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The world of stock exchanges operates on a complex yet well-defined set of mechanisms. Understanding these mechanisms empowers investors to navigate the market more effectively. One such mechanism, particularly relevant for trading less liquid stocks, is the Periodic Call Auction (PCA).

This blog dives deep into the intricacies of PCAs, explaining their purpose, how they function, and their implications for investors seeking to buy or sell shares in illiquid stocks.

What is a Periodic Call Auction (PCA)?

A Periodic Call Auction (PCA) is a designated trading session specifically designed for illiquid stocks. Unlike the continuous auction system used for most actively traded stocks, a PCA operates in a structured manner with predefined windows for order entry, modification, and execution.

Periodic call auction timings

SessionOrder placement timeOrder matching timeBuffer period
19.30 AM- 10.15 AM10.15 AM- 10.23 AM10.24 AM to 10.30 AM
210.30 AM- 11.15 AM11.15 AM- 11.23 AM11.24 AM to 11.30 AM
311.30 AM- 12.15 PM12.15 PM- 12.23 PM12.24 PM to 12.30 PM
412.30 PM- 1.15 PM1.15 PM- 1.23 PM1.24 PM to 1.30 PM
51.30 PM- 2.15 PM2.15 PM- 2.23 PM2.24 M to 2.30 PM
62.30 PM- 3.15 PM3.15 PM- 3.23 PM3.24 PM to 3.30 PM

Why are Periodic Call Auctions used?

The primary purpose of PCAs is to bring order and efficiency to the trading of illiquid stocks. These stocks, characterised by low daily trading volume and a limited number of participants, can experience significant price swings in the continuous auction system. PCAs address these challenges by:

  • Promoting Price Discovery: The structured format of PCAs allows for a more orderly matching of buy and sell orders, leading to fairer price discovery for illiquid stocks.
  • Reducing Volatility: By concentrating trading activity into specific timeframes, PCAs can help minimise sudden price fluctuations often seen in thinly traded stocks.
  • Increasing Transparency: The PCA format provides clear visibility into the order book at any given time, allowing investors to make informed decisions.

How does a periodic call auction work?

PCAs operate with a clearly defined structure, typically consisting of the following phases:

  • Order Entry Window: During this period, investors can place buy and sell orders for the specific stock undergoing the PCA. This window usually lasts for a predetermined duration, allowing sufficient time for order placement and modification.
  • Order Matching and Trade Confirmation: Following the order entry window, a short period is dedicated to matching buy and sell orders based on predefined price and time priority rules. Confirmed trades are then communicated to participating investors.
  • Buffer Period: A brief buffer period allows for system housekeeping and prepares for the next PCA session.

Key characteristics of PCAs

  • Frequency: PCAs are typically held multiple times throughout the trading day, with the exact number and timings varying based on exchange regulations and stock liquidity.
  • Duration: Each PCA session has a defined duration, usually ranging from one to two hours.
  • Order Matching: Orders within the PCA are matched based on price and time priority. Orders with the highest buy price and the lowest sell price get priority.

Conclusion

Periodic Call Auctions offer a structured and transparent mechanism for trading illiquid stocks. Understanding the workings of PCAs empowers investors to participate in these sessions effectively and potentially generate returns on these less-traded assets. However, it's crucial to weigh the benefits against the limitations of PCAs and adjust your trading strategy accordingly. By combining thorough research, a well-defined order placement strategy, and a patient approach, investors can leverage PCAs to their advantage in the ever-evolving world of equity markets.

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