July 13, 2017 / 2:24 PM / 11 days ago

Nasdaq Iceland to issue leverage data to regain investor confidence

2 Min Read

FILE PHOTO - A view of the exterior of the Nasdaq market site in Times Square in New York City, NY, U.S. April 25, 2017.Shannon Stapleton

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Stock exchange operator Nasdaq said on Thursday it would start publishing information on leveraged positions on the Icelandic stock market in a bid to regain some of the investor confidence lost in Iceland during its 2008 banking meltdown.

Most of the capital controls imposed after the crash were lifted in March, allowing money to flow in and out of the country more freely but raising concerns of an overheating of the economy.

Starting immediately, Nasdaq said it would release monthly information about shares pledged as collateral. This will serve as an indicator of how much investors have borrowed to buy those shares and show how leveraged the market is, it added.

"High leverage can create unstable prices and can be an indicator of asset bubbles," Baldur Thorlacius, Head of Surveillance at Nasdaq Iceland, told Reuters.

"So if the leverage becomes very high, then investors may want to know if there is an external shock or something, and prices may drop faster than otherwise," he said.

The amount of shares that shareholders had pledged as collateral to borrow money accounted for almost 10 percent of total share value in June, Nasdaq said in a statement.

Iceland's central bank had estimated at the end of 2006 that the amount of shares pledged as collateral stood at about 29 percent of the market. Thorlacius said more than 40 percent of the market was pledged in 2007.

In the wake of the financial crisis, a special investigation commission concluded that a highly leveraged market was one of the factors behind the collapse.

"Actually we wanted to do this for a while, considering the financial crisis... Everything we do is to increase investor confidence, and this is definitely one step in that direction," Thorlacius said.

Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Hugh Lawson

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