Traders from Asia to New York felt less like the Jetsons and more like Fred Flintstone Friday when the digital lights went out on a key trading screen.
Bloomberg’s financial terminals, the computer system by which most of the world tracks the financial markets, went dark worldwide for 2 1/2 hours on Friday, essentially sending the market back to trading like they last did in the 1980s … over the phone.
Asia Unhedged merely states the obvious: That the Bloomberg blackout provides just another object lesson in how utterly indispensable these digital lifelines are in globalized, hair-trigger financial markets.
Because so many of the world’s major financial firms rely on the machines, especially for bond prices, the British government postponed a 3 billion pound ($4.4 billion) debt sale Friday
“I haven’t seen it go down like this for 10 or 15 years,” Steve Collins, global head of dealing at asset management firm London & Capital, told the Guardian newspaper, “Bloomberg is usually the one stable thing; it’s the thing that everyone can’t live without.” Traders at London & Capital were left “twiddling their thumbs” after their Bloomberg terminals went down.
The Wall Street Journal reported that because the famed Bloomberg chat function was down, bankers were forced to use telephones to contact clients, brokers and sales people on Friday. Oh, the horror, having to actually talk to your client.
The terminals are the company’s signature product and the main source of its $9 billion in annual revenue. More than 315,000 terminals are used around the world, costing $20,000 a year. They provide market data, news and a chat service. Reports say the terminals went silent about an hour before the Asia markets closed and stayed down most of the European morning session.
The network came back online about 12:45 pm in London, but the company was unable to explain the outage. According to Yahoo!, the outage was not reported on Bloomberg’s website or TV Station. Around 7 a.m. New York time, the company tweeted that service had been restored to most of its customers and it looked like an internal network issue.
“This is sort of a big deal,” The New York Times quoted one Hong Kong banker saying. “What I miss is the instant Bloomberg chats, which I rate higher than trading or data feeds. The fact is, Bloomberg connects 100% of the Street, and all that human intelligence is what makes markets hum.”
Another employee of a Hong Kong financial firm said that traders had resorted to using “old-fashioned emails” to communicate.
Yahoo! Finance put it all in perspective saying London traders “quipped that Greece should have defaulted during the blackout and no one would have known better.” Meanwhile, many traders decided to just take an early trip to the pub.