CoronaCrash: Merrill Lost Market-Data Feed Amid Rout, Wells San Fran Broker Quarantined
(Updated on March 10 with additional information on Robinhood outage.)
While stock and oil markets were cratering Monday morning, brokers at Merrill Lynch temporarily lost access to their primary stock-data feed and users of “free” brokerage app Robinhood again were locked out of their accounts.
The Merrill outage was due to a systems collapse that affected customers of market data and analytics provider FactSet, which became the primary market feed for Merrill’s brokers in 2018.
“Due to substantially higher concurrent transaction volume, FactSet is aware that some users experienced issues loading reports,” the data firm said on its website at 11:30 am.
Fifteen minutes later the website said all FactSet services were fully restored. “The disruption prevented some users from loading reports and/or other components…by preventing a full logon,” it said.
Two sources at Merrill said that transactions weren’t affected as brokers were switched to a backup order-entry system. Many brokers lost access to report downloads early Monday morning, but the service was restored by late morning, one advisor said.
A spokeswoman at FactSet did not respond to requests for comment.
Heavy trading volume periodically creates access and processing issues for brokerage firms and exchanges, but are usually concentrated among discount brokerage firms that deal directly with retail investor orders.
Robinhood Markets, the zero-commission trading-app that crashed last week amid the market tumult, was unavailable again Monday morning.
The firm, which was sued in a putative breach-of-contract class-action by investors last week, partially restored trading as of 10:25 a.m. Eastern time, and was fully operational by 3:30. The outage, which affected equities, options and crypto trading, does not appear to have been related to last week’s issues, according to a firm spokeswoman. “We know this interruption was frustrating for our customers, especially after last week and on a day that trading was halted marketwide,” she said. “Our platform is now fully operational and we’re working hard to improve our service during these historic and volatile market conditions.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 7.79%, or more than 2,000 points, on Monday, while the S&P 500 was off 7.60%, the Nasdaq Composite 7.29% and the Russell 2000 by 9.37%. Crude oil cratered 24.59% after Saudi Arabia decided to flood the market with supply after a collapse of an OPEC agreement.
The human dimensions of the coronavirus were underscored at Wells Fargo Advisors, which did a deep clean of its 555 California Street office over the weekend. Some employees who were in “prolonged, close contact” with the broker diagnosed with COVID-19 were told not to come into the office for 14 days.
The “thoroughly cleaned” office resumed normal operations on Monday, and no other San Francisco offices were affected, spokeswoman Beth Richek said in a prepared statement. The sick employee “is being closely monitored by their doctor and public health authorities,” she wrote. “We wish our colleague a full and speedy recovery and will provide our full support.”
A source at the branch said the employee was a broker who contracted the virus from a family member. The branch lists 38 advisors on its website. California has reported 114 positive people infected with coronavirus, with another 16 that are “under investigation,” according to California Department of Public Health data.