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Rigged-Market Theory Scores a Perfect Quarter

Tyler Durden's picture





 

By Jonathan Weil

In a feat that would seem to defy the odds, Goldman Sachs,
JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America this week each said its
trading desk made money every day of the first quarter. Goldman
said its daily net trading revenue topped $100 million 35 times
last quarter out of 63 trading days. JPMorgan and Bank of
America disclosed similar eye-popping stats. Citigroup, too,
recorded a profit on each trading day, Bloomberg News reported,
citing unnamed people who knew the results.

The intrigue is high. If a too-big-to-fail bank’s traders
were able to make money every day of a quarter, were they really
trading in any normal sense of the word? Or would vacuuming be a
more accurate term? What kinds of risks do such incredible
profits entail, for the banks and the rest of us taxpayers? And
are results such as these too good to be true?

There seems to be no satisfying way to answer those
questions, or even the more basic inquiry: How exactly do these
banks’ trading divisions make money? Reading the companies’
impenetrable financial reports is of little help. However they
did it, the data suggest it was as easy last quarter as hitting
the side of a barn with a baseball from three feet away.

This isn’t the way “trading” works in the real world. A
simple exercise in measuring probabilities is instructive here.

Keep reading here

 


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Thu, 05/13/2010 - 03:09 | Link to Comment Apostate
Apostate's picture

Um... you would have to be pretty fucking retarded not to make money if you can borrow from the discount window, all your colleagues can as well, and your job is to keep up the biggest shitpile of an economy since the USSR. There are so few companies doing anything even vaguely interesting or innovative anymore.

It's pretty retarded when even my ex-roommate from the beginning of the year - some random guy from South Carolina - is fully employed restoring artworks purchased exclusively by Goldman and other companies. That means they are puffing their balance sheet to prepare for something, or because they are totally deluded. I mean, whatever, you are new to Goldman, you went to a typical shitty American Ivy school, you have no clue how the world works...

What do you do with all that money? Do you use it to, like, buy up entire ballet troupes? Islands (like Paul Tudor Jones)? I mean, c'mon, where's the creativity. So craven!

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 03:14 | Link to Comment cossack55
cossack55's picture

What if........the goobermint nationalized the banking industry.  We would be out of debt soonest and no more income tax.  Sweet!  Oh, oh.  Maybe the banking industry preempted the goobermint by bankalizing them first.   We are so screwed.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 03:52 | Link to Comment chindit13
chindit13's picture

Like the game of golf, perhaps it's time to institute a handicap system into IB Prop Desk trading.  For example, Goldman Sachs is a +5 handicap, so their cost of funds should be adjusted to put them on a equivalent level as, say, RBS.  And their direct line to the Fed would have to be shut off seven or eight days a month.  Give them a challenge.  JPM would be a +3.  BAC probably just shot the round of their life (I'd check the rulebook for USGA or Royal & Ancient violations), so they can keep theirs at -3.  Morgan Stanley, with 3 bogies for the month, might lose its Tour Card and get sent down to the Hooter's/Hogan/Nationwide Tour, or whatever it's called now.  And like the PGA, generous proceeds go to charity.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 15:11 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

you know more about golf, than i do.

there was a hooters†

do you think generous proceeds go to charity?

i thought it all went to tiger.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 04:09 | Link to Comment andy55
andy55's picture

 

Jeff Mackie said it best a while ago:

It's called 'trading' for a reason -- otherwise it would be called winning!!

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 04:50 | Link to Comment Cheeky Bastard
Cheeky Bastard's picture

ZIRP, symmetrical closed binary trading [GS-HAL9000-a selling to GS-HAL9000-b], algos, co-lo, rebates, black boxes [clusters of algos], bid/offer artificial spread widening by utilizing the aforementioned and exploration, mark-2-model accounting etc etc. 

You would need to be a fucking moron with a brain of a CNBC anchor NOT to have 100% win rate. It really is not that hard when you have unlimited resources, inept regulators and an army of lobbyists who stop every threat to you business model before it is even properly articulated by the people who should set up and equal playing field.  Its a nice fucking gig if you can get it.

Set up a tax on every trade with a value larger than 1 million or volume which exceeds 100 000 shares. Put a limit on the amount of non-taxable iceberg orders at 5 and tax every other iceberg order above that number by the same tax rate applied to value/volume of the trade. Problem fucking solved and it does not brake the backs of retail traders or small sole proprietorship day traders.

