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"RBS Algo Went Berserk"

This Monday, a few shorts days after the Knight algorithm decided to do what it and the Fed does best, and go on a shopping spree, gobbling up $7 billion in stocks in 45 minutes and in the process almost destroying its host like any self-respecting virus, something weird happened with the 1.20-pegged EURCHF in the minutes after the marked closed: it shot up for no reason, only to slam right back down. Some speculated it was a fat finger. Turns out they were right. Only with a twist, as first it appears it was purely human error, which in turn set of an avalanche of algo trades which had no idea why they were buying, except that someone else was buying, so they had to be buying: the purest definition of momentum trading insanity, where one buys or sells with no rhyme or reason, but simple because someone else, marginal enough, is moving the market. And that is why every single capital market: stocks, bonds, commodities and FX, is always one trade away from total collapse.



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Frontrunning: August 9

  • Gu Kailai Trial Has Ended, verdict imminent (WSJ)
  • Greek unemployment rises to 23.1 pct in May, new record (Reuters)
  • Greece’s Power Generator Tests Euro Fitness Amid Blackout Threat (Bloomberg)
  • Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Results May Ease Wind-Down Push (Bloomberg)
  • Monti takes off gloves in euro zone fight (Reuters)
  • U.S. Fed extends comment period for Basel III (Reuters)
  • HP in $8bn writedown on services arm (FT) - must be good for +10% in the stock
  • News Corp in $2.8bn writedown (FT) - must be good for +10% in the stock
  • Japan to Pass Sales Tax Bill After Noda Avoids Election Push (Bloomberg)
  • China May Set New Property Controls This Month, Securities Says (Bloomberg)


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ECB Re-Regurgitates Draghi As Greek Unemployment Rises To New Record, China Deteriorates With No Easing In Sight

It has been a quiet session overnight (and that will continue until the Germans come back from vacation) punctuated by Mario Draghi's attempt to jawbone the market into submission again, this time following the release of the ECB monthly report in which it basically regurgitated Draghi's still misunderstood speech in it said it may buy bonds if strict conditionality is ensured, the same conditionality that Spain said it would not comply with, yet which European bond traders continue to misunderstand, because Spain will not request a bailout as long as its 10 Years are trading below 8% yield. Of course, nobody wants to sell first, until the selling actually begins. Then it will be waterfall. In other news Greek industrial production rose by a tiny amount from below sea level, rising by 0.3% in June following a 2.9% decline previously. This however must be due to the Greek workers' enhanced efficiency - Greek unemployment just rose yet again to the mindblowing 23.1%, from 22.6% - a new all time high (with youth unemployment just 45% away from 100%). And so the race between Spain and Greece over who can hit 50% unemployment first continues. Another notable economic milestone was crossed after the IFO institute euro-area economic climate indicator declined for first time this year, pushing the EURUSD to just above 1.2300. There were also more bad news from the UK whose trade deficit widened more than expected hitting GBP10.1 billion vs GBP8.7 billion estimated, with a record GBP28.3 billion good deficit, led by oil, cars and chemicals. In other news the European collapse continues unabated, yet the market which has long been nothing but a central bank policy tool and no longer discounts anything is perfectly oblivious to what is happening. There was one notable final change: the Chinese economy accelerated its own deterioration, and this time, courtesy of the specter of soaring food prices and a CPI print above estimates, it is very much powerless to even threaten with more easing.



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Knight's Berserk Algo Bought $2.6 Million Worth Of Stock Every Second

While we already presented, courtesy of Nanex, the modus operandi of the Knight berserker algo, there was one outstanding question. What was the bottom line. And no, not how much the loss on Knight's Income Statement would be as a result of this glimpse into what really happens in the market: we already knew that would be $440 million. The question is what is the notional amount of stock that this algo bought in the 45 minutes in which it was operational. We now know: $7 billion. Or $155 million per minute. Or $2.6 million per second. Or, assuming the algo impacted just 150 stocks as previously reported, it was buying on average $17,333 in each name every second. Or, assuming an average stock price of the universe of 150 stocks of $30/share, the Knight algo lifted the offer roughly 600 times each second. For 45 minutes straight! That's right - the market making algorithm of a designated market maker which is responsible for 10% of the order flow in the US stock market, entered a pre-programmed mode (because the computer was told to do whatever it did by someone, and not without reason) that saw it buy up $2.6 million worth of stock every second.



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Bernanke Just Assured That The Student Loan Bubble Will Be The Next "Financial Stability Issue"

"At this juncture . . . the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime markets seems likely to be contained" - Ben Bernanke, March 28, 2007

"I don’t think student loans are a financial stability issue to the same extent that, say, mortgage debt was in the last crisis because most of it is held not by financial institutions but by the federal government" - Ben Bernanke, August 7, 2012

Please mark your calendars accordingly as yesterday the Chairman just guaranteed that student loans will be cause for the next "financial stability issue."



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From Occupying Wall Street To "Dying For Work"?

