A Three-Month Flat Market? Yes...If You Exclude The Constant After Hours Manipulation

Tyler Durden's picture

Anyone looking at their 401(k) portfolio performance since the end of August will undoubtedly be very happy (and extremely surprised), as the market has climbed steadily higher despite i) increasingly declining trading volume and ii) consistent and material withdrawals from domestic equity mutual funds. Furthermore, if anyone was merely looking at the trading action in regular hours, one would think there was absolutely no profit made since early September. The reason for that: all the upside since September 14th has come exclusively from after hours action. The chart below demonstrates the relative performance of regular hour trading in the SPY as well as that in the extended session. The notable observations: gaps, gaps, gaps. Every single day, minimal volume pushes the futures index higher. Good news, bad news, it don't matter to the Goldman S&P and Russell 1000 futures desk: they just lift every micro offer, giving the impression that the market is unstoppable, often leapfrogging each other as the latest viagra'ed GDP or unemployment rumor is spread. Come morning, it is time for the HFT brigade to come in and scalp their trillions of pennies while leaving the market unchanged, then at 4pm handing it off again to leveraged futures manipulation and dark pools. In a nutshell, this is the secret of the past quarter's phenomenal market performance.

A longer-term chart highlights the regime changes since the March lows, when for several months in a row, regular hours would carry the broader market higher, then would flatline, and let the futures trading desks take over. Rinse. Repeat. That way both the HFTs and dark pools end up happy.

The observant among you will immediately realize what this implies: not only is there no volume breadth to the recent move in the markets, but the actual push higher likely occurs on at most tens of thousands of futures contracts on a daily/weekly basis. The fact that literally several blocks of AH trades, used persistently, can move the market higher by 6% over the past 3 months, even as regular trading accounts for absolutely no part of this move, and that the SEC finds nothing troubling about this phenomenon, should be sufficiently telling about how "efficient" US markets have become.

The reason for this focus away from regular hours trading is simple: all After Hours does is provide leverage due to the much shallower trading overnight. Zero Hedge is currently finalizing ES volume data to determine just what leverage the futures desk as JPM and Goldman uses in their interminable push to make the Dow 36,000, working title of "EV/EBITDA = Infinity (Or Better Yet, Negative)? Who Gives A Shit: The Fed Has You Covered", the bestseller it was always meant to be. 

chart h/t CreditTrader

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Sancho Ponzi's picture

I don't usually push anyone or anything, but if this country can make it to 2012, there is now real hope for the future.



ghostfaceinvestah's picture

Thanks, I will look into this guy.

I think it is important for people to realize that there are a lot of decent people who are running for office, if they can only get through the party machines.  I have given a lot of money to Schiff's campaign, as well as Rand Paul's campaign.  That would be a huge victory for the country, to get those two into the Senate in 2010.

If you really care about the country, do your part to support candidates like these.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

It's the media blockade any non mainstream candidate needs to hurtle. While we can argue over who controls the media, the fact that Ron Paul was blatantly ignored by the media (in particular the non invitations to the last few and most important staged "debates") speaks volumes.

Any candidate who poses a credible challenge to the two party system will be pushed aside and marginalized. The powers-that-be will never ever make the "Ross Perot" mistake again.

Sancho Ponzi's picture

There is no stopping a mandate for change. The media will do its best to discredit and ignore, and it is our job to vote and make them fail.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Sancho Ponzi,

I agree with you. It is we who hold the power and it is our job to effect change, not the latest puppet or pretty face offered on the idiot box.

Unfortunately the vast majority of people get their "facts" and most importantly "opinions" from the TV, not from any real independent thought or analysis of the situation. And the more desperate people become, the more they will turn to the devil they know for marching orders and comfort.

Just because you're awake, aware and energized doesn't mean everyone else is or will become willing to be so. After 50 plus years of Pavlov's dog fear conditioning via the TV, as silly as it sounds, the American public is suffering from a unique form of battered citizen post traumatic stress disorder and will not welcome change if that change requires they handle any responsibility at all, particularly the responsibility to make a choice between the devil they know and the devil they don't know if they then must live with it.

