When trading stocks, the settlement refers to the approved, an official shift from the buyers’ account to the sellers’ accounts. This never happens quickly, it will take a few days.
By Guy Avtalyon
The settlement period for stocks means that the trade became official at the end of one, two, or three days. For example, you aren’t an official owner of the stock on the day you bought it, you have to wait for 3 business days while your purchase becomes official, meaning to settle. The settlement period for the stocks refers to a period after the trade date. Terms T+1, T+2, T+3, are broadly used to indicate the settlement period is one, two, or three days after the trade of any type of security is executed.
Today, when almost all trades are done electronically, these terms are used to show that the stock you bought doesn’t yours officially until the third-day from the purchasing day. So, technology does not influence this, it is an exchange rule. To be honest, this is an important rule because it could happen that you bought or sold by mistake or you made some errors, so you’ll need some time to fix that.
Without a doubt, some people buy stocks accidentally, random. Later they would like to cancel their purchases when they notice a mistake or change their mind. In case the trade is a real mistake, both participants are agreed to correct the problem. And they would like to do that at the less cost possible.
Also, there is another group of people in the stock market that don’t want to pay stocks with some weird idea that their buying will be characterized as a mistake if they prolong the time to settle them. In short, they are expecting to obtain these stocks for free. Hence, the settlement period for the stocks is an important period for the sellers or exchanges to clear up such a trade.
The basics of the trade
There are three phases of any trade. First is the execution which is an agreement between buyers and sellers to buy or sell a stock for a specified price. When the buyers and sellers are agreed, the exchange registers the trade on its ticker tape.
The next step or phase is clearing. It is an accounting process. When you bought your stock, meaning the trade is executed, the exchange should send the detailed report to the National Securities Clearing Corporation to verify the accuracy.
The last step is the settlement. On the settlement date, the buyers execute payment for the stock and the sellers deliver it to the buyer. Typically, the settlement period for the stocks happens three days after execution.
Purpose of settlement period for the stocks
The settlement period for the stocks provides both sides of the trade to fulfill their side of the settlement. For example, the buyer will get more time for payment to do, also the seller might need time to fix something, like to deliver the stock certificate. Even today when the whole trading process is done digitally, the trade is official only after the number of days assigned by trade settlement rules. When the last day of the settlement period comes, the buyer becomes the true owner of the stock and registered as that.
What are T+1, T+2, and T+3?
Every time you buy or sell a stock, or some other asset, you’ll have two dates to keep in mind: the date of the transaction and the settlement date. This T refers to the date of the transaction. The figures T+1, T+2, and T+3 point the settlement dates of stock transactions that happen on a day of the transaction plus one, two, or three days
The day of the transaction or the transaction date is the day when you traded a particular stock, no matter if you bought or sold it. For example, you sold your stock on May, 29. That date is the transaction date. and nothing will change it.
The settlement period for the stocks is important for investors interested in companies that are paying dividends. The settlement date can decide which party will receive the dividends. If you are a buyer of the stock, keep in mind to settle the trade before the date of the dividend payment to get the right to receive the dividend.
The end in the settlement period for the stocks, the last day, is the day when the new owner is assigned and the ownership is transferred. The transaction date and settlement date will not occur on the same day. It depends on the type of security.
Consequences during the settlement period for stocks
You have to understand what the two-day settlement period for stocks means. Let’s say you are selling the stock and expect money immediately. That is not going to happen. Yes, you’ll see that money in your brokerage account but it will not be available until the trade settles. Only after the T+3 period, you can withdraw your money.
What could happen if you are the buyer and the stock price dropped during the settlement period? Or you don’t pay in the three days? That will not get you out of the trade and the consequences are serious.
If you do not pay for the stock during the three days, the broker will sell it at any price. So you’ll have to pay for losses and penalties.
Also, selling stock through the 3 days to profit and not paying for the stock is outlawed. It’s a so-called freeriding and refers to cash accounts. It’s better to use a margin account if you trade frequently.
Stockholder of record and dividends
When you buy stocks, you are not the stockholder of record until settlement completes. The investor who purchases stock, for example, two days before a dividend record date will not get the dividend. So you have to buy a stock at least three business days before the record date. In investors’ lingo, such a stock goes “ex-dividend”.
To decide which investor is qualified to get a dividend, the record date is part of a dividend announcement. The amount of the dividend and the payment date are included also. You must own the stock on the record date. Meaning the settlement date must be before or on the record date. The dividend payment date will occur a few days (sometimes a few weeks) after the previous date, the record date.
For example, a company declared a $0.50 dividend payable to stockholders of record as of Jun 4, 2020. To have the right to the dividend, you should buy stock on or before Jun 1, 2020. That is three business days earlier. The following day, Jun 2, is recognized as the ex-dividend date. It will be the first day when the stock will trade without that dividend attributed.
Why the settlement period for stocks is important?
There are several reasons. This rule is important to limit the probability of errors, even today in this digital world. Also, it keeps the markets in order. For example, if the market is in a downturn too long settlement times might cause your failure to pay for your trade. When we have a limited time for the settlement period for stocks, the risk of financial difficulties and losing money is reduced.