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Hong Kong named top financial center for second year

Luxurious residential blocks are seen behind Happy Valley horse racing track in Hong Kong October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Luxurious residential blocks are seen behind Happy Valley horse racing track in Hong Kong October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

LONDON (Reuters) - Hong Kong was named the world's top financial center for the second year running by the World Economic Forum (WEF), thanks to the strength of its business environment, infrastructure and a favorable tax regime.

The WEF's annual Financial Development Report considered a wide range of factors and underscored the rise of Asian trading centers and the influence of China as the world's second-largest economy.

Rival surveys based purely on the total value of transactions typically put New York or London in top place.

However, stalling capital markets, sputtering economic growth and waning trust in financial organizations served to ensure that the top six positions remained unchanged from 2011, the WEF said.

"Macroeconomic uncertainty as well as concerns related to regulation, contributes to inhibiting the financial industry from funding much-needed growth," said Giancarlo Bruno, senior director at the WEF, which hosts an annual meeting of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland.

Though the report noted "pockets of improvement" across some banking-related indicators, it said that these signified "only a small step in what will be a long road to recovery".

The United States, Britain, Singapore, Australia and Canada followed Hong Kong in the 2012 rankings.

The report looked at legal and regulatory factors, business environment, financial stability, banking and non-banking services, markets and access to them.

"Despite these strengths, Hong Kong has a relatively underdeveloped bond market and its financial sector has yet to be fully liberalized," the report said.

Japan, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden made up the remainder of the top 10 financial centers.

The report said that policymakers face a "monumental" task to restore confidence in markets as waning trust in the overall system holds back investment.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by David Goodman)

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