Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx) CEO Charles Li Xiaojia downplayed modest volumes in its first after-hours futures trading session Monday, comparing its new session to a small child learning to walk.
Trading in benchmark Hang Seng Index futures in its first session totalled 1,361 contracts, against 492 contracts for H-shares Index futures comprising mainly Hong Kong-listed mainland Chinese companies.
A spokesman for the bourse was unfazed by Monday's trading volumes and said the exchange expected them to rise as market participants grew accustomed to the new offering.
"It's an important initiative," he said, adding volumes would "build over time".
Up to now, traders have been unable to hedge their positions in response to European and US market news - although in a survey conducted for the exchange found 91 out of 183 Hong Kong futures brokers engaged in after-hours overseas derivatives trading.
HKEx believes doubling its hours to 12 will help it keep up with competing exchanges, although it still falls behind regional competitor Singapore Exchange, which trades for 16 hours.
More significantly, Li sees after-hours trading as a platform for more products - including fixed income and currencies - to coincide with RMB liberalisation.
The HKEx spokesman warned against expecting "big bangs", though he suggested the exchange would over the next few years develop derivatives-related plans, including mini-contracts.
Longer term, HKEx believes the introduction of after-hours trading will attract more US and European investors to its derivatives market. In the meantime, Li told Chinese journalists: "I have two new children - OTC clearing and futures. They're both young and you wouldn't expect them to be walking or running yet."
HKEx on Monday announced that 12 banks, including the Hong Kong subsidiaries of several mainland Chinese banks, had agreed to acquire 25% of the clearing house for RMB-denominated OTC derivatives it plans to launch later in H1.