SEC approves new stock-by-stock circuit breaker rules

SEC approves new stock-by-stock circuit breaker rules

10/06/10

The Securities and Exchange Commission today approved rules that will require the exchanges and FINRA to pause trading in certain individual stocks if the price moves 10 percent or more in a five-minute period. The rules, which were proposed by the national securities exchanges and FINRA and published for public comment, come in response to the market disruption of May 6.

The SEC anticipates that the exchanges and FINRA will begin implementing the newly-adopted rules as early as Friday, June 11.

"The May 6 market disruption illustrated a sudden, but temporary, breakdown in the market's price setting function when a number of stocks and ETFs were executed at clearly irrational prices," said SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro, who convened a meeting of the exchange leaders and FINRA at the SEC following the market disruption. "By establishing a set of circuit breakers that uniformly pauses trading in a given security across all venues, these new rules will ensure that all markets pause simultaneously and provide time for buyers and sellers to trade at rational prices."

Under the rules, trading in a stock would pause across U.S. equity markets for a five-minute period in the event that the stock experiences a 10 percent change in price over the preceding five minutes. The pause, which would apply to stocks in the S&P 500® Index, would give the markets the opportunity to attract new trading interest in an affected stock, establish a reasonable market price, and resume trading in a fair and orderly fashion. Initially, these new rules would be in effect on a pilot basis through Dec. 10, 2010.

The markets will use the pilot period to make appropriate adjustments to the parameters or operation of the circuit breakers as warranted based on their experience, and to expand the scope to securities beyond the S&P 500 (including ETFs) as soon as practicable.

"It is my hope to rapidly expand the program to thousands of additional publicly traded companies," added Chairman Schapiro.

At Chairman Schapiro's request, the SEC staff also will:

  • Consider ways to address the risks of market orders and their potential to contribute to sudden price moves.
  • Consider steps to deter or prohibit the use by market makers of "stub" quotes, which are not intended to indicate actual trading interest.
  • Study the impact of other trading protocols at the exchanges, including the use of trading pauses and self-help rules.
  • Continue to work with the exchanges and FINRA to improve the process for breaking erroneous trades, by assuring speed and consistency across markets.

The SEC staff is working with the markets to consider recalibrating market-wide circuit breakers currently on the books — none of which were triggered on May 6. These circuit breakers apply across all equity trading venues and the futures markets.