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.
What goes up appears to come down faster. Thanks, apparently, to a well-timed Goldman Sachs suggestion that the heavily-shorted (28.4% of float) electric-car maker is over-priced (whocouldanode at 303% YTD gains), the shares are down 14.5% today on massive volume (-18% from yesterday's highs) but still notably above Patrick Archambault's $84 target.
When we tapered our coverage of HFT manipulation and stock market abuse some time ago, we thought that the message had been heard loud and clear: high frequency trading is a sophisticated market manipulating parasite, whose only real function is to abuse market structure and integrity, by making conventional market manipulation practices more difficult to spot and identify. It turns out some, i.e., Newedge, thought they could still get away with traditional manipulative practices such as spoofing, layering, momentum ignition, wash trading, bypassing, and others, if only they were wrapped in an HFT blanket. It did so for four years from 2008 until 2011. As it turns out it was wrong, and in a stunning example of actually doing its job, FINRA fined Newedge, which is one of the largest futures brokers in the world and ranks third in terms of U.S. customer assets on deposit, a record $9.5 million.
Currency wars are so pre-"QE eternity." At least that is the opinion of Indian multi-billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, and owner of the world's biggest steelmaker, who urged Europe to embrace protectionism and erect trade barriers to "protect" its manufacturers (benefiting one ArcelorMittal among others), while at the same time bashing austerity, saying "the futures of EU manufacturing depended on politicians in Brussels helping industry face what he said was unfair competition from China." In other words, it's time for Europe to escalate into full blown trade warfare with China. It is unclear if Mr. Mittal had any thoughts on how China would, in turn, escalate to this progression in trade warfare: whether with tariffs, subsidies, or outright dumping. What does appear quite clear is that the owner of ArcelorMittal, who on Friday posted a net loss of $345 million (down from a $92 million profit a year earlier) on Q1 sales plunging by 13%, whose stock is just off its 52 week lows, and who said he may close plants in Eastern Europe if the "economy continues to slump", may have some ulterior motives in asking that Europe fight his war for him.
After exposing the stock market manipulative arsenal that is High Frequency Trading, quote stuffing, flash trading, packet churning, layering, sub-pennying, liquidity, latency and dark pool arbitrage, NBBO and Reg NMS exemptions, "hide-not-sliding", collocation, and much, much more for four years, or so long even Credit Suisse joined the chorus we started in April of 2009, we are glad to learn that finally, with a ridiculous Rip Van Winklesian delay, but better late than never, "the FBI has teamed up with securities regulators to tackle the potential threat of market manipulation posed by new computer trading methods that have taken operations beyond the scope of traditional policing." In other words, the SEC has finally realized it can no longer pretend it is not co-opted, but because it has no clue where to even start with HFT, has asked the help of the Feds. Which in itself is hardly reason for optimism, but if there is one thing Hans Gruber has taught us, it is that when the Feds get involved, the first thing they do is cut the power, and in this algo-based market that will end some 99% of all daily manipulative practices we have all grown to love and look forward to every single day.
There is much debate whether when it comes to the total notional size of outstanding derivatives, it is the gross notional that matters (roughly $600 trillion), or the amount which takes out biletaral netting and other offsetting positions (much lower). We explained previously how gross is irrelevant... until it is, i.e. until there is a breach in the counterparty chain and suddenly all net becomes gross (as in the case of the Lehman bankruptcy), such as during a financial crisis, i.e., the only time when gross derivative exposure becomes material (er, by definition). But a bigger question is what is the actual collateral backing this gargantuan market which is about 10 times greater than the world's combined GDP, because as the "derivative" name implies all this exposure is backed on some dedicated, real assets, somewhere. Luckily, the IMF recently released a discussion note titled "Shadow Banking: Economics and Policy" where quietly hidden in one of the appendices it answers precisely this critical question. The bottom line: $600 trillion in gross notional derivatives backed by a tiny $600 billion in real assets: a whopping 0.1% margin requirement! Surely nothing can possibly go wrong with this amount of unprecedented 1000x systemic leverage.