program trading


Definition of program trading

: computerized trading of large blocks of stocks in one market and stock index futures in another so as to take advantage of price differentials between the markets

First Known Use of program trading

1984, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about program trading

Statistics for program trading

Last Updated

23 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for program trading

The first known use of program trading was in 1984

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for program trading

program trading


Financial Definition of program trading

What It Is

Program trading refers to automated trading by investors using computer programs.

How It Works

Program trading is used by institutional investors for large-volume trades through direct connections with the market's computers. Trades are automatically triggered based on reaching a threshold point on a specific market index, for example.

Program trading has become increasingly sophisticated, allowing for phased buying or selling in order to minimize disruptions to the markets.  Also, program trading has become an important tool for hedge funds that analyze historical stock and index data and purchase or sell long and short futures quickly in order to manage risk.

Why It Matters

With the direct connection and the automatic response (i.e. buy or sell order), a program trader can act more quickly than typical floor trades. But automatic trades can be flawed. They react without understanding or taking into account larger trends or events that may have caused the movement in the market in the first place.  In addition, because of the large volumes, they can compound or accelerate market declines because they have the potential to snowball into much larger market movements. Program trading has been blamed for a variety of volatile market slides (e.g., 1987 crash) throughout the 1970s-80s, when they became popular.

Major exchanges have imposed restrictions on the use of program trading at various times, particularly around sudden events that may have cause of flurry of program trading to sell off stock and cause a panic.

Source: Investing Answers

Comments on program trading

What made you want to look up program trading? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a tendency to relapse

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!