Correlation is not causation but the plunge began just as The SEC voted in favor of high-speed trading firms being registered with FINRA...
Back in 2009, when aside from a few insiders, nobody had heard of HFT, Zero Hedge launched its crusade to expose the algorithmic scourge that has since then caused an equity, treasury and now US Dollar flash crash, and has been the subject of a Michael Lewis bestseller and resulted in countless market halts and failures. More importantly, there is now roughly 50 pages of just bibliography citing the evidence-based, academic research that has shown just how pervsavibely, maliciously and premeditatedly HFTs manipulate, destabilize, impair and otherwise destroy every single market in which they participate.
- Ferguson in Flames (Reuters)
- Ferguson Cop Told Grand Jury He Feared for His Life (BBG)
- Sharpton: Grand Jury Announcement ‘An Absolute Blow’ (Daily Caller)
- Gunshots echo as violence returns to Ferguson, protests across U.S. (Reuters)
- BoJ members warned on costs of more easing (FT)
- Hagel Exit Shows Obama Has Taken Power Away From Pentagon (BBG)
- Ukraine leader, under pressure from West, pledges new government soon (Reuters)
- Eurozone Stagnation Poses Major Risk to Global Growth, OECD Warns (WSJ)
- ECB’s Coeure Says Officials Won’t Rush as They Debate All Assets (BBG)
Another day, another HFT firm busted for manipulating the market. Today's participant: Athena Capital, which did what every other algorithmic, HFT firm does - rig the market of course, but at least it had a sense of humor about it: Athena called the market-rigging algorithm that "manipulated the closing prices of tens of thousands of stocks during the final seconds of almost every trading day during the Relevant Period" by the very amusing name "Gravy." But remember: HFTs are really your friend - they just provide liquidity and stuff.
In is only fitting that a week that has been characterized by deteriorating macroeconomic data, and abysmal European data, would conclude with yet another macro disappointment in the form of Markit's sentiment surveys, for non-manufacturing/service (and composite) PMIs in Europe which missed almost entirely across the board, with Spain down from 58.1 to 55.8 (exp. 57.0), Italy down from 49.8 to 48.8 (exp. 49.8), France down from 49.4 to 48.4 (exp. 49.4), and in fact only Russia (!) and Germany rising, with the latter growing from 55.4 to 55.7, above the 55.4 expected, which however hardly compensates for the contractionary manufacturing PMI reported earlier this week. As a result, the Composite Eurozone PMI down from 52.3 to 52.0, missing expectations, as only Germany saw a service PMI increase. And yet, despite or rather thanks to this ongoing economic weakness, futures have ignored all the negative and at last check were higher by 9 points, or just over 0.4%, as the algos appear to have reconsidered Draghi's quite explicit words, and seem to be convinced that his lack of willingness to commit is merely "pent up" commitment for a future ECB meeting. That or, more likely just another short squeeze especially with the "all important" non-farm payrolls number due out in just over 2 hours, which for the past 24 hours has been hyped up as sure to bounce strongly from the very disappointing, sub-200K August print.
Markets Digest Wristwatch, NIRP Monetization, Catalan Independence News; Push Yields, USDJPY Even HigherSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/10/2014 07:08 -0400
Overnight the most notable move has been the ongoing weakness in rates, with USTs reversing earlier Tokyo gains after BoJ Deputy Governor Iwata, in addition to commenting on a lot of things that didn't make much sense, said he didn’t see any difficulties in money market operations even if BoJ bought bought government debt with negative yields, as InTouch Capital Markets notes. As a reminder, yesterday we noted that in a historic first the "Bank Of Japan Monetizes Debt At Negative Rates." As Bloomberg notes, this may be interpreted that BoJ may target negative yields to penalize savers, which "all boosts the appeal of yen-funded carry trades." In other words, first Europe goes NIRP, now it's Japan's turn! So while this certainly lit the fire under the USDJPY some more, which overnight broke about 106.50 and hit as high as 106.75 on Iwata's comments, it does not explain why the 10Y is currently trading 2.52% - after all the fungible BOJ money will eventually make its way into US bonds and merely add to what JPM has calculated is a total $5 trillion in excess liquidity sloshing in the global market.
As regular readers are well aware, when it comes to "more than arms length" equity market intervention in New Normal markets, the New York Fed's preferred "intermediary" of choice to, how should one say, boost investor sentiment aka "protect from a plunge", is none other than Chicago HFT powerhouse, Citadel. Yet one question had remained unanswered: just how does Citadel manipulated stocks? We now know the answer, and perhaps more importantly, it also links in to the true culprit behind the May 2010 Flash Crash, no not Waddell & Reed, but quote stuffing. Most importantly, the revelation that for Citadel quote stuffing is not just some byproduct of some "innocuous" HFT strategy, is that none other than the Nasdaq has now stated on the record, that the most leveraged hedge fund (at 9x regulatory to net assets), and the third largest after Bridgewater and Millennium, used quote stuffing as a "trading strategy."
The stories make you want to take all of your money out of the stock market and put it in your mattress!
Among this week's most notable moves was the decompression of high-yield credit spreads to near 9 month wides (and continued outflows). What went notably-under-reported by the mainstream media, however, was an even bigger selloff in US mortgage bonds. While JPMorgan is unable to see "any fundamental reason" for the plunge in prices, the worrying indication from the magnitude of the drop relative to volumes is that liquidity has evaporated. As Bloomberg notes, with dealer inventories sold down (due to new regulations that make repo and agency securities unpalatable), they have no way to 'smooth' the selling when investors want to exit positions. Weakness of this magnitude when the 10Y gained only 2bps on the week is a big wake-up call that traders are looking for the exits from housing debt and the door is very narrow.
Let's take a look at the amount of settlements/fines from various banks and financial institutions around the world since the crisis.
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...
Barclays almost succeeded in its quest of becoming the top US dark pool at any cost, even criminal: in the week ending June 16 Barclays was second only to Credit Suisse' Crossfinder ATS with 312.1 million total shares traded on some 1.6 million in total trades. Unfortunately for Barclays it should put its ambitions on permanent halt, because as was revealed today by FINRA's new "ATS Transparency" database, Barclays total dark pool volume has plunged by a whopping 37% to under 200 million shares.
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.
In case there is still any confusion on whose behalf the US regulators work when they "fine" banks, the latest announcement from Finra should make it all clear. Recall the spectacle full of pomp and circumstance surrounding NY AG Scheinderman's demolition of Barclays after it was announced that the bank had lied to its customers to drive more traffic to Barclays LX, its dark pool, and allow HFT algos to frontrun buyside traffic. Yes, it was warranted, and the immediate result was the complete collapse in all buyside Barclays dark pool volume, meaning predatory HFT algos would have to find some other dark pool where to frontrun order flow. Such as Goldman's Sigma X. Which brings us to, well, Goldman's Sigma X, which moments ago, in a far less pompous presentation, was fined - not by the AG, not by the SEC, but by lowly Finra - for "Failing to Prevent Trade-Throughs in its Alternative Trading System." The impact: "In connection with the approximately 395,000 trade-throughs, Goldman Sachs returned $1.67 million to disadvantaged customers." The punchline, or rather, the "fine": $800,000.