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Whoa, A Glitch In The HFT

Tyler Durden's picture


Over the past week everyone seems to have jumped on the HFT bandwagon: people who know nothing about the issue, as well as tested industry veterans, all of a sudden are chiming in, with some, like quant legend Paul Wilmott debating the potential dangers of HFT, while others such as respected bloggers including Eric Falkenstein and John Hempton saying it is too much noise over nothing. Both sides of the debate are respected, as, if nothing else it forces further clarity on this most secretive topic.

While long-time Zero Hedge readers have known our position on the issue since early April, the basis of our perspective has always been a (very relevant) question. Which is why it is useful to hear those who are directly involved in not only the HFT market, and not only were instrumental in developing the HFT architecture, but have worked for the largest HFT option trading desk in the US, that of Citadel (and likely were sitting one desk away from the likes of Misha Malyshev, made infamous by his involvement in the Aleynikov-GS scandal). We present to you Michael Durbin, who tips his cards in a piece by Reuters' Matt Goldstein who broke the Aleynikov scandal.

Durbin says it’s reasonable to wonder whether Wall Street’s unfettered embrace of algorithmic automated trading could be setting the stage for a future meltdown.

“You have multiple HFT trading firms and sometimes their agendas are complementary and sometimes they’re not,” explains Durbin, director of HFT research with Blue Capital Group, a small Chicago-based options trading firm.

“There could be a time where these HFT programs unintentionally collaborate and you have a two- or three-minute period where the markets are going crazy. Then other traders respond to it and it simply gets out of control.”

What Durbin’s talking about is the dreaded contagion effect, in which a bad trade or a rogue algorithm misfires — sparking copycat sell orders at other high frequency desks.

A little on Durbin's background:

Durbin certainly has the bona fides to speak to the potential risk. Before joining Blue Capital, he worked for two years at Citadel Investment Group, constructing the hedge fund’s high frequency trading desk for stock options — the largest in the business.

Of course, if Durbin is right and the regulators finally do something about the inherent risk, the revenue streams that would be cut would reach into the tens of billions of dollars. It is not surprising that so many lay and otherwise voices have sprung up in defense of HFT, some of which have an agenda, others which speak purely out of naivete.

Big players in the field like Goldman Sachs, Citadel Investment Group, Getco and Interactive Brokers claim they’re mainly providing liquidity — making it easier for other traders, institutions and investors to get in and out of positions. The vast majority of high frequency traders would have you believe they are nothing more than service providers.

Yet it’s fair to question the necessity of the service that high frequency traders say they are providing. Much of the liquidity high frequency traders are adding to the mix is simply to match trades created by other high frequency traders.

Reread the last sentence carefully - it basically encapsulates the whole argument against HFT, and against B/Ds who use it and generate massive returns year over year: does anyone wonder why Medallion (which aside from being investigated by the SEC will likely be annihilated if Flash trading is banned) generates 50-80% returns year over year, while RIEF has gone from managing $27.8 billion to $5.4 billion in under 2 years. In principle this is like Goldman seeing the order flow on Sigma X, matching it in dark liquidity and offsetting the other side of the just executed trade on the NYSE without anyone else having a clue as to what drove the stock price materially up or down as there was nothing at all on Level 2 to suggest a supply/demand disbalance.

As this topic picks up much more steam, Zero Hedge would like to reinforce Goldstein's conclusion from his article.

That’s enough for me. It’s high time for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and overseas securities regulators to start working together now to assess the potential systemic risks posed by high frequency trading before a problem occurs.

Again, it’s premature for anyone to suggest that regulators either prohibit or severely restrict high frequency trading. But let’s be clear what we’re talking about here — this is mainly trading for trading’s sake. High frequency trading is simply another way for Wall Street firms and hedge fund to make money.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with profit-driven trading. But if high frequency trading isn’t critical to keeping the markets humming, there should be nothing stopping regulators from putting a review of this strategy at the top of their agendas.

