Markets

Interactive Brokers founder: Trading and account openings surge in coronavirus 'mass hysteria'

Key Points
  • Thomas Peterffy said he believes investors and the American public at large are overreacting to the outbreak.
  • "Account openings have doubled over the past two months," Peterffy said. "It is great for business, but it's a sad situation."
  • Peterffy said the volatility in the market was due in part to a lack of liquidity.
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Coronavirus reaction is 'mass hysteria': Interactive Brokers' Thomas Peterffy

Thomas Peterffy, billionaire founder and chairman of Interactive Brokers, told CNBC on Thursday that stock trading on his platform has soared during the coronavirus concern-driven market swings.

"We've been doing on the average 1.2 million trades a day for our customers, which is about 50% higher than we used to last year," Peterffy said on "Squawk on the Street."

"Account openings have doubled over the past two months," he added. "It is great for business, but it's a sad situation."

Peterffy said he believes investors and the American public at large are overreacting to the outbreak. "We shouldn't panic," he added. "I think that this is mass hysteria. We should calm down and just look at the facts."

The stock market has moved wildly in the last two weeks as the virus has continued to spread.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has dipped in and out of a correction, which is defined as 10% or more below recent highs. The Dow has also posted multiple days of gains and losses of more than 1,000 points.

Peterffy said that the volatility in the market was due in part to a lack of liquidity. Despite high trading volumes, retail orders are not getting into the open market, he said.

"There is very little liquidity in the market because retail orders do not get to go to the market. They are sold to high-frequency traders and they get internalized," he said.

Peterffy said he did not believe the virus would create major economic consequences in the United States because it appears to be more deadly to older people than for younger ones.

There have been at least 11 deaths in the U.S. due to the virus, with most of the fatalities being elderly patients.