Furthermore limit the number of possible trades executed in a second and denote it by some number big enough to insure the trades per second volume/value is taxed. Shine a light on dark pools and apply the same regulation to them. Re-value circuit breakers on the exchanges such that a uniformed percentage value is set all trough the trading session not a two tier one like we have now. Set minimal specialist [stealing fucking bastards they are] participation in the market at 33.4% and impose a penalty on whomever/whatever brakes that limit during the session. Monitor, on day-by-day basis,  participation of liquidity providers in the provision of liquidity itself; and if it happens that a said liquidity provider does not meet the necessary percentage assigned to him take away his privilege to act as one and ban him from acting as one for time period of 2 quarters.  I could go on and on and on, but i think you get the point.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 06:16 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

And then when the result is somewhat akin to the IRS tax code you will find that people can still game the system.  If you want the benefits of free markets its better to just eliminate all of the gov distortions.  Encourage the creation of ATS that are more transparent and require fewer rules.  

Less is more when it comes to free markets.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 06:45 | Link to Comment Cheeky Bastard
Cheeky Bastard's picture

The goal of this is not some fucking Randian utopia which equalizes freedom with ownership and lack of institutionalism. Rand is a fail anthropologically as much as she is when it comes to economy; so please dont evoke the ghost of that bitch as a valid argument or an argument based on a mis-perception of the one who conjured it. OK now about the "free market". The thing about the "free market" is that it is nothing more than  anarchical facilitation of Darwinism in the field of commerce [since trading is technically a very sophisticated commerce] and ultimately the paradigmatic action which "sows" society into multi tier structure ruled by stochastically born norms which are also called; adaptivity. When the first stage of accumulation of capital ends those who manage most of the percentage of capital, structure society by writing the aforementioned norms into laws and disregard the notions of fairness and morality. Another problem is that since there is no referential point except capital resources, exercises of power replace truth. And as i have pointed out capital----- >power it is only safe to say that no matter what is the primary basis of a society said society always ends up in one or another form of totalitarianism since, as Hardt and Negri beautifully demonstrated in the "Empire", capital multiplication is always multi-tier with largest capital multiple available to those with the most of it. And since more capital -----> more power and power > truth the only logical evolutionary end of any society is totalitarianism. So no, "free markets" do not solve shit except repeat the circle we are witnessing now. Furthermore the notion of "free markets" is not lack of institutions which regulate market participants but the exploration for the delicate balance of power and capital which would dance on the border between freedom and totalitarianism. And since that equilibrium is only present BEFORE accumulation of capital starts within a society, it is never again achievable since capital only multiplies and never destructs.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 07:23 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

CB what we have now is hardly a free market.  It is however a complex web of rules that are easily gamed.  Even worse the rules are often manipulated to favor the interests of TBTF banks.  Your solution is more rules without any evidence that will make a difference.  We might as well jump to the end game and decree that all markets should rise 2 % per year.

Instead I am pointing out that markets perform best (transmit accurate price info) when there is transparency and fewer gov distortions.  Basic rules requiring clearing houses and margin requirements can facilitate this but complex unproven meddling often introduces systemic risk (e.g. if your order may get busted why risk buying during a panic ?).  The merits of Rand's prose do not interest me.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:01 | Link to Comment Implicit simplicit
Implicit simplicit's picture

I like freedom as much as anyone, but not everyone is equiped with similar moral compasses. Therefore, society uses democratic processes to determine the mojority rules for reigning in disorder and lawlessness.

What the big banks are able to do because of a lack of mral compass rules is analagous to criminals without fear of prosecution going into grocery stores with sawed off shotguns and robbing everyone in sight.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:05 | Link to Comment Dread Pirate Roberts
Dread Pirate Roberts's picture

Agree.  The problem with the system is regulatory capture.  You can't solve that problem with more regulations.  Quite the opposite.  The solution to this crisis begins with changing the guard. We can have all the rules in the world, they don't mean squat if no one enforces them......or what's worse, enforces them selectively.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:36 | Link to Comment JohnKing
JohnKing's picture

We need to pressure the states to get involved in these things. Wall Street would crap in their silk if the laws were changed to allow States Attorney Generals to bring action. All of these financial regs have at their core the inability of the states to intervene where the captured feds have jurisdiction. I suggest pressuring Governors and AG's to get involved. Way too much regulatory power is in the hands of a few.