It's so much easier to suffer the slowly increasing daily indignities of the current corruption and slow emotional starvation than to take a chance, no matter how small, with real honest to goodness change, the type that comes from within. The problems we are experiencing are psychological in nature and no amount of social engineering will make a difference until and unless we-the-people decide we are ready to face a brave new world. 

The people have always had the power. They have consciously decided not to accept the responsibility that goes along with holding the power and have instead farmed it off to someone, anyone, who is willing to do what they clearly are not willing to do. We need a type of activism that starts at the local level, where I'm engaged. We must knock on the doors and coax people outside, away from their TVs and PlayStations and back into the real world.

I've been talking to people in my small community for 3 years about family first, community second, mostly to blank faces and bewildered expressions. It took the recent snow storm to drive the point home. As people began to recognize that the best way to get through the 2 days (until the main road was plowed) was to work together, it become easy to get gangs of men and women together to go from door to door to shovel each other out and make sure everyone had food and heat.

Until this happens country wide, nothing will change. We must empower locally if we are to take back power nationally.

WaterWings's picture

mostly to blank faces and bewildered expressions

Bravissimo! Grazie. You may be planting seeds with some of them. When the last of us finally keep to ourselves, their victory will be complete and the defiant spirit of Orwell will have been extinguished. We have a true hope that there is still a flicker of dissent among our countrymen.

Anonymous's picture

10 million crackberries are sold every quarter and probably much larger number of iphones etc. in korea politicians run their campaign broadcasting to handphone users. if you have to rely on the same type of activism and methods via the msm in the past, you have zero chance of effecting change, obama is proof.

Master Bates's picture

Text Hope to 62262 for Barack Obama campaign updates!

(Obama utilized mobile devices as well)

Hammer59's picture

I agree with you, and it is a shame that MSM railroaded both Ron Paul and Dennis Kusinich, but I believe that Obama has proven that the Democrats are as worthless and counter-intuitive as the Republicans, and that the MSM is no longer to be trusted itself. If candidates from the various parties outside of the corrupt two-party system cannot capitalize on this current opportunity (a furious electorate), then they dont deserve to govern. Hopefully we have learned something from electing a complete sell-out.

Assetman's picture

CD... while I'm totally in agreement on your line of thinking, I'm left wondering how the Internet would affect an independent grassroots political movement... if it, indeed, had legs.

The one thing we do know is that alternative media, such as what we see here at ZH, has had enormous success... even versus mainstream media.  The powers that be could effectively block mainstream media access, but in world of Facebook, Twitter, and Zero Hedge-- it's not as if a potential candidate with a compelling message would be totally shut out.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Assetman, I have some interesting ideas as to what is coming to counter the corrosive effects (to the status quo power elite and their enablers, the main stream media) of the independent Internet phenomenon and grass roots movements. I will be exploring this subject in my next few articles, which I hope to have done in a week or less.

Assetman's picture

That is most excellent, CD.  I'm looking forward to the read.

Anonymous's picture

Most people on this site are dilusional, as they fail to understand that WE don't have ANY REAL numbers. How many people do you think actually participate in the Zero Hedge community? Several thousand? And how many of those actually have anything of substance to add to the conversation? Maybe a hundred or so?
Anyone who actually thinks that we can start a grassroot movement to change anything in this country has a hole in their head. It really is quite simple, there are haves and have nots. Every citizen of every other country understands this. In America, we are simply waking up from the lie that either the haves didn't exist or that if you worked hard enough you could become one to. Now, since we didn't get as big piece of the pie we thought we were entitled to, everyone is pissed, and understandably so. But, guess what you're simply motivated by greed because the change you want, involves bettering your own situations, and the change the haves want, is to make it harder for the have nots to stop them (oh by the way, if you're merely a punkass millionaire, you ain't a have, I found that out already).
So, what good do you think you are going to bring about with your change. The system is broken because of your attitude of entitlement, we all spent more than we had, and everyone us thought and still does think we need more. Fuck off, everyone of us lives better than John D. Rockefeller. Be happy that you live in a place where the haves have afforded you so much.
If you want change consider what happens to that lifestyle, no more clean, running water, no more electricity, no more international trade, none of it, ALL GONE. Because the change you wants, demands that we force out the lies of our government, which would only accomplish what everyone already knows, we're busted! So, what good is your movement going to do anyway, except set you back to the dark ages as the haves fight back, and fight back they will. You don't stand a chance.
You want change, get educated, educate those around you, and then practice moderation and stop feeling so God damned entitled to everything in the world. Over 4 billion people go to bed hungry at night and you don't see them revolting, stop your fucking whining because you can't buy another Cartier, Rolex, Benz, BMW, McMansion, vacation house, etc. Your life is so much better than you can imagine. Focus on that and stop being such a little whiny bitch about how you've been robbed. Fuck off, the only reason any of us had anything is because the haves gave us some of their wealth, did you ever stop to think that someday they would want it back?

