The topic of High-Frequency-Trading quickly dissolves into a smorgasbord of mnemonics and 'inside-baseball' technical terms - just complicated enough to lose everyone that matters or should care about its implications. Despite the fair-and-balanced defense from the mainstream media business channels (sponsored by the belief in the status quo fair markets that 'America the free' is known for), the fact is that HFT does front-run (perfectly legal under the umbrella protection of Reg NMS) order flow, but there may be one more wrinkle - one which would cement the Michael Lewis (accurate) allegation that the market is rigged.
Dondero had quite a "track record" of illegal trading activity before he was finally busted for one last time engaging in HFT spoofing. However, it is not his FINRA brokercheck record that is of interest, but the fact that back in 2007, in the first ever CNBC Million-Dollar challenge, it was none other than Dondero who almost won. And yes, he nearly manipulated his way to the $1 million prize money then too. Only, the way he did fudged his winning percentage was not as most other competition participants had, by abusing the widely known system glitch that allowed contestants to see which stocks were rising in after-hours trading and then to buy those stocks at the lower, 4 p.m. EST closing price, but using a far more devious scheme. One which is reminiscent of the crime that last week just ended his trading career in the real world as well.
In what many thought was a miracle of modern money-printing-driven yield-chasing, Puerto Rico managed to get $3.5 billion of bonds off last week with no problem (albeit at a 8.73% yield). The issue (while perhaps not as surprising as the low yield issues of Uganda we have reflected on previously) raised some eyebrows and in the trading since its release, FINRA noticed something concerning. The bonds, as Bloomberg reports, are supposed to 'minimum denomination $100,000' blocks and yet 75 trades this week have been for no more than $25,000 violating regulations which deem these for "institutional purchasers" and strongly suggesting the heavy hedge fund demand was nothing more than a pump-and-dump scheme to unsophisticated retail investors. PR bonds have plunged from par to $92 this week.
Ordinarily we would ignore the news of another banker's death - after all these sad events happen all the time - if it wasn't for several contextual aspects of this most recent passage. First, the death in question, as reported by the Stamford Daily Voice is that of Ryan Henry Crane, a Harvard graduate, who is survived by his wife, son and parents at the very young age of 37. Second, Ryan Henry Crane was formerly employed by JPMorgan - a bank which was featured prominently in the news as recently as two weeks ago when another of its London-based employees committed suicide by jumping from the top floor of its Canary Wharf building. Third: Crane was an Executive Director in JPM's Global Program Trading desk, founded in 1999 by an ex-DE Shaw'er, a function of the firm which is instrumental to preserving JPM's impeccable and (so far in 2013) flawless trading record of zero trading losses.
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.
Stifel Nicolaus has been fined more than $1 million by FINRA for the "unsuitable sales of leveraged and inverse ETFs." While the fine in de minimus compared to the JPMorgan-esque amounts, the remarks by FINRA raise considerable risks for any apparent fiduciary bucket-shop promoting these popular instruments... "performance can quickly diverge from the performance of the underlying index or benchmark. It is possible that investors could suffer significant losses even if the long-term performance of the index showed a gain. This effect can be magnified in volatile markets." Nothing we don't already know but this time from a regulator...
JPMorgan, Madoff, And Why No One Dared Ask "The Cult" Any "Serious Questions As Long As The Performance Is Good"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/07/2014 18:02 -0500
JPMorgan: "[t]here are various elements in the story that could make us nervous," including the fund managers "apparent fear of Madoff, where no one dares to ask any serious questions as long as the performance is good.... personnel at one feeder fund seem[ed] very defensive and almost scared of Madoff... They seem unwilling to ask him any difficult questions and seem to be considering his 'interests' before those of the investors. It's almost a cult he seems to have fostered."
- Heavy snowstorm hammers northeastern U.S. (Reuters)
- Coins Remain a Bright Spot for Gold (WSJ)
- Gross’s Mistake on Fed Taper Echoes Across Pimco Funds (BBG)
- China December services PMI falls to four-month low (Reuters)
- General Mills Starts Making Some Cheerios Without GMOs (WSJ)
- U.S. considers flammability risk of Bakken crude after accidents (Reuters)
- China Mobile’s Costly iPhone Deal with Apple (WSJ)
- Hezbollah Upgrades Missile Threat to Israel (WSJ)
- UK House Prices Cap Best Year Since 2006 as Mortgages Surge (BBG)
- China tells police to be loyal to party amid graft crackdown (Reuters)
From the first headline to the last, the following brief month-by-month summary of the year shows just how far markets and global happenings have come...
