Stock market

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In the past few years the favoured way of shaking up bourses has been competition. The event that triggered this was London's Big Bang in October 1986, which opened its stock exchange to banks and foreigners, and introduced a screen-plus-telephone system of securities trading known as SEAQ. Within weeks the trading floor had been abandoned. At the time, other European bourses saw Big Bang as a British eccentricity. Their markets matched buy and sell orders (order-driven trading), whereas London is a market in which dealers quote firm prices for trades (quote-driven trading). Yet many continental markets soon found themselves forced to copy London's example.

That was because Big Bang had strengthened London's grip on international equity-trading. SEAQ's international arm quickly grab­bed chunks of European business. Today the London exchange reckons to handle around 95% of all European cross-border share-trading It claims to handle three-quarters of the trading in blue-chip shares based in Holland, half of those in France and Italy and a quarter of those in Germany—though, as will become clear, there is some dispute about these figures.

London's market-making tradition and the presence of many international fund managers helped it to win this business. So did three other factors. One was stamp duties on share deals done in their home countries, which SEAQ usually avoided. Another was the shortness of trading hours on continental bourses. The third was the ability of SEAQ, with market-makers quoting two-way prices for business in large amounts, to handle trades in big blocks of stock that can be fed through order-driven markets only when they find counterparts.

A similar tussle for business has been seen among the ex­changes that trade futures and options. Here, the market which first trades a given product tends to corner the business in it. The European Options Exchange (EOE) in Amsterdam was the first derivatives exchange in Europe; today it is the only one to trade a European equity-index option. London's LIFFE, which opened in 1982 and is now Europe's biggest derivatives exchange, has kept a two-to-one lead in German government-bond futures (its most active contract) over Frankfurt's DTB, which opened only in 1990. LIFFE competes with several other European exchanges, not always successfully: it lost the market in ecu-bond futures to Paris's MATIF.

European exchanges armoured themselves for this battle in three ways. The first was to fend off foreign competition with rules. In three years of wrangling over the EC's investment-services directive, several member-countries pushed for rules that would require securities to be traded only on a recognized exchange. They also demanded rules for the disclosure of trades and prices that would have hamstrung SEAQ's quote-driven trading system. They were beaten off in the eventual compromise, partly because governments realized they risked driving business outside the EC. But residual attempts to stifle competition remain. Italy passed a law in 1991 requiring trades in Italian shares to be conducted through a firm based in Italy. Under pressure from the European Commission, it may have to repeal it.

6.1 New Ways for Old

The second response to competition has been frantic efforts by bourses to modernize systems, improve services and cut costs. This has meant investing in new trading systems, improving the way deals are settled, and pressing governments to scrap stamp duties. It has also increasingly meant trying to beat London at its own game, for instance by searching for ways of matching London's prowess in block trading.

Реферат опубликован: 3/03/2010