The blog posts and defenses of high frequency trading in the past week have come with dizzying high frequency. Flash Boys has struck many a nerve; the truth can be a bitter pill at times. And of course, the pro-HFT defenses are all made by many who are very, very staked in the status quo of our market structure. Now, bloggers using twitter is one thing; conflicted insiders using television to make their HFT defenses are another.
Yesterday's #Hash-Crash has brought the tough reality of just how entirely mechanized the so-called equity 'markets' have become in the US to every mom-and-pop who watch nightly news. Mainstream media is even discussing the correlations between JPY carry trades and equity indices now as CNBC's Rick Santelli notes "the high-speed casinos our markets have become". All things we have discussed for years. But there is one potentially fascinating insight from the ongoing robotization of the TBTF banking sector - Wall Street jobs are now at an all-time record low. Once again, it would appear, that cost-cutting demands (and a government backstop and huge subsidy no matter how bad the things are that you do) trumps any job creation. As Joe Saluzzi explains to CNBC's Rick Santelli in this excellent clip, the "liquidity is fickle" - the fake-tweet was a mere catalyst, he added, "we see these flash-crashes every day." The benefits for the major exchanges far exceed the conflicts of interest of these so-called "market-makers" who front-run their clients millisecond by millisecond.
Presenting Dave Collum's now ubiquitous and all-encompassing annual review of markets and much, much more. From Baptists, Bankers, and Bootleggers to Capitalism, Corporate Debt, Government Corruption, and the Constitution, Dave provides a one-stop-shop summary of everything relevant this year (and how it will affect next year and beyond).
Joe Saluzzi, expert on algorithmic trading -- also known as high-frequency trading, or HFT -- returns as a guest this week to explain how the players behind this machine-driven process act as parasites that are destroying our financial markets (and, increasingly, even themselves). Since Joe first spoke with us last year, HFT firms have only increased in size and share of market activity. Here are some staggering statistics on how influential they have become:
- HTFs make up between 50-70% of the volume seen across market exchanges today
- 2% of the traders on many exchanges (HFTs, specifically) represent 80% of the volume
- a single large HFT firm (referred to as a Direct Market Maker) can account for 10%+ of a market's volume on a given day
- Large HFT firms make between $8 to $21 billion a year
- HFT trades occur in milliseconds (i.e. a small fraction of the time it takes your eye to blink)
With such scale, speed and profitability, HFTs have turned the market away from being an efficient price-setting mechanism and perverted it into a casino where the clientele (i.e. human investors) gets fleeced. And our regulators are so outmatched by the scope, complexity and funding of these titanic HFT players that at moment, there are pretty much zero consequences for bad actors.
Our friends at Themis Trading, who continue the good, if seemingly futile fight, for a fair and untiered market, refresh on their late 2010 market structure forecast, only to find that with a 1 out of 10 "success" track record, they have the same predictive hit rate as Byron Wien and Joe LaVorgna. Which, incidentally, is not a good thing: it simply means the US stock market is now more broken and corrupt than ever, a development that is not lost on US investors, who later today we will find have redeemed a near record amount of cash from US equity mutual funds in 2011, and have pulled cash for 34 out of 35 weeks in a row, leaving mutual funds with virtually zero cash buffer, massive leverage and dreading that day when the Santa rally coupled with low volume levitation is no longer sufficient to mask the massive capital hole in the heart of the S&P 500.
Our friends at Themis Trading have put together another quite fascinating white paper which makes a disturbing observation: on an intraday basis, the widely watched market gauge indices such as the Dow Jones Industrial Avereage, the S&P 500, the Nasdaq and the Russell 1000, are based on less than 30% of all shares traded, therefore conveying incomplete trading data. The reason, which is intuitively known by all who follow the increasingly more fragmented and more compartmentalized into dark pools and other various ATS venues, market topology is that as Themis says: "the market has become increasingly dominated by trading volume from arbitraging index, ETF, and other derivative movements versus the underlying equities.... Nowadays, in a world of microsecond trading, these indexes have become phantoms - they reflect some trades involving their components, but not the majority of them." In other words it is becoming increasingly obvious why in a world of HFT, ETF, algo, ATS and everything else penetration, there is now a scramble between the legacy exchanges to merge. The alternative is a slow, painful death due to terminal obsolescence brought upon from unregulated trading venues, which often times see the alternative trading system operator have exclusive firewall and gateway privileges, where anything goes and where such obsolete constructs as Reg NMS are routinely ignored: after all how can the SEC possibly track down the billions of unique trades each and every day and catch all the transgressions. Themis provides a solution to this skewed motivation for all traders to increasingly vacate the actively regulated open exchanges: "indexes should be calculated based on every trade involving a component that crosses the consolidated tape, which includes trades from non-primary exchanges such as BATS, DirectEdge and NYSE Arca."
