One-Sixteenth* Of A Dollar For Your Thoughts

Trading stocks in pennies may be easy and efficient, but boy is it dull. So your friends at the Securities and Exchange Commission are batting around some ideas to spice things up without making your brains hurt too much.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Trading stocks in pennies may be easy and efficient, but boy is it dull. So your friends at the Securities and Exchange Commission are batting around some ideas to spice things up without making your brains hurt too much.

Among the brainstorms is a return to trading in fractional prices. But it seems that in the almost 12 years since we began quoting stock prices in pennies, such complicated quantitative analysis has become all-but-impossible for the average trader and stock exchange.

Fractions make "the math harder for people, and you'd have to recode the systems," said David Weild, capital-markets advisor at accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP, who has pressed regulators and legislators for wider tick sizes. "What people want are choices for ticks like pennies, nickels, dimes or quarters" rather than fractions that aren't easily converted to decimals.

Ask and ye may receive: The SEC will consider price ticks in the nickel and dime range, as well as some others in advance of a public meeting in February.

One possibility is testing a range of ticks greater than one cent but fewer than eleven cents, depending on characteristics of the stock such as price or company market capitalization, said one person participating in the discussions.

Abandoning the penny standard for some companies would be designed to increase the number of publicly-traded small companies, as well as their trading volume and coverage.

On Second Thought, Fractions May Not Add Up [WSJ]
become all-but-impossible for the average traderU.S. Students Still Lag Globally in Math and Science, Tests Show [NYT]
*Six and one-quarter pennies. $0.0625, sans fraction.

Related

On One of The Worst Days Of WhaleGate For Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan's Vice-Chairman Thought It Would Make Him Feel Better To Hear From Another Guy Who's Sort Of But Not Really Been There

As you may have heard, Summer 2012 was not the best of times for JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. On May 10, after having said that a Bloomberg story about one of its London traders making very large, very worrisome bets was but "a tempest in a teapot," the bank announced that said trader had lost approximately $2 billion. On May 11, it was suggested that Dimon's title of most loved-banker on Wall Street was up for grabs. On June 19, Dimon was forced to testify on Capitol Hill. In July 13, JPMorgan was forced to revise the $2 billion loss to $6 billion. Associates who surrounded Dimon during these days said that the stress was visibly wearing on him, and that it was arguably one of the worst periods of his career. And while senior executives logged long hours and gave up weekends and holidays to help deal with the fallout, gathering documents and unwinding trades and trying to manage the crisis, only one busted his ass to actually give Jamie Dimon what he needed: Jimmy Lee. After spending much of July 13 again explaining the trading loss to the media and to research analysts—including making the stunning admission that the traders in London may have intentionally mismarked the trades to make them look less egregious, a potential illegality that the Justice Department is still investigating—the exhausted Dimon got an unexpected call from Tom Brady, the star quarterback of the New England Patriots. (Jimmy Lee, a legendary sports fan, had arranged for it.) Brady reminded Dimon that even Super Bowl champs have bad days and told him “to hang in there.” And after thinking about it and thinking about it and thinking about it some more, snapped his finger and said, "I've got it- we need to get Tom Brady on the line." And then gathered his five secretaries in his office and told them to clear his and their schedules because they needed to get this deal done by the end of the day. And when he finally got Brady on the line, assured him that the call would be welcome and that it wouldn't be awkward* or seem out of left field. "Just tell him he's got this. Tell him that if banking or football were easy everyone would be doing it. Tell him that even on your worst day, you still get to go home and bang that little Brazilian of yours. No, wait, scratch that. Tell him you can't generate profits and be responsible for the losses at the same time. Tell him, 'Keep your chin, up, kid.' Tell him you're down by 7, you just took a huge sack, Gronkowski's got a broken leg and you're not wearing a cup. But there's still time left on that clock, Jamie D. And as long as there's time left on that clock, you're going to score a mother fucking touchdown. Tell him, 'Go get 'em, Tiger.' You still there, pal?" Jamie Dimon On The Line [VF]

I Sell Cardboard Boxes For A Living

Excuse my agitation. It's rare I get a Friday night off. Such evenings go to shit when I'm at a party and I get introduced by my real profession. Can you imagine introducing casual acquaintances at a party with “Yeah, so this is Jimmy. He's a meth dealer”? I don't know, maybe you can. In which case I don't really want to be invited to your parties. As for me, left to my own devices, I tell people I'm a cardboard box salesman. That suits me nicely. Nothing against people who sell cardboard boxes: I've never actually met one. But when I tell people that's what I do, nobody ever asks me to elaborate on my workday. It's actually a backstory I stole from another bookie—a guy who always had an identity or two to spare along with a great mind and approach to the profession. I started by telling people I was an electricity meter reader, and then once some guy asked me “isn't that all done by computer now?” and I had that So-Totally-Busted look on my face. So my colleague got me into the cardboard box business, which never goes out of style by always being precisely out of style. So this time I got introduced as The Bookie and my head immediately starts scanning the room for Feds. I've watched all the movies—I'm looking at everybody's shoes, looking for G-man wingtips. No immediately suspicious footwear—and no way out as the crowd starts circling me asking me all the Usual Questions. No, I don't break people's kneecaps. No, I don't lend people money at 1% a week. No, I don't fix games or know more about sports than anybody else. It was turning into one of those Wizard of Oz moments: I'm just the old, fat guy behind the curtain, which suits me, when I was asked a question I felt the need to rant on: How come I'm living in he shadows here when I could be living large in Costa Rica? Believe it or not, I'm safer here. The US government is this two-headed beast. One head wants to raise tax revenues by legalizing more gambling. Whoops, “gaming”. If it's legal, it's no longer gambling, it's “gaming." That's not quite as Orwellian as “collateral damage” (dead civilians), but it still makes me smile bitterly. The government's other head is trying to shut down the offshore industry. Poker sites, online casinos, sports books—it's all in the crosshairs. And they're rounding up anybody on The List who sets foot in the Good Old USA. When that doesn't work, they try extraditing people, from everywhere. Costa Rica, Canada, the UK, Antigua, wherever. The extradition policy is the worst of it. Consider Bob Eremian. His client base was mostly Southern New England, with a little NYC and Jersey thrown in. He moved his operation to Antigua in the mid 90s, figuring that even if what he was doing in the US was illegal (the trial of Jay Cohen showed it would be), since it was legal in Antigua, he couldn't be extradited. That's a key part of extradition law, I'm told: what you're doing has to be illegal in both jurisdictions. Except Uncle Sam didn't come after Bob for making book, just like how he didn't actually go after Martha Stewart for insider trading per se. The Eremian charges were money laundry, tax evasion, and so on—things that were illegal in Antigua. 11 years after he was originally deported, the civil cases just kept coming. The US government's current instrument of choice is the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. It was tacked onto a bill about port safety. Honest. Life is too short. So I'm onshore and offline. Any trouble I'm going to get from the Law is going to be local. If caught, I'll spend some time doing graffiti removal or cleaning up a park. I'll sleep in my own bed. I don't need 16 hours a day in front of a computer screen trying to move my numbers faster than internet wiseguys can pick me off. I don't need to try to figure out Costa Rica's ever changing tax code. (When I left, sports books were charged, among other things, $1000 per computer monitor on the premises, per year.) I don't need to court the DOJ's wrath. But I still don't need my cover blown at parties. I sell cardboard boxes, period. It didn't help that a very good customer and his wife, my new part-time employee, were in the room making faces at me to see if they could get me to crack up or soil myself as I took questions. If the rant hadn't gotten me four new customers, the night would have been a total bust.