Mutual Funds Squeezed as Exchange Shutdowns Cut Window
The longest weather-related U.S. trading suspension in 124 years has left money managers with one day instead of three to adjust their holdings before the fiscal year ends for more than 20 percent of them.
The closure of American exchanges during Hurricane Sandy occurred during the last week of the fiscal year for 1,521 U.S. mutual funds, according to data compiled by Morningstar Inc. With two days lost, demand from managers who want to buy and sell shares for tax and performance reasons may surge today, said Donald Selkin of New York-based National Securities Corp.
While NYSE Euronext Chief Executive Officer Duncan Niederauer says the market will be prepared should trading be lighter as customers stay home, Selkin, a 36-year veteran of Wall Street, said concentrated buying and selling by funds may have the opposite effect. Money managers have more impetus to appeal to clients after more than $440 billion was pulled from mutual funds since 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg and the Investment Company Institute show.
“You don’t know how much they’ve done already,” Selkin, the chief market strategist at National Securities, which manages about $3 billion, said in a phone interview from his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. “That could be the wild card -- how much they have to cram in tomorrow.”
The New York Stock Exchange opened its market on time today by running on backup power from generators following the shutdown. Brokers on the NYSE floor experienced limited Internet and mobile-phone connections while still being able to trade from the exchange. Trading volume for Standard & Poor’s 500 Index stocks was about 2 percent below the 30-day average at this time of day and the benchmark gauge was little changed near 1,412 as of 10:55 a.m. in New York. The index rose as much as 0.5 percent earlier.
Trading went “very smoothly, everything opened fairly quickly,” Niederauer said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Matt Miller. “Participation has been a lot more active than we thought,” he said. “For some it was business as usual, for some they were using their backup sites.”
Managers use the last week of the fiscal year to lock in gains and sell falling stocks before reporting results to investors and tax authorities, Peter Sorrentino, a Cincinnati- based money manager who helps oversee $14.7 billion at Huntington Asset Advisors Inc., said in a telephone interview. The fiscal year ends today for about 21 percent of U.S. open-end mutual funds, the second-most after December when 1,567 funds report, according to Chicago-based Morningstar.
American equity markets were closed yesterday and today, the first consecutive shutdowns because of weather in more than a century. The last comparable closure of the NYSE was on March 12 and 13, 1888, when a blizzard dumped 21 inches of snow on New York, according to the company’s website.
The decision to restart stocks was announced yesterday in statements by NYSE Euronext, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. and Bats Global Markets Inc. Fixed-income trading, halted at noon on Oct. 29, will also reopen, under a recommendation by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
Fewer shares may change hands today because brokers won’t be able to get to the office, said Sean Gambino, who trades consumer stocks for Schottenfeld Group LLC. New York’s subways may take weeks to be restored, Metropolitan Transit Authority Chairman Joe Lhota said at a news conference yesterday.
The average daily volume on U.S. exchanges through Oct. 26 was 6.5 billion shares, the lowest since at least 2009, Bloomberg data show.
“People’s homes are ruined, getting into work is not going to be on their priority list,” Gambino said in an interview from New York. “There will be big volatility tomorrow.”
U.S. equity trading in the past has been below average after storms hit New York City. Volume following Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28, 2011, was 13 percent below the one-year average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. After a snowstorm hit the U.S. East Coast, the number of shares changing hands from Dec. 28-31, 2010, was 19 percent less than the average from the same time during 2008 and 2009.
“If the market is a little thinner tomorrow, it’ll be good that we have market makers around to maintain a stable market,” Niederauer said yesterday. He spoke in an interview on Bloomberg Television with Matt Miller.
NYSE plans to operate the floor with at least 100 people including designated market makers and other personnel tomorrow, Larry Leibowitz, the chief operating officer, said in a phone interview. All NYSE-listed companies will be represented by their market makers, though the firms may not be “fully staffed,” he said.
Brokers and trading firms may experience “spotty connectivity problems” when they access markets tomorrow, Leibowitz said. He predicted some firms may have trouble finding fuel if they are running from backup systems or using generators.
The company’s main data center for its U.S. markets in Mahwah, New Jersey, “cut over to backup power as a precaution yesterday” and may be back on full power later today, Leibowitz said. He expects all NYSE Euronext exchanges run out of the Mahwah facility to operate normally tomorrow.
Steven Starker, co-founder of BTIG LLC, the New York-based broker dealer that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has a minority stake in, said that his firm will be open for trading today. Stock volume will be “very active” after four days without an open U.S. equity market, he said.
Many fund managers need to adjust their holdings at the end of the month, he said. “You’re going to get people that certainly are anxious to move around parts of their portfolios.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lynn Thomasson at email@example.com