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05 December 2023

Street clashes as Bangladesh stocks dive 9.25%


Police baton-charged investors in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Monday as angry crowds vented their fury after the stock market tumbled more than nine percent in an hour.

Trading on the Dhaka Stock Exchange was halted when stocks fell a record 9.25 percent soon after opening in a plunge that sent outraged investors onto the streets. Some burned furniture as riot police struggled to keep control.

The benchmark Dhaka Stock Exchange general index (DGEN) rose 80 percent in 2010 but has suffered a series of falls in the past three weeks in what analysts describe as a much-needed correction.

"The exchange has halted trading as per orders from the Securities and Exchange Commission after the benchmark index plunged 660 points, or 9.25 percent, in the first 54 minutes of trading," spokesman Shafiqual Islam told AFP.

Police baton-charged the crowd outside the stock exchange building in central Dhaka, as the protesters chanted slogans against the government and market regulators.

"I lost five million taka (70,000 dollars) out of a 10 million taka investment. This is insane -- my whole savings are gone," investor Monirul Islam told AFP at the scene.

Buses of riot police arrived as surrounding offices barricaded their gates and windows in anticipation of further clashes.

"There are up to 5,000 investors holding protests on the streets in front of the exchange building. Some of them have been violent," police inspector Azizul Haq told AFP.

"They have started vandalising government property, which forced us to use batons against them."

Since December 5, when the DGEN hit a record high of 8,918.51, it has lost 27.4 percent, which many experts have called a necessary correction.

Monday's fall was the largest single day loss in the bourse's 55-year history.

"I poured all my money into the Dhaka stock exchange," Humayum Kabir told AFP. "The finance minister lured us into the stock market, he told us it was safe, but now we have lost everything.

"They artificially jacked up the prices of junk shares and now our savings have vanished."

Other recent protests against market falls have seen riot police pelted with bricks and unrest spreading to other cities in Bangladesh.

The impoverished country has enjoyed an average six percent annual economic growth rate over the last eight years.