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Stock losses might be down to human error

Billions instead of millions
Fri May 07 2010, 13:57

WHEN THE US STOCK MARKET dived for a breathtaking 9.2 per cent loss briefly yesterday before retracing to end with 'only' a 350 point crash in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), many share owners might have considered grabbing a shotgun and heading for the hills.

It appears they may have been more justified to grab a particular trader at Citigroup, if some sources are to be believed.

computerCitigroup has been quick to deny these suggestions. "We, along with the rest of the financial industry, are investigating to find the source of today's market volatility," it said. "At this point we have no evidence that Citi was involved in any erroneous transaction."

The 'erroneous transaction' is thought to have involved a trader who entered a B for billions instead of an M for millions when keying in a sell order. Easy to do, as those two keys are only seperated by an N, after all.

The result of this lapse of concentration or fat-fingery was a 1,000 point tumble within just 20 minutes on the DJIA.

Procter & Gamble is the company thought to have been affected by the trader's mistake, and accordingly its shares plummeted. The firm quickly pointed its finger at the US stock market trading technology.

"We don't know what caused it," said Procter & Gamble spokeswoman Jennifer Chelune. "We know that that was an electronic trade... and we're looking into it with Nasdaq and the other major electronic exchanges." µ



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