The rest of the financial world may have been preoccupied with the global credit crisis throughout the summer and fall of 2007, but equity markets throughout Asia were in the middle of an unprecedented boom and projections for the next 12 months are optimistic. The amount of commissions paid by Asian institutions on Asian (excluding Japan and Australia) cash equity trades surged 55% to nearly US$1.9bn in 2007 from US$1.2bn in 2006, according to the results of the Greenwich Associates’ 2007 Asian Equity Investors Study. Over the same period, the average commission rates paid by large institutions on Asian single-stock agency trades declined slightly, with bigger drops reported in rates on electronic and portfolio trades. The growth in Asian equity markets can be attributed in part to the fact that there are simply more institutions operating in the region, particularly hedge funds. As recently as 2004 hedge funds accounted for no more than 5% of total equity commission payments in Asia; in the past 12 months that figure has jumped to nearly 40%, up from 22% in 2006. Such a formidable hedge fund presence not only drives up trading volume and commissions, it is also spurring growth in low-cost execution alternatives. Investors’ primary attraction to Asia is in returns, which have averaged well into the double digits for virtually all Asian equity markets in recent years. Investor sentiments remained bullish as of the third quarter 2007, projecting average returns of 15% to 20% in the region for 2008, ranging from a high of 20%-plus in China to 14% in Singapore.
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