Yesterday we pointed out that UniCredit, the bank which had fallen by 5% in day trading, was 7% owned by Libyan interests (we also noted some other odd Libyan holdings). Today, this stigmata is far more of a curse than a blessing, as not only the bank, but the entire Italian stock exchange, the Borsa Italia, is in major unwind mode, and has been halted all day. FT reports: "Borsa Italiana, the Italian exchange, failed to open as usual on Tuesday amid concerns in the Italian broking community about possible fallout from turmoil in Libya. The outage, which left brokers unable to process orders, came a day after the main Italian stock market index closed down 3.6 per cent, making it the worst performing European market on Monday. Traders in London said the failure to open meant that the crucial opening auction, which sets initial prices at the Borsa, had also not taken place. Yet there was growing demand from investors to trade certain blue chip Italian stocks." Following up with a European market participant we got the following: "stock exchange suspension has been ordered to handle massive unwind of positions in some of the largest index components. Significant dislocation occurring on swap and option market on the FTSE MIB as well.... So you see, it's not just in the US that it is forbidden to sell." In other words, when faced with a huge deluge of selling, best to implement the biggest known circuit breaker of all and just shut it down. In the meantime, UniCredit CDS trading away from Italy was 3% wider this morning as concerns about that "7%" spook risk holders.
And Bloomberg's take:
Trading on the Italian exchange remained halted because of “technical issues” after the benchmark FTSE MIB Index fell the most in eight months yesterday on concern Libya’s unrest may affect Italian companies.
Borsa Italiana SpA, owned by London Stock Exchange Group Plc, said in a statement on its website that “restoring operations” are underway after stocks failed to open and the futures market was halted at 12:10 p.m. All markets are suspended, the Milan bourse said in a separate statement.
The trading suspension “is something unacceptable,” said Francesco Vercesi, a money manager at Fiduciaria Orefici Sim SpA in Milan. Investors were permitted to cancel orders submitted before the scheduled opening, the exchange said. Futures trading on the FTSE MIB was temporarily halted Jan. 3 because of technical “issues.”
The FTSE MIB yesterday lost 3.6 percent to 22,230.2, the biggest decline since June 29. Impregilo SpA, the country’s largest construction company, plummeted 6.2 percent to 2.31 euros, the biggest loss since April 2009. The company has 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) of projects in Libya, according to Milan broker Equita Sim SpA. UniCredit SpA, the nation’s biggest bank, sank 5.8 percent to 1.87 euros, the largest loss since May.
UniCredit was down 2.1 percent to 1.83 euros at 12:44 p.m. local time on Chi-X Europe Ltd., Europe’s largest alternative trading system. Eni, Europe’s fourth-biggest oil company, was down 2 percent to 17.09 euros. Impregilo was down 6.3 percent to 2.16 euros.
We will keep an eye on this rather odd development.