3. Knight Capital Goes Dark (Originally published August 3, 2012)
Speaking of a market apocalypse, Knight Capital (KCG) better find its white knight in a hurry, otherwise it could go dark for good.
Knight, one of the largest U.S. market makers, said losses from Wednesday's trading breakdown total $440 million, and as a result the company is "actively pursuing its strategic and financing alternatives to strengthen its capital base." Knight's massive loss chews right through its net income of $3.3 million in the second quarter on revenue of $289.3 million. Shares of the computerized trading company lost almost two thirds of its value this week, falling from more than $10 a share on Tuesday to less than $4.As we wait to see who responds to Knight's SOS signal, we just have one small question: What the heck happened here? Did they hire UBS traders to run the show or Suntech's euro bond analysis team? Prices in 140 NYSE (NYX)-listed stocks were flying all over the place for more than 45 minutes. Clueless traders were running around screaming at each other. CNBC's Bob Pisani was scrambling for coverage. That was no mere "technology issue" as Knight is calling it. That was the freaking Tet Offensive at Broad and Wall. Seriously, after last year's flash crash and the Facebook IPO fiasco, we thought the brainiacs running Wall Street's back offices would have a better handle on things. Or at least they would know how to shut down the machines should they run amok. But that wasn't the case at all Wednesday morning. Knight couldn't pull the plug on its new software in time and is now in danger of having its plug pulled. And for those still wondering why worn-out investors are waving goodbye to Wall Street, well, the knuckleheads at Knight provided yet another answer.