NYSE Arca exchange glitch hampers trading in popular ETFs

March 31
6:15 PM 2015

Intercontinental Exchange Inc's (ICE.N) NYSE Arca had a technical glitch on Tuesday that resulted in some of the most popular exchange-traded funds being temporarily unavailable for trading and some investors paying more for stocks than they otherwise may have.

ETFs have exploded in popularity over the past decade, making up 25-30 percent of all trading on U.S. exchanges in recent years, according to a recent Credit Suisse report. The investment vehicles offer exposure to wide ranges of securities, similar to mutual funds, but generally have lower fees and can be traded anytime the market is open, like single stocks.

On Tuesday, that was not the case for around 160 Arca-listed exchange-traded products (ETPs), which were unavailable to buy or sell on any exchange for a period ranging from just over 9 minutes to an hour, depending on the security. Some were halted repeatedly during that time, and in the periods when they came back up, investors may have ended up with prices that were much higher than they were expecting.

The problems began at 10:05 a.m. EDT with a downed Arca server that generates electronic trading prices for ETPs with ticker symbols from UTG to ZSML. That range includes some of the most heavily traded ETFs, such as the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF.P), XLF; the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO.P), VWO; as well as the Barclays Bank iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX.P), VXX.

In the ProShares Ultra VIX Short Term Futures ETF (UVXY.P), UVXY, a volatility-tracking ETF, shares were trading in the mid-$14 range after the initial halt. However, the incident led to increased volatility in the ETF that led to further trading halts. Following one such halt, many shares traded at more than $19 before the stock was halted yet again. When it resumed trading six minutes later, it was back in the mid-$14 range.

NYSE said at 12:19 p.m. EDT that the issues were resolved.

Had the problem occurred at the end of the day, when fund managers buy the bulk of their orders, the problem could have been much worse, said Matt Wieand, a senior trader at Texas-based AFAM Capital/Innealta Capital.

"Today being the end of the quarter, it's fortunate that it happened earlier in the day and it looks like they got it resolved, but if it happens again, it could be interesting," he said.

Arca asked all of the participants on its exchange to use the public consolidated data feed for market data related to its securities for the remainder of the day, and not to rely on its private data feed for the symbols that had been affected.

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