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Summer Friday Before Long Weekend Isn’t as Slow as It Seems

Gregory Calderone and Claire Ballentine

(Bloomberg) -- If trading seemed to slow down this week, it did -- just not as much as usual ahead of the unofficial beginning of summer.

Typically, U.S. equity volumes are about 13% below their average ahead of Memorial Day weekend. This week, total composite volumes have been just 5% shy of the 2020 average. Friday’s trading volume has been a bit more typical of a pre-holiday slowdown, down about 11% compared to the yearly average.

Traders say work has seemed slower than usual over the last five days, with most attributing it to the end of earnings season and upcoming holiday. Exhaustion has also played a role. Equity volumes have exploded this year as the Covid-19 pandemic roiled markets, with average daily volume jumping almost 60% so far this year compared to the average of 2019.

As traders work from home, the jump in volume could indicate a larger shift to more electronic trading for big institutions. Individuals and retail traders who wouldn’t normally trade through a bank’s trading desk have done their part as well, using their free time to invest and take advantage of zero commissions.

“There is a bit of exhaustion,” Philip Lawlor, FTSE Russell’s managing director of Global Markets Research, said earlier this week. “Volume could dry up as people gradually close out their positions and protect themselves from an exogenous bit of news that we have learned can pop up over these weekends.”

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