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April 8, 2013

Trading in the Dark

Stocks dropped on Friday, after the dismal employment report for March forced investors to rethink the recent rally. Stock prices have been driven up by easy money from the Federal Reserve, but the jobs picture indicates that little of the Fed’s largess has made its way to Main Street, where unemployment remains high.

And those are not the only sobering realities. Trading in today’s market has increasingly migrated away from public exchanges, like the New York Stock Exchange, to private trading venues, mostly operated by big banks, as recently reported by Nathaniel Popper in The Times. Off-exchange platforms include “dark pools” that let traders post orders that are hidden from the rest of the market. They also have “internalizers,” including firms like Citigroup, which pay retail brokers for the opportunity to handle trades before the orders reach a public exchange.

Off-exchange trading can make sense for institutional investors whose block trades might move market prices. It also appeals to investors who have been shocked by technological mishaps on public exchanges. But with some 40 percent of stock trades now occurring off-exchange, there is mounting evidence that the shift is obscuring the true prices of stocks, raising the cost of trading and, by extension,damaging investor confidence.”


Read full New York Times editorial piece here



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