But the pretty people on TV said the Fed Minutes proved they were the most dovish ever and initial claims hit recovery lows... What a total disaster - Equity markets peaked within a few minutes of the open and never looked back - yesterday's "Fed Cat Bounce" gave way to Really Red Thursday... with the Nasdaq and Russell 6.5% from their recent highs (and the S&P 3.5% off), we suspect a "markets in turmoil" special on business media any moment...
The real truth the bankers wish to conceal from the public is that they use HFT programs to suppress gold and silver prices.
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.
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."
High Frequency Trading (HFT) covers such a broad swathe of 'trading' and financial markets that Mark Cuban (yes, that Mark Cuban), who has been among the leading anti-HFT graft voices in the public realm, decided to put finger-to-keyboard to create an "idiots guide to HFT" as a starting point for broad discussion. With screens full of desperate "stocks aren't rigged" HFT defenders seemingly most confused about what HFT is and does, perhaps instead of 'idiots' a better term would be "practitioners."
"High-frequency traders are gaming the system, reaping billions in the process and undermining investor confidence in the fairness of the markets. It’s a growing cancer and needs to be addressed. If confidence erodes further, the fuel of our free-enterprise system, capital formation, is at risk. We can’t allow that to happen. For sure, we still believe investing in equities is a primary path to long-term wealth creation, and we believe in the long-term structural integrity of the markets to deliver that over time for individual investors, which is all the more reason to be vigilant in removing anything that creates unfair advantage or undermines investor confidence... High-frequency trading isn’t providing more efficient, liquid markets; it is a technological arms race designed to pick the pockets of legitimate market participants. That flies in the face of our markets’ founding principles.
Suddenly the world is a buzz with the revelations that High Frequency Trading (HFT) may be doing more than actually harming the markets, it might be destroying the illusion they still are markets. This past Sunday the world at large was introduced that maybe, just maybe, something was amiss in the financial markets. Between the Federal Reserve's massive QE experiment amplified by the arms race of algorithmic technologies (aka HFT) to shave off a piece of that pie for themselves, the last few years have been nothing less than breathtaking. The only good thing that has come out lately on this whole issue of HFT is maybe for the first time in years the cover has been thrown off exposing the parasitic beast that’s been living just beneath the surface passing itself off as a symbiotic entity, rather than the pernicious monster its grown to be. Now the only question left to ask is: Can they invoke the death penalty for this creature... Without killing the patient?
First HFTs took over capital markets courtesy of "legal" orderflow frontrunning which is, for the sixth years in a row, confused with "providing liquidity", and which has allowed such pending IPOs as Virtu to boast 1237 profitable trading days out of 1238 while making their owners multi-billionaires. And now, courtesy of Michael Lewis, the high freaks have also taken over the Amazon bestselling books list.
For all the talk about how High Frequency Trading has rigged markets, most seem to be ignoring the two most obvious questions: why now and what happens next?
It's just sad now: with every passing day bringing new (and previously unseen) cases of high frequency trading algo-generated market halts or crashes, that none of the regulators are willing to take a stand against this market scourge that we have written about for nearly 5 years now, is a clear indication that the HFT lobby is firmly in control of what were once "capital markets" and that the retail investor is once again, the sacrificial lamb. But while it was one thing for the high freak thugs to control marginal price action through momentum ignition, quote stuffing, hide not slide, flash trades, and all the other well-known manipulative techniques which seemingly are too complicated for the SEC to figure out, in equities where things get really bad is when HFTs start crashing, or at least halting, the bond market at key market inflection points such as during the most important monthly data release, the payrolls release. This is precisely what happened on Friday, when as Nanex clearly shows, a momentum ignition algo sent the ZF (5 Year T-Note future) soaring and resulting in a 5 second - an eternity in today's nanosecond age - trading halt during the actual release of the BLS report.
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.
Recent speeches from the SEC indicate they plan to use Midas to look at the details behind quote stuffing, excessive order cancellations, the cause of mini flash crashes, and other nefarious activities. While these are all good uses for a market analysis tool (Midas), they pale in comparison to a data-feed delay analysis, because the former are governed by blanket, hard-to-prove manipulation laws, while the latter can be tied directly to a core rule that lies at the heart of Regulation NMS. An improper data-feed delay was the reason for the $5 million fine against an exchange in September 2012. Furthermore, millions of people are directly affected and disadvantaged by illegal data-feed delays. Therefore, it would be a great waste of public resources to not immediately pursue a data-feed delay analysis, because there exists ample evidence that an illegal speed advantage exists in direct feeds over the public quote.
It has been almost 2 years since FINRA started to get 'serious' about thinking about looking into an investigation of (get our point) high-frequency trading and dark pools but it seems, as the WSJ reports, this time they are more specific. In Sept 2011 FINRA noted "there's something that's troubling us in the marketplace," and it seems now that FINRA has spent the time since understanding the jargon they have some questions, "who is responsible for the automatic shut off or kill switch," asking firms how they avoid "quote bursts and stuffing" that create confusion for other investors and potentially distort the market, and approving a plan to force dark pools (15% of all stock trading) to disclose and detail trading activity on their platforms. Of course, we've seen this kind of bluster before and they did nothing then but hope springs eternal.
The major compression in VIX into the close combined with a complete lack of JPY-based carry-driver for the equity market comeback today has many asking just what happened? Though the mechanism for quote-stuffing or momentum ignition in this case is unclear - one thing is absolutely crystal clear - today's total and utter explosion in the quote volume for SPY options provides more than a little concern for just what this market has become. As Nanex notes, over 1.1 billion quotes for SPY Options were posted today as 'quote spam' seems to be serving as some kind of parasitic momentum spark. The point here is that just as the market's flash-crash occurred on a day in which quote-stuffing in cash stocks hit a record; so today we got the inverse flash-smash higher in stocks from a surge in quotes on the far-more levered options market. Just look at these charts!!