December 14th, 2011
05:04 AM GMT
HONG KONG (CNN) - Hong Kong has leapfrogged the United States and the United Kingdom to take top spot in the World Economic Forum’s 2011 index of financial market development - the first Asian financial center to do so.
According to the forum’s fourth annual Financial Development Report, Hong Kong’s position was bolstered by strong scores in non-banking financial services such as IPO activity - the first public sale of stock by a company - and insurance.
The report ranks 60 of the word’s leading financial systems according to more than 100 variables, from access to different forms of capital and financial services, to financial stability, regulation and the availability of skilled workers.
Hong Kong jumped from fourth place in the index, amid concerns over financial stability in the U.S., and lower scores in the UK on IPO activity and securitization - which is the process in which certain types of assets, such as mortgages, are pooled so that they can be repackaged into bond-like securities.
Belgium was the only country to drop out of a largely unchanged top 10, with Norway the beneficiary.
1. Hong Kong
China (19th) joins Malaysia (16th) as the second of only two emerging economies within the top 20.
"Hong Kong's ascent to the top of our index marks a major milestone, the first time in the report's history that the United Kingdom or the US didn't come out on top," Kevin Steinberg, chief operating officer of World Economic Forum USA, said in a statement accompanying the report.
"While Western financial centers are understandably focused on short-term challenges, this report should serve as a wake-up call that their long-term leadership may be in jeopardy," he added.
The report added that more than 90% of countries have not returned to pre-financial crisis levels in terms of access to capital.
"The need to make different forms of capital available will be essential for future growth and recovery," said Isabella Reuttner, editor of the report, in quotes carried by Agence France-Presse.
"The challenge will be how to encourage economic activity while not fueling the next credit bubble, which could cause severe consequences down the line."
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