"When an HFT that is not a member of an association executes an off-exchange trade, the HFT’s identity is usually not reported to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, which is the only association currently in existence. This frustrates FINRA’s surveillance efforts as it cannot quickly link trades to the HFTs responsible for them. This is a serious problem because, according to FINRA’s current Chairman, certain market participants disperse their trading activity across multiple markets in an attempt to hide various forms of market abuse, including layering, spoofing, algorithm gaming, and wash sales."
- SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar.
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.
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."
While central banks’ grip on the economy seems to be waning, notes Citi's Matt King, additional liquidity still seems as potent as ever when it comes to propping up global markets. The question in our minds revolves around whether central banks remain willing to keep pumping when the economic benefits are so questionable. Equally, though, valuations are already so elevated that we doubt they can afford to stop. One way or another, this feels like a recipe for increased volatility.
Just yesterday, the SEC charged Canadian Aleksandr Milrud with orchestrating a lucrative market manipulation scheme that relied on "layering" in which a trader places orders solely to trick others into buying or selling at artificially inflated or depressed prices... So we found it ironic that twice today, Nanex exposed examples of the "spoofing" manipulation in crude oil futures (which soared) and S&P 500 e-mini futures (which soared)... These are your "most liquid and transparent capital markets in the world."
Despite a full court press of PR to confirm HFT firms are friends of retail investors and do no wrong; the SEC, it appears, sees it differently. While Mary White has confidently explained the market is not rigged, her agency is now actively seeking tips, complaints, or referrals that show, as The Chicago Tribune reports, evidence of abuse of order types, as well as traditional forms of abusive trading like "layering" or "spoofing" and other issues relating to high-frequency trading that might be violations of the law. Here are the 10 firms (including poster child holy-grail trader Virtu Financial) that the SEC is probing... can you spot the oddly missing one...
The central banks of the world are massively and insouciantly pursuing financial instability. That’s the inherent result of the 68 straight months of zero money market rates that have been forced into the global financial system by the Fed and its confederates at the BOJ, ECB and BOE. ZIRP fuels endless carry trades and the harvesting of every manner of profit spread between negligible “funding” costs and positive yields and returns on a wide spectrum of risk assets. Stated differently, ZIRP systematically dismantles the market’s natural stability mechanisms.
It would appear that the exuberance over today's better-than-expected car sales data should be tempered significantly. Confirming our warnings, as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) explains, across the industry, auto lenders are pursuing growth by lengthening terms, increasing advance rates, and originating loans to borrowers with lower credit scores. With average loan-to-value rates above 100%, they have an ominous warning: "risk in auto-lending is beginning to emerge." We are sure this will be dismissed (just as the BIS' warning has been), but with surging charge-offs and increased repackaging (CLOs), and banks holding a lot of this debt, this 'bubble-financing' has all the ingredients for subprime 2.0 contagion.
Some people are either born or nurtured into a time warp and never seem to escape. That’s Janet Yellen’s apparent problem with the “bathtub economics” of the 1960s neo-Keynesians. As has now been apparent for decades, the Great Inflation of the 1970s was a live fire drill that proved Keynesian activism doesn’t work. That particular historic trauma showed that “full employment” and “potential GDP” were imaginary figments from scribblers in Ivy League economics departments—not something that is targetable by the fiscal and monetary authorities or even measureable in a free market economy. Even more crucially, the double digit inflation, faltering growth and repetitive boom and bust macro-cycles of the 1970s and early 1980s proved in spades that interventionist manipulations designed to achieve so-called “full-employment” actually did the opposite—that is, they only amplified economic instability and underperformance as the decade wore on.
For years, the suspicion that Mr. Putin has a secret fortune has intrigued scholars, industry analysts, opposition figures, journalists and intelligence agencies but defied their efforts to uncover it. Numbers are thrown around suggesting that Putin may control $40 billion or even $70 billion, in theory making him not only the richest head of state in world history but possibly the richest man alive in the world today, period. Now, the quest to track down, and isolate, Putin's billions launches in earnest.
On Monday, in "High Frequency Trading: Why Now And What Happens Next" we predicted that "the high freaks are about to become the most convenient, and "misunderstood" scapegoat, for when the market finally does crash. Which means that those HFT-associated terms which very few recognize now, especially those on either side of the pro/anti-HFT debate who have very strong opinions but zero factual grasp of the matter, such as the following:
- Layering: multiple, large orders are placed passively with the goal of “pushing” the book away
Of course, another name for "layering" is "spoofing" which is precisely the term that the SEC used today when it announced that it charged the owner of a New Jersey-based trading firm and several other defendants "in a scheme to manipulate the market through an illegal practice known as "spoofing."
"Today there is a tremendous amount of monetary distortion, on par with the 1929 stock market and certainly the peak of 2007, and many others," warns Universa's Mark Spitznagel. At these levels, he suggests (as The Dao of Capital author previously told Maria B, "subsequent large stock market losses and even crashes become perfectly expected events." Post-Bernanke it will be more of the same, he adds, and investors need to know how to navigate such a world full of "monetary distortions in the economy and the creation of malinvestments." The reality is, Spitznagel concludes that the 'recovery is a Fed distortion-driven mirage' and the only way out is to let the natural homeostasis take over - "the purge that occurs after massive distortion is painful, but ultimately, it’s far better and healthier for the system."
Having been the first to warn the world about the perils of high frequency trading nearly 5 years ago, when momentum ignition, layering and quote stuffing were still incomprehensible buzzwords to all but a select few algo traders from Citadel, GETCO and DE Shaw, and warning about such top-down systemic lock ups like flash-crash over a year in advance; as well as the bottom-up impacts of 20 year old math PhDs being in charge of market topology, our crusade from the micro has since shifted to the macro and the primary nemesis of all that is free and fair, the Federal Reserve. In the intervening years, traders such as Haim Bodek opened the HFT kimono even more publicly a few years ago. The following is a must-watch documentary for every investor and trader to comprehend just what it is (and who it is) that drives stock prices day in and day out.
This morning’s news that the China leadership has launched a “mini-stimulus” package might confirm what we’ve long feared – China’s economic situation is more perilous than we thought. It looks like a comparatively modest supply-side package of tax cuts, export boosts and railway stimulus, designed to “arouse the energy of the market” according the State Council. But it could be the first of many new programs according to analysts. The state is clearly concerned. That it has been forced to act should be a wake up and smell the coffee moment for markets – the implications of China slowdown could be this year’s game changer in markets.