Just as China was closing for trade and Europe was opening, something previously unseen happened: no, not another another GPIF or Virtu inspired marketwide stop squeeze, those are quite recurring these days. It was virtually every Bloomberg terminal around the globe suddenly going dark.
This promptly led to widespread panic among traders mostly in Europe, who were flying blind and unable to chat with other, just as clueless colleagues (the one function used predominantly on the terminal is not charts, nor analytics, but plain old chat).
It got so bad that in a world in which everything has become automated, Europe was forced to delay or cancel pricing various bond deals.
As the WSJ observed, the U.K.’s Debt Management announced in a statement Friday morning that it was postponing a scheduled buy-back of government debt ”due to ongoing technical issues with the third party platform supplier,” and that bids already submitted would be declared null and void. A spokesperson confirmed that the supplier is Bloomberg.
In short if the "terrorists" want to take down the financial world, all they have to do is crash the chat system used by global bond traders. As a reminder, equity "traders" speak in nanosecond bursts of binary, and don't need Bloomberg.
The WSJ continued: “It’s scary how dependent we have become on our Bloomberg screens,” said Anthony Peters, a strategist at London-based capital markets adviser SwissInvest. “We had [bond] deals which are not going ahead due to this,” one London-based banker said, other bankers said that trading volumes had fallen as a result of the outage.
“The communication chat has become vital to the sharing of information across regions and counterparties. So a global outage like this is systemically important to markets all around the world,” said Louis Gargour, the chief investment officer at London-based asset manager LNG Capital, adding that this shows just how vulnerable the market has become.
“We’re flying blind and in our office as our principal counterparties are unable to act as market makers, therefore we’re all catching up on admin because there is little else that we can do,” he added.
A second London-based banker said that even if you wanted to do a bond deal in today’s market, “you couldn’t as communication with possible investors and salespeople is incredibly difficult.”
A third fixed income banker said that he was involved in a deal but relying on phone conversations for communicating with brokers and investors, which he said feels incredibly “old fashioned”.
The outage was trending on Twitter in early European trade and in Asia. Bloomberg said on its website: “We are currently restoring service to those customers who were affected by today’s network issue and are investigating the cause.”
While we expect much more detail to be revealed for now Bloomberg has the following brief official statement on the outage:
"Significant but not all parts of our network experienced a disruption today. We have restored service to most customers and are making progress in bringing all parts of the network back online. We apologize to our customers."
Moments ago Bloomberg announced that the outage has been largely fixed:
Service now restored to most customers following disruption to parts of our network. Making progress in bringing full network back online.— Ty Trippet (@ttrippet) April 17, 2015
It is unclear if the Bloomberg outage, which has since been largely restored, was the catalyst, but suddenly global futures turned blood red on no major news, with China equity futures tumbling about 5% and dragging European and US futures down with them.
This move is likely unrelated to the Bloomberg outage, and likley has to do with what appears to be a regulatory push for more shorting and a crackdown on use of margin financing:
- CSRC TO BAN MARGIN FINANCING FOR OTC STOCK TRADING
- CHINA TO EXPAND STOCKS AVAILABLE FOR SHORT SELLING TO 1,100
Chinese stock-index futures tumbled in after-hours trading after regulators clamped down on the use of shadow financing to buy equities and expanded the supply of shares available for short sellers.
Investors have ramped up wagers on stocks by borrowing through umbrella trusts, which allow for more leverage than brokerage financing. Permitting mutual funds to lend their holdings to short sellers would make it easier for bearish traders to bet on a retreat after the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index more than doubled over the past 12 months.
“The surge recently has been a little too fast for the regulator’s comfort,” said Hao Hong, the chief China strategist at Bocom International Holdings Co. in Hong Kong. “The market should consolidate, as it is overbought and part of the market is overvalued.”
And from Reuters:
China on Friday allowed fund managers to lend shares for short-selling, and will also expand the number of stocks investors can short sell, in a bid to raise the supply of securities in the market.
Investors now face difficulties borrowing stocks for sale, even with some companies trading at lofty valuations.
China's shares posted seven weeks of gains, reaching seven-year highs on Friday, as retail investors rushed to open stock accounts and borrow a record amount of money to buy shares, pushing trading turnover to record highs.
"This is a combination of actions that is negative to the stock market," said Shen Zhengyang, Shanghai-based analyst at Northeast Securities.
Others say Europe's weakness which has pushed Bunds to even lower record low yields, is due to even more rumblings of an imminent Greek default, with Greek banks in southeast European countries told to exit Greek debt, a step which would render them insolvent overnight and start a financial inferno that drags down all Greek banks.
In any event, should the Bloomberg outage return, and the market crash persist, some are now asking: "if the markets crash and nobody MSGed, did the markets really crash?"
* * *
A brief summary of what else has happened so far:
European shares fall with banks, chemicals sectors underperforming and oil & gas, utilities outperforming. The Spanish and Italian markets are the worst-performing larger bourses, the U.K. the best. Euro is stronger against the dollar. German 10yr bond yields fall; Japanese yields decline. Commodities decline, with natural gas, WTI crude underperforming and copper outperforming. Euro is stronger against the dollar. European index, equity options expire today. China Securities Regulatory Commission is to ban margin financing for OTC stock trading. Shenzhen stock exchange says will allow publicly raised funds in short selling. VW Board Leaders Support CEO Winterkorn in Struggle With Piech. Alibaba Health said CEO Wang Jian resigned. FCC Denies Petition to Reconsider Vodafone-Verizon Wireless Ruling. U.S. CPI, Michigan confidence leading index due later.
- S&P 500 futures down 0.5% to 2090.6
- Stoxx 600 down 1% to 406.7
- US 10Yr yield down 3bps to 1.86%
- German 10Yr yield down 2bps to 0.07%
- MSCI Asia Pacific down 0.1% to 154.2
- Gold spot up 0.6% to $1205.6/oz
- 12.2% of Stoxx 600 members gain, 87% decline
Eurostoxx 50 -1.3%, FTSE 100 -0.3%, CAC 40 -1%, DAX -1.3%, IBEX -1.7%, FTSEMIB -1.6%, SMI -0.6%
- Asian stocks little changed with the Shanghai Composite outperforming and the Nikkei underperforming.
- MSCI Asia Pacific down 0.1% to 154.2; Nikkei 225 down 1.2%, Hang Seng down 0.3%, Kospi up 0.2%, Shanghai Composite up 2.2%, ASX down 1.2%, Sensex down 0.8% * 5 out of 10 sectors rise with energy, telcos outperforming and tech, staples underperforming
- Euro up 0.67% to $1.0833
- Dollar Index down 0.32% to 97.11
- Italian 10Yr yield up 7bps to 1.45%
- Spanish 10Yr yield up 5bps to 1.4%
- French 10Yr yield down 1bps to 0.34%
- S&P GSCI Index down 0.2% to 433.6
- Brent Futures down 0.7% to $63.5/bbl, WTI Futures down 0.8% to $56.2/bbl
- LME 3m Copper up 1.3% to $6136/MT
- LME 3m Nickel down 0% to $12840/MT
- Wheat futures up 0.1% to 491 USd/bu