Stock market analysts and dealers are experts in deciphering excel spreadsheets and predicting market movements. Of late, they have also been learning the complexity of English grammar to bypass a recent regulatory fiat.
And, most have discovered how a single punctuation mark, or the lack of it, can make all the difference.
In March, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) issued a simple two-page circular, directing all market intermediaries to ensure their employees do not spread unverified information or rumours through emails, SMSes, blogs or chat messengers without checking their authenticity.
The circular has changed the way stock market participants interact with each other and also the media, based on some indigenously developed solutions.
"The tacit understanding between people now is that a question should be looked upon as a statement," says an institutional dealer, who did not want to be named for obvious reasons.
"Say, one has got some unverified information and needs to pass it on. He will forward the email or SMS and append it with a question mark, or may be the words "is it true?"
The implied meaning is that "it is true", he explains. One is just trying to check the veracity of the information and not spreading it, he quips.
According to the Sebi circular, intermediaries need to ensure that "employees/temporary staff/voluntary workers, etc employed/working in the offices of market intermediaries do not encourage or circulate rumours or unverified information obtained from clients, industry, any trade or other sources without verification."
Further, "access to blogs/chat forums/messenger sites, etc should either be restricted under supervision or access should not be allowed," added the circular.
While grammar has come to the rescue of many, there are others who have just given in. Online groups and message boards of financial websites, once buzzing with market talk, have seen a drastic fall in the number of posts (read rumours).
The media, interestingly, have found the going difficult after the change in norms, as many of the fund managers once famous for their "off the record" chats have become extremely circumspect.
"I won't discuss stock-specific things over the phone. I am afraid my calls are getting recorded," has become the standard statement of many fund managers, who are also reluctant to talk about their stance as minority shareholders in the Cairn-Vedanta deal.
Compliance officers, who have been assigned the onerous task of monitoring their employees for such acts, cite difficulties. "Sebi norms are impractical. We can monitor official email IDs. How can we track what our employees are doing through their personal email, blog or phone?" they ask.
While rumours related to many companies have decreased, the recent past saw the tide turning and a brokerage finding itself the target of rumour-mongers. India Infoline, through a stock exchange announcement, denied rumours that a US-based financial conglomerate is picking up a stake in the brokerage. Everyone wondered... is it true?