The stock exchange is considering increasing the minimum commission rate for stock options trading in a bid to attract more stock brokers into the business and to promote the product to investors, exchange sources said. The proposal is one of the suggestions from the exchange's recently established working group which is attempting to boost stock options trading. A source said the rise in the minimum commission rate from 0.25 per cent to about 0.5 per cent would ensure brokers have 'reasonable' income while handling stock options transactions. Stock options, launched in September 1995, required separate registration and additional capital from stock brokers before they can carry out the business. Brokers said they needed an extra $1.5 million in capital to conduct stock options trading, while commission income was too low to compensate for the additional cost. According to the exchange, out of 500 stock brokers in Hong Kong, only 56 are registered to conduct stock options business. The source said this relatively small number engaged in the business was one of the reasons for the lack of trading in stock options. Last year saw a turnover of 1.63 million contracts, compared with 1.64 million contracts in 1997. The average daily turnover of the contracts was 6,629 last year, compared with 6,730 in 1997. 'When there is only a small number of stock brokers offering stock options, it is very difficult to have a very active stock options trading,' he said. Hong Kong Stockbrokers Association chairman Dannis Lee Jor-hung said the Securities and Futures Commission might not approve the suggestion. It has always opposed a minimum commission rate. 'The increase in the commission rate would encourage brokers to trade in stock options, but will discourage investors to trade the stock options,' he said. He said the exchange should consider cutting clearing costs to boost interest in stock options trading.