Philippines first country to suspend all financial markets as coronavirus spreads

The Philippine Stock Exchange said trade was suspended until further notice ‘to ensure the safety of employees and traders.’ (AFP)
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Updated 17 March 2020

Philippines first country to suspend all financial markets as coronavirus spreads

  • Shutdown comes after some bourses around the world closed trading floors or paused trade
  • Raises the prospect other exchanges may follow

MANILA/SINGAPORE: The Philippine Stock Exchange closed indefinitely on Tuesday while currency and bond trading were suspended, the first market shutdowns worldwide in response to the coronavirus, with authorities citing risks to the safety of traders.
The shutdown comes after some bourses around the world closed trading floors or paused trade after withering falls in market value, but it is the first blanket market halt.
And while it was done for health reasons, amid a broad lockdown in the Philippines, it raises the prospect other exchanges may follow and has drawn analysts’ attention.
“Given the unprecedented speed of the slump in equity prices, it has been suggested that stock exchanges might be closed soon if things don’t turn around,” research house Capital Economics said in a note on Tuesday.
AdMacro research head Patrick Perret-Green had also raised the possibility in a note issued over the weekend, before the Philippines move.
“We have seen it before. I believe we could see it again,” he said. “Governments do not need or want the added stress and distraction at this time.”
The Philippine Stock Exchange said trade was suspended until further notice “to ensure the safety of employees and traders,” amid a broader national lockdown.
National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon cited the lockdown as the reason for the suspension of fixed income trade. Currency trading is to resume on March 18.
In Malaysia, where a similar lockdown comes into force on March 18, the securities regulator said all capital markets will operate as usual.
CME Group Inc. last week shut its storied trading floor in Chicago, to reduce large gatherings, and Mideast bourses have taken similar measures, though electronic trade remains available.
Kuwait’s exchange has suspended trade at least twice this month, after daily falls of more than 10 percent, while in Indonesia, Jakarta’s bourse has introduced new circuit breakers which halt trading for half an hour if the main index falls 5 percent.
That comes amid a swathe of short-selling restrictions in markets from South Korea to Italy and Spain.
Capital Economics, however, said closures are ineffective at salving investor sentiment. The consultancy expects — as in the Philippines — health reasons to be invoked should other bourses shut.
“On the rare occasions when stock markets have been shut in the US in the past, it has usually only been for practical reasons, such as after 9/11, rather than as means of trying to restore confidence ... (It) might not work in any case.
“Investors might end up selling anything else they could if they needed to raise cash in a hurry.”
Global markets are in meltdown as the pandemic spreads, with roughly $14 trillion in shareholder value erased and even safe assets such as gold have been sold to cover losses.
The Philippines benchmark index fell 8 percent on Monday and is down 20 percent for March so far, already its worst since October 2008.
“Eventually they will open,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at stockbroker Blue Ocean Equities in Sydney.


BT warns UK that banning Huawei too fast could cause outages

Updated 13 July 2020

BT warns UK that banning Huawei too fast could cause outages

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to decide this week whether to impose tougher restrictions on Huawei
  • British PM in January granted Huawei a limited role in the 5G network

LONDON: BT CEO Philip Jansen urged the British government on Monday not to move too fast to ban China’s Huawei from the 5G network, cautioning that there could be outages and even security issues if it did.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to decide this week whether to impose tougher restrictions on Huawei, after intense pressure from the United States to ban the Chinese telecoms behemoth from Western 5G networks.
Johnson in January defied President Donald Trump and granted Huawei a limited role in the 5G network, but the perception that China did not tell the whole truth over the coronavirus crisis and a row over Hong Kong has changed the mood in London.
“If you are to try not to have Huawei at all, ideally we would want seven years and we could probably do it in five,” Jansen told BBC radio.
Asked what the risks would be if telecoms operators were told to do it in less than five years, Jansen said: “We need to make sure that any change of direction does not lead to more risk in the short term.”
“If we get to a situation where things need to go very, very fast, then you are into a situation where potentially service for 24 million BT Group mobile customers is put into question — outages,” he said.
In what some have compared to the Cold War antagonism with the Soviet Union, the United States is worried that 5G dominance is a milestone toward Chinese technological supremacy that could define the geopolitics of the 21st century.
The United States says Huawei is an agent of the Chinese Communist State and cannot be trusted.
Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, has said the United States wants to frustrate its growth because no US company could offer the same range of technology at a competitive price.