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Jamaica’s stock exchange has shown impressive returns in recent years. The market’s benchmark Jamaican Stock Market, or JSE Index, composed of 37 stocks, increased by a whopping 300% over the past five years.
In 2018 alone, the index showed a return of 29%. This could be the reason that the number of people with accounts increased from 5% to 10% of the Jamaican population over the past five years.
Nevertheless, investors looking for the best online brokerage that offers services in Jamaica need to know a few things about the country’s financial sector and stock exchange before jumping in with both feet. Keep in mind that not all brokerages are created equal, so make sure to carefully consider your needs before you open an account with a broker.
Trading Stocks in Jamaica: What You Need to Know Before You Start
Despite recent stock market gains, Jamaica has experienced decades of low economic growth of less than one percent per year. The country’s services sector accounts for about 70 percent of GDP, with most foreign capital made through remittances, bauxite production and tourism. Economic growth in Jamaica also continues to be challenged by red tape, a high debt to GDP ratio, crime and corruption.
On the brighter side, Jamaica ranks 39th in overall economic freedom among other countries according to The Heritage Foundation. The country also placed fifth in the regional rankings for that metric in North America, coming in after Saint Lucia, Chile, the United States
Trading in stocks in Jamaica was limited to banks, lawyers and high net worth individuals before the establishment of the Kingston stock market in 1961 under the Bank of Jamaica. This evolved into the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) several years later in February of 1969, which is privately owned and aims to develop a vibrant market in stocks and bonds in Jamaica.
The JSE is composed of several different markets. Companies that wish to list their securities on the exchange typically fall into one of these four categories: the Junior Market, the Main Market, the Bond Market and the U.S. Denominated Market.
In May of 2015, the JSE launched its online trading portal. The exchange makes its trading software available to member firms and their clients. The exchange opens for only three and a half hours a day for trading, which doesn’t affect the fact that the JSE is the best-performing stock market in the world.
Features to Look for in a Stock Trading Account
Many international brokers, such as Interactive Brokers, accept clients from Jamaica. You’ll need to open an account with one of the lesser-known Jamaican stock brokers registered as members of the exchange to trade shares listed on the JSE.
These 13 broker members or member dealers have all received the approval of the Jamaican Financial Services Commission (FSC) to execute orders for clients on the JSE. Since you can only trade securities on the JSE through a broker member, key considerations like regulatory oversight by the FSC and JSE exchange membership are consistent among any of the 13 Jamaican brokers.
The JSE hosts a trading platform for the exchange, which lets the broker members give their clientele access to use the exchange’s trading platform.
Even if the broker has its own trading platform, if you want to trade securities listed on the JSE, you must do it through the platform offered by the exchange or with a broker over the phone who then enters your order with the exchange.
Costs and Fees
Active trading could make commissions and fees add up. If you trade actively or even if you trade infrequently to invest, a broker’s commission and fee schedule could make a big difference to your net return.
Most full-service stock brokers give clients access to research resources, which they compensate for by charging higher commissions and fees.
Discount brokers offer the same execution services without the research and other premium offerings.
A good customer service department that pays attention to your needs and offers service beyond the trading week would be your best bet. The customer service staff of most stockbrokers in Jamaica can be reached via telephone and email.
Other services offered by stockbrokers can consist of trading in non-equity assets, such as bonds, currencies, commodities
Some large brokers even offer portfolio management, wealth management, banking and loan services. Make sure you ask about a broker’s additional services before opening an account if they are important to you.
The Best Stock Brokers in Jamaica
Our list includes an international broker that accepts clients from Jamaica and provides a venue for trading and investing in non-Jamaican markets around the world, as well as a selection of top local brokers from Jamaica from among the 13 broker members authorized to trade on the JSE.
Start Trading Today
Despite its status as the best performing stock market in the world, not one JSE stock can be found in U.S. exchange-traded funds — not even in emerging market funds. Perhaps the time to begin trading in this relatively obscure stock market has arrived.
Also, the sale of JSE broker Barita last year resulted in a windfall for its investors. This could suggest the scale of future opportunities for making money in the rapidly rising Jamaican stock market.
Turn to Webull
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