HK tops global survey of financial system health

AP News
Posted: Dec 14, 2011 12:38 AM
HK tops global survey of financial system health

Hong Kong has become the first Asian finance center to top an annual survey of global financial development, overtaking the United States and U.K.

The World Economic Forum said Tuesday that Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory, leapfrogged from fourth to first thanks to strong scores on non-banking financial services such as initial public offerings and insurance.

The U.S. and U.K., struggling to recover from the global financial crisis, slipped on lower scores for financial stability.

Singapore dropped one spot to fourth but other Asian nations moved up in the rankings of 60 markets. It's the first time since the Geneva-based WEF began the survey four years ago that the U.S. or U.K. has not come first.

"Hong Kong's ascent to the top of our index marks a major milestone," said Kevin Steinberg, chief operating officer of World Economic Forum USA.

"While Western financial centers are understandably focused on short-term challenges, this report should serve as a wake-up call that their long-term leadership may be in jeopardy."

Among the top 20, Japan moved up a notch to eighth place and Malaysia climbed one spot to 16th. South Korea jumped six spots to 18th place while China rose three spots to No. 19.

Researchers measured factors including a market's business and institutional environment, financial stability and development of stock, bond, currency and derivative markets.

They also looked at IPO and takeover activity, which showed "considerable decreases," that could be blamed on the freezing up of securitization markets and financial downturn stemming from the subprime crisis, particularly for Western countries.

But in Asian countries, these factors improved because their stronger economies and financial systems made them more resilient, the report said.

The index looks at long-term measures to support financial system development and is aimed at helping economies identify areas for reform.