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A world beater survives: The Jamaica Stock Exchange has COVID chat with the Nasdaq

After another world-beating performance  in 2019, it is not surprising that the world is curious about the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) and how  it is performing and managing during COVID conditions.

Marlene Street Forrest, managing director of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (File photo)

In the last week, JSE managing director Marlene Street-Forrest disclosed to the Nasdaq in an interview how pressured but resilient the trading company has been under conditions which have closed most global economies.

In October 2019, the JSE was recognised as the best performing stock exchange globally, completing a five-year cycle of outstanding performance. In 2015 it was also similarly recognised.

Bloomberg, under the headline “Jamaica’s World-Beating 233% Stock Rally Continues Full Steam”, celebrated the stock market rally as the best of the last five years.

“We are very pleased that we had moved to the Nasdaq trading platform, which has been efficient.”

– JSE Managing Director Marlene Street-Forrest

The island’s J$1.5 trillion (US$11 billion) stock market was the best of  94 exchanges tracked by Bloomberg over 12 months, gaining 35 per cent. Gains over five-year period came to more than 600 per cent which was the world’s best performance.

That was then. This week, when the New York-based Nasdaq, which has also been monitoring global exchanges, asked Street-Forrest to share COVID’s’s impact, she said that all but four listed companies have experienced reduced prices.

In turn, this “has led to the lower trade and fee income for brokers and the Jamaica Stock Exchange,” she outlined.

The Exchange’s market report for the period January 2020 to April 2020 shows all indices down in the range of 14 to 29 per cent.

The Jamaica Stock Exchange

The least decline was seen in the USD market, down 14.11 per cent and the largest slump in the JSE Select Index with a decline of 29.29 per cent.

JSE lists equities, some on its USD market but most on the J-dollar market, with some stocks cross-listed. The JSE Select Index measures the performance of the fifteen most liquid ordinary stocks on both the Main and Junior Markets.

The Junior Market of the JSE allows investors to put capital into legitimate small and medium-sized companies (SMEs).

Street-Forrest said trading systems have not been impacted by the current environment. “We are very pleased that we had moved to the Nasdaq trading platform, which has been efficient,” she commented.

Staff have been working remotely in almost all areas of operation. The JSE, over the period of coronavirus, has increased electronic means of communication and reduced physical data  sent to the exchange. Meetings are kept using Zoom, Teams and similar communication devices.

The operational success experienced, she outlined has been based on use of the Nasdaq platform, the JSE’s active business continuity plan; its transition towards a digital environment; pursuit of risk and compliance policies and procedures and a “sound regulatory framework.”

Street-Forrest added, “it is important that we stay close to the market to understand what our customers will require during and post-COVID-19, converting them into business opportunities to support business growth, development and profitability.”

In the last 12-months, the Exchange has migrated to the Nasdaq platform and concluded its 50th Anniversary celebrations in February of this year. The company also signed an agreement with IDB for the further development of the Social Stock Exchange (which lists companies that target people and planet) in December and executed its annual conference in January 2020.