Traders get so distracted by big World Cup games that market volumes fall by 40%

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesA trader works while the World Cup is displayed on a television behind him on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

  • World Cup games are highly distracting for those participating in financial markets, research from Citi has found.
  • “We find that football is indeed distracting, subtly impacting market depth, traded volumes and execution cost,” the Citi analysts David Bieber and Kim Jensen wrote to clients on Tuesday.
  • Using data from this summer’s World Cup and the one held in Brazil in 2014, Citi found that traded volumes could fall by as much as 50% during games, while the cost of executing trades increases sharply.

The planet is gripped by World Cup fever amid a tournament has seen frequent shocks, tight finishes, and two penalty shoot-outs already, and it seems that even the financial markets aren’t immune to the thrills and spills happening in Russia.

A new study from analysts at Citi has found that the World Cup is highly “distracting” to those working in the fixed-income markets.

“We find that football is indeed distracting, subtly impacting market depth, traded volumes and execution cost,” the Citi analysts David Bieber and Kim Jensen wrote to clients on Tuesday, adding that the distractions manifested differently for different products.

Using data from this summer’s World Cup and the one held in Brazil in 2014, Citi found that traded volumes could fall by as much as 50% during games, while the cost of executing trades increases sharply.

“We identify large falls in traded volumes during matches by up-to 50%, while market depth / liquidity is more robust with execution costs only increasing between 5-20%,” the pair wrote.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Citi found Europe to be affected more severely than the Americas.

“Given the larger following of football in Europe, this is no surprise,” the analysts said. “In the US, the football distraction increases costs by only 4% while in European markets it is more than 10%.”

Here’s Citi’s chart, showing just how much the World Cup is thought to affect trading:

Screen Shot 2018 07 03 at 16.07.57Citi

The bank’s findings echo those of Thomson Reuters, which previously showed that trading volumes on major international stock exchanges plummeted during big games in the 2014 World Cup by more than comparable periods in the prior years. Traders seemed especially distracted whenever Brazil, the host nation, and Germany, the eventual champion, were playing, the data showed.

Similar research was also conducted by the European Central Bank, which after the 2010 World Cup looked into minute-by-minute data for 15 global exchanges including Brazil, the US, and the host South Africa. The researchers found that when a team was playing, the number of trades in the home country fell by 45%, with volumes 55% lower. Also, whenever a team scored, trading activity dipped by another 5%.

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