For the first time in quite a while, the New York Stock Exchange decided to invoke “Rule 48” on Tuesday, January 27, allowing specialists more leeway in publicizing bid and ask prices in an effort to smooth the opening of trading. Rule 48 is typically only applied when a trading session that is expected to be especially volatile.

Rule 48 permits market makers on the NYSE to not disseminate price indications ahead of the opening bell. The makes it easier and faster to open stocks on days when trading could be moving up or down very rapidly.

NYSE invoked Rule 48 on multiple occasions during the financial crisis from 2008 to late 2011.

NYSE Applies Rule 48 To Assist Tuesday Market Opening

NYSE: Stock market futures getting hammered

Analysts note that the NYSE is likely invoking Rule 48 because futures trading for all major U.S. stock markets shows that markets will open between 1.5% and 2% down. The Dow Jones Industrial average was off as much as 300 points in premarket trading.

A number of U.S. blue chip firms, including pharma firm Pfizer, consumer goods giant P&G and chemical titan DuPont, have reported poor earnings or future guidance over the last 24 hours. When you throw in an unexpectedly poor durable goods report for December ad markets on edge with news about the Greek elections and worsening fighting in Ukraine, it looks like today’s trading is setting up to be a rout in the stock markets.

Invoking Rule 48 is an implicit recognition of the situation, and an effort by the management of the NYSE to try and stay ahead of the downdraft.

At 9:40AM ET Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 267 points at 17,410.