Assetman's picture

That is perhaps the funniest, most incoherent diatribe I have EVER read on ANY blog, let alone Zero Hedge.  And I've read my fair share.

Kudos to you, Anon-- you are my favorite poster! :)

Oh, by the way... most of us looking to become more politically active are not whining about the prospect of having our own wealth taken away.  In many respects, we got ourselves in this position... as you so rightly suggest.

No, those of us who are actually informed are waking up to the reality that our children and grandchildren are going be the ones who are going to be royally screwed.   This is much more than just "living in moderation", which I can accept with honest brokers running our country.  It's subjecting the next generation to much worse social and economic conditions than most of us have seen in our lifetimes.  

What has made our society great is a solid and populous middle class that has been bestowed generous individual freedoms.  With the direction our leaders our heading us -- THERE WILL BE NO MIDDLE CLASS, AND THERE WILL BE A DECLINE IN INDIVIDUAL FREEDOMS.  Perhaps you may think that it's either not possible, or that it's preordained.  I certainly don't... because the evidence already points in that direction.

But thanks for the advice for us to keep quiet and keep taking those red/blue pills.  While you enjoy your own relative wealth in the here and now, I'll be preparing others for a very uncertain future.  When (if) the light turns on, you're more than welcome to join us.


ATG's picture

See Frank Capra Eddie Arnold Gary Cooper

Barbara Stanwyck Meet John Doe stuff.

Good movie confirming the Great

Depression was still going strong in 1941.

Curl up with it over the holidaze:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4402466664505876862# 2:02

Sancho Ponzi's picture

This guy is the real deal. He's fiscally conservative, knows the private sector, and is socially moderate to liberal. If you want to know what kind of president he'd make, just look at his record as Governor. 

Pelosis Usless Brain's picture

Great! Just what we need is another "socially moderate to liberal" president. No thank you. Between Carter and Obama I've had about all the redistribution of income I need in one lifetime. How about we go the other way for awhile with someone like Ron Paul.

Sancho Ponzi's picture

Let me rephrase: He doesn't get off on telling people how to live their lives. To me that's a big plus.

Lux Fiat's picture

Indeed.  For those of us who are fiscally conservative, of a secular bent, and believe that gov't intrusion into private lives should be minimal to non-existent, the pickings have been slim to none for a very long time.  Many of the tea party  and other non-"main-stream" groups are on the right track fiscally, but more than I care to see check the idea of a secular gov't at the door.  Not sure that Gary is my guy, but he has interesting positions on many of the issues.

Assetman's picture

How picky do you want to be?  Would you rather have a tried and true Democrat or Republican as a substitute?  Besides a few exceptions I can count on exactly one hand, I will not vote for any incumbent for political office... and will only reluctantly vote for a Democrat/Republican if there is no other viable choice.

The central issue is that the Democrat/Republican choice is one in the same, in that corruption is well entrenched in both parties.  Any candidate willing to make a concerted effort in pushing for meaningful political and economic reform with a bent towards greater libertariamism has my undivided attention.

Lux Fiat's picture

Agree that both major political parties have utterly failed this country.  Voters, by their ballot decision-making (or lack thereof), have had a major role in making that happen.  My voting is based on a number of criteria - with the overriding one being to what extent will the proposal or candidate reduce the size and scope of government, and work to put this country back on a long-term economically sustainable path.  It's been years since I voted for any bond proposal.  But that doesn't stop myopic voters from passing them by wide margins.

