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BBC Capital

When markets go dark: 8 reasons for exchange shutdowns

  • When the trading floor goes dark

    The Nasdaq, the US’s second-largest stock exchange, halted trading for three hours in the middle of the day on Thursday, the latest in a string of technological snafus for stock markets — and the Nasdaq in particular.

    The Nasdaq — where companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Intel list their stock — didn’t reopen for trading until about 35 minutes before the market closed. Some saw the trading shutdown as yet another blow to already-fragile investor sentiment, adding to distrust in markets that has been fueled by other recent snafus.

    It’s not the first time an exchange has shut down. Natural disasters, presidential assassinations, terrorism, societal unrest, panic-induced selloffs and even squirrels have shuttered exchanges around the globe. Take a look.

    (All photos: Getty Images)

  • To avoid a ‘stampede of selling’ by nervous investors

    After four decades outperforming other international stock markets, the Tokyo Stock Exchange shut down briefly for the first time in history in 2006. The problem: the exchange’s computers failed to keep pace with a rush of selling orders from skittish investors rattled by news of a fraud investigation of a popular Japanese Internet service provider called Livedoor. The exchange reopened the next day. In the wake of the Livedoor scandal, the company lost 90% of its stock value. It was purchased in 2010 by a Korean web portal for 6.3 billion yen.

  • Too much money

    Trading at the Stockholm Stock Exchange ground to a halt in November 2012 after a “monster” futures order valued at $69 trillion — an amount more than 131 times Sweden’s GDP — crashed the system. According to a translation provided by Business Insider, a “technical error” caused the problem, closing the exchange floor for several hours.

  • In response to terrorism

    Trading on Wall Street’s New York Stock Exchange was delayed soon after the first plane struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and was cancelled entirely after the second plane hit the South Tower. As the scope of the horrific terrorist attack started to come clear, other stock markets around the world — most notably the London Stock Exchange — also closed in fear of similar attacks.

    When the New York market reopened six days later, the Federal Reserve added $100 billion in liquidity per day for three days — helping to avoid a financial crisis.

  • To avoid ‘deeper panic’

    As stock markets around the world took a terrifying dive in October 2008 amid worldwide panic at the financial crisis credit collapse, officials in Indonesia shut down the country’s stock market, based in Jakarta, “indefinitely.”

    “Under an irrational market situation, we can’t let the market mechanism govern stock prices in a disorderly manner,” Ahmad Fuad Rahmany, then-chairman of the Capital Market and Financial Institutions Supervisory Agency in the country, told Bloomberg. The market reopened three business days later.

  • In response to political chaos

    How has Egypt’s $583 billion economy been affected by the country's recent violent upheaval? Egypt’s stock exchange and banking systems closed briefly early in August in response to the bloodshed, but stocks remain surprisingly stable in this tumultuous time. As of August 19, the country’s two main stock market indexes were up 12 percent, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. One reason for the surprisingly rosy market? A general lack in trading — “Volumes tend to be small [in August],” emerging markets economist William Jackson told Bloomberg. “They may not have moved as much as they would have otherwise.”

  • After a national tragedy

    The New York Stock Exchange closed just after 13:00 on November 22, 1963, just seven minutes after US president John F Kennedy’s death was announced. The last time the market closed due to an assassination was in 1865, when the exchange closed for more than a week after Lincoln was assassinated.

  • In preparation for a natural disaster

    As New York City braced for the October 2012 Superstorm Sandy, the New York Stock Exchange and other exchanges throughout the US, most notably the Nasdaq stock market and the CBOE options exchange, preemptively closed. Hundreds of sandbags surrounded the NYSE, a Financial District landmark that sits in a low-lying area of the city which was partially submerged by flooding at the height of the storm. Although the stock exchange itself emerged unscathed, trading volume was light when the NYSE reopened two days later — many across the Northeast were without power for a week or more and didn’t have the ability to trade.

  • Squirrels!

    These rodents are more often seen gnawing nuts and scurrying up trees than disrupting financial markets. But they’ve got a penchant for wires, too — and that’s shuttered the Nasdaq exchange twice, according to the New York Times. In 1987 and 1994, enterprising squirrels gnawed into cables in the Connecticut town where Nasdaq’s main trading computers were located, cutting power and effectively shutting down the stock exchange for brief periods of time.