Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Add "Japanese stock trader" to the list of jobs I'm glad not to have:

TOKYO — It began as a stock trader's nightmare, an error caused by a momentary lapse in concentration perhaps, or a clumsy bit of typing that led to a $331-million loss.

The incident began Thursday when a broker at Mizuho Securities Co. tried to place an order to sell one share of J-Com Co., an otherwise unremarkable job placement firm making its debut on the Tokyo exchange. The asking price: 610,000 yen, or about $5,100. But someone at the securities arm of Japan's second-largest bank botched the numbers. The sell order was entered as 610,000 shares of J-Com at 1 yen a piece — less than a cent.

Then the person hit the send key.

Mizuho's error was a buyers' bonanza. The big winners were day traders who alerted one another to the opportunity online, and other securities firms. The most obvious loser was Mizuho. Having offered to sell 41 times the actual number of J-Com shares, the firm faces the possibility of having to compensate those buyers who couldn't get stock.

On Monday, Japan's market regulator estimated Mizuho's loss at $331 million.
(Link via Political Animal.)