As a result, I have voted for a number of candidates (both major party and independent) over the years who did not share my secular views - as personal liberties and freedoms won't count for much if the economic pie that most politicians seem so he!!bent on divvying up disappears.  Guess I'm picky, but a realist at the ballot box.

WaterWings's picture

When one takes into consideration the track record of congressional incumbents, I can count the reliable (dedication to the true letter and spirit of the Constitution) congressmen and women with one finger.

Assetman's picture

And which finger would that be, WaterWings? :)

Anonymous's picture

When will the reactionaries get their own original idea? We've been waiting since the late 18th century...

The party of "No" only finds relevance when wearing jackboots. Screw off.

Sancho Ponzi's picture

The smearing has started. Let the games commence...

ATG's picture

And note which side of the aisle did it...

Anonymous's picture

When men gather in order to create a sort of secret combination of collective strength, and when they do so in order to draw power and gain to themselves, and when they do so by plunder and dark arts, and find no restriction or legal restraint, they multiply like a leper colony.

They will suborn all the high men in high places until the system is one of plunder. Then all is brought low as there is no incentive for honest work, no reward for lives well lived.

Where once was a land of bounty, there can soon be a land of desolation. And that within a twinkling of the eye.

Riches of man exist only so long as true law, honest labour, and strict morality prevail. Once lost, Shangra La can be consumed in short season.

PD Quig's picture

The party of "no"? Yes, the party of no more stupid-assed ideas that have already failed for forty years and in twenty other countries. I'm a libertarian-conservative, and abhor much of what went on for the past eight years (and for that matter, the 40 years before that), but the apotheosis of corruption, incompetence, and economic idiocy displayed since January 2009 is stupefying.

You want to see jackboots, check out your Chicago crowd, homie.

ghostfaceinvestah's picture

Clearly you don't understand the difference between "social" and "fiscal".

Anonymous's picture

So can you actually detail to me how Obama has redistributed income? Or do you exist just to blow smoke up people's asses?

WaterWings's picture

If we make it to 2012 all you'll have to do to win is mention that your opponent has 'considered cutting welfare'. With 100,000,000 waiting for the WIC to arrive each month you can bet they'll vote en masse.

Hell, the postmaster general will be the most popular candidate: "And I promise, through snow, wind, and tempests, each formerly-hard-working American, and anyone else that needs them, will receive their assistance in these hard times. We don't let people starve in America. Every family will have food on the table. I personally stand by that."

To be serious, however, Johnson does look like a good candidate. He'll have to jump over Romney and Palin somehow. Dr. Paul is easy to marginalize because he talks too straight. The question is, will the elites approve of Johnson? Bush II got a second term. Obama got the Nobel Prize. My nerves are all shot now - I wouldn't be surprised to see Palin in the Oval Office.

Sancho Ponzi's picture

Hell, you won't need a Postmaster General. The checks will be direct deposited into your account at the government owned Bank of the United States of America. Of course they will be free to withdraw from said account for health care, carbon tax, etc.

WaterWings's picture

Oh snap! Major curveball. Mandated direct deposit withdrawals. 

The Fed giveth, and taketh away. BTW, is your avatar Jesucristo?

Sancho Ponzi's picture

Hardly, that's Edgar Friendly. 

Sancho Ponzi's picture

Of course who am I to say Edgar Friendly isn't JC.


WaterWings's picture

Dewd! Double avatar of the month! Denis as the Jesusunderground.

Master Bates's picture

Palin in the Oval Office?

"I can see Alaska from my house, also, don'tchaknow."


baldski's picture

He sounds like a right wingnut to me!

Anonymous's picture

I'd agree on Schiff but for one other candidate, Linda McMahon. Bottom line, anyone but Dudd.


Anonymous's picture

If you REALLY give a shit then don't vote for ANY incumbent
ever again until the messes are straightened out. The corrupt
S.O.B.'s will never term limit themselves so we must do it
for them at the ballot box. NO MORE CAREER POLITICIANS!!!

phaesed's picture

"but if this country can make it to 2012, there is now real hope"


Heh, there are so many doomsday jokes that could be made for that.... I'll instead go with


Zippyin Annapolis's picture

Ha ha ha ha the Spanish Inquisition--indeed---it warms the cockles of your heart--ain't history grand?