We hope that this time, unlike the Flash case, the SEC won't wait until a senator actually reminds it to do its bloody job.


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Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:04 | 19892 deadhead
deadhead's picture

You're an animal today TD....nice action on HFT and congrats on the escalation of the flash order mess; ZH deserves MUCHO credit.

ZH went into "favorites" first on my brand spanking new, green shoot stimulating, deflationary computer special at my local wally mart, a compaq for 298 bucks.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 03:52 | 20409 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

please clear the confusion about HFT and Flash order. Are these two differnt animals? Averge person will think its one and same thing.

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qrs521's picture

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Sat, 11/06/2010 - 17:59 | 705609 sohbetme
sohbetme's picture

I like your ideas and thoughts. While chat and sohbet with my friends talking about it.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:08 | 19898 whacked
whacked's picture

Fisrt on the ZH Christmas wish list...


"We hope that this time, unlike the Flash case, the SEC won't wait until a senator actually reminds it to do its bloody job."


You are kidding me .. right?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:15 | 19904 disreputable cousin
disreputable cousin's picture

Unfortunately, the SEC is like a tame bunny in a big cage. The best it can do is a few card tricks if you let it out. Then back to the sawdust, newspaper layers, and carrots. Plus a few pellets of it's own making that is doesn't appear to notice.

The prostitutes bought and paid for by  HFT money wouldn't have been called out if even small restrictions on HFT didn't cost big big big money. Any other explanation defies common sense.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:18 | 19911 jedwards
jedwards's picture

I posted this question in the last post, but how does GS ensure it's not trading with itself, for example either a different arm of GS or another batch of computers running an algo?  Is there something that specifically prohibits this from occurring?

Do you think human traders with inside information in places like GS, etc, know what kind of patterns of trades to make that would cause their own program trading operations to start juicing the markets either long or short?  I guess that's a naive question, but I need to ask it anyway.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:20 | 19919 Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden's picture

internal order matching happens all the time in dark pools. sigma x estimates are for 50%

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:24 | 19926 jedwards
jedwards's picture

is that legal?  It seems like if I sold something from my Charles Schaub account and bought it from my IB account that the SEC would be pretty pissed at me.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:46 | 19963 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Legal ? It depends on how much you can pay.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 20:09 | 20088 Alexander Supertramp
Alexander Supertramp's picture

See Rule 17A-7: "Exemption of Certain Purchase or Sale Transactions Between an Investment Company and Certain Affiliaited Persons Thereof".  The full spread capture to be had in dark pools is a boon, but you don't need to access one to do it "legally".

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:23 | 19923 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I think the knowledge of trading with themsleves actually makes the whole thing worse. They just split the prop. desks into two groups and then trade it back and forth. As long as the desired result is achieved...namely "up" they need not worry about it. I understand what you are saying but I think they count on this .


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:25 | 19932 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

BTW forgot to add that the end result for them is still a need to off-load these shares to a patsy....It's only successful if they are able to do it.


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:29 | 19941 jedwards
jedwards's picture

That's what Mass Accumulation Days and Mass Distribution Days are for.  They buy up the markets, and suck in the buyers, and then distribute it over the course of a couple of days.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:33 | 19945 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I don't disagree but that is over-simplifying it with regards to this issue.


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:36 | 19950 jedwards
jedwards's picture

I'm a newbie with all this so the only things I understand are very simple, unsophisticated concepts...

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:12 | 20004 deadhead
deadhead's picture

all of us were new at one time.  i'll tell you that a guy like me who worked in financial services for 30+ years often feels like a newbie, believe me.

just keep reading and make sure your reading material covers lots of sources.


