Price of NYSE seats plunge

/ Source: Financial Times

Two seats on the New York Stock Exchange were sold at their lowest price in five years after one of the most turbulent months in the exchange’s history.

The NYSE said the seats were sold for $1.35m each on Tuesday, or 27 per cent below the previous sale price a month ago. The price underscores dwindling confidence in the profitability of the equity trading business and uncertainty about the exchange’s open-outcry trading model.

James Rutledge, who owns a NYSE seat and leases it, said: “No one likes to see the value of their investment go down . . . but I believe this is temporary.”

Since the previous seat sale the NYSE has seen Richard Grasso, its chairman, resign amid a public furore over his $187.5m pay. Investors have stepped up criticism of its governance and questioned the validity of its trading structure.

The NYSE says seat prices “reflect the profitability of the brokerage business, the level of trading volume on the exchange, general economic conditions and other factors”.

Brokers on the NYSE floor have seen their commissions dwindle in recent years and the floor specialists have warned of lower earnings despite the recent rally in US equity markets.

The exchange is at loggerheads with its floor specialists, from whom it is seeking up to $150m in fines for alleged misconduct and breaking trading rules.

U.S. regulators have also signalled that the NYSE’s self-regulatory status could be threatened in view of perceived conflicts of interest highlighted by the controversy over Mr Grasso’s pay. He appointed the members of the committee that set his compensation and the heads of firms regulated by the exchange sit on the NYSE board.