May 14, 2005

Computer Problem Causes False Stock Quotes

NEW YORK (AP) -- A computer problem at an unidentified stock trader caused erroneous, exaggerated prices - some as high as $950 per share - to be posted to the Nasdaq Stock Market Friday morning for 1,680 different stocks, a spokeswoman for the Nasdaq said.

The Nasdaq said trades using possibly incorrect occurred in 184 stocks between 9:19 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., when the problem occurred. Those transactions, which were made 15 percent above or below the previous day's closing price, will be "broken" - the buyer will get his or her money back, and the stock will revert to the seller.

The rest of the affected stocks - representing about half the 3,200 stocks listed on the Nasdaq - had erroneous bids placed on Nasdaq's electronic order books, but no trades were executed at the incorrect prices.

The problem was corrected, Nasdaq spokeswoman Bethany Sherman said, and trading in all Nasdaq-listed stocks continued normally Friday. The Nasdaq posted a list of affected stocks on its Web site Friday. The Nasdaq will work with the National Association of Securities Dealers Inc. and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the incident.

The problem arose when a broker linked to the all-electronic Nasdaq system inadvertently put out bids for stocks that were substantially higher than the prices in which those stocks normally trade. For example, shares of Maxco Inc. (MAXC), a metal heat-treating company that normally trades between $3 and $4 per share, was briefly quoted at $951.47 Friday morning. It later traded at $4.10 per share.

And J.W. Mays Inc., which normally trades between $15 and $16 per share, was quoted as high as $136 on Friday.

The Associated Press said it corrected any noticeably erroneous prices in its systems, and would work with Nasdaq to address other questionable trades. The AP's stock tables for newspapers should only see a minimal impact at worst, and closing prices should be unaffected.


On the Net:

Nasdaq Stock Market: www.nasdaq.com