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Taiwan trader's zero sum blunder

There were red faces all around at Taiwan broker Fubon Securities after it was forced to admit a mind-numbingly banal trading blunder that caused massive confusion in the stock market and left the firm nursing a loss of almost US$15 million.

The trouble started when Merrill Lynch placed a purchase order with Fubon for a basket of local stocks. The trade was for a modest NT$80 million ($2.5 million) but a Fubon trader punched in a few too many zeros and his firm piled into the market for NT$8 billion-worth of stocks.

Quickly realizing that it had made what it later described as an "undesirable error", Fubon had no option but to buy back all the surplus shares. By falling on its sword it successfully avoided wholesale panic in the market but was forced to swallow a paper loss that it begrudgingly admits is equivalent to the firm's entire earnings in the year to date.

That's not too encouraging for the bonus prospects of Fubon's traders, perhaps, but at least the firm will have one less bonus to worry about. The guilty trader has been suspended. 

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