Business

TSX shut down for 'technical halt' as stock markets sell off

The company that owns and operates the Toronto Stock Exchange ordered a "technical halt" to all trading on Canada's largest stock exchange on Thursday, a day when stock markets around the world saw heavy losses.

Company that owns and operates exchange says systems will be ready for Friday

Stock markets around the world have sold off sharply in the past week as fears of the impact of the coronavirus are settling in. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Latest

  • Market will re-open Friday, TMX confirms

The company that owns and operates the Toronto Stock Exchange ordered a "technical halt" to all trading on Canada's largest stock exchange on Thursday, a day when stock markets around the world saw heavy losses.

TMX Corp. ordered the halt a little before 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, citing a "problem with order entry" on the main index, the TSX Venture Exchange and the alternative Alpha Exchange. The outage appears to have also affected the Montreal Exchange, which processes derivatives such as stock options and commodity futures contracts.

About an hour after the halt was implemented, TMX said the shutdown will be in place for at least the rest of the trading day.

Order entry refers to the manner in which buy and sell orders are processed into the system.

The halt means that traders "are currently unable to enter, modify or cancel open orders," TMX told CBC News in an email.

TMX confirmed that its systems are ready for the start of business on Friday, according to a press release issued late Thursday.

This is a market that's being driven completely by fear- Elaine Stokes, portfolio manager

Prior to the complete trading halt, the TSX was down by 324 points, or almost two per cent, after having earlier been down by as much as 585 points on the day. Before the shutdown 232,685,915 shares had changed hands on the TSX on Thursday, a higher volume than one would normally see on a typical trading day.

It's been anything but typical trading on stock markets of late, as the TSX — like many other exchanges — has sold off for the last five consecutive days as fears over the coronavirus have infected investor sentiment around the world. The TSX had lost almost seven per cent of its value in the past week, prior to the halt.

U.S. stock groupings such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 are all off more than 10 per cent in the past week on the same fears. 

The TSX shut itself down early on Thursday, freezing the daily performance at -324 points. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The Dow lost more than 1,000 points for the second time in a week on Thursday, closing down 1,190 points to 25,766. That's a loss of more than four per cent. The broader S&P 500 and technology-focused Nasdaq both closed down by more than four per cent, too.

"This is a market that's being driven completely by fear," said Elaine Stokes, portfolio manager at Loomis Sayles. 

"Eventually we're going to get to a place where this fear, it's something that we get used to living with, the same way we got used to living with the threat of living with terrorism," she said of coronavirus fears. "But right now, people don't know how or when we're going to get there, and what people do in that situation is to retrench."

'Very embarrassing'

That broad market sell-off is why Barry Schwartz, chief investment officer with Baskin Financial in Toronto, says the technical glitch is particularly ill-timed.

"We are in a market panic right now and the TSX isn't open," he said in an interview. "It's obviously very embarrassing."

Schwartz says the last time something like this happened on the TSX was in 2018, when the market shut itself down two hours early on a Friday, leaving investors in a lurch through the weekend. 

"Hopefully it's back in business at 9:30 tomorrow so people can continue their selling," Schwartz joked.

 

About the Author

Pete Evans

Senior Writer, CBCNews.ca

Pete Evans is the senior business writer for CBCNews.ca. Prior to coming to the CBC, his work has appeared in the Globe & Mail, the Financial Post, the Toronto Star, Canadian Business Magazine and — believe it or not — Circuits Assembly Magazine. Twitter: @p_evans Email: pete.evans@cbc.ca Secure PGP: https://secure.cbc.ca/public-key/Pete-Evans-pub.asc