What Is a Cross Trade?

What Is a Cross Trade?

3 Min.

Cross trade is a practice that involves buying and selling the same asset without recording the trade on a particular exchange. This activity is usually prohibited on most major exchanges. However, cross trade is considered legitimate when a broker executes matched buy and sell orders for the same security across different client accounts and reports them on an exchange. Cross-trade is sometimes allowed, like when brokers transfer clients' assets between accounts, for derivatives trade hedges, and for certain block orders.


Cross trade, a prohibited activity on many major exchanges, involves offsetting buy and sell orders for the same asset without recording the transaction on the exchange. Legitimate instances of cross trade occur when a broker matches buy and sell orders for the same security across different client accounts. Instead of sending the orders to the stock exchange for execution, the broker fills them internally as cross trades. The broker then reports these transactions after the fact, ensuring timely submission and time-stamping with the relevant details such as the cross time and price. Notably, such cross trades must adhere to the prevailing market price at the time of execution.

How Does a Cross Trade Work?

Cross trade, despite its potential pitfalls associated with inadequate reporting, is not universally permitted on major exchanges. Failure to record such trades on the exchange may result in clients not obtaining the current market price available to other market participants. The lack of public listing for cross trade orders can leave investors unaware of potentially better prices. However, there are select situations where cross trades are allowed, such as when both the buyer and seller are clients of the same asset manager, and the cross trade's price is deemed competitive at the time.

In these instances, a portfolio manager can efficiently transfer one client's assets to another client, eliminating the trade spread. To ensure proper regulatory classification, the broker and manager must establish a fair market price for the transaction and record it as a cross trade. Subsequently, the asset manager must provide evidence to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the trade was mutually beneficial for both parties.

Cross Trade: Addressing Controversies and Regulatory Considerations

In cross trades, where investors need not specify a transaction price, matching orders arise when a broker receives buy and sell orders at the same listed price from different investors. Local regulations may permit such trades, particularly in the context of highly volatile securities. This is relevant when quick value shifts are anticipated.

The controversy surrounding cross trades stems from the potential market trust erosion. Although some of them comply with regulations, they limit other market participants' interaction opportunities, as these transactions occur off the exchange. Additionally, there are concerns that a group of cross trades could be used to manipulate a security's price by coordinating buying and selling, which is known as 'painting the tape.'


Cross trade is not allowed on major exchanges, but it can be considered legitimate in certain situations, such as asset transfers and hedging in derivatives trading. However, there are concerns about trust erosion and market manipulation, which have caused controversy. To mitigate these issues, regulations and fair market pricing are enforced in permitted instances. This approach highlights the importance of balancing regulatory considerations with market efficiency in the constantly evolving financial landscape.

Cross Trade