Santiago, Chile (UPI) Apr 7, 2011
Plans for a three-nation joint stock market linking Chile, Colombia and Peru received a boost after tests of an integrated trading system showed encouraging results, officials said.
Market integration has long been the declared goal of Latin American states as part of other ambitious and wide-ranging plans for different versions of the EU model.
The 2009 economic downturn put a dampener on the plans as Chile paid heavily for its interconnectivity with world markets. Other, less-connected markets in the region weren't so directly affected by the stock markets' crash in that year and fluctuations in the following months.
Economic planners argue the stock market integration would help stimulate economies of the three states, of which Chile is by far the strongest and most advanced, with more streamlined financial regulatory framework and incentives than those in either Colombia or Peru.
Colombia made quick strides with major economic reforms after Juan Manuel Santos took over as president in August 2010. Colombia's turbulent politics and continued -- and inconclusive -- war on drug overlords kept investors away but the country's ties with China and other East Asian nations grew despite security concerns.
Officials said the joint market would be called the Integrated Latin American Market -- Mila -- and would likely go live May 30. Extensive tests on the equipment and communications gave operators confidence that Mila could start trading on that date, officials said.
At least 560 companies are likely to be listed on the merged market making it the second largest market by capitalization after Sao Paulo. The initial scale of the integrated market is modest compared to Sao Paulo, which trades more than 100 million shares on an average day.
Optimism over the planned opening of the new market pushed stock prices at the highest levels since June 2008 -- before the financial crisis hit Chile and its neighbors.
Chile has been seeking various means to moderate rises in its currency and opening new avenues for exports amid fears the overvalued peso might discourage importers and push its commodities out of international markets. Similar fears found resonance in Colombia and Peru and other Latin American commodity exporters.
The rise of Mila raises questions over evolving trade groups in Latin America as negotiations continue over a major deal with the European Union under the umbrella of Mercosur, the regional trade bloc.
Chile has seen its growth forge ahead despite major shocks in 2010 from a magnitude-8.8 earthquake Feb. 27, 2010, and subsequent aftershocks. Infrastructural damage across Chile has been widespread but reconstruction activity has helped economic growth.
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