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01 March 2024

Bangladesh stocks lose 6.0%, crash 31% this year


Protesters took to the streets of Bangladesh's capital on Monday after the country's main stock index plunged 6.0 percent, deepening a crash that has seen the bourse's value tumble 31 percent this year.

The benchmark DGEN index, which analysts warned had reached unsustainable levels, closed down 229.41 points, or 5.97 percent, at 3,616.24 points, its lowest grade since November 16, 2009.

A few hundred angry investors, who have watched the DGEN slump since the start of the year, demonstrated in Dhaka on Monday and disrupted traffic, police sub-inspector M Sharifuzzman said. Nine were arrested.

The former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Faruq Ahmed Chowdhury, told AFP that the sharp market falls were the result of "nothing but panic."

"What's happening is an overreaction," he said. "Investors' confidence has been shattered by conflicting signals from the regulator and the government, the recent announcement of a tight monetary policy and the lowering of growth estimates."

A government order last month reportedly announced that authorities would enforce a ban on the country's million-plus civil servants and armed forces from investing in shares. The SEC later said no such order was issued.

The government's revenue board meanwhile reversed its decision to allow illegally earned money to be invested in the market.

On January 26, the central bank tightened monetary policy to rein in double-digit inflation, and also cut its projection for Bangladesh's annual growth to around 6.5 percent from 7.0 percent in the year to June.

Last year, the benchmark index fell 37 percent, its worst annual performance since 1997 when it lost 67 percent.

Bangladesh has more than 3.3 million share traders, of whom about 80 percent are small investors and mostly newcomers to the market. Experts say the majority of them lack basic knowledge about how the market functions.

Violent protests in the capital triggered by falling share prices have become commonplace since late 2010 when the benchmark DGEN index began its steep fall from a record high of 8,918.51 points -- more than double the current level.