June 23, 2020 / 3:33 PM / a month ago

LME to examine floor reopening after easing of UK lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the London Metal Exchange, in London, Britain September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - The London Metal Exchange (LME) will examine whether the easing of social-distancing restrictions in England from July 4 will apply to its open-outcry floor, which has been closed for three months.

The 143-year-old exchange temporarily closed the floor - the last open-outcry floor in Europe - on March 23 due to COVID-19 restrictions and shifted activity to its electronic system.

Comments by Chief Executive Matthew Chamberlain during an online seminar on Tuesday were more upbeat than an interview with Reuters last month when he said the floor was likely to remain shut for many months.

“We’re absolutely working to get back to the ring as soon as possible, obviously driven by government social-distancing legislation,” Chamberlain told the IDX derivatives conference.

“In the UK we can get back to the pub on the 4th of July... but the question is whether that will apply to our floor and we’re going to need to look into that.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that pubs, restaurants and hotels could reopen in England early next month. Social distancing rules will be relaxed from two metres to one metre-plus, with the “plus” meaning measures like wearing masks and using protective screens.

While nearly every other financial exchange moved to screen trading, the LME has been one of the last bastions where traders still do live deals in a circle of padded, red-leather benches.

Floor dealers on the exchange, the world’s oldest and largest market for industrial metals, have resisted the shift to full digital trading during the pandemic.

The LME is owned by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd.

Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Edmund Blair and Pravin Char

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