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What all-electronic trading means for the New York Stock Exchange

Justin Ho Mar 23, 2020
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID-19

What all-electronic trading means for the New York Stock Exchange

Justin Ho Mar 23, 2020
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Starting today, the New York Stock Exchange’s trading floors are temporarily closed. Trading will continue during normal hours, but it will happen electronically. That means all those bustling traders you see on TV and in photos won’t be working on the trading floor.

The NYSE says it’s run plenty of tests and that its markets are fully capable of operating electronically. But NYSE President Stacey Cunningham says the market will be missing something.

“A computer doesn’t apply judgment quite the way people do,” she said.

For instance, when human traders meet on the floor and agree on a fair closing price, Cunningham says those prices tend to be more stable.

On their own, computers can cause prices to fluctuate.

“You want to know that when you bought or sold something, the price doesn’t rapidly change to a totally new value afterwards,” Cunningham said.

Electronic trading isn’t new. The NASDAQ is already a fully electronic exchange.

But Justin Schack at Rosenblatt Securities says the NYSE’s human traders have stepped in to stabilize markets when there have been software glitches, or during a financial crisis.

“In times of stress, it’s very important to have human beings involved and actively engaged in the trading process,” he said.

And with market volatility reaching levels we haven’t seen since 2008, Schack says, yes, this is a time when markets are stressed.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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