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How a single computer system failure halted global financial markets

Bloomberg’s financial terminal, a popular software platform used by investors to trade stocks, exchange messages and gather news on companies, crashed early this morning and the global financial sector came to a momentary halt.

Traders pay upwards of $20,000 a year for access to the service, which serves as their eyes and ears into financial markets around the world. Bloomberg blamed the two-hour outage on internal network issues and faulty hardware. After reboot, the system was back online.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the terminal as the backbone of his media empire in 1981. A news wire, messaging service and instant trading platform were added to the initial terminal service and the portal eventually became indispensable for more than 300,000 investors.

“It would be similar to the lights going out in your house because of the storm. Suddenly, you don’t perish, but you’re using candles.”From Singapore to London, panicked traders were met with blank screens during the outage. Trade volumes plummeted leading the U.K’s Debt Management Office to postpone the sale of short term bonds.

“The terminal is a tool, but it is also a kind of utility. It would be similar to the lights going out in your house because of the storm. Suddenly, you don’t perish, but you’re using candles,” Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute told the NewsHour in an interview.

The crash was good news for Bloomberg’s competitors in the market, especially rival Thomson Reuters, said Rosenstiel. Bloomberg overtook Reuters as the world’s largest financial information provider and its terminal brought in more than $9 billion in revenue in 2014, according to Fortune.com. With Bloomberg subscribers left to fend for themselves on the phone and online, investors subscribing to the Reuters terminal enjoyed a brief advantage.

Unsure of how to function without the terminal, paralyzed investors took to twitter to contemplate the rare down time the crash provided for busy investors.

Some saw the impact of the crash as a sign that markets are far too reliant on the platform.

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