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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK

Business: The Economy

Europe's exchanges increase links

A pan-European stock market is coming a step closer

Eight of Europe's biggest stock markets have taken a further step along the increasingly winding road to a unified market.

The eight have agreed to set up a "joint electronic interface" by November 2000.

"This joint interface will create a market of markets," Paris stock exchange president Jean-Francois Theodore said after a meeting with his counterparts from Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Zurich.

"On one screen, our clients will have access to all major European stocks," he said.

"It will be swift and inexpensive. The pan-European alliance (of stock trading) is taking hold."


The stockmarket presidents met in Brussels in the hope of overcoming four months of delays in uniting the capital markets.

Progress has been slowed by what are reported to have been a range of technical and cultural differences.

The stock markets are long time rivals, but have accepted the need to join forces in the face of competition from new electronic markets inside and outside Europe.

The agreement announced on Thursday is for the eight to establish a common electronic network, to harmonise rule books and create a single electronic interface.

It added that market access will be fair and equal regardless of the member firms' geographic location.

George Moeller, head of the Amsterdam Exchange, said this agreement for a single point of entry affects trading in the most liquid European stocks, implying that it is targeted mainly at blue chips.

Common rule book

The bourses also have agreed to harmonize their trading rules as far as possible, while the schedule of trading days - and by extension holidays - also will be subject to harmonization.

The exchanges also reaffirmed their commitment to harmonized trading hours. This week London and Paris began opening an hour earlier to get in line with other exchanges such as Frankfurt.

The bourses also have decided to retain their current clearing practices, although officials present said the situation could evolve in the future.

"We believe this is the most effective way to deliver a one-market solution," said Gavin Casey of the London Stock Exchange.

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