March 2, 2021

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US Treasury, regulators say markets withstood recent volatility

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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called meeting of top regulators following surge, then plunge, in stocks such as GameStop and the price of silver.

U.S. financial regulators determined that the infrastructure of stock and commodity markets remained “resilient” during the volatility in trading seen in recent weeks.

“The regulators believe the core infrastructure was resilient during high volatility and heavy trading volume,” according to a statement issued by the Treasury Department following a meeting Thursday convened by Secretary Janet Yellen. Officials also agreed that the Securities and Exchange Commission should issue a “timely study of the events.”

Yellen called the confab after surges in stocks including GameStop Corp. and sudden trading curbs on smaller, retail investors spurred concerns about consumer protections. The SEC is investigating for signs of fraud, while key House and Senate committees are planning hearings.

The SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission are also “reviewing whether trading practices are consistent with investor protection and fair and efficient markets,” the Treasury said Thursday.

The gathering brought together the heads of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, SEC, CFTC and Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which serves as the central bank’s main monitor of Wall Street.

Yellen “believes it is imperative to uphold the integrity of these markets and ensure investor protection,” the Treasury said.

Hearings Scheduled

The meeting gave the Biden administration a chance to demonstrate that it’s attuned to complaints about potential manipulation and unfair investor treatment after two congressional committees moved to hold hearings.

The controversy erupted in late January during a spectacular clash between retail investors and powerful hedge funds that pushed a handful of stocks, including GameStop, in opposite directions. That clash raised concerns over whether some investors were engaged in share-price manipulation.

But the dust-up escalated when several broker-dealers were forced to post much higher collateral to cover the cash commitments behind massive buy orders in suddenly volatile shares. That prompted Robinhood Markets Inc. and other brokers catering to retail traders to suspend buying in certain shares, enraging customers and bringing accusations of unfair treatment.

Silver was among the assets that got caught up in the wild buying frenzy fueled by Reddit users, with more than $1 billion flowing into the main exchange traded fund that tracks the precious metal on Friday and Monday.

The rally came amid posts on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum that called for a “short squeeze” in silver, setting off trading that resembled what happened to GameStop. Silver futures are regulated by the CFTC.

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