Market fragmentation in combination with the maker-taker market model, and in conjunction with a dramatic period of exchange “innovation,” had resulted in a new form of artificial edge.
In a carry-trade driven world in which news and fundamentals no longer matter, the only relevant "variable" is whether the JPY is down (check) and the EUR is up (check) which always results in green equities around the globe and green futures in the US, with yesterday's sudden and sharp selloff on no liquidity and no news long forgotten. The conventional wisdom "reason" for the overnight JPY underperformance against all major FX is once again due to central bank rhetoric, when overnight BOJ's Kiuchi sees high uncertainty whether 2% CPI will be reached in 2 years, Shirai says bank should ease further if growth, CPI diverge from main scenario. Also the BOJ once again hinted at more QE, and since this has proven sufficient to keep the JPY selling momentum, for now, why not continue doing it until like in May it stops working. As a result EURJPY rose above the 4 year high resistance of 138.00, while USDJPY is bordering on 102.00. On the other hand, the EUR gained after German parties strike coalition accord, pushing the EURUSD over 1.36 and further making the ECB's life, now that it has to talk the currency down not up, impossible. This is especially true following reports in the German press that the ECB is looking at introducing an LTRO in order to help promote bank lending. Since that rumor made zero dent on the EUR, expect the ongoing daily litany of ECB rumors that the bank is "technically ready" for negative rates and even QE, although as has been shown in recent months this now has a half-life measured in minutes as the market largely is ignoring whatever "tools" Draghi and company believe they have left.
On Thursday, November 7, 2013, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) halted trading in all OTC Equity Securities pursuant to FINRA Rule 6440(a)(3). FINRA determined to impose a temporary halt because of a lack of current quotation information. Therefore, FINRA has determined that halting quoting and trading in all OTC Equity Securities is appropriate to protect investors and ensure a fair and orderly marketplace. The trading and quotation halt began on Thursday, November 7, 2013, at 11:25:00 a.m. E.T. FINRA will notify the market when trading may resume.
- The ice breaks; fiscal talks set (The Hill); Ryan steps up to shape a deal (The Hill), as predicted here yesterday
- Republicans consider short-term U.S. debt ceiling increase (Reuters)
- Shutdown Standoff Shows Signs of a Thaw (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Clients in Cash as Schwab’s Options Hedge Default (BBG)
- Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP search for way out (Politico)
- Meredith Whitney Winds Down Brokerage Unit After Setting Up Fund (BBG)
- Washington Budget Chaos Keeps Fed Rates Low for Longer (BBG)
- Chinese Premier Outlines US Debt Concerns (FT)
- Saudis brace for 'nightmare' of U.S.-Iran rapprochement (Reuters)
- Obama Urges Action on Yellen’s Fed Nomination (Reuters)
- Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan Freed After Kidnap (WSJ)
Trading Halt - Extraordinary Event Halt
"Trading is halted because FINRA has determined that an extraordinary event has occurred or is ongoing that has had a material effect on the market for the OTC Equity Security or the security underlying an OTC ADR or has caused or has the potential to cause major disruption to the marketplace or significant uncertainty in the settlement and clearance process."
Lately, the parasitic, price manipulative "Office Space"-inspired HFT practice known as "spoofing" has been consistently in the news: a week ago, it was the third largest futures broker, Newedge, who made headlines following a "record" FINRA handslap. Then yesterday, a Red Bank, NJ-based HFT shop called Panther Energy Trading, and its sole owner Michael Coscia were fined $4.5 million and got a 1 year ban from the industry for engaging in the same activity. "Panther, based in Red Bank, New Jersey, and Coscia used a computer algorithm that placed and quickly canceled bids and offers in futures contracts for commodities including oil, metals, interest rates and foreign currencies. Panther and Coscia engaged in spoofing from August 8, 2011, to October 18, 2011, related to 18 futures contracts. The firm accumulated $1.4 million in profits by using the algorithm." While none of this is fundamentally new to any of our readers, we are happy to report that in conjunction with Nanex, we can now present documentary evidence of the Panther algo in action.