On this day (+1) in 1987 (that's 25 years ago, if you are burdened with a graduate degree), the NYSE had one of its most dramatic trading days in its 220 year history. It suffered its largest single day percentage loss (22%) and its largest one day point loss up until that day (508 points). No one who was on the floor that day will ever forget it. While it was an unforgettable single day, there were months of events that went intoits making. The first two-thirds of 1987 were nothing other than spectacular on Wall Street. From New Year to shortly before Labor Day, the Dow rallied a rather stunning 43%. Fear seemed to disappear. Junior traders laughed at their cautious elders and told each other to "buy strength" rather than sell it, as each rally leg was soon followed by another. One thing that also helped banish fear was a new process called "portfolio insurance". It involved use of the newly expanded S&P futures. Somewhat counterintuitively, it involved selling when prices turned down.
Back in October 19, 1988, in response to Black Monday from a year earlier (the SEC is not known for fast turnaround times) a little known SEC rule came into effect, known as Rule 80B, and somewhat better known as "Trading Halts Due to Extraordinary Market Volatility" which set trigger thresholds for market wide circuit breakers - think a wholesale temporary market shutdown. According to Rule 80B (as revised in 1998), the trigger levels for a market-wide trading halt were set at 10%, 20% and 30% of the DJIA. Needless to say, a 30% drop in the market in our day and age when the bulk of US wealth is concentrated in the stock market, would be a shot straight to the heart of the entire capitalist system. Which is why the smallest gating threshold is and has always been the key.However, despite the revision, as anyone who traded stocks on that fateful day in May knows, the market-wide circuit breakers were completely ineffective and unused during the HFT-induced and ETF-facilitated flash crash of May 6, 2010. In turn, the SEC's flash crash response was to implement individual stock-level circuit breakers which however, instead of restoring confidence in the market, have become the butt of daily jokes involving freaked out algos. This was merely the most recent indication of how horribly the SEC's attempts to "regulate" a market it no longer has any grasp or understanding of, backfire on it. However, even that may pale in comparison to just how badly the SEC may have blundered yesterday afternoon, when it proposed yet another revision to its market-wide halt rule. And once again, instead of making traders and investors more comfortable that the SEC is capable and in control, the questions have already come pouring in: is the SEC preparing for another massive market crash?
It is only fitting that on the 22nd anniversary of Black Monday, the commentator is none other than the Chairman of the SEC at the time, David Ruder. While Ruder provides perspectives on what is presumed pervasive insider trading as it relates to Galleon and otherwise, such as the ability by the SEC to use wiretaps when doing an investigation in concert with the US Attorney's office, the real critical message from Ruder is the systemic risk associated with hedge fund groputhink, or a massive position held by numerous hedge funds that turns out to be wrong, best seen it in the basis trade blow up, the Volkswagen short squeeze and the Citigroup exchange offer.