Robinhood down again as markets in freefall

Robinhood is down for the third time this month, with the investment app adding more bad news to the market crash that saw US trading frozen on Monday morning. Popular with novice traders getting their first taste of the stock markets, Robinhood confirmed just before 10am ET on March 9 that it was "experiencing issues with equities, options and crypto trading."

It arguably couldn't have come at a worse time. Fueled by coronavirus fears and an underwhelming response from the US government over the weekend, the stock market opened on Monday morning and promptly crashed hard.

The Dow fell more than 1,300 points, while the S&P 500 – an index of some of the most popular stocks, and considered representative of the market as a whole – sank 5-percent. Oil prices were blamed for much of the uncertainty, after a failure by OPEC to secure a deal. That saw prices ditch as much as 30-percent.

In fact, it was enough to bring a temporary halt to trading altogether. The market hit a so-called "circuit breaker" shortly after opening, with the huge sell-off freezing all activity for fifteen minutes. It reaped at 9:49am ET.

Unfortunately for Robinhood investors, that wasn't enough to get them up and running again. For the third time in March, the app experienced technical problems that prevented users from trading. The previous events, which took place over the span of two days earlier this month, overlapped with what became the biggest one-day point gain in the history of the Dow.

"We are working to resolve this issue as soon as possible," Robinhood said this morning. The company is yet to confirm what the technical details might be. In an updated at 10:30am PT Robinhood said "the issue has been identified and a fix is being implemented."

Robinhood Markets was a darling of the investor world, luring in novice traders with its promise of no fees and wide access to stocks, ETFs, options, and crypto currencies. In early 2017 it was valued at $1.3 billion; a little over a year later, that valuation had increased to $5.6 billion.

It hasn't been all smooth sailing, though. In late 2019, for example, a glitch was discovered in Robinhood Gold – the premium plan offered by the app – that allowed users to effectively borrow unlimited funds. Earlier in the year, a security breach was revealed, with Robinhood admitting that it had stored customer passwords in cleartext, and in a readable form across its internal systems. However the company denied that any misuse had taken place.

This new spate of outages, amid a phase of real uncertainty for the markets, may prove tougher to get past. Robinhood has said that it would offer compensation on a case-by-case basis to those impacted by the outages earlier in March, but is yet to comment on today's issues.