Trading in Bangladesh's stock market was suspended yesterday after a government decision about public servants' investments in the bourse sparked confusion in Dhaka.
"DSE [Dhaka Stock Exchange] Board in the interest of the capital market and investors has decided to keep the market closed today [Wednesday]," read a notification on the DSE website.
DSE's chief executive Mosharraf Hussain later said the main bourse decided to suspend trading, fearing the government order may negatively impact trading. "We have decided to suspend trading until further order," he added.
The country's second bourse, the Chittagong Stock Exchange, also halted trading as the state-run BSS yesterday reported that the cabinet decided to "make the government employees aware about the existing rules and procedures that they should follow in purchasing shares from the stock market".
A senior cabinet division official, however, later clarified the decision, saying the government actually put no direct bar on purchasing shares by the government employees from the primary or secondary market.
Cabinet Division joint secretary Ishtiaque Ahmad, however, quoted the Government Employees Code of Conduct that stipulated that "a government employee must not habituate in any kind of speculative (Fatka) business which may cause huge loss due to price volatility".
The government is the country's biggest employer with a million-plus staff and an armed force of 160,000 personnel on its payroll.
Witnesses said several hundred investors staged a street protest against the suspension of trading in front of the DSE complex at Motijheel business district, disrupting traffic and shouting slogans against the government.
The protests follow a decline in the benchmark DGEN index by 3.33 per cent to 4,864.30 on Monday, the first time it has declined below 5,000 this year.
DSE yesterday urged the government to relax terms for public servants to allow them to engage in profit-making activities.