As HFT shops begin to turn on each other, it seems appropriate to reflect on the impact that Michael Lewis' Flash Boys book had on exposing the ugly truth that many have been discussing for years in US (and international) equity (and non-equity) markets. As Lewis concludes, after explaining the attacks he has suffered from the HFT industry, "If I didn't do more to distinguish 'good' H.F.T. from 'bad' H.F.T., it was because I saw, early on, that there was no practical way for me or anyone else... to do it. ... The big banks and the exchanges [have] been paid to compromise investors’ interests while pretending to guard those interests. I was surprised more people weren’t angry with them."
"The current market ecosystem is not sustainable, and significant changes are coming one way or another... conflicts of interest among brokers, a two-tier system favoring the speediest and a general sense that today’s rules have been crafted to the benefit of insiders."
Remember the "great rotation"? Neither do we, because the bank that year after year coined the term to prepare investors for a renormalization of the economy as bond yields rise alongside stocks (something that happens in any normal, non-centrally planned banana world), that would be Bank of America for anyone confused, just reported that in the latest week, EPFR data showed inflows to all fixed income funds of $16.04 billion – the highest on record going back to at least 2008. On the "other side of the spectrum were stocks that had $5.52bn of outflows, down from a $1.62bn inflow in the prior week." And just like that, it's a bond-pickers' market, even as central banks trade with each other in various dark pools to keep global equities, and thus confidence, stable even as the capital tsuniami screams deflation for years to come.
for years the big money managers stoically took it on the chin, and whether out of lazyness or some other unexplained motive, allowed their orders to continue being HFT-frontrun on public exchanges and 3rd party dark pools year after year, making VWAP and TWAP orders a cost center, boosting the case that HFTs aren't really bad for stocks. Until now. According to the WSJ, some of America's largest mutual funds and asset managers led by Fidelity Investments "are close to launching a private trading venue designed to let them buy and sell large blocks of stock without the involvement of Wall Street firms and high-speed traders, according to people familiar with the matter." The new venture is the who's who of traditional asset management and includes nine firms, including BlackRock Inc., Bank of New York Mellon Corp. , J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and T. Rowe Price Group Inc., who are saying goodbye to "lit" markets, i.e. public exchanges, "and forming a company that will operate a their own "dark pool”...
- Earnings Pessimism Jumps as Oil Threatens S&P 500 Growth (BBG)
- It’s Amateur Hour in the Booming Chinese Stock Market (BBG)
- France mobilizes 10,000 troops at home after Paris shootings (Reuters)
- European Stocks Gain With S&P 500 Futures While Oil Drops (BBG)
- Nasdaq Looks to Operate Dark Pools for Banks (WSJ)
- This Guy Called Bonds in ’14. You Listening This Time? (BBG)
- Paris attacks boost support for Dutch anti-Islam populist Wilders (Reuters)
- OPEC price war in Asia intensifies as oil falls below $50 (Reuters)
Is the world's biggest hedge fund going all-in on HFT and Dark Pools? We ask because Ray Dalio's Westport, CT-based Bridgewater, which at last check manages around $160 billion between its Pure Alpha and All Weather fund products, and which according to preliminary data had a solid performance in 2014, has just hired Jose Marques, the former global head of the quant and algo-heavy electronic trading at Deutsche Bank, to become Bridgewater's new head of trading.
That markets are rigged, at both the macro level, through central banks, and micro, through HFTs, dark pools and purposeful market fragmentation, should be painfully obvious to everyone by now. But when even the regulators engage in "jury rigging", or in this case blocking prominent HFT-critic Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winning economist (a prize which doesn't count for much on these pages but should - at least on paper - impress such statist cronies as the SEC), has been blocked from a government panel that will advise regulators on issues facing U.S. equity markets, it becomes clear as day that the rigging is not just in the markets: worse, it is openly involves the market's "regulator" and "enforcer."
When the 5th largest dark pool trading venue (by volume) in America is shuttered, as Citi notes because its "capital, resources and efforts would be better redeployed elsewhere," you know there is a problem in US stock trading volumes and liquidity. Everyday we get 'glimpses' of this collapse - most recently yesterday's AAPL flash-crash - as human traders (who provide the 'fish' for the machines) disappear and HFT liquidity-providers pull liquidity in a flash. Crucially, as we hinted previously, we wonder if the large firms are exiting the dark pool business before some engineered market collapse is pinned on these opaque 'markets' who have come under increased regulatory scrutiny.
Anti-HFT Revulsion Grows: IEX Ties For Fourth In Dark Pool Trading Thanks To World's Largest Wealth FundSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/17/2014 15:56 -0400
While Wall Street is certainly free to broken record that Michael Lewis' hugely popular story about HFT and market rigging did not impact the natural course of events, the reality is it did: the collapse in Barclays' dark pool LX (shown in the bolded red line on the chart below), in the aftermath of the NY AG case against the British bank, has been documented in the past, and is just one example. An even more vivid case study comes from the surge in popularity of upstart dark pool IEX (green dotted line below), the protagonist of Lewis' Flash Boys book, and which out of nowhere, has just tied with Lavaflow's dark pool for fourth spot in ATS trading with just over 200 million shares in the week ended October 27. The catalyst? Norway's sovereign wealth fund just said not to HFT parasites.
"Solutions to the world's problems are not produced in a meeting between Bill Gates and George Soros... Renewal has to come from below... Limiting the influence [of the richest] is of the utmost importance... so that today's upper-class, high-finance capitalism can once again revert to being a capitalism of the real economy and the societal center."
In August 2013, the Nasdaq SIP broke and trading in Nasdaq stocks was halted for 3 hours. Yesterday, at 1:07 PM ET, the NYSE SIP broke but trading was allowed to continue until the backup facility was put on line. ?Apparently, the NYSE didn’t think it was necessary to halt trading in their listed stocks... despite customers not receiving accurate pricing.
First it was Libor, then gold, then dark pools, now for those who want a glimpse into just how for years bank FX traders, whether belonging to "The Cartel" or "The Bandits Club" or otherwise, colluded on trades around the daily fix, breached fiduciary duty, and generally engaged in illegal rigging of the world's largest market by volume, Bloomberg News had received a transcript of the instant-messages by various FX traders currently being investgated for FX rigging. Here are some excerpts.
Could we have imagined anything more far-fetched and unlikely as this practice by the SEC itself? We’ll answer this question. No.
"Western economies have lost the ability to generate real new wealth of the type that their debt-based monetary systems require for ongoing operations (such as paying interest on old debt). I suspect the subject will force itself on the national consciousness in the year ahead as one company after another in the shale oil regions craps out on a shortage of available investment capital. That’s the inflection point where fake wealth is unmasked for what it really is: crippled capital formation. The disappointment from that looming event will thunder through our society." In the meantime, the distractions are many and powerful.