsequently, more products including futures contracts for rice, palm olien, crude oil and silver have been added to the list of offerings at the exchange.The demutualised exchange is jointly owned by six shareholders, including National Bank of Pakistan, Karachi Stock Exchange, Lahore Stock Exchange, Islamabad Stock Exchange, Pak-Kuwait Investment Company and Zarai Taraqiati Bank.

Shareholdings of each of these stakeholders are presented in the table below:The board of directors of the institution includes 13 members, of which 6 represent each of the shareholding institutions, 6 are independent directors appointed by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), while the chief executive of PMEX is the thirteenth director.

The functioning of the exchange is regulated by the SECP; while other relevant legislations pertaining to the PMEX include Commodity Exchange and Futures Contract Rules 2005 as well as internal regulations.At present, the exchange has 313 members and 120 registered brokers, of whom 42 are currently active.

Since this is a demutualised exchange, membership is open for all applicants.

PMEX offers two kinds of memberships: Universal and Commodity Specific.

Universal membership costs Rs 2.5 million, while the member must also exhibit net worth of at least Rs 20 million.Universal members can offer all listed products of the exchange to their clients.

Commodity-specific membership costs Rs 750,000; while a net capital balance of Rs 10 million is required.

The number of active brokers increased by 30, during FY11 as investors’ interest has heightened in the wake of surging global prices of commodities.The commodity boom has also attracted many new investors to the exchange, because of which its trading volumes have surged in recent months.

In April 2011, PMEX observed record monthly volume of Rs 68 billion, surpassing the combined volume of the three stock exchanges which tallied Rs 66 billion, during the same month.

Operating hours at PMEX have recently been increased by 21 hours per day in view of fast-changing realities of international commodity futures markets facilitating greater participation of local investors.As a consequence, traded volumes at PMEX increased by a whopping 671 percent, to Rs 490 billion in FY11 compared to Rs 63 billion in the previous year, while the number of investors at the exchange also grew by about 245 percent over the same period.What can be traded? At present, multiple futures contracts are available for gold, silver, crude oil, palm olien, rice and sugar and KIBOR rates.

Those contracts which are based on international market prices of commodities such as crude oil are cash-settled while physical delivery is offered on gold contracts and efforts are underway to offer the same kind of contracts for locally produced commodities such as rice and sugar.Efforts are currently underway to introduce futures contracts for cotton and maize.

Over the next five years, PMEX intends to increase its focus on agro-products while also increasing its reach in agricultural zones of the country.

Under this plan, four offices will be opened during FY12, while approvals will be sought from the regulator for more offices in the future.The exchange is also developing linkages for the establishment of an independent warehousing framework which can be used to store commodities that can then be traded through physical delivery-backed futures contracts.How does it work? The functions of the exchange can be broadly classified into five different categories: IT and systems, analytics, operations, compliance and product research and development.

These departments perform functions ranging from clearing and settlement, to risk management, surveillance and applications development.There are two methods of trading on PMEX: direct access to the market, placing orders through brokers.

Investors can use the online trading platform of the exchange to monitor markets in real-time and this platform also facilitates the placement of orders.

However, in both cases the broker is the obligor to the exchange.As such, it is the responsibility of the broker to ensure that clients pay the required margins and comply with all relevant regulations along with monitoring exposure and positions taken by clients.

Brokers earn commissions on all trades routed through them.It is worth mentioning here that although PMEX mitigates counter-party risk, there are inherent risks in trading of commodities and futures contracts by virtue of price volatility.

As such, all investors must exercise caution when assuming positions in this or other markets, in accordance with their own risk appetite.How does it mitigate risk? When two parties enter into a contract bilaterally; they are exposed to many risks including non-payment, difference in quality of delivered goods, etc.

However, when the same futures contract is executed through an exchange such as the PMEX; the exchange becomes a third-party arbiter between the two parties, guaranteeing financial settlement of all trades.

As such, the risks involved are significantly mitigated, while contracts are also standardised and regulated through the exchange.In order to mitigate associated risks, the exchange has multiple measures in place which monitor activity at different stages.

Initial margins are collected from investors on each contract entered on the basis of value-at-risk (VaR).

All positions are marked to market on a daily basis and margin calls are made, where applicable.

These margins are collected in cash only, on a gross basis so risk from each client is segregated.

Online bank transfer facilities are catered for the collection of margins, to ensure quick receipt of funds.In addition to these margins, brokers also have to maintain minimum deposits with the exchange which can be used to settle any defaults by their clients.

This deposit, which serves as a second line of defence against default is also monitored daily and adjusted according to changes in the magnitude of price fluctuations.

Separate position limits are also enforced at both client and broker levels.The exchange also monitors the activity of each investor using client IDs so even if one client operates accounts through multiple brokers, his cumulative positions are monitored in totality by the exchange.Source: PMEXAll information and data used are from reliable source(s) and subjected to extensive research after diligent and reasonable efforts to determine the soundness of the source(s).

Shareholder                    No of
shares (mn)   share (%)
NBP                9            47.4
KSE             3.64            19.2
LSE             2.27            11.9
ISE             2.27            11.9
PKIC            0.91             4.8
ZTBL            0.91             4.8
Total             19             100


PMEXAll information and data used are from reliable source(s) and subjected to extensive research after diligent and reasonable efforts to determine the soundness of the source(s).

This analysis is not for the benefit of or discredit to any person, scrip or tradable instrument.

The content(s) of this analysis shall not be construed as an advice or recommendation to trade.

No relationship of client will be created between Business Recorder and user of this information.

Professional advice must be taken by the reader before making investment/trading decisions.

BR disclaims any liability for investment(s) made or liability accrued on basis of this analysis.

The content(s) including all opinion(s), statement(s) and information are subject to change without prior notice and/or intimation.

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