So far in 2013, Bank of America lost money on 9 trading days out of a total 188. Statistically, this result is absolutely ridiculous when one considers that the bulk of bank trading revenues are still in the form of prop positions disguised as "flow" trading to evade Volcker which means the only way a bank could make money with near uniform perfection is if it either i) consistently has inside information that it trades on or ii) it consistently front-runs its clients (the latter incidentally was a topic we covered back in 2009 relating to Goldman Sachs, and which the bank sternly rejected). We now know that when it comes to Bank of America at least one of the two happened.
With December's "fat finger" in US Treasury Futures proved as nothing but an HFT algo gone wild, Nanex has turned its deep-thought to the recent halt in gold futures markets. Their conclusion, this was not the result of a fat finger, but rather the work of a high frequency trading algorithm that would pause, and (probably) test the market before continuing. A fat finger would not have had such distinguishing features.
Wondering what a 'market' looks like up, close, and personal in the seconds before, during, and after this week's "most important FOMC meeting ever." From SPY's 50-second lead on the news release to VIX's gap, and from crossed markets to e-mini futures leading the premature charge, Nanex's charts are a smorgasbord of SEC-inspiration...
Having discussed market microstructure and the parasitic impacts of high-frequency-trading for the last 5 years, it comes as no surprise that the block-trade-sniffing algos have had very significant impacts on the way institutional investors trade now. As WSJ reports, in fact the big boys are conducting more "upstairs trades," in which deals are executed among big institutions, bypassing the broader market, because the proliferation of algorithmic trading and other structural issues, including the fragmentation of the market, are hurting their ability to get the best prices and execute large trades quickly. While the concerns aren't all new, big investors say the cat-and-mouse games are growing more elaborate - and counterproductive - by the day.
If only bellwether stock IBM hadn't indicated that earnings hopes for global tech were in the toilet, the world could be celebrating a new Dow record too. What a day... with stocks flash-crashing (Wal-Mart), bond yields screaming lower (2nd biggest 2-day drop in yields in 17 months to 2-month lows), the USD collapsing to 9 month lows, gold (and silver) soaring by their 2nd most in 16 months, and stocks tractor-beaming up to the Fed's balance sheet year-end target of 1800 for the S&P 500; even the talking heads are lost in explaining the charade. The box that the Fed has put itself in is becoming obvious for all to see - there is no argument that this is 'fundamentals' and so the Fed knows it can never leave as the wedge between perception (prices) and reality (value) has grown too wide... Low volumes in stocks on an all-time high day hardly support anything but doubt as 'safety' is sought in bonds and bullion.
Being bullish on the market in the short term is fine... The expansion of the Fed's balance sheet will continue to push stocks higher as long as no other crisis presents itself. However, the problem is that a crisis, which is 'always' unexpected, inevitably will trigger a reversion back to the fundamentals. The market will eventually correct as it always does - it is part of the market cycle. The reality is that the stock market is extremely vulnerable to a sharp correction. Currently, complacency is near record levels and no one sees a severe market retracement as a possibility. The common belief is that there is 'no bubble' in assets and the Federal Reserve has everything under control.
It has been almost 2 years since FINRA started to get 'serious' about thinking about looking into an investigation of (get our point) high-frequency trading and dark pools but it seems, as the WSJ reports, this time they are more specific. In Sept 2011 FINRA noted "there's something that's troubling us in the marketplace," and it seems now that FINRA has spent the time since understanding the jargon they have some questions, "who is responsible for the automatic shut off or kill switch," asking firms how they avoid "quote bursts and stuffing" that create confusion for other investors and potentially distort the market, and approving a plan to force dark pools (15% of all stock trading) to disclose and detail trading activity on their platforms. Of course, we've seen this kind of bluster before and they did nothing then but hope springs eternal.
“The Year of the Glitch” - The Dark (Pool) Truth About What Really Goes On In The Stock Market: Part 4Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/07/2013 11:31 -0400
There was more. BATS, Facebook, and Knight were just the three most prominent computer glitches of the year. Outsiders were realizing what the insiders had known for years: The U.S. stock market was plagued with glitches that happened on a daily basis, and not just in stocks. Markets for commodities, bonds, and currencies all had their fair share of computer-driven mishaps. Increasingly, investors were wondering not only if the market was rigged, but whether it was completely broken. Indeed, the trade publication Traders Magazine called 2012 “The Year of the Glitch.”
"I am going to hit on some of the landmines that you can encounter within order-matching engines, and then I am going to give a forecast on, at least from my perspective, what’s going to happen over the course of 2013"
- Global Stocks Tumble as Treasuries Rally, Yen Strengthens (BBG)
- China Export Gains Seen Halved With Fake-Data Crackdown (BBG) - so a crash in the GDP to follow?
- FBI and Microsoft take down botnet group (FT)
- Quant hedge funds hit by bonds sell-off (FT)
- Russia's Syria diplomacy, a game of smoke and mirrors (Reuters)
- Obama Confidantes Get Key Security Jobs (WSJ)
- BMW to Mercedes Skip Summer Breaks to Keep Plants Rolling even as European auto demand slides to a 20-year low (BBG) - thank you cheap credit
- Paris threat to block EU-US trade talks (FT)
Ever feel like you can't put that math PhD to good use anymore and make money scalping ahead of order flow, sub-pennying and frontrunning retail in normal and dark pool markets because volumes are just off 1929 levels? Then the Chicago Fed has an offer you just can't refuse. And since money printers can't be choosers, the Fed may also have a spot for those who tried their hand at the New Media (i.e., churning slideshows): "Develop presentations and clarify complex issues for broad audiences." Yet what is most interesting is the following requirement: "Interact with highly informed and technically skilled outside stakeholders while preserving the reputation and credibility of the Reserve Bank." We'll just let that one slide...
All Empires Crash Soon After They Reach Their Peak
One of the New Normal responses to allegations, first started here in 2009 and subsequently everywhere, that all HFT does is to frontrun traditional market players (among many other evils) now that its conventional and flawed defense that it "provides liquidity" lies dead and buried, is that "everyone does it" so you must acquit because how can you possibly prosecute a technology that accounts for over 60% of all market volume and where if you throw one person in jail you would throw everyone in jail. Today we learn that this indeed may be the case, and not only at the traditional locus of HFT frontrunning such as conventional exchanges for stocks such as the NYSE or even dark pools, but at the heart of the biggest futures exchange in the US, the CME where as the WSJ's Scott Patterson explains frontrunning by HFT algos is not only a way of life, but is perfectly accepted and even smiled upon.
While many will shrug at yet another "fat finger", we thought it useful to 'know' - as opposed to 'guess' - what really drove a more-than-10% flash-crash in Symantec stock this morning. As Nanex illustrates so clearly, in less than a second, over 500,000 shares were traded in a waterfall across 13 exchanges (and who knows how many dark pools). This triggered a circuit breaker which halted the stock trading for 5 minutes and when it resumed... it had recovered all those losses. We await news of the Johnny 5s' trades being disqualified as this was simply not a fat finger. Just another day in our efficient and highly liquid stock markets...
Still chasing US equities up and down each day? Buying-and-holding large caps for their 'safety'? Reassured that money-on-the-sidelines will take us higher? Waiting for the Great Rotation? Perhaps the following post-mortem from Nanex on today's flash crash in the stock not of some microcap but of nearly $300 billion market cap behemoth Google, will reduce just a little of the fervor over what so many call the stock 'market' and its 'free' and 'efficient' nature.