The Hong Kong Futures Exchange (HKFE) sought to bolster its controversial bid to extend its trading hours yesterday, saying it was 'international practice' for stock index futures to trade for longer hours than their underlying cash markets. Executive director of the products division Jimmy Ho Tseng-ming released a survey of the top indices to support the HKFE move, one of several steps taken to counter a renewed challenge from the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (Simex). The bid to extend Hong Kong's futures hours has run into criticism from the stock exchange, the Government and many traders. Opponents say the change would make the Hong Kong equity market easier to manipulate. 'It is international practice for stock index futures markets to open earlier than their corresponding stock markets to serve the price-discovery function,' Mr Ho said. 'Moreover, in most cases, they close later than their corresponding stock markets to cater for spillover trade as well as [for] the needs of hedgers to re-balance their portfolio based on cash-market closing prices.' The HKFE wants to open 15 minutes before the cash market's 10am start and close 15 minutes after its 4pm finish. The switch would bring its hours into line with those of a proposed Simex futures contract on the Hong Kong equity market, which is set to be relaunched on November 23. The Securities and Futures Commission will decide on the proposal on Monday. If approved, it would take effect from November 20. 'The scope of our survey represents a very broad spectrum of the global futures industry, covering almost all the futures markets in the American continent, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa,' Mr Ho said. The survey listed 18 stock indices, including the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Japan's Nikkei-225 Index. The HKFE has vowed to see off the Simex challenge, which follows extensive trading changes made by the SAR Government after its showdown with 'speculators'.