Imagine you are driving to work this morning in Las Vegas (yes, you are one of the select few locals who has a job that does not involve relying on the strip's ever declining gambling revenues or flipping a house to John Paulson in the second, and far shorter, coming of the regional housing bubble, with poppage imminent), and you observe what appears to be a man who hung himself below a billboard saying "Dying for Work." Confused, you continue, only to drive by another billboard with what seem to be a man hanging off, this one saying "Hope you're happy Wall St." Slowly it all clicks: the man is not real, and this is not a suicide done in protest by some depressed unemployed person, instead it is merely a mannequin all part of some attempt at a statement. Would this be considered shocking, and will the thousands of commuters who saw this feel any worse or better toward Wall Street and its employees - America's bankers - having seen this, or will they merely continue with their lives? What if the dummy was a real person? And is this merely a foreshadowing of things to come in a country in which class warfare has never been as violent, and in which the divide between the haves and the have nots has never been as wide? And what happens when the next such stunt is a real person? More importantly, what happens if a depressed jobless person takes their life but first takes out some of those he thinks are responsible for his plight - say Wall Streeters?



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Rosenberg On The Pending Trade Shock And Q4's 0% GDP Growth

It would appear that the dilemma of the world exporting more than it imports (that we initially pointed out here) is starting to come to a head in reality with a negative export trade shock. As Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg notes, since the recovery began three years ago, over 70% of the real GDP growth we have seen was concentrated in export volumes and inventory investment; and recent data from the ISM (here and here) points to a dramatic slowdown in both. Compounding this weakness is the fact that the remaining growth was from Capex - which is now likely to slow given the weakening trend in corporate profits - and will more than offset any nascent turnaround in the housing sector - if that is to be believed. The consumer has all but stalled and adding up all these effects and there is a high probability of a 0% GDP growth print as early as Q4.



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Guest Post: Another Example Of Why Central Planning Is A Bad Idea

 Another example of why central planning is a bad idea...

The government’s central planning of Olympic ticketing has been a complete failure, perhaps best evidenced by the THOUSANDS of empty seats at many of the events.  The government has managed to monopolize an entire industry and screw it up with Soviet-level inefficiency… then make it a criminal offense for the private sector to fix it. This is typical of how a government operates. They take a very cavalier attitude because they don’t care about results, they only care about maintaining control. As a result, they run their operations based on the premise that people really have no choice. With regard to Olympic ticketing, this is mostly true. My choice was either to go through the system legitimately (albeit painfully), deal with some dodgy backroom ticket broker at three times the price, or just watch it on television.

 



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Guest Post: QE Forever And Ever?

The lunatics are running the asylum. This is the only conclusion one can come to when considering the nonchalance with which what was once considered an extraordinary policy with a firm 'exit' in mind is now propagated as a perfectly normal 'tool' to be employed at the drop of a hat. We refer of course to so-called 'quantitative easing' (QE), which really is a euphemism for money printing. Apart from his sole focus on short term outcomes, an important point that seems not be considered by the FOMC's Rosengren this week is the question of what should happen if the 'open-ended' QE policy were to fail to achieve its stated goals. He seems to assume that it will succeed in lowering unemployment and creating 'economic growth' as a matter of course. It goes without saying that money printing cannot create a single molecule of real wealth. If it could, then Zimbabwe wouldn't be a basket case, but a Utopia of riches. We must infer from Rosengren's idea of implementing open-ended QE until  certain benchmarks in terms of unemployment and 'growth' are achieved, that in case they remain elusive, extraordinary rates of money printing would simply continue until the underlying monetary system breaks down.



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Three Reasons Why "Financial Repression" Is Doomed To Failure

Anyone who has been following US fiscal policy over the past three years, which by implication means US monetary policy since Congress and the president have dumped everything in the lap of the Fed, which by implication means the Fed's guide to investing in the Russell 2000, knows too well that it can be summarized in two words: financial repression. Read the attempt to force everyone out of "riskless" assets such as Treasurys and mortgages and into risky assets such as Amazon and its 200+ P/E. All else equal, there has been one huge error with this policy which is akin to the Fed attempting to herd cats: instead of pushing investors into other asset classes, all the Fed has achieved is to get everyone to front run it in buying whatever bonds the Fed has not committed to monetizing just yet as we showed before. The other problem is that all else is not equal, and as SocGen shows Financial Repression, even by construct assuming practice and theory were the same, will not be sufficient due to the following three reasons.



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Confused Why So Many Foreign Banks Are Suddenly Being Charged By The US? Here's Why

It's very simple really. Please point out where on the below list of Top 20 contributors to a randomly selected US politician, in this case New York's Chuck Schumer, can one find Standard Chartered, Barclays, or HSBC?



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Volumeless Equities Limp Along As Risky Debt Rolls Over For Fourth Day

For the last four days, HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) has seen a significant underperformance in the latter part of the day. As we noted yesterday, high yield bonds (and investment grade) are seeing the advance-decline line rolling over. Stocks stand notably expensive relative to high-yield credit once again and VIX smashed over 1 vol lower from its gap up open at 16.5% to end at near 5 month lows under 15.25% - its most discounted/complacent to realized vol in over six months. A weak 10Y auction spurred Treasuries to underperform - which helped pull S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) risk higher (along with oil strength) but in general stocks and gold tracked one another loosely higher while the USD pushed conversely higher - ending the week so far unch. Cross-asset-class correlations drifted lower all day - with credit and carry FX listless while stocks/oil/Treasuries did their risk-thang (though oil tapered back to lows of the day by the close as Gold/Copper/Silver trod water. Three days of terrible volume, even worse average trade size, and the lowest range in five months suggests anyone serious has left the building and perhaps explains why stocks aren't following credit lower.



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