 

It's time to pull an "Arizona" on Wall Street thugs.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 10:10 | Link to Comment seventree
seventree's picture

I completely agree with the parts of Mr Bastards comment that I understood, and probably agree with the rest.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 11:55 | Link to Comment thesapein
thesapein's picture

Shame on you.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 11:53 | Link to Comment thesapein
thesapein's picture

Such linear views! Do you really believe the world is that simple? That's the danger of your dualism; false dichotomies abound.

 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 07:34 | Link to Comment AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

The benefits of the free markets, which are?

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:07 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

Efficient price discovery.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:11 | Link to Comment Cheeky Bastard
Cheeky Bastard's picture

Are you serious, or are you just taking a piss ?

 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:30 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

I realize that might seem far fetched given your inclination to have the state set prices.  You should visit Hugo Chavez.  He's working that curve.  Let us know how that works out for you.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:45 | Link to Comment Cheeky Bastard
Cheeky Bastard's picture

tell me; are you THE representation of American education system or r u d rep of Merics skulz. 

Such utter childlike argumentation skills beg me to ask that question on both standard English and txt-tlk Englsh which is oddly similiar to Proto-Semitic such that both lack vowels and only the chosen people [in your case, chosen people means retards] can read them with comprehension.

Also; if you base the interpretation and the knowledge of one of the greatest philosophies and achievements in knowledge in the history of the written word upon the caricature which is Hugo Chavez, i feel your conversation topics are limited to; OMFG LOLZ GYS; MARXISM; LIKE, SUX SO MUCH; THE TV TOLD ME and retelling, summarized of course, the plot of the latest episode of "Whats up with the Kardashians". 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:51 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

So despite your high estimation of yourself you find it necessary to attack your adversary rather than the topic ?

It seems you might have more in common with Chavez than you realize.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:02 | Link to Comment Cheeky Bastard
Cheeky Bastard's picture

No, see. I efficiently attacked, refuted, destroyed and sent of to your short term memory the dogmatic belief you cherish for the "free market". It is not my problem if you are unable to offer further arguments to support your case, but see as necessary to evoke Chavez as a valid contra-argument to what i have written. As from then on i just didnt see the need to repeat myself and decided to take a piss at you. Now, if you still want to see my rebuttal of the dogma that "free market is the economic equivalent of Jesus and will bring the Kingdom of Eternal Prosperity on the Wings of the Gospel of Balanced Political Procedure", you can read my first post and my first response to you. I really have nothing else to add, as i already said what is to be said about the "free market" and why it is unachievable. See the problem, of capital and equilibrium and their relation to structural transformation within the Political, as you like, but those are the irrefutable laws of the dynamic process which starts with a primitive society and ends in, not as Hegel would like in a liner finish which is ultimate freedom, but in one or another form of totalitarianism. And furthermore if you have not managed to deduce, by reading ZH, that this is the exact thing happening right now, i really dont know what to say anymore.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 10:38 | Link to Comment Marla And Me
Marla And Me's picture

I think Cheeky is pretty spot on If.  Unfettered free markets lead to the mob (i.e. no sherriff in town), and collectivism leads to the Chafez, Castro, and Mao of the world.  The problem really isn't regulation itself, but rather the enforcement of regulations.  I agree with you If that we could do more with less rules, but that means that you need to have the people in place with the balls and desire to enforce those rules.  The SEC has been asleep at the wheel for a while?  Why is that?  Is it because a kid who works there for a couple of years can nearly triple his take home pay once he switches teams? 

A Utopia involving human beings is impossible; whether it be a free market one, or a communist one.  How do you avoid regulatory capture when the private sector pays vastly more than the regulatory body in charge of that sector?  You increase the pay of those regulators?  Well then how do you avoid the move towards tyranny of the new emboldened regulators who syphon their living from the productive class?  It's an impossible catch-22 that Cheeky highlights well.  Don't let his acerbic writing style distract you from his message.  Humans have been engaged in balancing these competing forces since the dawn of times; and we are just witnessing the tipping point to the other side.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 11:01 | Link to Comment JohnKing
JohnKing's picture

The power at the federal level needs to be de-centralized. Too few in charge of enforcement. Our original design would give the states more leeway in going after the out of control element. Arizona just stepped into the feds playground when it came to enforcement issues on immigration. I suggest we do the same in relation to Wall Street. You get 50 states going after these thugs, they get shut down quickly.

