Just when ASX has been struggling in running its Australian stock market monopoly efficiently, the US Justice Department has slammed the way it processes trades.

Well, by proxy anyway. The Justice Department dropped a bombshell on American derivatives markets overnight be declaring their trade-processing practices may be anti-competitive.

The world’s largest futures market, the CME, and Nymex, both saw their share prices plunge 18% after the anti-trust warning.

As Bloomberg reports one analyst as saying: “The goose that lays the golden egg is under attack by the regulators, and that is never good news.”

CME and Nymex, like the ASX, own and operate their own clearing houses – a very nice way of minimising competition.

Whether it’s been the Tricom debacle or the August SFE computer shut-down farce, the ASX has not been doing its job very well lately. As Stephen Mayne has previously campaigned, there is a strong case for ASX not running its own clearing house.

The wheels of competition regulators here turn slowly, particularly when it comes to something as central to the markets club as the ASX. After all, the SFE acquisition was waved through despite entrenching enormous monopoly advantages – but we do have a habit of following US trends in steadily moving on anti-trust.

Peter Fray

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