"In the long run, as decades of capital misallocations and inefficiencies in the global economy get shaken out, there’s going to be a redistribution of the wealth. And I think the wealth is going to go to where it’s treated best. And at the end of the day, that’s really what I’m looking for: the places that have the most solid fundamentals and the best growth potential." So states Simon Black, who travels the world (over 20 countries in the past 3 months) in order to assess and report on the investment and lifestyle opportunities offered by various international destinations for the readers of his blog, SovereignMan.com. His boots-on-the ground observations lead him to conclude that there are a number of resource-rich and fiscally-sound developing nations that are much better positioned to meet the future than the US and its developed counterparts. Smart investors, in his opinion, can't afford to ignore the stability and returns (both financial and lifestyle) these countries offer. They should be asking themselves: do I have sufficient exposure to these opportunities?
In this podcast, Axel explains:
- Why Ben Bernanke is hell-bent on debasing the US dollar to spur economic growth
- How the politics of the Fed work, where the power lies and which arguments and actions are likely to carry the day
- Why inflation expectations actually matter more than actualy inflation, and why the Fed will not rest until it is satisfied the market expectations for inflation are higher
- That the US is on its way to a fiscal trainwreck - a reality our political leadership continues to lack to backbone to address honestly
- The Fed's powers are prodigious, but not as great as the market. If and when the market moves against policymakers, nothing will stop it. The growing risk is we quickly tip into the inflation the Fed wants, which then quickly leads to runaway prices
- His outlook for gold and why he thinks this "ultimate currency" can go much higher from current levels
- How the US is caught in a Catch-22: our loose monetary policy continues to encourages credit consumption that makes us increasingly vulnerable; but we're so indebted already that if the Fed tightens rates, the economy could easily fall into a full-blown depression
The dark side of giving babies full discretionary stock/CDS/option HFT-eligible trading accounts.
Guest Post: The Bernank, Frankie Pentangeli and a Ponzi Scheme - An Advance Look At Today's Von Bernankestein GrillingSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/09/2011 09:18 -0400
At 10am today, Ron Paul will convene a sub-committee hearing with the topic “Can Monetary Policy Really Create Jobs?“. It really is too bad that Ben Bernanke will not be at this hearing. But if he was, we have a feeling the hearing would be like a scene right out of “The Godfather II” with Bernanke playing the part of Frankie Pentangeli. In fact, we just happen to have a transcript of how that hearing would have sounded...
Chris Martenson Interviews Joe Saluzzi on High-Frequency Trading: The Equity Market Is Now Controlled By The MachinesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/05/2011 14:17 -0400
Joe Saluzzi, co-founder of Themis Trading LLC and outspoken exchange expert, is concerned with how high-frequency trading has brought the capital markets into uncharted - and dangerous - territory. "Things have changed," he cautions. With 50-70% of all trades being conducted by algorithms at micro-second time intervals, real human traders are increasingly challenged to understand how our markets actually work. "No longer do the technical patterns - that have lasted for years and years, and are written about all over - work anymore." In the following interview, Joe and Chris plunge into "dark pools" and other poorly-understood elements of our now-machine-dominated financial exchanges. The current system is fraught with risks of further "flash crash"-like disruptions, and at a fundmental level, feels a lot like sanctioned theft by the deep-pocketed institutions who can outspend on technology and speed. This is an important interview for anyone involved in trading (professionally or personally), as well as investors who want to know how today's markets truly operate.
We present Themis Trading's Top Ten Market Structure predictions for 2011. At the way things are going, they may just hit 10 out of 10.
Up until recently, the banks have been enjoying a free ride at the savers expense. The yield curve is at its steepest slope since 1977. The spread between the US 2 year and 30 year is 400 bps while the 2-10 spread is 275 bps. The plan was for that big fat spread to add up to big fat bank revenues (witness Citigroup 4Q net interest revenue of over $12 billion). But just like most bank robberies, the plan usually goes wrong and the robbers are caught by the cops. This time the cops are the bond market. Prices on treasuries dropped 13% in the 4Q of 2010. This has wrecked havoc on the banks free money plan and we are now seeing this in the investment portfolio losses of the banks (witness State Street earnings report this morning where their revenue dropped 12% due to “investment portfolio repositioning”).
Have you ever heard of Section 747? No, it’s not where the government is hiding the aliens. And it’s not the secret area where The Bernank prints all the money. Section 747 is a small paragraph buried deep in the 3000 page monstrosity known as the Dodd-Frank Act. And Section 747 is causing a lot of folks in the HFT world to be very concerned.
Joe Saluzzi is warning us not to trust the rally. But performance anxiety is hitting asset managers who are now scrambling to make up the difference...