What In The World Just Happened To The New York Stock Exchange?

New York Stock Exchange - Public DomainDo you believe that the New York Stock Exchange shut down because of a “technical glitch” on Wednesday?  At 11:32 AM on Wednesday morning, trading on the New York Stock Exchange was halted due to “internal technical issues”, and it did not resume until 3:10 PM.  Officials insist that there is no evidence that a cyberattack caused the technical problems even though hactivists had hinted that something may happen the night before.  Adding to the suspicion is the fact that United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal also experienced very serious “technical glitches” on Wednesday.  Others found it very curious that trading on the NYSE was halted just after Chinese stocks had absolutely plummeted the night before.  In fact, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index experienced the largest one day decline that we have witnessed since November 2008.  So is there more going on here than meets the eye?

Overall, the Dow was down 261 points on Wednesday, and the Dow and the S&P 500 both closed below their 200 day moving averages.  Iron ore had its biggest daily price drop ever, and the price of oil continued to decline.  But it was the stunning shut down of the New York Stock Exchange that made headlines all over the world

The New York Stock Exchange, United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal have all fallen victim to a series of massive technical glitches within hours of each other.

NYSE halted all trading for ‘technical reasons’ at 11:32am and only reopened at 3:10pm – but says the problem is an internal one and not the result of a cyberattack.

It comes as tens of thousands of United Airlines passengers were stranded at U.S. airports on Wednesday morning after all of the carrier’s flights were grounded nationwide due to a computer system glitch.

The Wall Street Journal was also left unable to publish after its systems came under attack and has been forced to switch to an alternative site design.

In response to the shut down, the following photo began circulating on Twitter…

But was it really just a “technical glitch”?

Of course they probably would never admit it publicly if it was a cyberattack.  We live at a time when the authorities are much more concerned with keeping everyone calm than they are about telling us the truth.  So in the end all we can really do is speculate about what really happened.

But what we do know is that the stock market crash in China got even worse the night before this shutdown.  The Shanghai Composite Index and the Hang Seng Index both declined by almost six percent overnight.  Overall, the Shanghai Composite Index is now down by more than 30 percent in less than a month, and the Chinese version of the NASDAQ is down by more than 40 percent

In just three weeks, stocks listed on mainland China’s most prominent exchange have fallen by more than 30% from their seven-year highs. The even more speculative ChiNext Index has lost 42% of its value over the 21 days.

Government regulators have now banned, for six months, Chinese executives from selling stock in their own companies. This is only one of a number moves made by panicked officials.

At this point, trading for approximately 45 percent of all stocks on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges has been suspended.  So as a result the selling has bled over to the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong, and this has caused tremendous chaos

Hong Kong’s benchmark stock gauge plunged the most since the global financial crisis as an equity rout in mainland China rippled across Asia.

The Hang Seng Index fell 5.8 percent to 23,516.56 at the close today, the biggest drop since November 2008, after slumping as much as 8.6 percent.

Even though the Chinese have been trying all sorts of crazy things to stop the crash, nothing has worked.  Instead, the selling restrictions have only seemed to fuel the panic even more…

Investors are disappointed and afraid that the Chinese policy makers lost control of the market,” said Mari Oshidari, a Hong Kong-based strategist at Okasan Securities Group Inc. “With no end in sight to the plunge, sentiment has turned cold. With liquidity drying up in the mainland, the Hong Kong market is being sold instead –- the only thing it can do is just quietly take the storm.”

Meanwhile, things over in Europe have become more ominous as well.  As I wrote about yesterday, EU officials have declared this week to be “the final deadline” for making a deal with Greece.  On Wednesday, Greece applied for a new three year emergency loan, and European officials have said that they will consider it

A race to save Greece from bankruptcy and keep it in the euro gathered pace on Wednesday when Athens formally applied for a three-year loan and European authorities launched an accelerated review of the request.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called in a speech to the European Parliament for a fair deal, acknowledging Greece’s historic responsibility for its plight, after EU leaders gave him five days to come up with convincing reforms.

The government submitted a request to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund to lend an unspecified amount “to meet Greece’s debt obligations and to ensure stability of the financial system”. It promised to begin implementing tax and pension measures sought by creditors as early as Monday.

But there is still a tremendous amount of skepticism about whether a deal can be reached.  The Greeks want debt relief, but the Germans have completely ruled out any sort of a debt haircut.  Most of the rest of the EU nations are siding with the Germans, and unless the Greek government caves in at the last moment it appears that a “Grexit” is quite likely.

For most people, the events of 2008 have long since faded from their memories.  After years of soaring stock prices, many in the financial world have become extremely comfortable.  But as we are seeing in China, what goes up must eventually come down.

And the shut down of the New York Stock Exchange today should be a huge wake up call for all of us.  We have become extraordinarily dependent on computers and technology, and this makes us exceedingly vulnerable.  Someday, we might just experience a cyberattack that causes a tremendous amount of permanent damage that cannot be undone.

