Special Rebalance

An orgy of last-minute AAPL trades

May 1, 2011: 7:39 AM ET

Someone sold 6 million shares at $348.24 as Apple put the NASDAQ-100 rebalance behind it

Shares fell sharply before Friday's closing bell

Apple investors had been dreading Friday's close since early April, when NASDAQ announced that starting May 2, Apple's share of the NASDAQ-100, one of the world's most heavily traded stock indexes, would be reduced from 20.5% to 12.3%.

All 100 stocks in the index were to be affected by the so-called Special Rebalance, but none as much as Apple (AAPL), whose market cap had grown so large it was starting to make the NASDAQ-100 wobble like badly weighted wheel.

Fund managers could try to anticipate the effect of the 8.16% drop, but the actual realignment of their portfolios had to wait until Friday's close.

The result was a record-breaking orgy of trading, and not just in Apple. According to NASDAQ, a total of 329.11 million shares worth $12.7 billion changed hands in the blink of an eye -- 779 milliseconds to be precise -- at the Closing Cross, the moment when the major exchanges reconcile outstanding orders and set their closing prices.

But the action in Apple began before the closing bell and continued for several hours afterward.

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