Serious technical difficulties at London's stock exchange were resolved mid-afternoon Wednesday, enabling market trading to resume after a day of inactivity on what should have been one of the market's busiest days of the year.
Trading was extended by two hours to 6.30pm to allow traders to make up for some of the lost time, and some raised the possibility that the government would extend the end of the tax year to allow crucial trades to take place. Normal trading hours were set to resume Thursday, the exchange said.
The exchange described the unprecedented glitch as "technical" but offered no further explanation. Traders were prevented from seeing current share prices, and had to rely on "indicative" prices. No official indices were available. Trading was effectively impossible, leading the exchange to delay market opening.
The timing couldn't have been worse. Wednesday is the last day of the tax year, when millions of investors reshuffle their portfolios to minimise their exposure to capital gains taxes. What's more, shares have slid for the past two days amid tech-share weakness following a "guilty" verdict in Microsoft's anti-trust case.
"It's certainly an extraordinary coincidence," said David Berger, "Chief Fool" of investment Web site The Motley Fool. "You have to just believe in fate. It's exactly what everybody thought was going to happen on January 1st."
Berger doesn't see the upset having a lasting influence on the market, however. He compared the collapse to "a football match that's been cancelled but will be on the next day. These things tend to even out."
Technology company stock prices have been racing to the floor over the last few days. Tony Westbrook's spotted the reason why they will have to bounce back -- one day. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.
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