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Trading analysts at Alpha Trading Systems Inc.

Sami Siva/The Globe and Mail

The Alpha alternative trading system, Canada's second-largest stock market, has shut down for the morning because of what appear to be technical difficulties.

The problems come on the heels of a disruption last week on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the biggest market in the country, illustrating that in the age of computerized trading systems there's no market that's immune to a glitch bringing down operations.

Alpha has been down since morning. A spokesperson for Alpha declined to comment.

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The good news is that in this era of multiple electronic markets, a shutdown in one market is not as critical as it once was.

That's because order routers are designed to seamlessly transfer trading flow to open markets, helping to ensure that investors get fills even if one of the big marketplaces is having troubles.

On a normal day, Alpha hosts about 17 per cent of the trading in Canadian equities, while the TSX handles about 63 per cent.

The timing of the two outages is fascinating because there's a plan to combine the two markets under the same ownership. The Maple Group that wants to buy TSX owner TMX Group Inc. wants to then fold in Alpha.

Regulators are looking at whether that's a good idea, because of the effect on competition and market structure. Does concentrating on Alpha and TSX trading make the country more vulnerable to big outages? It's a question that the events of the past week are going to force regulators to look at.

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