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U.S. program to curb stock price swings triggered frequently

An exterior shot of the New York Stock Exchange in New York December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
An exterior shot of the New York Stock Exchange in New York December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The roll-out of a new program to limit wild price swings in publicly traded securities triggered dozens of trading halts on Monday as highly illiquid names were phased into the program.

By the session's end, 48 exchange-traded products (ETPs) had been halted or paused on NYSE Arca, a unit of exchange operator NYSE Euronext, according to trading information provided by exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group Inc.

Seven other securities were halted on Nasdaq.

About 570 securities were rolled out on NYSE Arca as part of the second phase of the "Limit UP, Limit Down" program, which was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission last year.

A trading halt is triggered if a price rises or falls more than 5 percent over a five-minute span for the most heavily traded shares, composed mostly of securities with a market cap of about $1.8 billion or greater.

The second phase of the program, with the price band widening to 10 percent to trigger a halt, includes more illiquid stocks, some of which do not trade on many days.

A NYSE Euronext spokeswoman said the new program was in its initial phase of an expanded universe of ETPs. She said the exchange was working within established guidelines and would explore the trading limits with regulators and other exchanges.

NYSE Arca accounts for about 90 percent of ETPs, a reason why so many of the trading halts occurred on its platform.

The SEC declined to comment.

The spread between the bid and offer price of an illiquid ETP can be so wide it will readily trigger a trading halt under the new program, said Dennis Dick, a proprietary trader in Detroit at Las Vegas-based Bright Trading LLC.

"In some cases even a small-sized order could be enough to cause the price band threshold to be exceeded, which would trigger a trading pause," Dick added.

(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Andre Grenon and Steve Orlofsky)

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