Dow Jones in Freefall as Wall Street Begs for Stock Market Shutdown

Asset managers reportedly urged the Bank of England to shut the stock market to stop panic selling. Will the U.S. follow suit?
Posted in: Markets
Published:
March 18, 2020 12:00 PM UTC
  • The U.S. stock market continued its freefall on Wednesday.
  • Circuit breakers were triggered overnight, and asset managers have called for a temporary stock market closure until the panic subsides.
  • The New York Stock Exchange says it will remain firmly open.

The U.S. stock market is braced for more pain on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plunged back into decline as lawmakers scrambled to pump stimulus into the economy.

With the most volatility on record since the 1929 Great Depression, asset managers are now calling for a complete stock market closure. A shut-down came close in the UK this week after an emergency call with the Bank of England.

The Telegraph reported:

Vanguard, Blackrock and JP Morgan were among several asset managers who took part in a call on Monday with Andrew Bailey, the new Bank Governor, when the prospect [of closing the stock market] was discussed.

According to the report, a number of asset managers called for a two-week shutdown. But a majority voted in favor of keeping them open.

Dow crashes again despite Trump stimulus

The Dow Jones crashed back into decline on Wednesday after stock futures slammed into their circuit breakers overnight. | Source: Yahoo Finance

The Dow Jones Industrial Average crashed when the stock market opened on Wednesday. The nosedive came despite the Trump administration’s pledge to mail cheques to Americans.

  • The Dow dove 1,171.73 points or 5.52% to 20,065.65.
  • The S&P 500 fell 5.37% to 2,393.28.
  • The Nasdaq slid 4.4% to 7,012.01.

If equities fall much further, they could trigger a “circuit breaker” that temporarily halts trading. That occurred overnight in the futures markets and has been happening during normal trading hours with alarming regularity over the past two weeks.

Time to shut down the U.S. stock market?

This is the fastest descent into a bear market in history. Panic is everywhere. Dow and S&P 500 futures have hit their limit up or limit down circuit breakers for five straight sessions.

Source: Bloomberg

We saw three straight days of 9% plus swings in the last week, which hasn’t happened since the eve of the Great Depression. Some argue this is the time to shut down the stock markets and take a breath. Citi analyst Bill O’Donnell said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the market closed.

One might not be faulted to assume that a next major step might be to shut the stock markets to prevent a further, self-fuelling sell-off.

The stock market has closed in times of panic before

The move wouldn’t be unprecedented. The stock market was shuttered for four days after 9/11 and for two days during Hurricane Sandy.

Dangerous conditions developing as a result of Hurricane Sandy will make it extremely difficult to ensure the safety of our people and communities, and safety must be our first priority – NYSE statement in 2012.

The Chicago futures exchange, CME, has already closed its trading floor, though hasn’t stopped trading itself. The exchange’s CEO Terrence Duffy said the New York Stock Exchange should follow suit.

I find it kind of amazing that the NYSE trading floor is still open … I thought we were not supposed to have 50 people or more in one location.

NYSE pledges to stay open

The Philippines closed down all stock, bond and currency trading earlier this week. While Spain, France, and Belgium banned all short-selling in a bid to calm the volatility.

Some argue these actions help calm the markets and restrict panic selling. After all, traders are likely to make better decisions with a clear, level head. But there are downsides, too. Shutting the U.S. stock market could damage America’s reputation of a free market. NYSE president Stacey Cunningham explained:

Closing the markets would not change the underlying causes of the market decline, would remove transparency into investor sentiment, and reduce investors’ access to their money. This would only further compound the current market anxiety.

Dow Jones and S&P 500 trading remains open for business

For now, the U.S. stock markets are firmly open. But how many more losses will asset manager stomach before the cries grow louder?

Today will bring more pain for traders, with the VIX holding near all-time highs above 75.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or Rights and Duties of the Editor, or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us and we will look at it as soon as possible.

Last modified: June 13, 2020 12:26 AM UTC

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Ben Brown @_ben_brown

Ben is a journalist with a decade of experience covering financial markets. Based in London, UK, his writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and he was Chief Editor at Block Explorer, the world's longest-running source of Blockchain data. Reach him at benjamin-brown.uk or on Twitter at _Ben_Brown. Email ben @ benjamin-brown.uk.