Twitter attack prompts CFTC to speed automated trading rule

Agency examining activity before report

The top U.S. derivatives regulator today promised to publish in the next month or two ideas for boosting oversight of automated and high-frequency trading after a market-moving hack of the Associated Press Twitter feed.

“Last week’s events remind me once again,” Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler said at a meeting in Washington about technology. The April 23 hack placed a false report about an attack on the White House on the news service’s Twitter feed. Traders responded by wiping out $136 billion from the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index before it recovered within minutes.

The CFTC’s so-called concept release would seek comment on new testing, supervision and risk controls for automated trading, Gensler said. “I think we will do that in the next month to two months,” he said. A concept release is an early regulatory step to seek comments on if or how authorities might propose eventual rules.

CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton has said the agency is looking into the trading activity of 28 futures contracts in the five minutes before and after the fake report.

The S&P 500 was up about 1 percent at about 1,578 at 1:07 p.m. New York time on April 23 when a posting on the AP’s Twitter account said there had been explosions at the White House and President Barack Obama had been injured. The benchmark gauge for American stocks erased almost the entire gain, falling as low as 1,563.03 by 1:10 p.m. The index recovered from the plunge within three minutes as the news service said its Twitter account had been hacked and there were no explosions. The S&P 500 ended the session up 1 percent at 1,578.78.

Bloomberg News

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