PETALING JAYA: A sudden freeze on trading activities on the local stock exchange took market participants by surprise yesterday.

The freeze, which was acknowledged by Bursa Malaysia Securities as “a trading halt”, began at 3.30pm and it affected all counters, resulting in nobody being able to buy or sell securities after this time.

The issue was not resolved within the day and the stock market had to close for the day with only a brief explanation that attributed the halt to a technical issue.

Shortly after 5pm, the stock exchange operator released a statement saying that trading would resume today at 9am as normal.

It stated that “trading on Bursa Malaysia Securities was halted this (yesterday) evening at 3.30pm. The (stock) exchange will not reopen the securities market for trading on (Thursday). The last traded price will be used as the reference price.”

The stock exchange operator further said that the matter was being investigated. At the same time, the exchange remained focused on ensuring there was minimal disruption to trading.

A similarly worded announcement on the trading halt had been posted on Bursa Malaysia’s webpage shortly after 3.30pm and said that the matter was due to a technical issue.

Pong Teng Siew, formerly the head of research at a local brokerage, told StarBiz that “As far as I recall, this is the first time the outage has gone on for such a prolonged period of time, what’s more this is a complete outage. There had been short glitches here and there prior to this but none as widespread as this one.”

“There also have been instances before where the buy or sell orders could not be routed and that was a partial outage and it’s nothing of this sort.”

At its early close, Bursa Malaysia saw 9.28 billion shares worth RM4.14bil changing hands against a backdrop of a dropping market. Losers more than tripled gainers at 782 to 249 while 379 counters were unchanged.

“With the volume at 9.28 billion shares at 3:30pm, it could have been another record-breaking day should the trading carry on until 5pm.

“By the end of the trading day, if the market had remained open, we could have had around 12 billion shares changing hands, ” said Victor Wan, head of research at Interpacific Securities.

The FBM KLCI fell 2.08 points or 0.76% to close early at 1,573.48. As for the regional markets, all were negative with the exception of the Jakarta Composite Index, which rose slightly at its close by 0.44%.

Mainland China stocks saw heavy losses: the Shanghai composite plunged 4.5% and the Shenzhen component fell 5.372% at the end of the trading day yesterday.

Back at home, among the biggest capitalised FBM KLCI-linked component stocks, Top Glove Corp Bhd declined 56 sen to RM21.24 at its early close while Hartalega Holdings Bhd lost 44 sen to RM15.16.

Both glove makers, which saw a strong upward run in their share prices recently due to the Covid-19 pandemic, began losing some momentum even as news of a vaccine development gathered pace globally.

Top Glove yesterday also confirmed that the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had placed a detention order on disposable gloves manufactured by two of its subsidiaries, Top Glove Sdn Bhd and TG Medical Sdn Bhd. (see also page 2)

Both Top Glove and Hartalega had largely helped sustained the FBM KLCI’s upward run after March 19 following the initial plunge as Covid-19 lockdowns were imposed globally.

RHB Research Institute head of research Alexander Chia had said earlier in the week that any progress of a proven and effective vaccine development would be the catalyst for traders to sell down the rubber glove stocks.

Yesterday, Top Glove was among the top decliners on the local exchange. It was last traded at RM21.24, down RM1 or 2.57%, after the counter was suspended at 2.30pm yesterday.

Trading in Top Glove’s shares was supposed to resume at 3.30pm but, coincidentally, trading across Bursa Malaysia was halted around the same time due to “technical issues”.

Over in Singapore, Top Glove shares listed on Singapore Exchange Ltd ended the day 81 cents lower at S$6.49, the lowest since July 6.