Increasing numbers of exchanges and clearing houses, competing for international fund flows, have sought credit ratings in recent years, according to Standard & Poor's rating group associate director Agnes Lee Wing-see. Her comments come after the Hong Kong Futures Exchange said it would apply for an S&P or Moody's Investors Service credit rating, believing its financial status and risk management system warranted a relatively high rating. Ms Lee said the futures exchange had not yet formally applied to S&P but if such an application was submitted, a rating could be granted within eight weeks. The futures exchange could become the first Asian exchange to be rated and Ms Lee saw more Asian exchanges and clearing houses following suit. 'After the Asian financial turmoil, the exchanges and the clearing houses in the region might like to apply for a credit rating to show their financial and risk management strength to investors,' she said. 'A high credit rating will surely help boost the confidence of investors.' She said in recent years many United States and South American exchanges and clearing houses had applied for credit ratings to show international investors their counterparty risk while trading with their members or settling trades with them. Both Options Clearing Corp and Board of Trade Clearing Corp in US have the highest rating, AAA. The stock exchange in Argentina, Mercado De Valores, has a BB plus rating. Cedel Bank's short-term counterparty rating is A1 plus. With investment markets becoming globalised and technology enabling investors to deal with exchanges worldwide, Ms Lee believed credit ratings would help investors decide which exchanges to trade on. In deciding a rating, S&P would look into financial strength, risk management systems, management structure, membership lists, on-balance sheet liabilities, and contingent liabilities such as pending lawsuits.