 

We all pee our pants when Cuomo pulls a political stunt, Imagine if there were 49 more like him in the game. It's time to go "Arizona" on these Wall Street thugs.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 11:10 | Link to Comment Marla And Me
Marla And Me's picture

I agree.  That was the point of the set-up; enable pockets of experimentation and let the states make up their own rules.  However, it is susceptible to the passage of time.  These forces have been in play forever.  Ying/Yang, centralization/decentralization, expansion/contraction, grow/decay.  You could make an argument that this "force" is built into everything.  This country started out as a pretty decentralized power base.  Over time, the centralization of power grew, and the current centralization phase isn't over yet.  When it is, everything will go back to local. 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 11:15 | Link to Comment JohnKing
JohnKing's picture

everything will go back to local.

 

Yes, I see that. It's a shame that we won't get there until all peasant wealth is destroyed. And of course, we'll have a new batch of psychopaths to deal with.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 11:56 | Link to Comment Marla And Me
Marla And Me's picture

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 12:24 | Link to Comment JohnKing
JohnKing's picture

The neighborhood psycho won't be so hard to deal with :)

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 11:22 | Link to Comment Burnbright
Burnbright's picture

I can't believe  you two are actually arguing this. Free markets do allow for efficient price discovery. Anything else is just government controlled markets or crony capitalism at best.

 

It doesn't make any sense to argue against free markets because it "allows" for government mobs to happen when you are suggesting we just create a government mob to begin with to deal with free markets. Its like saying if I own a gun I could shoot myself in the foot with it, so you know what I will just shoot myself in the foot and get it over with.

 

Controlled markets always lead to capital destruction because they suck capital dry from productive people. The market makers will always control the market to benefit themselves at the cost of everyone else. You can't possibly argue other wise, it has been repeated so many times as to be laughable that anyone would think otherwise. Ultimately the corruption stems from the subjective control of the market, where as a free market is objective and hence does nothing to favor any single party or individual.

 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 11:45 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

Agreed, BB.  And that's why the TBTF banks don't want the transparency of exchanges and collateral requirements to replace their OTC derivatives game.  They're not afraid of regulation, they're terrified of competition.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 12:12 | Link to Comment Marla And Me
Marla And Me's picture

I agree 100%.  Now you're making Cheeky's point If.  "They're not afraid of regulation, they're terrified of competition."  That is the very core of the problem.  Cheeky's point was that "[w]hen the first stage of accumulation of capital ends those who manage most of the percentage of capital, structure society by writing the aforementioned norms into laws and disregard the notions of fairness and morality."  We are not created equal.  Anyone telling you any differently is just trying to make you feel good about your own inadequacies.  When the reset comes, how will we stop those who are better at accumulating capital from establishing the rules that benefit them at OUR expense? 

Innovation ALWAYS comes from the creative types that think outside the box and are on the fringe.  That's the essence of progress (think Marie Curie, Tesla, Da Vinci, Gates, Wright Brothers, etc.)  They form new companies and they try to market their new vision.  When their vision picks up steam, the large behemots that are bogged down by their bureaucracies can't keep up, and the upstarts begin to threaten the behemots' market share.  Take a look at the Microsoft of the 80s, and compare it to what it is now.  What has Microsoft done lately?  Nothing.  What did they do in the 80s - they completely transformed our way of life.  But as soon as they got too big (I have no idea where the point of inflection lies), they became the behemot, and were too bureaucratic to innovate.  What do such companies do then?  They either buy out the startups, where young vibrant minds come up with innovative ideas that aren't hampered by huge bureaucratic hierarchies, or they go to the regulators to fuck with the playing field.  NO ONE gives up power willingly.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 12:28 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

No, reread CB's original comment.  CB suggests all sorts of arcane new rules and regulations.  They would result in more regulated markets but probably not improve transparency or efficiency.  Worse some of them likely have negative unintended consequences.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 12:41 | Link to Comment Marla And Me
Marla And Me's picture

