In Bhutan, a stock trade a day keeps stress away

Wed Dec 9, 2009 1:59pm EST
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By Alistair Scrutton

THIMPHU (Reuters Life!) - Traders seeking a break from volatile global markets may want to head to Bhutan's bourse, where stocks are traded on just four computers -- when they have not crashed -- only twice a week.

"I've got one order to sell 2,820 shares," said 23-year-old Deki Peldon, the only broker for today's short trading hours in Thimphu, the capital of the tiny Himalayan kingdom.

"It's taken 2 to 3 weeks to find a buyer."

Welcome to the Royal Bhutan stock exchange, where just four brokers work and which will trade about $3 million shares this year, about what many financiers may deal with in the blink of an eye. The average daily trade in New York is more than 1 billion.

In a Buddhist country where national wealth is measured by Gross National Happiness -- an idea that spiritual and environmental health are just as important as material well-being -- the exchange is crawling slowly along as the country and its $1.3 billion economy tentatively embraces globalization.

The outside world is coming to Bhutan, slowly. Television arrived here in 1999 and there are now around 10,000 Internet connections in a country of under 700,000 people.

Bhutan still has no traffic lights since the first one was withdrawn after protests from residents that it was unsightly.