Caribbean bookies takes on the world's brokers

A real example of Internet empowerment -- for better or worse

IndexTrade.com is to offer Web users the opportunity to buy and sell from stock market indices usually only available to professional traders, even though the company has nothing more than a gaming licence from the government of Antigua. The service allows investors to bet on whether major indices such as the Dow Jones or FTSE100 index will go up or down during that day or week. As such, it is cutting deeper into the privileged financial options of market insiders and breaking down old-school financial barriers. However, any dealings in derivatives come with a host of warnings, and the site is being investigated by the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA). Betting on indices is an extremely risky business and not for the uninitiated. The IndexTrade service is only the latest instalment in an ongoing argument over the pros and cons of online trading. Brokers have taken the high ground and warned of ignorant individuals bankrupting themselves and destabilising the economy. On the other hand, traders attack the elitist approach of brokers who have a vested interest in protecting transaction costs. Those investing their own cash are more likely to be careful. Plus, say critics, no Internet user is likely to lose £860 million in one transaction -- as Nick Lesson did when he bet on the Nikkei 225 index rising. It didn't and Barings Bank fell. With one in four stock trades now taking place over the Internet, online services will become increasingly important and are set to outstrip legal constraints. With IndexTrade, the FSA has admitted it has no authority to prevent UK surfers from taking advantage of its service. ® Related Stories Woman walks away from $70k online gambling debt

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