Hong Kong Halts Morning Trade; Looks to Lower Storm Warning Before Midday

Hong Kong lowered its storm and rain warnings to levels that allow normal business to resume and the stock market to reopen after Typhoon Koinu moved away from the city.

(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong lowered its storm and rain warnings to levels that allow normal business to resume and the stock market to reopen after Typhoon Koinu moved away from the city.

The Hong Kong Observatory issued its second-lowest No. 3 storm signal at 11:40 a.m., 20 minutes before the cutoff that would have shut the local bourse for the day. It earlier lowered its rainstorm warning to red from the highest level of black.

Trading on the city’s $4.8 trillion stock market will resume at 2 p.m., the exchange operator said. The disruption came as mainland China’s stock markets reopened for the first time this month after the Golden Week holidays and traders reacted to the Hamas attack on southern Israel.

While there was little damage reported from the typhoon, the raising of the No. 9 signal on Sunday night caused chaos for thousands of passengers at the airport after MTR Corp. shut its rail service to downtown Hong Kong. Operations later resumed in limited fashion. 

The typhoon dumped more than 300 mm of rain over parts of Hong Kong Island, Lantau Island and Kwun Tong since midnight, according to the Observatory. The city’s average for the whole of October is 120 mm.

Koinu was centered about 160 km west-southwest of the city at midday and was forecast to move west at about 12 km per hour across the coast of Guangdong province. It was the second typhoon to hit Hong Kong since the start of September, while the remnants of a third a month ago brought record-breaking rain that flooded parts of the finance hub and triggered landslides.  

Some 90 flights were canceled on Sunday and another nine on Monday as of 9 a.m., according to the Hong Kong International Airport. It said it expects to handle 760 flights on Monday.

While an average of six typhoons come within 500 km of Hong Kong every year, it’s rare for a tropical cyclone to directly threaten the city, let alone two. The last time Hong Kong issued the No. 9 signal for two different typhoons in the same year was in 1999, when the finance hub was hit by Maggie and York. Before that, it was 1964, when Ruby and Dot slammed the British colony.

The city is one of the only major financial centers to regularly halt stock market trading due to extreme weather. 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, Bloomberg News reported last week. 

Read More: Hong Kong Accelerates Push to Keep Markets Open During Typhoons

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.

Koinu, which means puppy in Japanese, repeatedly defied forecaster predictions after earlier brushing past the southern tip of Taiwan. Despite projections by regional observatories that the storm would weaken, Koinu rebuilt its eyewall and regained strength as it headed to Hong Kong. It’s currently forecast to move toward China’s Hainan as a severe tropical storm.

–With assistance from Tania Chen, Shiyin Chen and Danny Lee.

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