There Was a Frightening “Glitch” in Stock Markets Yesterday

Where did the U.S. stock market actually close yesterday? It’s pretty much an open question. To give you an idea of just how bad the so-called “glitch” was yesterday, Bill Griffeth, the co-anchor of the CNBC show, the Nightly Business Report, had to deliver this warning to his viewers before reporting the prices of the closing stock market indexes yesterday.

“By the way, toward the close, there was a technical issue with trading computers. It’s not clear if all of the volume was reported or if some of the prices of the indexes were affected. You might see different numbers elsewhere but these were the numbers we had of the close today.” (See video below of the program.)

Griffeth’s quaint phrase “technical issue with trading computers,” is not accurate. It was not a problem with trading computers but rather the failure of the Consolidated Tape System to receive executed trade reports from the various stock exchanges that must timely report their trades to the Consolidated Tape.

The Consolidated Tape Association (CTA) began reporting technical problems at 3:15 p.m. At 3:19 p.m. the CTA reported that it was switching its system to its Disaster Recovery Site/Secondary Data Center. The problems lasted into the evening.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow) had been in a sharp decline with losses of over 400 points when the “glitch” began. But rather than continuing on that downward path, once traders were unable to see or evaluate where the stock market was actually trading, the Dow stopped tanking.

The largest Wall Street banks were also getting pummeled when the glitch occurred but stabilized into the close. The big loser of the day among the biggest Wall Street banks was Morgan Stanley which shed 2.75 percent, followed by Citigroup which closed down 2.74 percent. Goldman Sachs gave up 2.60 percent while Bank of America closed with a loss of 2.44 percent. JPMorgan Chase registered a less severe decline of 1.88 percent by the closing bell.

But there’s a big problem with the accuracy of those bank stock prices.  According to Bloomberg data charts as of 9 a.m. this morning, it still has no volume data for what occurred in the stocks of Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America yesterday between 3 p.m. and 3.45 p.m. In the case of Morgan Stanley, volume data is missing from 3:16 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Consolidated Tape Association had this to say yesterday about that missing volume data:

“Please note, however, that due to the technical issues that occurred today, certain statistics (i.e., daily symbol volume counts) may not be correct in the End of Day Summary message stream.”

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that if someone wanted to stop hedge funds from shorting the market and driving the prices of stocks lower, one way to do that is to put a blindfold on short traders as to where the market actually is trading and to render it impossible to gauge how much sell-side volume there is going to be heading into the close.

The disruption in the Consolidated Tape System did precisely that.

That’s the official story on what happened yesterday. But a review of a popular forum for Vanguard mutual fund investors shows there was a far bigger problem than what the Consolidated Tape Association is reporting. Vanguard investors posted that some of their funds were showing a one-day loss of as much as 56 percent. Another commenter wrote that his TDAmeritrade account which held a 403b retirement fund through Vanguard, was showing a one-day loss of 127.60 percent. Another said that his small brokerage account was showing a market value of $26 million.

Those kinds of problems cannot be explained by a delay in trade data reporting to the Consolidated Tape Association…..

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