Careless Whisper's picture

@ Sancho   excellent choice. he is certainly right on most of the issues.

Sancho Ponzi's picture

He's more electable than Ron Paul, IMO. The right wing fringe won't approve of his views on drug legalization, and the left won't approve because he sticks to a budget and has integrity. To me, that makes him just the man for the job.

Dburn's picture

The notion that there is a left and a right should have been put to rest in the last 9 years.

One proposal I saw was that all US politicians have to wear NASCAR Like Jackets with the logos of their main sponsors on the Policy Jacket with smaller logos distributed on the "earmark" pant legs.

I think that would be a brilliant idea. We have some sort of convoluted corporate monarchy with a multitude of different kingdoms that sometimes are at war with each other and sometimes form temporary coalitions if their products and profit goals are complimentary.

All out war has been averted as each sector waits it's turn at the taxpayer trough supplemented by the Fed's printing presses (" Don't worry guys, enough for everyone") for groundbreaking policy that give out an illusion of providing for the population which helps the Political Sector (which soon will come to you at pre-ipo prices thanks to Goldman Sachs) but are purposely filled with Loopholes that corporate lawyers could drive tanks though and they do.

Each bill I have seen come out in the last year has been a negative for taxpayers but a huge push to the bottom line of various sectors and sub-sectors.

Why in the world would someone actually try to market a product when Businessweek came out with a study that lobbying bribes had 12:1 return for every marketing dollar spent.

I'm surprised that CEOs don't mention their lobbying budget with more fanfare. "In Q2, we cut our advertising budget by 90% and increased our Bribe budget by almost 200%."

"Wow, way to go guys, could you put a little color to that" "Sure, I'll leave that to Bend-Over Smith , the newest member of our team who is a RoL (Rule of Law) Marketing specialist"

"Well we took a look at the investments the Health Insurance companies made to get a 50% increase in customers by selling even more worthless product and still keep their anti-trust exemption"

Clap Clap "Brilliant"

"Thank-you. We feel when can the govt forces people to buy our fuel efficient Yugo automobiles now built almost entirely in Vietnam,with former eastern block engineers overseeing quality control, we can literally own the car market at a unheard of 70% gross margin".

"Yes, but have you ever sold cars?"

"No, but the insurance companies never sold insurance have they?"

"AHHHHH, Brilliant , just brilliant"

Next Day "Strong Conviction Buy on Radio Shack. we feel the price should easily go up 1000% by the end of the year" GS Research.

That's what we are into these days. So in candidate selection, one should be able to see if they are sponsored by the products that you trust the most. It shouldn't be too hard of a leap. This cut in credit may be problematic, but that's why the Fed is there. Look for Fed MasterCards with Unlimited credit, zero percent interest and no minimum payment coming to your mailbox soon.

Some seriously Bad health insurance and that Radio Shack puke green Yugo will soon be yours.

Unscarred's picture

@Sancho Ponzi,

Two more to keep your eye on:

1) Texas governor Rick Perry


Six years ago, Mr. Perry's state underwent a critical tort reform that was codified in the state constitution. The payoff is that Texas is now outpacing California economically. According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, between 1997 and 2006 Texas' economy grew an average of 4.3% while California's grew at a rate of 3.7%. But as of 2002 (to 2007), with tort reform in place, Texas' annual economic growth jumped to 5%, while California's remained essentially the same at 3.6%.

2) Indiana Governor Mitch Williams


President Barack Obama eked out an upset in Indiana last year, but Mr. Daniels's re-election was almost as notable. Amid a Democratic wave, the Republican beat his opponent by 18 percentage points and received more votes than anyone who had ever run in the state. He swept 79 of 92 counties, nearly 60% of independents and 25% of Democratic voters. His approval rating is near 70%.


At a time when the GOP has done so much wrong, strategists are asking what Mr. Daniels is doing right. Hoosiers would point to his tough fiscal discipline and his overhaul of state government.

Sancho Ponzi's picture

I'm not sure Rick Perry has the intellect for the job, although he'd certainly be an improvement over what we currently have in office. 

Unscarred's picture

Unfortunately, the days of Thomas Jefferson-caliber Presidential acuity have long past.  I'm still trying to understand how Bush got elected, let alone re-elected.