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Chinese banks to join new gold fix from March

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The replacement for the near-century-old London gold fix will start in March, with the hope of attracting at least 11 members, including Chinese banks for the first time.

UK financial authorities are undertaking an assessment of financial benchmarks in the wake of a series of scandals, including over the gold fix.

The presence of Chinese banks would give the world's second-largest consumer of the precious metal a greater say in the global gold price. Participants in the fix aggregate orders from clients on to a platform to determine the price.

"Interest has been very positive and creates a more diverse pool of participants, which includes Chinese banks," said Ruth Crowell, chief executive of the London Bullion Market Association, a trade body for London's gold and silver markets.

In October, China Construction Bank, the country's second-biggest state-owned bank, was admitted as an ordinary member of the LBMA.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Bank of China are also members.

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London's gold market is an over-the-counter market between buyers and sellers, while prices in China are set through trading on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

However, the Financial Conduct Authority has yet to issue guidance about how it will regulate the new electronic auction, run by energy exchange operator Intercontinental Exchange, after banks opted out of a system that had been in place since September 1919 amid growing criticism that it favoured insiders.

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"Without clear guidance from the FCA now and forthcoming final rules, participants will be unable to gain internal approval to take part in the new process," the LBMA said in a letter to the FCA. "If a significant number of participants cannot get approval to take part due to lack of regulatory clarity, there will be a disruption."

The old telephone system of fixing the daily gold price presently involves only four banks.

Last May, the system drew increasing scrutiny from regulators after Barclays was fined £26 million for its failure to rein in an options trader who, in 2012, drove the gold price lower to avoid paying £2.3 million to one of the lender's clients.

In December, the FCA said it would police seven UK-based financial benchmarks following the attempted manipulation of key rates for bank lending and foreign exchange, extending the regulation introduced in 2013 to strengthen Libor. It is set to regulate the gold fix from April 1, according to the LBMA.

"We announced a consultation on 22nd December into the seven benchmarks we would be regulating, which included the gold fix. That consultation closed on January 30 and we have said we intend to come forward with final rules before the end of the first quarter 2015," the FCA said.