Mid-year launch of index futures unlikely

(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-09 14:54

China is not expected to meet a mid-year deadline to unveil its pilot stock-index futures because preparations for its launch are complicated and on concerns of a sudden stock slump, sources said yesterday.

The stock market regulator is still working on rules governing the trading of the derivative and launching nationwide programs to educate brokers and institutional investors about the business, said people familiar with the matter.

Preparations for the launch may extend for another few months and it's almost impossible for authorities to push forward the financial futures by the end of next month, the sources said.

Fan Fuchun, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), said in March that the regulator had been striving to wrap up preparations for the index futures by the first half of the year. A CSRC official declined to comment yesterday.

"Although we've applied for a license to trade index futures, we were told to wait and learn more about potential risks," said an executive at a Shanghai-based broker. "We have yet to gain a clear timetable from the regulator about the product's launch."

The Securities Association of China said yesterday it would organize training courses on index futures trading for brokerages as well as fund managers this month and in June in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen in Guangdong Province.

The move showed that "regulators are still worried over possible negative consequences of introducing the financial derivatives in a hurry," said a fund source briefed on the situation.

Other concerns that could delay the derivative's debut include a possible crash in the booming stock market as investors become more jittery over wider volatility and potential speculative activities.

Chinese equities have more than tripled their value since the start of 2006 as investors become agog over a market rally after four years' of losses and slumps. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index hit an all-time record yesterday and is near the psychological 4,000-point level.

"The regulator hopes to launch the futures when the market shows signs of steady growth and investors tend to be more rational," said the fund source. "They don't want the product's launch to be used as a selling excuse and trigger a sell-off."

Chinese authorities have been preparing since late last year for the launch of several futures contracts which are set to track a gauge covering the top 300 listed firms in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

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