I agree with you Burnbright.  Free markets are the only way to get efficient price discovery.  THE. ONLY. WAY.  Cheeky's comment goes deeper though, and asks how do you avoid free markets from becoming crony capitalism, when those who manage most of the percentage of capital at the end of the first stage of accumulation of capital, end up structuring society by writing the aforementioned norms into laws and disregard the notions of fairness and morality?  You see, the free markets that we long for (and do not have) are an illusion.  In theory, we should be able to get together, trade for our own mutual benefit, and both go home enriched.  In practice though, human nature gets in the way, and there always has, and always will be, a part of us who will analyse the situation and recognize that it's very easy to game.  All human interactions are based on trust.  If you don't give a flying f*%^ about morality, then you have a HUGE advantage in such interactions.  Check out Dan Ariely's talk on this subject:

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_on_our_buggy_moral_code.html

If it wasn't for human nature, free markets would be great.  I am as libertarian as they come, but we have to recognize the incentives that are built-in ALL OF US to cheat, lie and steal.  I don't want any goverment interference in my dealings.  I don't want to pay taxes so the baffoons can redistribute it among themselves.  Banking should be treated as the utility that it is, not as some innovative industry that somehow adds value to the economy.  By law, bankers are allowed to create money from thin air, and that skews the field in their favor from the get-go.  But what's the solution?  I'm not sure that there is any.  The central planners have been in control for a while, and will continue to be until decentralization becomes a force they can no longer control.  At that point, we will revert to a more local way of living, only to begin fighting with the central planners trying to gain control once more.  It has been going on forever, and will continue that way long after we are all gone.  I'm not giving up, I'm just planning accordingly.  The next phase will come whether we like it or not.  TPTB won't stop or give up power until it's too late.  The question I'm interested in is how can we affect what comes next? 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 14:04 | Link to Comment RonnieHonduras
RonnieHonduras's picture

I look at how we got here in the first place: Through slight of hand with the creation of the system as it stands, and progressively so for many decades. 

I lean with IF.  The problem is not the free market, but that certain actors in any society lack a moral compass and will game things -- to the extent the system allows -- in their favor, thus creating crony capitalism / political banking nexus, etc.

The solution to this problem is not Cheeky Bastard's utopia of perfect regluation (a far greater utopian pixie-dust-inhaled halucination than any of Rand's), but standards that prevent centralized power and competition among market participants.  This bullshit platform that we operate on has been rigged from the get-go.   No, markets are far from perfect, but this legalized monopoly method will always go to the highest bidder.  The SEC has always been a joke, yet suckers from coast to coast have bought hook, line and sinker, into believing that it actually was fair to them.  So these same idiots defend the monpolization of everything from exchanges to currency. 

Cheeky Bastard's utopian regluation is a sophmoric pipedream. A complete and utter joke.  Fuck that. Let the markets compete to bring the better exchanges.  Those that self regulate the fairest to their clientel, perhaps self-regulating to Cheeky's liking -- if they're the best, they'll rise to the top.

will their be sniping and manipulation?  You betcha.  But at least we'll have more choice / ability to move on without assholes threatening to throw us in jail so that Lord Blankfein, Obama, Congress, etc. all get their cut first.

Cheeky -- Silly you should try to undermine others arguments with the very argument that mostly undermines yours.

BTW, is Cheeky Bastard usually such an arrogant dooshbag?

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 15:28 | Link to Comment Marla And Me
Marla And Me's picture

Correct.  There's nothing wrong with free markets.  However, regulations are worthless without enforcers.  I am more interested in Cheeky's second comment, the one that astutely recognizes that those who beat others in the initial phase of capital allocations will turn around and game the system in their favor.  How do you prevent that?  Yes, the utopia of market regulation is just that, wishful thinking.  But so is our beloved ideal of free markets.  I say "our" because I live my life according to that code.  I work hard, I don't rip people off, and I love capitalism.  There is nothing more empowering than to realize that you can change the world around you by the actions that you take with your capital.

However, I'll tell you exactly how it would go down in a free-er market.  Somebody would rip somebody off using technique xyz, and instead of taking its losses and say, "I sure learned something today," the victim would scream bloody murder about how we have to make sure that it never happens again, then some enterprising politician-type would become captain-save-a-hoe and run a campaign on the "we have to outlaw xyz!" platform.  It never fails.  Politicians are just leeches, but people love a man in charge that has all the answers and speaks well.  I would highly recommend Gene Healy's book, The Cult of the Presidency (http://www.amazon.com/Cult-Presidency-Americas-Dangerous-Executive/dp/1933995157).

