Barclays Wants Dark Pool Complaint Against It Dismissed, Says "Nobody Was Harmed"; NY Attorney General DisagreesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/24/2014 12:18 -0400
File this one for the bizarro files. After Barclays was caught lying to its "sophisticated" clients about how it handles their order following the lawsuit by NY AG Schneiderman, the bank, having suffered an epic 75% collapse of trading volume in its dark pool, has decided to fight back and earlier today filed a motion to dismiss the dark pool complaint against it. Its main argument, as reported by the WSJ, is that the attorney general's complaint "fails to identify any fraud, establishing no material misstatements, no identified victims and no actual harm." In other words, Barclays alleges the dark pool participants were smart enough to figure out Barclays was lying to them when it promised their order flow wouldn't be offered up to predatory algos.
A week ago, when we commented on the latest publicly available data for Barclays' fraud-embroiled LX dark pool, whose volume as we reported had tumbled 37% in the week of the lawsuit announcement, we said that the downward volume trend "is about to get a whole lot worse for Barclays as the trickle becomes an avalanche." Sure enough, following today's reported by Finra's ATS database for the week of June 30, we find just that, and one can largely say lights out to Barclays LX operation, whose total shares traded plummeted from 197 million (and 312 million the week before) to a paltry 66.4 million, a two-week drop of 79% from its recent highs, putting it, in 12th total dark pool volume place, below ITG and above BIDS trading. So much for any ambitions of becoming America's top dark pool. Last on the other hand...
In another indication that the ongoing FX probe is picking up steam, or at least preparing for primetime public PR consumption, the FT reports that US prosecutors are offering immunity deals to junior traders in London. The quo for this quid: rat our the senior staff involved in what has previously been reported to be years of currency manipulation (recall "How Wall Street Manipulates Everything: The Infographics"). And continuing the tradition of the DOJ only focusing on European banks, because apparently nobody in the US ever engaged in manipulation of anything, ever, the "US Department of Justice staff have flown to the UK in recent weeks to interview foreign exchange traders, who have been offered partial immunity in exchange for volunteering information about superiors, people familiar with the situation said."
Stocks trod water for most of the day until the Fed said they would take the punhbowl away and that markets were complacent and that triggered buying in stocks, bonds, and gold. VIX was the catalyst (just as we saw at the actual FOMC meeting) and we would not be shocked to see a major volume dump after-hours in VXX (as dark pools unload their manipulations). The Dow ripped higher, desperate to reach 17,000 and prove that 'wealth' was back - but failed (although it did manage to get back to unch from the payrolls). Treasury yields limped higher, spiked higher on FOMC then dumped to the low yields of the day by the close (0-1bps lower on the day). Precious metals leaked lower into FOMC but spiked notably after with gold closing near 4-month highs. Oil was sliding into the minutes and did not bounce to close at its lowest in 2 months. VIX did its best to remind everyone that when the FOMC speaks, it's always good market news.
A nervous peace prevails in the financial markets as central banks sit on their throne, fingers at the ready on the liquidity switch. As UBS' Bhanu Baweja notes, most volatility buyers have been 'rolled' into their graves. As they have explicitly targeted risk premia in addition to rates, a lot more hangs on the monarchs of monetary policy today than it has in previous cycles. While growth and inflation are both low, they are not necessarily uncertain; and although every crisis is different, certain patterns tend to repeat and certain events have reliably driven volatility higher.
Be careful what you wish for. As the Fed imbibes a sense of confidence in its ability to manage any bumps in the road on its perpetual bubble-blowing mission through the use of macro-prudential policies (big words that truly mean nothing) as stock valuations surge and the repo market is experiencing severe problems; it can always point to VIX as an indicator that all is well in the world and no real risk exists. The problem is - the world is beginning to wake up to the 'odd' micro-structure of the US equity markets and how 'dark pools' are beginning to dominate trading volume. As Barclays faces major legal problems over its alleged dark pool lies, lies, and more lies, the Fed must be growing concerned... as the following chart shows JPMorgan indicates there is evidence of an inverse relationship between equity volatility and the share of off-exchange trading.
What "harsh weather", aka completely unpredictable cold snaps and snow during the winter were to Q1 US GDP, which somehow cratered from an expected 2.5% increase to a -2.9% collapse (a $200 billion negative swing in the US economy due to weather, let that sink in for a second), the Brazil world cup may be to the stock market. At least that is the following chart from Bloomberg, highlighting the "World Cup Syndrome" shows.
2014 has not been kind to Barclays: first, the UK bank proved countless goldbugs right when it was first caught rigging the gold market (the first documented case, not the last) and a few short weeks later, the New York Attorney General crucified the bank for misleading its Dark Pool clients, and letting their order flow be, quite lucratively, front run by "aggressive" predatory algos - something it explicitly had stated it won't allow. So with one after another revenue stream crashing before its eyes, what is the Chairman of the scrambling bank to do? Why beg to at least keep the FX manipulation going. What follows is not from The Onion.
VIX was monkey-hammered lower once again today, lifting stocks vertically to Russell 2000 record highs and The Dow within a point of 17,000. The question is who (or what) is doing it. Nanex seems to have found out who... It appears the un-visible hand of VIX manipulation (that we have shown previously) has been forced into the open public markets as Barclays goes dark. Simply put, massive bursts of 1-lot TVIX orders flood and delay the markets enabling HFTs to manipulate the tail that inevitably wags the market (via VXX, SPX options hedges and leverage) and now that the dark pools are disappearing, we see it all in real-time.
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Following yesterday's S&P surge on the worst hard economic data (not some fluffy survey conducted by a conflicted firm whose parent just IPOed and is thus in desperate need to perpetuate the market euphoria) in five years, there is little one can comment on how "markets" react to news. Good news, bad news... whatever - as long as it is flashing red, the HFT algos will send momentum higher. The only hope of some normalization is that following the latest revelation of just how rigged the market is due to various HFT firms, something will finally change. Alas, as we have said since the flash crash, there won't be any real attempts at fixing the broken market structure until the next, and far more vicious flash crash - one from which not even the NY Fed-Citadel PPT JV will be able to recover. For now, keep an eye on the USDJPY - as has been the case lately, the overnight USDJPY trading team has taken it lower ahead of the traditional US day session rebound which also pushes the S&P higher with it. For now the surge is missing but it won't be for longer - expect the traditional USDJPY ramp just before or as US stocks open for trading.
First it was gold, now it is HFT - poor Barclays just can't get away with any market rigging crime these days: "In sum, Barclays’ courting of high frequency traders, and its willingness to falsify the extent of high frequency trading activity in its dark pool, was contrary to Barclays’ representations to clients that Barclays operated with “transparency” and provided a safe venue in which to trade. As described by one former senior Barclays Director: “there was a lot going on in the dark pool that was not in the best interests of clients. The practice of almost ensuring that every counterparty would be a high frequency firm, it seems to me that that wouldn’t be in the best interest of their clients . . . It’s almost like they are building a car and saying it has an airbag and there is no airbag or brakes.”
In what appears to be the first real action post-Flash Boys, NY AG Eric Schneiderman will announce at 4pm ET that Barclays will be sued over fraud allegations related to its Dark Pool's preferential treatment of high-frequency traders. As Bloomberg notes, Barclays runs one of the market's largest dark pools. This comes 2 months after the NY AG sent requests for information to various major HFT shops. It seems, just as we noted here, that a potential scapegoat is being primed 'just in case' this 'market' can't withstand the Fed's pullback.
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