Local connection: Taking stock of the surreal - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

May 7, 2010

Local connection: Taking stock of the surreal

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The global financial mess keeps getting more surreal. The Dow lost a thousand points Thursday in less time than it takes to drive to the bank, because the government might default in Greece? Well, yeah, there is a debt crisis around the world and the little countries are vulnerable. That's actually true.

After Greece it could be Ireland or Spain or Italy. But the professional stock watchers are so focused on that, they're missing something even more surreal, because they're used to it. Humans started the panic but computers magnified it... computers programmed to sell, without asking permission, when prices fall to pre-set levels. It happens so fast, a trillion dollars can vanish before other computers spot bargains.

And did you hear the report that one trader might have triggered the panic by accidentally placing a sell order for billions instead of millions? The mere fact that stock exchange officials found this plausible raises questions about the whole way markets are run.