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:38 | 20033 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Yes....agree 100% If you don't learn something everyday you are not trying hard enough.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 20:25 | 20138 Miles Kendig
Miles Kendig's picture

Diversity of opinion and observation is indeed the lifeblood to the interested observer or participant of any endeavor.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 05:57 | 20421 Larry Doyle
Larry Doyle's picture

Kudos to ZH and Joe Saluzzi for exposing this trading activity. For purposes of further elevating the dialogue, I will interview Mr. Saluzzi this Sunday evening, August 2nd 8-9pm.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 11:42 | 20647 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Saluzzi has no clue what he is talking about. Be responsible and ask him for proof. He's already backing down from claims he made two weeks ago on TV.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:19 | 19914 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Karl Denninger on HFT action today in this video.



Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:19 | 19915 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Denninger is explaining the TRIN feeds error this morning on his post today. The algos seem to have fed on themselves after the feeds got back on track.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:20 | 20015 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I notice the bots only bought, and ignored the sell signal of the trin...

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:20 | 19917 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

long time reader's since april?

4 months's is long term? Shhhh don't tell that to the MSM


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:24 | 19927 VegasBD
VegasBD's picture

Great stuff dude. Thanx for never sleeping. We appreciate it.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:26 | 19934 Monoki
Monoki's picture

This somewhat confirms my concern:  that at times, HFT adds (perhaps unintentially) to a move's momentum, exacerbating that move that would have been less profound had that move been based soley on 'real' demand.  Thus, it is conceivable that this current leg of the rally (since the beginning of July) is multiplied by HFT, and had it been based soley on demand for stock, be it on heightened expectations or second derivative improvements, the uptrend might have been less than the 110 SPX points from 870 in July.  And if that can be the case, then so too on the downside:  any downtrend can be exacerbated by HFT riding the downward momentum -- OR -- the lack of liquidity on the downside will result in the same exacerbated downside.

Think about it, and keep on the topic that HFT, at times, can add to momentum.

Keep pressing,

Chris Monoki

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:27 | 19937 silencedogood
silencedogood's picture

Jedwards,  Perhaps with HFT computers being able to be spoofed..can a hacker cause a very sophisticated DDOS by causing a major HFT indicator to be faked or manipulated to cause the HFT computers to buy or sell on cue?  Playing devils hard would it be to find out the metrics said HFT's monitor and crack those machines and feed them fake data so i can benefit from the resulting HFT actions?  Better yet, with wired news NYSE data...perhaps this has already occured.  Might be another avenue to investigate for Tyler and Marla....

-Silence Dogood



Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:30 | 19944 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Apocalypse Now-

Dark Pools are like secret societies, designed to cloak evil. Who likes to swim in a dark pool, dead bodies, crocodiles, and sharks could be lurking below.

I prefer swimming in transparent aqua marine pools, don't you?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:36 | 19948 crzyhun
crzyhun's picture

If LTCM nearly wrecked us, what will it be like one second after HFT collapses us? Termination!

We are long too many Rhodes scholars, I'm afraid. These folks have no clue what they are doing.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:41 | 19955 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

The sheer volume they put through before people can even blink is staggering, October 1987 in less than 1 second anyone?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:51 | 19976 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

runaway nuclear reaction

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:48 | 19968 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

spitzer right now on CNBC sounds negative on HFT.
Resolution-"forbid it or give it to everyone. We don't enough yet."

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:49 | 19970 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

spitzer right now on CNBC sounds negative on HFT.
Resolution-"forbid it or give it to everyone. We don't know enough yet."

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:51 | 19973 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:49 | 19971 Eagle
Eagle's picture

Deceitful, evil , greedy men.  A pox on all of them.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:51 | 19975 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Anybody really think that a bunch of bought and paid for politicians are gonna put a stop to the only thing holding up the market and by extension US society? Not on my watch, mister.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:53 | 19977 bpj
bpj's picture

See the movie, War Games.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:55 | 19979 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

There are two schools of thought when it comes to Rhodes Scholars (and experts, and polticians and decision makers)...

Either they know what they are doing, and are incredibly good at it.

