March 26, 2020 / 5:37 PM / 7 days ago

UPDATE 1-European bourses defend coronavirus plans in extreme conditions

(Adds more detail, context)

By Huw Jones

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - Stock exchanges defended their coronavirus contingency plans on Thursday, saying they are working well under extreme market conditions, after banks questioned their level of preparedness.

“These plans ensure that everything is working satisfactorily, including in the context of ‘working from home’ protocols, and have been executed on close cooperation with supervisory authorities,” the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) said in a statement.

Stock markets have experienced extreme volatility as investors dump shares in the face of a likely recession, sparking talk that suspensions in trading could be needed.

FESE was responding to a questionnaire from banks that are asking exchanges to spell out their business continuity plans during the epidemic, which has left financial districts around Europe looking like ghost towns.

The Association for Financial Markets in Europe, which is helping to organise the questionnaire, said the information gathered will help its members better understand their plans and preparations.

FESE said that exchanges are supervised continually to ensure they remain robust and reliable across a broad spectrum of scenarios, including a pandemic.

Banks have moved trading to back up sites or homes, raising concerns about connectivity speeds and their ability to provide timely liquidity to form share prices efficiently.

The London Stock Exchange on Thursday announced a waiver in fees in a bid to attract more market makers to bolster liquidity.

FESE said regulators like the European Union’s securities watchdog ESMA and national regulators have assessed the preparedness of all market participants to ensure they have robust contingency plans and IT systems, FESE said.

London-based Aquis Exchange said it was operating its platform with all staff away from the office.

“We have been running the exchange remotely for over a week and there is not a single person in the office,” said Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Clelland. (Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Jane Merriman and Hugh Lawson)

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