VIX was monkey-hammered lower once again today, lifting stocks vertically to Russell 2000 record highs and The Dow within a point of 17,000. The question is who (or what) is doing it. