* Singapore's High Court convicted two former currency traders from Deutsche Bank AG and HSBC Holdings Plc, in two unrelated cases, for defrauding the banks by making false trades, Bloomberg News reported. Former HSBC senior dealer Ivan Chng and former Deutsche Bank trader Toh Hway Khuan pleaded guilty to multiple charges and admitted using their banks' accounts in 2009 to get preferential rates on the dollar.
* South Korea is looking to extend its US$56 billion currency swap agreement with China, the Korea JoongAng Daily reported. While both governments agreed in principle to extend the deal, which is due to expire in October 2017, it is still possible for the currency swap to not be extended, according to Song In-chang, South Korea's deputy finance minister for international affairs.
* Chinese conglomerates will continue targeting foreign financial institutions with the European market as their focus, the South China Morning Post reported. In 2017 so far, ANZ Bank New Zealand Ltd. has sold its asset finance business, UDC Finance, to Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, while Chinese group Fosun Industrial Holdings Ltd. has increased its stake in Portuguese bank Millennium BCP to 30% through a rights issue.
* Thirty more countries intend to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry said. The spokesperson, however, did not name the countries that have officially submitted their intentions to join the development bank.
* Altogether, 16 national life insurers have set up more than 50 branches in Shandong province, China, since December 2016, Caijing reported.
* Rong360.com said that the returns rate of Chinese banks' wealth management products averaged 3.81% in 2016, lower than the returns rate in 2015, Caixin reported. Analysts said the wealth management funds will still mainly be invested in the country's bond and monetary markets in 2017, and thus their returns rates will remain at a low level.
* Silkroad International Bank officially started business in Djibouti, the capital of the Republic of Djibouti, ce.com.cn reported. The move marks the first time a Chinese enterprise has obtained a full bank license in an African country.
* Hong Kong's Far East Horizon Ltd. agreed to sell the underlying assets of two subsidiaries — International Far Eastern Leasing Co. Ltd. and Far Eastern Horizon (Tianjin) Financial Leasing Co. Ltd. — for 1.56 billion Chinese yuan and 387.6 million yuan, respectively, to Minsheng Tonghui Asset Management Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Minsheng Life Insurance Co. Ltd..
JAPAN AND KOREA
* According to the Japan Securities Dealers Association, the operation rate of NISA, Japan's tax-free individual savings account, reached 60% for the first time at the end of December 2016, Tokyo's The Nikkei reported. Based on the records of 10 major online securities companies, the number of NISA accounts increased 8% year over year to 5.15 million.
* Japan's major online securities companies are expected to post an increase in profit for the fourth quarter of 2016, The Nikkei reported. SBI Securities expects a net profit increase of 10% year over year to ¥7 billion, while Monex Group Inc. expects about ¥300 million in profit compared with a ¥348 million loss in 2015.
* Daiwa Securities Group Inc. is set to double the balance it manages in wrap accounts to ¥3 trillion by the end of March 2020, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reported. The total value of assets under management as of the end of 2016 was ¥1.6 trillion.
* South Korea's Woori Bank and Chinese insurer Anbang Property & Casualty Insurance Co. Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in loans, securities, bancassurance and other related business areas, The Asia Business Daily reported.
* MB Ageas Life, a newly established joint venture by Muang Thai Life Assurance PCL, Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank and Ageas Insurance International N.V., will begin offering insurance services in Vietnam from March, Krungthep Turakij reported.
* A consortium comprising Bangkok Bank PCL and KASIKORNBANK PCL will submit a bid for the installation of electronic data capture devices, as part of the second phase of Thailand's national e-payment plan, to the finance ministry, The Nation reported, citing Shoke Na Ranong, executive vice president of Bangkok Bank.
* One of Europe's largest investment funds, Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, purchased a 9% stake in Indonesian lender PT Bank Victoria International Tbk, Bisnis Indonesia reported.
* The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas approved guidelines for banking service channels, in which lenders can now serve clients through cash agents, who can also perform know-your-customer procedures, BusinessWorld reported, citing a statement from the central bank. At the same time, the central bank eased regulations on deposit-taking activities outside bank premises by allowing banks to be flexible in designing ways to render deposit pick-up and delivery services.
* The Reserve Bank of India and governor Urjit Patel are facing criticism over the demonetization of the country's old banknotes, implemented shortly after the appointment of the central bank governor, as doubts over the competence and independence of the institution are growing, the Financial Times reported.
* India's central bank has injected new banknotes amounting to 9.2 trillion rupees into the country's banking system to replace notes that were banned from circulation in November, Business Standard reported, citing a parliamentary source quoting RBI Governor Urjit Patel.
* India's Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved plans to list five state-owned general insurers and reduce its stake in the companies to 75% from 100%. The five general insurers are New India Assurance Co. Ltd., National Insurance Co. Ltd., Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd., United India Insurance Co. Ltd. and General Insurance Corp. of India.
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
* Australia's four major banks said they would adopt any final recommendations made by an independent review of pay practices conducted by Stephen Sedgwick, The Australian Financial Review reported. The review, which suggests that higher commissions from an increase in sales volume could encourage poor selling practices, may call for these benefits to be removed from staff incentive plans.
* With a strong demand for its AAA-rated debt, the federal government of Australia issued bonds amounting to A$9.3 billion that mature in December 2021, The Australian reported. The issuance is expected to yield 2.24%, and is larger than the A$7.6 billion raised by the Australian Office of Financial Management in its bond issuance in October 2016.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Middle East & Africa: Dubai firm eyes Barclays Africa stake; Gambia under state of emergency
Europe: Deutsche to slash bonuses; reaction to UK's break with EU
Latin America: Rigel Seguros sells Peru unit; Argentina holds benchmark rate
North America: Schumer asks Trump to keep CFPB's Cordray; Mississippi banks ink $190.2M deal
North America Insurance: CBO warns against ACA repeal; HHS nominee's confirmation hearing today
Sally Wang, Sarun Saelee, Cathy Hwang, Emi White and Aditya Suharmoko contributed to this report.
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