In early 2001, U.S. stock and option markets began quoting prices in decimal increments rather than fractions of a dollar. At the same time, the minimum price increment, or tick size, was reduced to a penny on the stock markets and to 10 cents and 5 cents on the option markets. Although many believe that decimal pricing has benefited small individual (retail) investors, concerns have been raised that the smaller tick sizes have made trading more challenging and costly for large institutional investors, including mutual funds and pension plans. In addition, there is concern that the financial livelihood of market intermediaries, such as the broker-dealers that trade on floor-based and electronic markets, has been negatively affected by the lower ticks, potentially altering the roles these firms play in the U.S. capital market. GAO assessed the effect of decimal pricing on retail and institutional investors and on market intermediaries.
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