With all eyes on the Big Dance, Wall Street trades slow during March Madness

There’s a reason it’s called March Madness.

Much like the Olympics or World Cup, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament is a major sporting event that draws significant viewership, even for games played during normal working hours. That makes it difficult for even the most dedicated employees to keep their focus on work.

Last year, college basketball’s Big Dance averaged 10.7 million total television viewers for its live game telecasts, with the Kansas Jayhawks’ 72-69 championship game victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels pulling an average of over 18 million viewers on TBS, TNT, and truTV. Even nonsports fans get in on the action with office brackets, which arguably take little to no skill to fill out, let alone win, but allow people to have some skin in the game.

“It’s hard to find somebody who doesn’t know a friend who’s filling out a bracket,” Rodney Paul, a sports analytics professor at Syracuse University, told Stacker. “It’s pretty easy to be able to get involved, especially with something that there’s no stakes or low stakes.”

To quantify March Madness’ effect on productivity, Stacker looked to the stock market, collecting trading volume data from the Chicago Board Options Exchange between 2009 and 2022. We found more often than not, trade volume dipped at the start of the tournament. Trade volume was measured as the sum of shares exchanged during trading hours on all U.S. equities exchanges and trade-reporting facilities during trading hours. Our full findings lay ahead.

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