Comparatively speaking, the world, on average, is a safer place for humans than it has ever been in the past.  Refrigeration, sanitation, and vaccination have shot the average lifespan of Joe Six Pack through the roof.  The average western person lives longer than they ever have, and there are fewer wars implicating the general population.  Yet, that doesn't stop people from clamoring for more regulation because all we're sold is fear.  In the end, I'm not sure the majority of the population really wants to be free.  Freedom requires accountability, responsibility, and hard work.  That's a lot of effot.  I don't think the majority of people have the stomach for this.  This goes to what Cognitive Dissonance usually talks about - we are them.  We buy the lie because we want to believe it.  Everyone wants something for free.  Just look at California - they keep voting for increased services, but never for the corresponding tax increases necessary to fund those services.  You don't have to be very bright to recognize the flaw in that logic, or what it leads to.  Social security, medicare, fractional reserve banking; all of it is one giant ponzi.  ALL OF IT... 

So if the big reset is upon us, how do we prevent the leeches and rats from rising to the top?  I've traveled the world and it's the same shit everywhere.  Have you ever tried to secure a contract in the middle east or in Asia without passing an envelope full of cash to the person in charge of approving the deal on the other side of the table?  You won't get far.  Suuuuuure, American companies don't do that directly; we just pay the intermediary a commission for securing the deal, and the enveloppe full of cash is built-in to his price.  Oligarchy, nepotism, and cronyism is the norm, not the exception.  In China, they even have a name for it; it's called Guanxi.  America is no different, we're just better at the propaganda.  We call them lobbyists over here... 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 12:00 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

MM, I did not suggest that markets without rules are the answer.  I pointed out that carelessly adding rules and regulation only serves the law of unintended consequences.  Only the markets can police the markets.  And that is possible only if you design them for transparency.

CB, rambles onto many topics but fails to offer any evidence that a few more regulations and regulators would somehow magically succeed where a veritable alphabet soup of feds has recently failed.  I have much more faith in the self interest of market players than I do in trany porn addicted regulators.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 12:45 | Link to Comment Marla And Me
Marla And Me's picture

I agree with you.  More regulations are not the answer.  You only need very few rules centered around do not steal.  What you do need is someone who is willing to enforce the rules that are in place.  The problem that Cheeky subsequently highlighted though is how do you prevent the parties that are better at accumulating capital from turning around and gaming the regulatory system that is in charge of them?  How do you do that when they are the ones who get to write the rules because they were able to accumulate the most capital in the first phase?  I don't have a good answer to that question.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:53 | Link to Comment Implicit simplicit
Implicit simplicit's picture

 As J. Joplin sang, "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose". GS/fed  oligarchy won't be happy until everyone is "free". No one is free without rules-Fascism.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:26 | Link to Comment Vendetta
Vendetta's picture

no, efficient price targetting. 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:21 | Link to Comment JohnKing
JohnKing's picture

CB, great stuff but that feeds into the criminal/banker strategy. It's their wet dream to get a bunch of loopy bureaucrats dissecting a secretive, collusion-laden trading system that evolves faster than any regulator can comprehend. We need to only examine the by-product of a trading system; is it front-running? Is it collusion? We already have the solution on the books > go to jail.

 

Sophisticated theft is not innovation, it is theft.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:29 | Link to Comment Cheeky Bastard
Cheeky Bastard's picture

Dude, you know i fully stand behind seeing everyone, even remotely connected to this system, and anyone that yields control over the people by using bribery, spin and oversimplification, in jail. Better yet, I go even beyond that, and call upon Denis Diderot ghost to come down from wherever he is and makes good on his promise. Just that he changes king to a banker and priest to a politician. But the point was to offer as much realistic and enforceable scenario as possible, taking into regards the current context in which an action against those people can be taken. This is all what it got; it needs a bit tweaking, but the final proposal should take no longer than an hour, hour and a half to be written up. 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 05:38 | Link to Comment MaxPower
MaxPower's picture

Methinks this article merely serves to bolster another article just posted here regarding "The Flight of the Retail Investors," set to appropriately apocalyptic music, of course.

Cheeky, you could go on and on indeed, but we all know you're pushing on the proverbial rope there. THANKS, however, for enumerating some of the things us non-financial types are wondering about as we try to see the order hidden within the disorder.

