Who hesitates is lost

If only...

For a fleeting moment this morning I experienced what can only be described as incredulous joy and jubilation.

I had just checked in on my online brokerage account to see what was happening. The real-time streamer shows all the stocks in my portfolio along with current bid price, asking price, last price, and so forth. The total at the bottom under Gain/Loss indicates where things stand at the moment. I like it when that number is green, but it is not uncommon for it to fluctuate, plus or minus a few thousand.


This morning it wasn't just green. It was green by more than $60,000! Oh, hallelujah!

I found that Ventiv Health (VTIV) was showing a bid of over $70 per share, rather substantially higher than yesterday's close at $7.34!

Apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed this juicy bid — by the time I could get to the order entry dialogue, the bid disappeared. However, since no trade was apparently consummated at that price, the person who made the obvious typo must have noticed it and found the cancel button.

Darn! But I wonder what if.... What if I had been able to put in a sell at market order before that bid disappeared? Would I have really gotten more than $70 per share? If the system did complete the trade at that price, an obvious typo, is that poor schmuck just out of luck? Or do the fairness police nullify the trade?

But I wonder if it would have really traded at that price anyway. The way I understand Ameritrade's system, it tries to complete a limit order at your limit price or better. For the buyer, "or better" would be the lowest sell offer, certainly below $8. But wait, the seller is supposed to get their price or better also. So if a seller had a limit order at $8, $70 would certainly be better than that.

Hmmmmm. Methinks there's something that needs investigation.