Turf war: On Indian bourses and overseas trade

India’s stock exchanges are not too keen on the idea of competing with their global peers. Instead, they are happy to guard the home turf against foreign exchanges that do a better job of finding new clients. On Friday, the National Stock Exchange, the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Metropolitan Stock Exchange of India announced their decision to stop providing data feed and other support to overseas exchanges that list derivatives linked to Indian stocks and indices. Any existing agreement allowing data-sharing with foreign bourses, except that which is related to exchange-traded funds, will expire in six months. Explaining the reason, the statement said offshore derivatives could be causing “migration of liquidity from India, which is not in the best interest of Indian markets”. Given that the volume of derivatives linked to Indian stocks trading in the offshore market is higher than volumes in the domestic bourses, Indian exchanges have enough reason to fear their foreign counterparts. Ambitious endeavours such as the International Financial Services Centre in Gujarat, although yet to gain the patronage of foreign investors, may also benefit from the crackdown on offshore derivative markets. Foreign bourses, however, will likely find other ways to list derivatives linked to Indian stocks and indices without any help from Indian exchanges soon. The present move, thus, is unlikely to rein in the vast offshore market for Indian derivatives. It also leaves a lot to be desired.

Index derivatives such as the SGX Nifty that is linked to stocks that form Nifty, have gained the patronage of large foreign investors for many reasons. These instruments are traded for longer hours in offshore exchanges, including hours when Indian exchanges are closed for business, making them more investor-friendly. Places like Singapore and Dubai, where these derivatives are traded, are low-tax jurisdictions that offer investors the chance to lower their transaction costs as well. The fact that offshore derivatives are denominated in dollars adds to their allure. In India, in contrast, the securities transaction tax and the capital gains tax discourage foreign investment in financial assets. The proposal to extend trading hours in order to attract investors too has failed to take off. The statement by Indian bourses withdrawing support for offshore derivatives comes after an earlier decision by Singapore’s stock exchange, the Singapore Exchange Limited (SGX), to introduce in February futures on individual stocks that are part of Nifty. Incidentally, the SGX’s decision to introduce futures specific to stocks listed in the NSE was spurred by the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s decision last year to restrict foreign investment in domestic futures. Offshore markets are thus simply catering to the unmet demands of foreign investors. India’s policymakers should thus first of all address the structural problems that have caused trading in Indian derivatives to move offshore. This would be a far better response than any knee-jerk response favouring domestic exchanges.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 5:10:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/turf-war/article22724050.ece

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