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CNBC’s Bartiromo: ‘That is Ridiculous. This Really Sounds Like Market Manipulation to Me’

Jeff Poor
Business & Media Institute
May 7, 2010

While everyone is scratching their heads and trying to figure out how the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost nearly 1,000 points before rallying back to lose only 347 points – it appears not to be limited to just one stock.

On CNBC’s May 6 “Closing Bell,” correspondent Matt Nesto explained that investigators for both the stock exchanges and for Citigroup, the firm that some are pointing fingers at for a so-called trader error, have narrowed it down to a futures index called the E-mini S&P 500.

“A person familiar with the Citi investigation said one focus of the trading probes were the futures contracts tied to the S&P 500 stock index known as the E-mini S&P 500 futures and in particular that two-minute window in which 16 billion of the futures were sold,” Nesto said. “Again, those sources are telling us that Citigroup’s total E-mini volume for the entire day was only 9 billion, suggesting that the origin of the trades was elsewhere.”

Nesto named eight stocks that were hit with the supposed computer error/bad trade, if that’s indeed what happened, that went all the way down to zero or one cent, including Exelon (NYSE:EXC), Accenture (NYSE:ACN), CenterPoint Energy (NYSE:CNP), Eagle Material (NYSE:EXP), Genpact Ltd (NYSE:G), ITC Holdings (NYSE:ITC), Brown & Brown (NYSE:BRO), Casey’s General (NASDAQ:CASY) and Boston Beer (NYSE:SAM)

“Now according to someone else close to Citigroup’s own probe of the situation, the E-Minis trade on the CME,” Nesto continued. “Now Maria, I want to add something else just in terms of these erroneous trades that Duncan Niederauer, the NYSE CEO was just talking about. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about Accenture, ACN. This is a Dublin-based company. It’s not in any of the indexes. If you look in the S&P 500, for example, I show at least two stocks that traded to zero or one cent – Exelon and CenterPoint. If you look in the Russell 1,000, I show Eagle Materials, Genpact, ITC and Brown & Brown, also trading to zero or a penny, and also Casey’s General Stores, as well as Boston Beer trading today, intraday, to zero or a penny. So those have at least eight names that they’re going to have to track down on top of the Accenture trade, where we have the stock price intraday showing us at least, we’ll assume, a bogus trade of zero.”

Nesto calling these trades “bogus” drew backlash from the host and CNBC veteran Maria Bartiromo, who said those trades sounded like “market manipulation” to her.

That is ridiculous,” Bartiromo replied. “I mean this really sounds like market manipulation to me. This is outrageous.

According to Nesto, these are frequent occurrences, at least at the NASDAQ exchange and if you make a trade a lose money, there’s no recourse.

“It happens a lot, Maria. It really does. I mean, we could probably ask the NASDAQ, they may not want to say how often it happens, but it happens frequently. And they go back and they correct. And the thing that stinks is if you in good faith put in a trade and made money and then lost it, you lose it. And there’s no recourse and there’s no way to appeal.”

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