Or they are terribly incompetent imbeciles.

The one you are more likely to agree with will depend on your opinion of your fellow man, and your outlook for humanity.

For example, if you are optimistic, with hope for your fellow man, they are just incompetent fools.

But if you are a bit more cynical, then, these Rhodes Scholars and others like them have been trained to not only undermine society but do a great job of making look like their intent is the opposite! The ultimate wolve in sheeps clothing, really!

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:18 | 20013 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

"depend on your opinion of your fellow man,"

Nah...just my view of what working for the Gubmint does to good people.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:55 | 19980 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

The Three Triggers for the Global Gold Bubble and A 'time bomb' for world wheat crop - Los Angeles Times , these 2 things are monumental to the equities markets and their sustainability .

The Three Triggers for the Global Gold Bubble

Peter Krauth writes: As you review your investment portfolio to size up your current exposure to gold, keep one key point in mind: When it comes to profits, there's no rush like a speculative gold rush.

if you were a Long term 401K investor and been in the market since 1998 , you have not made a dime , and in fact if you factor in wage stagflation , which is now really amplified with massive unemployment and no end in sight making higher wage level even more unsustainable , and cost of living increases over the past 10 years , the Inflation they are saying is under control is a big Fat LIE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Inflationary fears are on the march the world over. And most of those worries are due to the trillions of dollars in stimulus spending the world's central bankers have engineered. Those worries about the pressure from rising prices are destined to cause the next big asset bubble.

And the color of this particular bubble will be gold.

A 'time bomb' for world wheat crop - Los Angeles Times , this must be stopped before any health care or Cap and Trade Bill can be considered because they need better than average economic conditions to prevail and this threatens that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A 'time bomb' for world wheat crop - Los Angeles Times
Jun 14, 2009 ... Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of worldwide wheat crops as it spreads .... Los Angeles Times. Science ... - Cached - Similar
Ug99 fungus and spurt in agriculture ETFs | 17 June 2009 | www ...
Jun 17, 2009 ... Crop scientists fear the Ug99 fungus could wipe out more than 80% of ... Karen Kaplan for The Los Angeles Times reports that the wind will ...

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:55 | 19981 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Did anyone just see spitzer on fm? I think he knows whats going on.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:56 | 19982 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

"Ben Townson of New York-based BlackBox Group, which uses high-frequency strategies and specializes in algorithmic trading, says “natural abilities and skills” determine who makes money, not computers.

“You can throw a lot of money at technology, but if you don’t take the time to study your trades, it doesn’t matter,” Townson said. “We’ve built a racecar that is optimized for driving fast. Is that an advantage? Yes. Is it an unfair advantage? No.” "

A person drives the fast 'car' in the end and can make mistakes and only kills himself or a few others

In HFT it is the computer that goes fast in the 'car' not the person and can make the mistakes faster than people can blink and can do a infinite amount of damage in just a split second

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 08:24 | 20459 Chumly
Chumly's picture


Having experienced a front tire blow out at 80 MPH, one would certainly understand the "men's hearts wil fail them" aspect to this mother of all wicked schemes.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:57 | 19985 Hank Rearden
Hank Rearden's picture

I applaud Tyler for pointing out that there are many other HFT desks other than GS. I think that has been a little overplayed by some.


Is a "rogue algorithm" any different than a "rogue trader". I would think it would be easier to control an algorithm's behavior than a human's. Circuit breakers and sanity checks have long been used to prevent the computers from going "mad". As far as copy cat orders are concerned, a lot of traders are essentially copy cat traders. The trend is your friend, right? Not unlike a big (human) order coming into the market and seeing a spike that immediately reverts. Anything that commits capital to a trade is real. The market is what it is. How is HFT any different than a scalper looking to take 1 point out of the e-mini, except that they are faster and are looking for 1 tick. Are scalpers the next whipping boy?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:03 | 19994 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

