Investor Interest   Exclusive
NSE follows BSE in extending trading hours

Has the BSE stolen a march over the NSE by taking the lead in extending trading hours? The NSE was planning to start trading at the earliest to catch up with the Singapore market, but the BSE has stolen its thunder

It is just a matter of 10 minutes, but translates into a huge signal by the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). After being the underdog for just over a decade, the BSE scored a point by showing that it can take the lead in the increasingly acrimonious competition in the capital market space.

Sources say that despite it saying that it would bow to the wishes of market intermediaries (who are largely against extended trading hours), the National Stock Exchange (NSE) was in fact working at extending its trading time. The BSE's decision to start trading 10 minutes earlier (at 9.45am) from 18th December was just a signal that it does not intend to permit the NSE to set the agenda on all market-related developments. The NSE followed suit and extended its trading hours by one hour.

Immediately, BSE also extended its trading hours from 9am to 3.30pm. So from Friday onwards, trading on both BSE and NSE will start from 9am instead of 9.55am. The move from NSE is, however, not surprising since it was the same Exchange that has lobbied long and hard with the regulator to push for this change.

However, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), as is its wont these days, forgot to take into account the many other changes that needed to be put in place to ensure that margin funds are credited and available with brokers and Net Asset Values (NAVs) can be declared on time.

SEBI allowed bourses to set their trading hours between 9am and 5pm in October on condition that appropriate risk management systems and infrastructure are in place. NSE was seen as the big beneficiary of this move, because it was openly concerned over losing Nifty volumes to the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX), which opens earlier.

The Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) trades an NSE-licensed derivatives product on the NSE's Nifty index, named SGX CNX Nifty. Its volumes are driven by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) who trade on the futures before the Indian markets open.

Foreign investors, constrained by the limited ability to participate directly in the Indian equities market after the ban on participatory notes, flock to the SGX Nifty futures product to catch some of the action in the Indian markets. Domestic investors in Singapore subsequently take positions on cues from these FIIs. SGX has somewhat stolen NSE’s thunder due to its impressive track record in derivatives and high ethical standards.

With a new team in place at the BSE, the competition is bound to heat up on several fronts. Already, there are open differences between the two bourses on the software for algorithm based trading—the NSE has allegedly refused to grant permission for those algorithm trades, where one of the legs involved transactions on BSE as well. Interestingly, although James Shapiro of the BSE has made this allegation in public, SEBI, which is seen as being pro-NSE, has made no public attempt to intervene or ensure a level-playing field between the bourses.

The NSE is already at war with the MCX group with litigation in the Bombay High Court (over broker front office software) and before the Competition Commission over transaction charges in the currency market.

What is important about the war between the bourses is that it will now begin to raise questions about the relevance of SEBI as the capital market regulator, if it continues to remain a mute spectator and permits the exchanges to take their battles to other judicial forums.

With both the exchanges going for extended trading hours, what we said earlier about the difference 10 minutes can make is out there in the open.

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    Banking disrupted as employees go on strike over proposed consolidation

    Employees’ and officers’ bank unions went on a day’s strike on Wednesday, hampering cheque clearing processes and other operations

    Bank branches across the country wore a deserted look on Wednesday as the strike call by the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and All India Bank Officers Association (AIBOA) was successfully carried out by a mix of public sector, private and foreign banks. The unions were protesting against a host of issues, foremost among them being the consolidation of the Indian banking sector and privatisation of public sector banks. Normal banking operations across the country were disrupted as a result.

    “It was a tremendous response. The industry was at a virtual standstill,” said Vishwas Utagi, secretary, AIBEA, adding that cheque clearing processes were paralysed across the country.
    It was a total bandh-like situation in West Bengal and Kerala. The response from north India and western regions was also “encouraging”, said Mr Utagi.

    Operations of banks which weren’t part of the strike call were also affected as a result. The coordination committee of nine central unions also held a protest dharna in front of the Lok Sabha.

    Gurudas Dasgupta, CPI MP, Vasudev Acharya, CPM MP, Dr Sanjeeva Reddy, Congress MP and Sushma Swaraj, BJP MP also lent support to the dharna programme, said Mr Utagi.

    CH Venkatachalam, general secretary, AIBEA, said that there should be no consolidation in the public sector banks in the name of creating global-sized banks.

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    CAT 2009 will not be scrapped, says CAT committee

    A fresh test will be held in mid-January 2010 for registered students who could not take the test earlier due to technical glitches. The IIMs have decided to continue with computer-based testing in future.

    This year's computerised Common Admission Test (CAT), which was marred by technical glitches, will not be scrapped, the exam committee announced on Wednesday, reports PTI.

    The CAT committee, which comprised IIM-Ahmedabad director Professor Samir Baruah, IIM-Bangalore director Professor Pankaj Chandra and a few other professors, made this announcement after meeting with senior human resource development ministry officials in New Delhi.

    "IIMs have decided to continue with computer-based test for 2009. We also look forward to continue the CAT through computer-based testing in future," Mr Baruah told reporters.

    The computer-based test, administered by American firm Prometric Inc, has drawn flak from many quarters as a few thousand students failed to take the test owing to disruptions caused by virus attacks and other technical glitches.

    A fresh test would be held around mid-January for those registered students who could not take the test earlier. The IIMs will put in place a system to identify all the students who could not take the test scheduled between 27th November and 8th December.

    Asked whether the IIMs would review the contract with Prometric, Mr Baruah said “the focus of the IIMs is to complete the test in a fair manner. But the entire test will be reviewed to ensure that such problems do not occur in future.”

    Professor Chandra said a verification process will be conducted to identify the genuine students who have failed to take the test.

    Nearly 2.4 lakh students had registered for the test for admission into IIMs and a few other B-schools. Around 2.16 lakh students have completed the test so far, CAT convenor Professor Satish Deodhar said.

    "It is indeed our regret that a number of candidates faced difficulties during this test window and the execution of the exam has not been flawless," he said.

    About 24,000 students did not show up for the test at the first instance, he said. Another 2,000 candidates, who were rescheduled from the first testing window, remain to be tested, he said.
    There were divergent of views within the IIMs about whether to scrap the computer-based system for this year.

    Prometric presented detailed data to the IIM directors on Sunday, explaining the nature of the problems faced by students.

    "After analysing the fresh data, we could know the nature and extent of the problem. We are convinced the test has been done in a fair manner," Mr Baruah said.

    Based on data, feedback from students, site and audit reports, the CAT committee said the problems faced by the students included complaints of premature exit through the Exit/End button, slowness of computers while reviewing and refreshing questions, rebooting of computers and disruptions, missing graphics and data.

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