Taiwan introduces longer capital market trading hours

Taiwan''s vege-basket traders will soon join the rest of the investment world for a longer working day.

Taiwan's so-called "vege-basket traders" will have to push back their lunch hour and household chores schedule by 90 minutes come January next year when the country's stock exchange extends its trading hours to 1.30pm.

The government says the longer trading hours are not introduced to boost trading volume but to put Taiwan more in line with international practices. After-hours trading, in which stocks are traded at closing prices, will be moved from 1 pm-1.30pm to 2pm-2.30pm. The trading hours in other markets except forex will be adjusted accordingly.

The current 3-hour trading session from 9am to 12pm has served the contingent of housewives and retail investors well for many years, fitting in their grocery-shopping timetable in the morning and leaving them enough time to cook lunch for kids and rest.

Indeed when the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) government was weighing up in cabinet meetings between having one long trading session or two short ones in one day, the need of these investors for "lunch and rest" was, among other things, high on the government's mind, according to Prime Minister Tang Fei.

In a stock market where as much as 88% of daily turnover is retail-driven it is little wonder the government is anxious not to upset small investors.

Since the new government took office in May, the local TWSE index has crashed by more than 20%, with many investors now finding themselves in "presidential suites" - a situation named after people who entered the market based on politicians' beliefs that the market would rise when the reverse happened. Investors listen to politicians because it is an open secret in Taiwan that the government holds sway on the investment policies of major local banks and deep-pocketed government pension funds.

According to an official with the Securities and Futures Commission, many vege-basket traders are not happy with the extended hours. "It affects their way of life," he says. But he adds if the changes are good for the market it is not "justifiable to please them in the old manner".

Vice Finance Minister Yen Ching-chang says a longer single trading session may generate less abnormal fluctuations than the alternative. He expects securities houses can make adjustment to their settlement and back office with little difficulty.

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