"How is HFT any different than a scalper looking to take 1 point out of the e-mini, " ___ The scalper constitutes small percentage of overall trading volume. HFT constitutes 70% of all trading volume
Scalper is doing it legally. HFT is doing it illegally

"Circuit breakers and sanity checks have long been used to prevent the computers from going "mad"." _________ Why would there be a circuit breaker if the algorithm is PROFITING from the move? What if all of the 70% HFT volume pushes the market down and since market keeps going down they keep making money... Before you know it the market is down 10% in one day.
Oh wait, that already happened in 2008

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 01:31 | 20385 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

"HFT is doing it illegally"

Show me some proof sir. That's a bold claim. There are hundreds of HFT strategies at dozens of banks/hedge funds/prop firms. Surely they are not all engaged in illegal activities.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 01:39 | 20388 agrotera
agrotera's picture


Fri, 07/31/2009 - 18:04 | 20340 mcnetgb
mcnetgb's picture


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:57 | 19986 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Renaissance is a Ponzi Scheme? They show 50% returns in Medallion to attract more capital but show losses in other funds

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 17:59 | 19990 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

The funny thing is that after Hopey bails them out, lets them run amok four years, etc., they will throw him under the bus. What a chump!

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:00 | 19992 D.O.D.
D.O.D.'s picture

Is Elliot Spitzer the man or is he looking to get elected somewhere? Maybe the SEC?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:00 | 19993 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I think one simple point that could help explain this to those on the fence or in disagreement on this issue, is that the computers are more or less "price makers" while retail investors, and even long-only inst'l investors are "price takers". the HFT computers are setting the price, moving it in big steps up or down to given levels, and from those levels the price takers nudge it around in tiny steps.

prevailing price sets a bias in so many analysts' minds.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:10 | 20001 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

And the market is now a set of dominoes being lined up with all the trailing stops and other things being used by ordinary traders.

The HFT pings these stops like a cat putting its paw in a mousehole and fishing about trying to catch the mouse. But now the computers find no stops they know what to do to create a short squeeze...... mess about for a hour or all day if need and make sure you get lots of shorts lured in and you will know cos you are the other side of the trade, then wham hit them again as per usual cos you know the long side stops are non existent cos you tested earlier.

A big game of cat and mouse and domino stop knocking but all done with computers at the speed of light

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:08 | 19997 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

If enough High frequency approaches are based on scaled mean reversion betting VWAP the things could get dicey as the approach has extreme negative convexity. Most of the these approaches are implemented using limits but like the st. petersburg paradox if left without limits and enough were in place, then they would effectively be engaged in a nasty feedback loop similar to a delta or portfolio hedge feeding on itself.

The interesting thing is that storm would be proceeded by a calm as many HF traders would be using the same approach dampening effective Volatility in various instruments until one day a critical threshold was breached.

Ironically the individual "safety" limits of each actor, ie. redacting the algo at upper or lower bounds would mean liquidity would dry up when most needed.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:09 | 20000 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

"does anyone wonder why Medallion (which aside from being investigated by the SEC will likely be annihilated if Flash trading is banned)"

Where do you get this crap? You really think medallion makes all of its money solely through front-running flash trades? Do you have ANY evidence for any of this? I'm all for this blog in general but it really hurts your credibility when you make wild exaggerations and or blatantly false claims.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:10 | 20002 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Anyone else getting hit that the volume this week has been "outstanding", further supporting the rally?

funny they should mention...

since the Citi conversion (monday), C has gone from an average of about 350 million shares per day to OVER A BILLION SHARES A DAY this week.

So Citi alone is responsible for a more than 10% increase in volume in S&P500 stocks this week (avg total volume of SPX stocks last 30 days = 4.2bln) and further, Citi now represents about 19% of SPX total volume. The stat is useless!