 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 05:54 | Link to Comment AR
AR's picture

Hey Cheeky, nice to see you're well.  Another added requirement, is institute some sort of T+3 or 5 provision forcing all trades to be specifically held for 3 or 5 days. That would actually inject another trade layer which would force market particpants to take on, and manage some event or fundamental market risk for more thasn 1-5 seconds. Even Goldman (the master so-called "principal or market maker") wouldn't want to hold an instrument for 3-5 days.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 06:14 | Link to Comment i.knoknot
i.knoknot's picture

that's pretty long-term, 3-5 days. are we allowed to do that anymore?

(that would certainly change the dynamics of the market...)

i'm toying with the idea of some sort of public access to all trading records after 90 days. all transactions, even if hidden behind a unique ID. if the big-boyz knew their antics could/would become public eventually, i think they'd behave differently. and 90 days in this market is a lifetime relative to price discovery, etc.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 06:22 | Link to Comment if
if's picture

Wow that's great.  Would I need to get a sell ticket from the Politburo or the Ministry of Peace ?

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 06:40 | Link to Comment Frankie Carbone
Frankie Carbone's picture

I'm sure everyone has heard of the "back of the envelope" sanity test. 

 

Let's just assume that each trading day has a dependent conditional probability on the success of the previous day. This assumption works in Goldman's favor (or defense). 

And, predicated on the last statement, let's give Goldman a 90% chance of hitting a winning day once they get on a roll. I think that's fair. That 90% factors in the dependent probability to simplify the calculation. 

So, what's the probability based on these numbers that they strike gold 63 days in a row?

.9^(63) = .13%. THAT's based on a 90% success probability for each day. 

They've pulled off a 1:1000 event here. Given their history of shenanigans, does this add up?

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 06:53 | Link to Comment rawsienna
rawsienna's picture

Ben -- wake up .. its called a bubble. its the extended period language after a extended period. Say nothing and let the markets place their bets, win or lose. Stop telling the markets what they should do. Stop stealing from savers to give to banks and bank executives.  Capital is once again being misallocated . The results : more debt, disinflation, crash , print. 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 07:57 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

just to let everybody know, i am not good with numbers.

i have better talents, physical.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:20 | Link to Comment Duuude
Duuude's picture

Hmmmm.....

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 14:09 | Link to Comment RonnieHonduras
RonnieHonduras's picture

Duuude -- $500 billion that's a dude who wrote that, looking to IM you.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 15:06 | Link to Comment velobabe
velobabe's picture

do you think i am a dude?

what does IM mean?

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:16 | Link to Comment dcb
dcb's picture

1) all the more reason for a transaction tax on these boys. if the market is rigged it should be taxed so the morts get some benefit.

2) at least a major media outlet is willing to step up to the plate and say what we all know.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:23 | Link to Comment Duuude
Duuude's picture

(Reuters) - The New York Attorney General's office is investigating whether eight banks misled ratings agencies about the quality of mortgage securities they were offering, a source familiar with the matter said.


 

The eight banks being investigated are Citigroup Inc, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Morgan Stanley, UBS AG, and Merrill Lynch, now part of Bank of America, the source said.

The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigations are not public

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 08:27 | Link to Comment Forbes
Forbes's picture

Well, if you measure trading profitability in revenues, you're unlikely to lose money because it doesn't included all the costs of doing business, i.e. fixed and variable overhead. It's a gross margin number. Granted, it may be a commonly used metric, but so what? It's still incomplete information.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:13 | Link to Comment Bryan
Bryan's picture

The casino owners always get their cut of the action. 

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:19 | Link to Comment Cursive
Cursive's picture

And are results such as these too good to be true?

If you have to ask, you are a dumbass.  The fact that employees of these TBTF banks weren't dragged into the streets yesterday and beaten by angry mobs is a testament to the docility of the American public.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:24 | Link to Comment Problem Is
Problem Is's picture

"Goldman said its daily net trading revenue topped $100 million 35 times last quarter out of 63 trading days."

Goldman Up 100 out of 63 Trading Days
(That's Right 100/63, You Heard Me)...
8% to 15% Returns ALWAYS
Yes it sounds like that famous everybody's favorite "Nice Guy" Bernie Madoff... That hilarious website explains it all:

"I'm Lloyd Blank-dick-fein. I'm telling all right here. Trust me."

