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27 Oct, 2008 15:25

Trading halts: Sign of the times or a head in the sand?

As the stock markets in Europe and the United States continue to tremble, some politicians are proposing trade halts. But Russian legislators may go further. Stock markets were shut for a “break” on Monday and some propose a longer trading &ld

Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi shocked traders around the world when he let slip this month that global leaders were mulling the idea of shutting down global stock exchanges.

He later backed out. But many in Russia, where the stock market has lost about two-thirds of its value since May, say it’s not a bad idea, and Konstantin Korishchenko, head of the MICEX says the times may justify the measure

“In normal conditions, state intervention is not necessary. It even could be viewed as a wrongdoing. But in a crisis period it’s very necessary for the government to act adequately and sometimes even heavily.”

But others, including the financial markets watchdog, say it would be detrimental to the system as a whole. Vladimir Milovidov, Head of the Federal Financial Markets Service says “It’s better to suspend trading on a day-to-day basis than to introduce to so-called trading vacation, halting trade for an unspecified amount of time,” and Ronald Nash of Renaissance Capital, says the stock-market vacation in Russia sends the wrong signal to investors.

“I think if Russia chooses to do anything independently, it’s just sending a message to the rest of the world that there is something specifically wrong with Russia – and there isn’t something specifically wrong with Russia. This is a global crisis, there needs to be global solutions to this global crisis and just shutting the market down is the equivalent to burying your head in the sand. And, unfortunately, that’s going to do more harm, than good. ”

Russia’s RTS and MICEX exchanges were closed on Monday after losing more than 10 per cent of their value on Friday. Trade suspensions have become regular in Russia over the past month.