EVEN FURTHER...Citi + BAC (5.3%)+ GE (3.1%)today = 27% of volume. Next highest? 1.9%...straight down from there.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:16 | 20009 deadhead
deadhead's picture

ZH had an article on this just a very short time was something like 3 stocks had around 10% of the volume.  i think the 3 were bac, c, and cit.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:11 | 20003 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I always though that the first true AI, 'Sky Net' would be a millitary algorithm, who knows maybe it'll be a trading algorithm instead?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:39 | 20035 Budd Fox
Budd Fox's picture

Freakin frightening thought...but highly likely mate!

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 20:29 | 20145 Miles Kendig
Miles Kendig's picture

Without control of the expressions of wealth there can be no control of power.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 09:50 | 20520 Bob
Bob's picture

Could anything be more true or obvious?  

Or more vehemently fought by the cynical upper class and their ignorant middle class stooges?  


Fri, 07/31/2009 - 10:10 | 20536 zeropointfield (not verified)
zeropointfield's picture

It's not like this was a new concept:


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:13 | 20006 SloSquez
SloSquez's picture

I did 4 kool-aid bongs this morning, but I couldn't hold it down.  I puked about 3pm.  Cherry, I believe.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:17 | 20010 deadhead
deadhead's picture

it's been a lot of years since i bonged, but put lots of ice in it.  worked like a charm.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:21 | 20017 SloSquez
SloSquez's picture

Movin' on to the green shoots.  Medicinal, of course.  Ice - nice thought.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:29 | 20023 Jeanbon
Jeanbon's picture

The biggest market driver in algo trading is the percent of volume rule.

Sure, algo trading has been one of the reasons, we see such huge spikes in intraday volatility for quite a while. Also it is true that these programs often do not trade in big tickets, meaning that the rule often trades with 100 - 500 shares per trade- adding to vola.

The daily volumes we witness never could be traded without algo & program trading. If we can prove that these new trading methods are abused, and I don't doubt that there are people who are trying to do that, the regulators should ban and fine them.

The stock exchange should put up some rules, like we have with iceberg orders, where you have to show a certain amount of liquidity in order to be able to enter the iceberg. It is ridiculous that we trade dozens of millions orders with 200 shares per trade. In addition,this "low size trading" costs the broker more, since he has to pay the fills at the exchange. This is maybe, why brokers started with the liquidity pools, where they give discounts on bids and asks in dark room pools.

After all, this is how free market works, and we should give it some smart limits, or breaks, like the iceberg rule. But liquidity is one of the ultra utmost important pillar of a well functioning stock market, thats why I like this electronic trading.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:31 | 20024 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

These terminator bots are robbing the public..pure and simple. In the old days the cftc would crush any floor traders front running, for some reason I don't think they will do anything to GS or the others. LOL! Joke is on us again until these HFT put us into a death spiral. I never thought I would say this but bring back the floor traders!


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 18:49 | 20048 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Apocalypse Now-

Let's call out some leading investors and ask them what their opinions are on HFT:

Calling: Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, Bill Gross

We need opinions from successful long term investors (the majority of Americans), not day traders.

Stand up and be counted sirs, we can't hear you.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 19:22 | 20087 mcnetgb
mcnetgb's picture

Obviously, the NYSE, among others, is heavily invested in the future of HFT.  

For anyone here who want a taste of what's at stake for one of the players , have a look at the WSJ story today about NYSEs project Alpha. Alpha is a 500m project to build 2 rapid trading hubs (1 in NJ, 1 outside of London) to support HFT on the NYSE.

( .

This story is a whole lot bigger than the low hanging "flash order" fruit.  And its a whole lot bigger than HF equity trading.

The big fruit is in the commodities arena where the market is much more opaque and the regulatory arbitrage opportunities are much richer.


Oh, and for you GS conspiracy guys out there: who was running the NYSE as it moved into the electronic age before he headed over to Merrill?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 22:32 | 20240 Ben_the_Bald
Ben_the_Bald's picture

The big fruit is in the commodities arena where the market is much more opaque and the regulatory arbitrage opportunities are much richer.