What will we do then?

Our world is becoming increasingly unstable, and events are beginning to accelerate as we enter the second half of 2015.

So what comes next?  Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

8 Theories For Why The Stock Market Plunged Almost 1000 Points In A Matter Of Minutes On May 6th

In one of the most dizzying half-hours in stock market history, the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points on Thursday, May 6th before bouncing back to close down 347.80 points.  This represented the biggest intraday decline since 1987.  But what made this crash so absolutely shocking is that it happened in the course of less than an hour.  Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. the Dow lost over 700 points before dramatically bouncing back about 600 points.  Two of the 30 stocks in the Dow, Procter & Gamble and 3M, plunged more than 30% in just 15 minutes.  Accenture went from trading at around 40 dollars a share all the way down to one cent before bouncing back.  Traders and investors were left completely stunned and wondering what in the world had just happened.

So what did happen?

The following are some of the most common theories being put forward to explain what happened….

#1) A Bad Trade

It has been widely suggested that a “fat finger trade” was responsible for triggering the panic.  According to CNBC, “sources” have told that network that a trader (possibly at Citigroup) entered a “b” for billion instead of an “m” for million in a trade involving Procter & Gamble.

However, Citigroup has already announced that it has found “no evidence” that it was involved in any erroneous trades.  In fact, a statement was released in which Citigroup spokesman Stephen Cohen said this….

“At this point, we have no evidence that Citi was involved in any erroneous transaction.”

#2) A Computer Glitch

New York Stock Exchange spokesman Rich Adamonis says that “there were a number of erroneous trades” on May 6th, and that these could have been caused by computer error.

And the truth is that trading in the financial markets is more automated and more reliant on computers than it ever has been before.  Trading literally moves at lightning speed now, and a number of analysts are warning that the pace of the market is so fast at this point that it is really easy for things to spin out of control very quickly.

But if this was really primarily caused by a “computer glitch”, how are investors supposed to have any confidence at all in the market?  After all, if a computer error can wipe out half your account in less than an hour, why invest at all?

#3) Cascading Stop Losses

Once the market hits certain technical levels, it is going to automatically start triggering stop loss orders.  Once those stop loss orders are triggered, it will push the market down further thus triggering more stop loss orders.

While there have been some protections implemented to guard against this kind of thing, the reality is that it does still happen.

#4) Hackers

Hackers have become more sophisticated and more cunning than ever before.  In fact, the bigger a target is, the more enjoyment most hackers get out of taking them down.  Is it a possible that someone could have hacked in to the New York Stock Exchange?

#5) Cyberterrorism

Rogue nations and terrorist organizations have been developing their “cyber warfare” capabilities for some time now.  We have been repeatedly warned that someday we will see an “Internet 9/11”.  Could this stock market plunge be a preview of that?

#6) Fear Of The European Debt Crisis Spreading

There are mounting concerns in the financial markets about Greece’s financial condition and that the European debt crisis could spread around the globe.

In fact, the Dow has lost 631 points, or more than 5%, in just the last three days amidst worries about the situation in Greece.  This represents the biggest three day drop since March 2009.

#7) Stop Hunting

Anyone who has spent much time in the Forex market knows what this is all about.  The truth is that some of the big financial sharks in the marketplace seem to really enjoy blowing out stop losses.

So could have this have been a situation where a stop loss hunting expedition spun wildly out of control?

#8) A Real Panic

There is also the possibility that this was a real financial panic.  There are huge concerns about what is going on in Europe and the currency markets are fluctuating wildly.  The Dow was already down several hundred points even before the massive plunge took place.  The reality is that there is a lot of fear in the financial markets right now.

But if it was a real panic, then why did the Dow bounce back so quickly?  Well, it is the job of the “plunge protection team” to keep the stock market from declining too rapidly.  So did the “plunge protection team” swing into action today?  Well, the truth is that we will probably never know because the general public is not supposed to know when they intervene.

In any event, the next couple of days should hopefully make all of this a lot clearer.  The trading during the afternoon of May 6th at the big firms will be gone over with a fine-toothed comb, and the exchanges will be closely analyzing their systems for any glitches.

It has already been announced that some of the most erroneous trades will be cancelled.  The Nasdaq and NYSE’s ARCA trading unit have both said that they will cancel trades executed between 2:40 p.m. and 3 p.m. on May 6th where a stock price rose or fell more than 60 percent from the last trade in that security at 2:40 p.m.

But this episode shows just how vulnerable our financial markets really are.  After witnessing what we saw today, it is going to be really hard to have confidence in the system.

In fact, even if this was just one “bad trade” or a “simple computer glitch”, the reality is that this episode is going to inject even more fear into a marketplace that is already filled with tension.

When fear grips a market things can go south very, very quickly.  The truth is that markets tend to fall more quickly than they rise, and if a wave of panic starts sweeping over the financial markets we could see things get quite messy in the coming days.

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