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A businessman speaks on a cellphone in front of the stock market index on an electronic board in Tokyo, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014.Shuji Kajiyama/The Associated Press

Stock orders amounting to more than the size of Sweden's economy were cancelled in Japan today, in what an industry body said pointed to a trading error.

At 9:25 a.m. Tokyo time, orders for shares in 42 companies totaling 67.78 trillion yen ($617 billion) were cancelled, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Japan Securities Dealers Association. JSDA received an error report from a member and is still confirming details of the matter, according to an official who asked not to be named as he isn't authorized to discuss individual cases.

The biggest order was for 1.96 billion shares of Toyota Motor Corp., or 57 percent of outstanding shares at the world's biggest carmaker, for 12.68 trillion yen through an off-exchange transaction. Toyota declined to comment. Other stocks with scrapped transactions included Honda Motor Co., Canon Inc., Sony Corp. and Nomura Holdings Inc.

"Fat finger" trading mistakes occur periodically. In 2009, UBS AG mistakenly ordered 3 trillion yen of Capcom Co. convertible bonds. In 2005, Mizuho Financial Group Inc.'s securities unit was unable to cancel a mistyped order for J-Com Co., costing the bank 27 billion yen at the time. Still, today's scrapped trades were of a far greater magnitude.

"I've never heard of orders this big being cancelled before," said Ayako Sera, a Tokyo-based market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd., which oversees about $474 billion in assets. "There must have been an error."

While no harm's been done because the orders were cancelled before completion, there should be an explanation to alleviate concerns, Sera said.

"I don't think the order could've been executed," said Sumiyo Yamamoto, vice president at Jefferies Japan Ltd. "With OTC trades, you can cancel any time during market hours. Also, the amount was huge, so someone would've noticed before the market closed."

The Topix fell 0.6 percent to 1,318.21 at the close of trading in Tokyo. A gauge tracking brokerages slumped 1.5 percent, the second-biggest decline among the 33 industry groups on the Topix.

"It's not rocket science that there was a fat finger here, but it reopens the question about accountability," said Gavin Parry, managing director at Hong Kong-based brokerage Parry International Trading Ltd. "There is a probability a broker mistook the number of shares for the value of shares. We guess that's why the OTC market sees big crosses - it's easier to cancel errors."

Off-exchange or over-the-counter trades are conducted directly between two parties without supervision of the bourse. Brokerages mediating the trades must submit a report on them to JSDA. Should there be an error, they are required to file a report within five minutes of the mistake, an official at the association said. About 4.15 trillion yen was traded off- exchange in August, according to JSDA. That compares with about 41 trillion yen on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

JSDA is a self-regulatory organization comprising of brokerages and financial institutions in Japan. The group's regulatory functions include creating rules for its members and conducting inspections. The association also compiles data from its members on transactions that take place off the exchange, according to its website. The Financial Services Agency, the market regulator, has oversight on all securities transactions including off-exchange trades.

"I don't think we can find out who did this," Jefferies' Yamamoto said. "OTC transactions happen directly between two parties, which makes it difficult to find out who was involved. But considering the scale of the error, I guess it was a big broker."

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