Symantec Says Swoon Caused by Clerical Error

Symantec Corp. said a minute-long lurch that briefly wiped out more than $1.5 billion in its stock value before a trading halt earlier today was caused by a clerical error in a legitimate trade.

A large order to sell without any specified minimum price sent the shares down as much as 11 percent, triggering a circuit breaker, said Cris Paden, a spokesman for the Mountain View, California-based company. Symantec consulted with the Nasdaq Stock Market, which lists its shares, to identify the bank that handled the trade and the entity that initiated it, neither of which the company is naming, Paden said.

“This was the first time this has happened to us,” Paden said. “This was a very unusual event.”

After opening today at $24.48, Symantec traded within a 14-cent range until just after 10:10 a.m., when it fell as low as $21.93 in less than a minute. More than 258,000 Symantec shares changed hands in 776 trades between 10:11 and 10:12 a.m. New York time at prices below $24, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The stock rebounded after a five-minute halt triggered by the plunge ended.

The tumble to $21.93 represented the shares’ biggest intraday decline since April 2012. The stock had advanced 29 percent this year, compared with a 12 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. The stock slipped 1.2 percent to $24.30 today.

“The marketwide single stock trading pause worked precisely as designed” and no trades were canceled, Robert Madden, a spokesman for Nasdaq OMX, said by phone.

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