OK, now you are onto something that's worth discussing. Follow up my friend.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 02:24 | 20395 mcnetgb
mcnetgb's picture

Start with this


I haven't been as diligent as I'd like to be but I do recall noting at the Sergei arraignment  (sp?) that the prosecutor said the code could be used to manipulate markets, (not just equity markets. (which are relatively transparent, compared to commodities markets, where our freinds at GS tend to dominate)  That caught my attention.

I wasn't sure at the time if the prosecutor was simply being hyperbolic about  the threat destabilizing markets to make his case , or if he was reading from GS script. 

Since GS wasn't his client, I believe he came to realize the theft had wider implications beyond GS, to GS's dismay.

The MSM was selling the story as GS trying to stop a rogue programmer defecting to a foe. But , I think the prosecutor realized they were being played  by GS and went beyond what GS was hoping for. They realized that this code really was a threat to the markets, not just a threat to GS.

GS had been hoping a widely broadcast arrest would be a deterrent to any potential defectors. But the USG realzed, that this was a bigger  threat to the market than to GS. 


I think the  (usgov't)  was sharp enough (who would have thunk it?)  to realize that the code could be used to manipulate (many) markets (especially commodities (the least transparent, most lucrative to HFT) in the wrong hands.

That realization opened their eyes and GS realized too late their purchased friend was actually their foe.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 07:08 | 20428 silencedogood
silencedogood's picture

McnetGB,  Let's take your statement a step further, I will play devils advocate here:  Say I have the GS code, could I not (using the source code) determine the data sources for the HFT's to do transactions?  I DO NOT need to be able to run the software to make a boatload of money.  Would it not be more feasible to simply affect the data streams going into the HFT machines rather than having to go thru the rigamorale of setting one up?  If as the Ticker Guy Karl Denninger says the Trin's yesterday were stunningly false and as soon as they were corrected the HFT's appear to have sensed a big event and started buying.  If I was a hacker OR an elite entity...could I NOT make money on that scenario?  What I am basically saying is I DO NOT need to impliment the GS code to make money.  I simply need to know what machines to get too so I can CAUSE the current HFT machines to react as I want them too.  I could literally make BILLIONS doing this.  For the legal types out there...HOW HARD would a prosecutor have to work to bust me for this?  Just a tad bit more difficult than a normal high tech investigation I would think...

-Silence Dogood

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 10:23 | 20544 zeropointfield (not verified)
zeropointfield's picture

Try cap & trade. Sounds like an government licence to redistribute even more money to the pockets of the select few.


Thu, 07/30/2009 - 19:32 | 20093 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

By the way, your 'expert' (Michael Durbin) is nothing more than a second tier IT Project Manager and was not at all a driving or creative force for Citadel's business. Try getting quotes from real experts versus media whores.

Also, as is the case with most media, you are six to nine months behind the story. The HF trade is way off this year (compared to last). You are about as effective as the SEC.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 19:37 | 20099 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Try fucking off.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 20:22 | 20135 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

The 'real experts' are grade A corrupt arseholes.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 20:26 | 20141 Miles Kendig
Miles Kendig's picture

Facts and sources?

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 21:13 | 20199 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Wow they are way off compared to last year? You mean when spreads on the SPY were 50 cents at times? That is 5 handles wide in the e-mini. Single year comparisons are absurd.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 21:02 | 20183 Dr Hackenbush
Dr Hackenbush's picture

shhhh, methinks the SEC is in-on-it, yes. 

Otherwise, the best way to catch a thief is a stake out.  So long as this rally stays north, they will continue to mire themselves in theoretical argument and never really address the issue.

After the rally, err-um, health care vote, err, blood shed -- they will find some small violation and issue an innocuous ‘new rule’ that only makes it worse, and disappear into the ether, once again.  

today’s drug tip: free-basing the red pills provides that little extra …oomph!  

