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Securities Operations: Update on Actions Taken to Address Day Trading Concerns

GAO-02-20 Published: Nov 27, 2001. Publicly Released: Jan 08, 2002.
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Concerns arose in the late 1990s about day trading, particularly the use of questionable advertising to attract customers without fully disclosing or by downplaying the risks involved. Concerns were also raised that traders were losing large amounts of money. Day traders as a group and day trading firms have continued to evolve and are generally more experienced and sophisticated about securities markets and investing than was the case several years ago. Likewise, day trading firms' operations have evolved, and many have shifted their primary focus away from retail customers and toward attracting institutional customers, such as hedge funds and money market managers. Furthermore, more firms are likely to engage in proprietary trading activities through professional traders that trade the firms' own capital. Finally, although the number of day trading firms appears to have remained constant, several day trading firms have been acquired by other brokerages and market participants whose customers want the direct access to securities markets and market information that technology used by day trading firms provides. Since GAO's 2000 review, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the self-regulatory organizations have addressed many of the concerns raised about day trading. In addition to the ongoing changes in the industry and regulatory action, day trading firms have responded to changing market conditions and regulatory scrutiny by changing their behavior. The most noticeable changes appear in their advertising and website information, which now generally highlight the risks associated with day trading and the fact that day trading is not for everyone.

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