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Equity markets in Europe
Turning to equity markets, structural developments of most interest relate to the infrastructure of stock exchanges on the one hand and equity derivative exchanges on the other. First, within the euro area, equity investment and trading activities appear to be less and less influenced by country-specific factors and increasingly subject to area-wide considerations. Consistent with this development, area-wide equity indices have been developing. Market participants are showing considerable interest in these area-wide indices, in particular as they are also now adopting investment positions on area-wide industrial sectors, using the sub-indices made available for that purpose. An indication of the degree of interest raised by area-wide indices is the relatively fierce competition for benchmark status that has developed between the various proponents of area-wide indices.
Second, market developments in relation to stock index futures and options will reflect the rise of area-wide indices. This may in turn lead to either consolidation or product specialisation of equity derivative exchanges. For my part, I consider the development of fair competition between exchanges to be a positive factor in terms of the improvement of the range of products and services available to the financial industry.
Third, in the equity market the euro has also provided a powerful incentive for the creation of new - and possibly competing - alliances among exchanges. Before the launch of the single currency, circuits had been created for the launch of integrated "new markets" within and beyond the euro area, encompassing the shares of small and medium-sized companies with a high potential for growth. The development in the integration of exchanges has also continued more recently, and, as you know, it has not been limited to the euro area.