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 21:36 | 20214 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

What is needed to eliminate the systematic risk? Better price limits. The equity indexes at the CME used to be @5 on the downside. They lobbied to get that expanded to 5% to match the spdr products. We should go back to 2% and put them on the upside as well. 2% and incremental 2% from there. 2-5 minute trading halt. Do the same with the spdr products. You could make the limit 5% in individual stocks.

That eliminates the systematic risk part of the problem.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 21:51 | 20222 Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

above that should read 2% instead of @5.

Thu, 07/30/2009 - 23:48 | 20334 agrotera
agrotera's picture

Jeff Nielson, in the above article, notes, "... bear in mind that 56% of all U.S. equities are held by 1% of the population. Thus the hardship caused by destroying these evil institutions is totally insignificant in comparison to the crime of allowing them to continue to exist."

If we could get a good list going of who the 1% are, that would be great.  I have no problem with Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, we know who they are.  I do, however have a problem with the shareholders of the privately held Federal Reserve that have enriched themselves (and their ENTITIES) at the expense of the American taxpayer, and have morphed their wealth into trusts, holding companies, LLPs, and derivatives of each of these, to become so removed that the dutiful reporter can barely imagine getting done with the job prior to a full life of 85 years!  All i am saying is, would someone please bring this info together so at least we know what we are dealing with.

Funny that you have my favorite, Neo from the Matrix next to this article.  The Agents in the Matrix, are a perfect analogy to the way that the interests of the shareholders for the privately held Federal Reserve have morphed into so many forms, it is almost impossible to connect the dots.

If the shareholders of the privately held Federal Reserve and all their agents ( likely most of the players in HFT ) are so vast and so wide as to own 50% of the DOW, how can this ever be conceived by our country enough to overcome the cognitive dissonance that we need these entities to survive as a nation?  Jesus, what a mess.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 10:28 | 20553 zeropointfield (not verified)
zeropointfield's picture

I am not sure but does the 1% of population refer to actual persons (real human beings) or does it include corporate persons (who are not human at all, but have still been granted certain rights of persons)?


Fri, 07/31/2009 - 00:26 | 20354 Eric W
Eric W's picture

As far as the argument that HFT provides liquidity (since this is used for brownie points, the implication is that it provides liquidity for human investors and human focused institutions), this may be obvious, but I haven't heard it expressed. If Peter buys from Paul, he doesn't need any help with liquidity. I would think that most of the time, except when the markets are moving very quickly, this is the case. In thinly traded investments, there is a market maker to provide liquidity (they still exist, right?). So, it seems to me that quite a large percentage of trades must be handled from Peter to Paul, or through a market maker.


If the volume on the NYSE is 50-70% HFT, it simply cannot be helping liquidity, because there is no need for that much liquidity. Therefore, the argument that HFT provides liquidity is certainly misleading, if not totally false. It is like turning a water cannon on a man who is thirsty. You might just drown him or blow him away over a cliff or something.

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 10:02 | 20525 Chumly
Chumly's picture

In essence, there is no true liquidity, or at least an exponentially less amount than what is provided with the current HFT scheme.  Greater schemes will have to be perpetuated to just keep the top tier afloat.  HFT will have transformed into a greater monster before anything gets out of commitee to change it.  Meanwhile, we are on a collision course that will vaporize the world currency system led by the collapse of the USD.  

It is noble to want to want to halt the madness, but a "reset" will come soon enough.  Nobody really knows what will become of us as we climb out of the abyss where we have yet to fall.  HFT cannot control the outcome of human behavior when things go ary, but in the meantime they will increase the intensity of their schemes even more as we travel down the road toward the Great Capitulation.  This will all end very soon (three years or less, probably), an "I told you so" moment for many of us. As history has shown, our post collapse adjustment could have many variables, some not very good, but who really knows what they will be until we get there.



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