Earlier today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 1,000 points (9 percent), the biggest intraday loss since the market crash of 1987. CNBC is reporting that a trading error may be at least partially to blame for the dramatic drop. There's heavy speculation that a trader for Citigroup typed a "b" for billions instead of an "m" for millions when entering a trade for Procter & Gamble. Oops!
The stock market was already on edge because of the financial crisis in Greece. Images of mobs demonstrating in Athens were fueling an underlying panic. There's a growing fear that a financial collapse in Greece could trigger a wave of financial trouble across Europe (and possibly even the world). Then that little typo, and BAM!, the wheels were set in motion for a spectacular and frantic 30 minutes of trading.
Cable news channels like CNBC, Bloomberg, and the Fox Business Network struggled to keep up with the story as it unfolded live on air. Financial websites crashed under the stress of the traffic. And Jim Cramer of Mad Money predictably shouted, "Buy, buy, buy."
When the dust had settled, the market made a bit of recovery, closing down "only" 348 points. Financial regulators are actively investigating that little trading error to try to piece together exactly what happened, with a spokesman for NYSE reporting no erroneous trades. One thing is likely: Lots of traders are having a stiff drink right about now.