Markets shuttered; catastrophe bond on standby

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    Financial markets were shut yesterday to ensure the safety of employees and traders after Taal Volcano spewed huge volumes of ash that drifted across the nation’s capital.

    The suspensions cover stocks, fixed-income, and dollar-peso spot trading.

    Regular fixed-income trading and settlement operations were expected to resume today, the operator of the country’s fixed-income trading platform, PDS Group, said in a statement.

    Separately, the Bankers’ Association of the Philippines (BAP) encouraged banks to exercise discretion to ensure the safety of their employees.

    Clearing and settlement operations at the Securities Clearing Corp. of the Philippines have also been suspended, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) said.

    The Bureau of Treasury (BTr) said the government has in place a “catastrophe bond that can be triggered by 1-in-19 year earthquake that may be an aftermath of the Taal eruption.”

    “A 1-in19 year event corresponds to a modeled loss of P11 billion. This loss would be similar to the losses during the 1990 Luzon earthquake in Nueva Ecija,” it said.

    BAP said banks located in “heavily affected areas” of the Taal Volcano eruption have either suspended or limited their operations “to ensure the safety of its employees, whereas banks in other areas remain open for banking operations.”

    “Online banking functions remain operational for consumer use,” it said.

    BAP, however, said banks “are nevertheless prepared for emergency situations, and have measures in place to ensure continued operations in these times.”

    “The banking public can be assured that nearby ATMs are adequately stocked and digital services are operational. We remain in close coordination with the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) to ensure that the needs of the banking public are met,” it added.

    The PSE meanwhile said trading is suspended with “no clearing and settlement at the Securities Clearing Corp. of the Philippines” as well “to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the volcanic ash emission of Taal Volcano.”

    The government through the BTr said it is working on a natural catastrophe cover “for strategically important assets (school, roads, and bridges), which would protect against natural catastrophes such as tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, earthquakes, and storm surges.” – With Reuters