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“We expect the market to do better in 2022 driven also by the recovery in economic growth.” - Vincent Lau

THE government’s decision to reinstate the cap that traders have to pay in stamp duties for stock market transactions, albeit at a higher level than before, has provided a sigh of relief for market participants.

The background to the government’s original proposals which were contained in Budget 2022 and which was announced in Oct 2021, had stemmed from a need to boost public revenues. The government is facing a record annual budget of more than RM332.1bil for 2022 and is aiming to jump start the economy in this year.

Hence, Budget 2022 had proposed a hike in stamp duties on stock trading and a one-off windfall tax Cukai Makmur or prosperity tax, among others.

Under the proposal, the government was to increase the stamp duty rate to 0.15% from 0.1% for stock trading, as well as to remove the RM200 stamp duty cap for such trades.

Not surprisingly, this raised concerns among investors as the cost of stock trading could increase significantly in 2022. The fear is that this would dampen trading and participation on the local bourse.

This contributed to the descent of the main FBM KLCI index of the local bourse to below 1,500 points. The index has gained back its losses this week. The last time the index went below 1,500 was prior to the pandemic in December 2011.

For many years, Bursa Malaysia had experienced low retail participation in the stock market. That was until 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, when people under lockdowns started to show an interest in the stock market.

Bursa Malaysia had said the higher trading costs, as proposed in Budget 2021, would make it more difficult for intraday traders to implement their trading strategies. It said that the traders accounted for 10% of the traded value on the local bourse.

Bursa Malaysia also said the proposed changes in stamp duty rates would make the local stock exchange Asean’s most expensive market to trade in.

Former investment banker and investor Ian Yoong notes that transaction costs for equities have been falling globally over the past decade.

“If the cap on stamp duty was to be removed as proposed in the Budget 2022, transaction costs for Malaysian equities would escalate substantially for large trades,” he says.

He points out that the impact on high frequency and proprietary traders will be significant, but not so much on retail investors.

“High frequency and proprietary or prop traders could buy and sell the same stock many times in a day at razor thin brokerage rates. High frequency traders (HFT) operate under a veil of secrecy and are driven by algorithms, HFTs bought and sold the same stocks 10 to 20 times daily in the euphoria of 2020,” he adds.

Yoong reckons that the removal of the RM200 cap and the new stamp duties could translate to a 22% increase in transaction cost.


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