Today is Halloween. And it might be called a triple witching day ... for mutual funds.
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.”
John Cadigan, national sales manager at Direxion Funds, told Money Management Executive that: "Since we’re a passive index fund family, this doesn’t affect us much. We’re not worried about the so called “window dressing”, buying winners, selling losers etc. so we can report favorable holdings to shareholders. Our portfolio rebalancing and trading process is the same today as it is for every other trading day -we have to adjust our exposure to the requisite beta point while factoring in market movement and shareholder activity."
He added that the firm is cognizant of it being fiscal year end from a tax and reporting perspective and that trading by other managers, investors, institutions could heighten volatility into the day because it is a very quiet day in the market.
Inside the exchange at 11 Wall Street today, traders were struggling to connect with Internet and cell phone service, according to Ben Willis, a managing director with Albert Fried & Co. NYSE Euronext said in an 8:38 a.m. advisory that the NYSE and NYSE MKT still plan to open for trading at 9:30 a.m., though customers using a floor broker “are urged to verify there is a broker present prior to routing to any orders.”
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 Monday and Tuesday, the first consecutive shutdowns because of weather in more than a century. The last comparable closure of the New York Stock Exchange 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 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.”