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:31 | Link to Comment hedgeless_horseman
hedgeless_horseman's picture

These trading records are merely one aspect of a game that is already sorting itself out, as evidenced by decreasing volume and increasing sovereign liabilities. 

All games end.  What is the next game?  That is the question.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:32 | Link to Comment KidDynamite
KidDynamite's picture

the funny thing is that while ZH is one of the few entities out there that has the resources and skills to potentially actually dig into the numbers, they don't, and they let their readers wallow in the ignorance of thinking that this money was made trading stocks, which, it wasn't.  You guys love conspiracies - well guess what - the authorities WANT you to sit there ranting about the Big Boys manipulating stocks, while the real crime floats right over your head:  that the Powers That Be are funneling money right through the Agencies to the Bank bottom lines, so that the game of extend and pretend works in the end. The Fed WANTS this to happen, and the way it's happening, with FNM/FRE as conduits for bank balance sheet recapitalization, is SICK.

 

so yeah, CB - we could make all those reforms, taxing trades, limiting iceberg orders, slowing down automated systems:  and they wouldn't stop the 4 big banks from racking up perfect quarters because the vast majority of the profits are coming from fixed income, not equitites.

 

where is Reggie Middleton?  Reggie - you have the knowledge to tear apart these 10Qs.

Fri, 05/14/2010 - 06:54 | Link to Comment bingocat
bingocat's picture

Let's imagine a grocery store chain, offering thousands of products in each store. It has a lot of inventory. Sometimes for the big stuff (like that big salmon you just ordered from the fish counter for Sunday dinner, which you will pick up later), the grocery store doesn't have it in inventory but promises to get it for you. In order to afford all the product, it will borrow money. Because there is lots of competition, margins are relatively thin. So the goal is to get as many buyers through the door as possible. The grocery store has also invited an optometrist to set up near the entrance, and a specialty baker near the exit. The grocery store takes a fee from the optometrist and the baker. For all the other items in the store, they buy the inventory and sell it, and hope the selling price is higher than the price they paid. In general it is, because everyone expects it to be and they are willing to pay a slightly higher price than the grocery store pays.

That is trading profit. There are VERY few days that grocery stores don't make a trading profit. Overall, their trading profit per employee is limited, and physical costs, inventory costs, etc are very high per trade, so business as a whole is not great. But, NOBODY expects the grocery store to sell the product for less than their own cost. For that matter, nobody who sells anything expects to lose money trading on any given day.

GS, and most other investment banks have a couple of businesses where they take fees. Those would be futures commissions, equity commissions, investment banking fees asset management fees, and a few others like custodial/safekeep fees/securities services ticket fees, etc but those are small)). The vast majority of customer business, however, is the buying and selling of inventory. That includes every bond trade, every forex trade, every OTC derivative trade, every stock borrow trade, every structured deal, etc.  For GS over the past three years, that has been 84% of their securities division revenue. Equities commissions have been 16%. For investment banks, the beauty of book-entry securities and OTC derivatives is that the inventory is easy to move around. It does not require warehouses, employees, etc. And inventory management is called a risk management system.

I've been through most recent GS' 10-Q, and most every one for the past several years. 10-Qs don't tell you much. Investor presentations tell you more. As do other anecdotal evidence. It would appear that they made quite a bit money in market-making of equities and equity derivatives and that they were probably short implied volatility across the firm for the quarter. Any short-term swing trader made money on G10 rates but the curve traded in a limited range so market-makers probably made out like bandits. Their principal investment business was OK - better than Q1 2009 at least - but not great given the equity they have allocated to it. In the fixed income and credit world, it would appear they made a fair bit of money market-making debt across the credit curve, probably made money in Treasury, and made money on forex market-making. Macro trading was less easy I expect.every structured trade, etc.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 09:59 | Link to Comment Jim B
Jim B's picture

Like musical chairs

This is fine until the music stops and everyone scrambles for a seat, I wonder who will be left holding the bag?

It won't be me, I dumped most of my domestic holding after the 2008 crash, and I am not going back until the fundamental problems are fixed.  Namely corrupt markets, reckless deficits, they FED and DC are destroying what is left of the US economy.

Thu, 05/13/2010 - 10:58 | Link to Comment Dr. Goose
Dr. Goose's picture

 

Wall Street's "too big to fail" titans 
Had a quarter so good that it frightens; 
On the trading parquet,

They were up every day - 

Is it rigged? Incredulity heightens...


 

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