December is generally a quiet trading month but this year the market barely had a pulse. 'It's comatose,' said a sales manager at Core Pacific-Yamaichi, pointing to market turnover that has not even breached $2 billion in the past four trading days. Unless today brings an unexpected surge, this will be the slowest final week of the year since 1992 and the quietest final month since 1995. In that year the average daily volume for December was $3.36 billion compared to $3.7 billion so far this month. Last December, in comparison, the average daily turnover was $8.37 billion. Brokers attribute the volume downturn to everything from extended holidays to the introduction of the euro. 'I originally expected about $2 billion [a day] for this final stretch and we saw less . . . it shows a lot of people took time for the holidays after a very unrewarding year,' said BNP Prime Peregrine managing director Gilbert Wong Kun-kau. DBS Securities head of sales Percy Au-young said he believed European fund managers were freezing trade this week to avoid settlement confusion ahead of the euro's introduction on January 1. 'I think this year-end is particularly quiet because of the euro . . . there's no use trying to settle using a mixture of currencies,' he said. Brokers also pointed out that there was less need for 'window-dressing' this December since the Hang Seng Index has risen 28.39 per cent in the fourth quarter. 'Because the index has surged some fund managers have closed their books already and don't want to take new positions,' said Asia Financial Securities research head Kinson Au Kin-kee. Mr Wong of BNP Prime Securities made a similar point: 'There's no incentive to restructure portfolios before the year end.' What are brokers doing with spare time given by a dead market? Not despairing, they claim. 'It hasn't fallen to zero - we still have some transactions to take care of,' said Mr Au-young. 'We're still busy doing research.' A sales director at ABN Amro claimed he was too busy to talk. Since all his colleagues were on holiday he said he was the only one free to field clients' calls. Other brokers confessed to chatting on the phone to friends and sneaking out of the office before sunset. 'People are already gone by 4:30 [pm],' said Sassoon Securities institutional sales manager Vincent Cheung Wing-shun. 'This is one of the quietest December periods . . . but am I happy about it? No.'