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May 7, 2013

Flash Crash cures still elusive

Three years ago today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by nearly 1,000 points in mere minutes before recovering. Click here to relive that scary half hour, complete with CNBC talking head Rick Santelli foaming at the mouth: “We’re hitting knock-outs in the over-the-counter market!” “The euro and equities are ping-ponging back off each other!” “If you are a retail investor, don’t touch the TV!”

Shortly after this computer-driven trading mess, federal regulators vowed to make reforms. How’d they do? Well, according to the useful blog at brokerage firm Themis Trading, an advisory group suggested the SEC and CFTC make 14 changes to the mechanics of stock trading. Seven—the low-hanging fruit, in Themis’s opinion—have been implemented. The seven that matter most haven’t been acted upon.

Why? The main reason, I think, is that the Flash Crash was the result of reforms that government had advocated for years. In an effort to break the duopoly enjoyed by the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, the feds encouraged the development of computer-driven trading away from those exchanges. The result was very fast, very competitive, very fragmented markets in which there are many fewer human beings than before involved in ensuring an orderly flow of trading.

The high-tech system works well most of the time, although like any computer it is prone to breakdowns. Last month, the Chicago Board Options Exchange shut down for several hours due to computer glitches, and last year electronic stock exchange BATS had to cancel its initial public offering because of snafus on its trading systems. Perhaps most notably, Facebook’s much-hyped IPO was bungled last year when Nasdaq’s computers choked on the flood of orders.”

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Read full Crains New York article here

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