Hong Kong’s government is pushing for quicker action on a proposal to keep financial markets open during typhoons, instructing a task force to submit a workable plan within weeks, four people familiar with the matter said.
(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong’s government is pushing for quicker action on a proposal to keep financial markets open during typhoons, instructing a task force to submit a workable plan within weeks, four people familiar with the matter said.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s office recently set the timeline for the group — made up of officials from the stock exchange, regulators and local financial institutions — after a perceived lack of progress in deliberations over the past few months, the people said, asking not to be named because the discussions are private. A government spokesperson declined to comment.
The issue has gained added urgency after a typhoon and rainstorm caused the markets to shut for two consecutive Fridays last month, the people said. Hong Kong issued its lowest level typhoon warning signal on Wednesday as tropical cyclone Koinu is expected to near the city in coming days.
Though any rule changes are unlikely to occur this year, the renewed efforts would help Hong Kong get closer to ending its outlier status as one of the only major financial centers to regularly halt trading due to extreme weather. The issue has come to fore as initial public offerings and volumes slump, sapping revenue for Hong Kong’s coffers and undermining the city’s appeal as a financial center.
The halts are seen as increasingly antiquated given the adjustments to remote working after the pandemic. They are also likely to be increasingly inconvenient, as extreme weather events linked to climate change grow more common.
“HKEX is committed to continuously enhancing the attractiveness of our markets,” a spokesperson said. “As part of that commitment, we are currently actively looking at severe weather trading arrangements, working with the HKSAR Government and Hong Kong regulators.”
The Securities and Futures Commission said in a statement that enabling trading during severe weather would be “beneficial” to the city as a whole. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is “supportive” and is working together with the government, the exchange, the SFC and the banking industry on a detailed proposal on how to take the issue forward, according to a statement.
The sooner the group comes up with its plan, the more likely it would be for Chief Executive John Lee to be able to answer likely questions about the matter when he delivers his annual policy address on Oct. 25, two of the people said.
The closure of markets during typhoons was among the first things Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Aguzin pointed out soon after he assumed office in 2021. In February, the financial secretary said he planned to unveil a plan for the public.
Yet there have been hurdles. One sticking point has been how to ensure margin obligations to HKEX, according to the people. That’s because smaller financial institutions are less likely to be able to operate during severe storms, raising the possibility that they wouldn’t be able to cover margin calls during extreme weather days, the people said.
One possible solution being discussed is for the government or the Hong Kong Monetary Authority — the city’s effective central bank — to guarantee such margin payments up to a certain level, one of the people said.
Hong Kong is typically affected by about six typhoons annually, usually from June to October, though not all of those result in market or school closures.
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