I. Causes ~
Negative news + quote saturation + large (coordinated?) instantaneous sale
leads to delayed price data.
The Greek Parliament's approval of austerity measures to avert debt default, triggered riots in Athens, which led to speculation and fear that it would ignite a string of defaults across
Europe and the rest of the world. The riots in Athens aired live on CNBC at
the start of our summary chart. The
scaling to the left of the link indicates the elapsed time shown in the video
that matches the time in our chart: an elapsed time of 4:50 in the video lines
up with 14:44 on our chart (the label 3m indicates the 3 minute elapsed time
Sale of eMini Futures and ETFs (see items 2 and 3 on main chart and
It appears that the event that sparked the rapid sell off at 14:42:44:075
was an immediate sale of approximately $125 million worth of June 2010 CME
eMini futures contracts followed 25ms later by the immediate sale of over $100 million worth of the top ETF's such as SPY, DIA, QQQQ, IVV, IWM, SDS, XLE, and
EEM. Both the eMini and ETF sales were sudden and executed at prevailing bid
prices. The orders appeared to hit the bids.
Quote Saturation (see item 1 on chart)
Approximately 400ms before the eMini sale, the quote traffic rate for all
NYSE, NYSE Arca, and Nasdaq stocks surged to saturation levels within 75ms.
This is a new and surprising discovery. Previously, when we looked at time frames
below 1 second, we thought the increase in quote traffic coincided with the
heavy sales, but we now know that the surge in quotes preceded the trades by about
400ms. The discovery is surprising, because nearly all the trades in the eMini
and ETFs occurred at prevailing bid prices (a liquidity removing event).
While searching previous days for similarities to the time
period at the start of the May 6th drop, we found a very close match starting
at 11:27:46.100 on April 28, 2010 -- just a week and a day before May 6th. We
observed it had the same pattern -- high, saturating quote traffic, then
approximately 500ms later a sudden burst of trades on the eMini and the top
ETF's at the prevailing bid prices, leading to a delay in the NYSE quote and a
sudden collapse in prices. The drop only lasted a minute, but the parallels
between the start of the drop and the one on May 6th are many. Details on April 28, 2010
The quote traffic surged again during the ETF sell event and remained at
saturation levels for nearly 500ms. Additional selling waves began seconds
later sending quote traffic rates back to saturation levels. This tidal wave of
data caused delays in many feed processing systems and networks. We discovered
two notable delays: the NYSE network that feeds into CQS (the "NYSE-CQS Delay"), and the calculation and dissemination of the Dow Jones Indexes
The delay of NYSE's quote to the CQS system has been covered extensively in
our original and
subsequent reports. However, there is
one new piece of information
which shows that some NYSE stocks were delayed more (24 seconds) than others (5
seconds). We found that stocks beginning with the letters A through M (except
for I and J) were delayed up to 24 seconds, while stocks beginning with I, J,
and N through Z were delayed up to approximately 5 seconds.
There were two separate
delays in the Dow Jones Indexes (the Dow Industrial Average, symbol DJI,
is shown in the main chart). The first delay arises from the delay in the input
data (NYSE-CQS delay) and the methodology used by Dow Jones in computing DJI -
they only use prices of trades from the NYSE for NYSE component stocks.
A second and larger delay appears to originate within the feed processors
that compute the index values. To find the second delay, we calculated DJI
using the same methodology as Dow Jones and compared the result to the value
disseminated in the feed. Our prices during the periods prior to and shortly
after the crash matched the prices disseminated by Dow Jones; however, during
the crash, we noticed significant delays. We confirmed the prices of DJI in the feed matched or were ahead of
Financial news programs primarily used the Dow Jones Index to
convey to their audience the state of the market during the Flash Crash.