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China Allows Some Hong Kong, Taiwan Residents to Trade A Shares

China said it will allow Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau residents living in the mainland to open domestic trading accounts, the latest move by authorities to boost Asia’s third-largest equity market.

The rule, which takes effect on April 1, will allow them to open accounts for yuan-denominated stocks, or A shares, according to a statement on the website of China Securities Depository and Clearing Corp., the nation’s clearing house for stock transactions. The change, approved by the securities regulator, is aimed at “facilitating their access to investment in the A-share market,” according to today’s statement.

China has increased quotas for foreign institutions, encouraged dividend payments, tightened rules on delisting companies and cut trading costs as part of efforts to boost a stock market that has underperformed its Hong Kong peer in the last three years. The Shanghai Composite Index, the country’s benchmark, fell 1.7 percent this week, paring its advance this year to 2.2 percent.

A shares were previously off-limits to foreign individual investors, who were only allowed to trade B shares. These refer to stocks that trade in U.S. dollars in Shanghai or to Hong Kong dollar-denominated equities listed in Shenzhen.

In 2002, the securities regulator introduced the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor program to allow overseas investors access to the more heavily traded A shares. China also approved in 2011 the Renminbi Qualified Institutional Investors program that allows participants to raise yuan offshore for investment in mainland securities.

There are about 450,000 residents from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan in the mainland, the official Xinhua News Agency reported today, citing data from the national census conducted in 2010.

The country can increase 10-fold the size of the two investment programs that allow institutions from abroad to buy securities on domestic markets, China Securities Regulatory Commission Chairman Guo Shuqing said Jan. 14.

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