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Turkey earthquake: Ankara considers extending stock-market closure

Officials could delay stock market reopening as death toll continues to climb
Trading is expected to resume on 15 February, but officials could delay the reopening (AFP)

Turkey is considering extending the closure of the Istanbul stock market beyond Wednesday, amid the continued fallout of deadly earthquakes that put the benchmark BIST index into free fall last week.

Trading is expected to resume on 15 February, but officials could delay the reopening, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing two unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The deliberations come as Turkey continues to grapple with the fallout of the quakes which have left at least 31,643 people in the country dead, according to Turkey's Afad disaster agency. 

The benchmark index lost 16 percent early last week after twin quakes rocked southern Turkey. Trading temporarily resumed Wednesday, but the market plunged to a seven percent loss.

There is a precedent for closing markets after severe external shocks. Turkey’s stock market was closed for a week in 1999 after a strong earthquake hit Izmit's Golcuk, killing more than 17,000 people. 

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The New York Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange were shut for four days in 2001 after the 9/11 attack.

The Middle East has seen a series of stock market closures in recent times.

Egypt’s exchange was closed for about two months during the 2011 protests that removed then-President Hosni Mubarak from power. Lebanon closed its stock exchange for more than a week after the 2021 Beirut Port blast.

Some Turkish investors campaigned on social media for the cancellation of trading last week.  

Analysts say many investors posted huge losses since Friday, but some profited through five cement companies whose stock values went up by over 20 percent until Wednesday. One of the companies, Nuh Cimento, was up 31 percent by the time trading was suspended. 

Turkey’s main opposition party, the CHP, has criticised what it says is the government’s slow response. The party filed a criminal complaint against regulators last week, saying the authorities failed to fulfill their duties by allowing the stock market to stay open.

Ismail Tatlioglu, an opposition MP from the Good Party (IYI), alleged on Wednesday that the market had been kept open for some people to sell their stocks before it became too late. 

“Shame on you,” he said. “They only thought to close the stock market on the third day of the disaster.”

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