Nasdaq OMX Group plans to introduce a “kill switch” by March 1 of this year that would force brokerages to halt trading when pre-set limits are breached, the exchange operator said in a regulatory filing.
The measure from the U.S. exchange follows a meeting with the chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington in September instructing all U.S. exchanges to offer kill switches as part of a series of reforms aimed at making the markets safer.
The switch would allow a shutdown when there are trading errors, such as the “fat finger” error in which a trader hit the wrong key and caused Kraft shares to soar earlier this year or the broker error at Knight Capital Group which roiled markets in 2012.
The problem with such errors is that they can touch off chains of electronic trading based on stock movements, creating serious instability in the markets.
Nasdaq had a three-hour outage last summer due to another technical error.
The New York Stock Exchange announced its plans for a kill switch in December.
Brokerage firms can use the tool to set limits on the sizes of positions they can afford to take. They will then get an email warning as the limits are neared, and if they are breached, the kill switch will be triggered, preventing further trading by the firm.
If a member firm wants to reauthorize trading on Nasdaq after a kill switch has been triggered, it will have to contact the exchange and explain why the breach occurred and whether it has safeguards against further errors.
Knight Capital Group lost $461 million US when a software error sent a flood of errant orders to the NYSE in 2012. It later was taken over by rival Getco.