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Financial 411: The 'Flash Crash,' a Year Later

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Crude Oil Prices Fall

What goes up, also comes down. Crude oil, which has been trading sharply higher this year, plunged nearly nine percent on Thursday. That's the sharpest one-day drop in more than two years.

The price of a barrel dipped below $100, as economists voiced concerns about the direction of the U.S. economy. New jobless filings were up last week. Other commodities that have dipped in recent days are silver and gold.

Retailers Report Revenue Gains

Retailers reported surging April revenue, helped by a late Easter holiday. But some also warned that high gas prices are starting to cut into the spending power of lower-income customers.

Revenue at major retailers soared a better-than-expected 8.5 percent last month over April 2010, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Among those reporting strong revenue gains were Costco, Saks, and Nordstrom.

But Target said it was disappointed with its revenue gains of 13 percent. Gap went one step further, firing its design director, Patrick Robinson. Gap also issued a profit warning for the first quarter.

Markets

Oil worries depressed markets on Thursday. The Dow declined 139 points — more than one percent — to close at 12,584. The Nasdaq settled at 2,812, down 16 points. The S&P 500 lost 12 points, ending at 1,335.

Reviewing the 'Flash Crash,' One Year Later

This week marks the one year anniversary of what is now called the "Flash Crash." On May 6, the Dow Jones saw the largest one-day drop in its history, falling over 900 points in a matter of minutes. The market then rebounded to close down only 348 points. A committee of market experts set up in response to the crash blamed the sudden drop on "high-frequency" and "algorithmic" trading.

Felix Salmon is a financial blogger for Reuters. He explains what happened, and whether the reforms put in place — like circuit breakers to slow down trading — can prevent something like the flash crash from happening again.

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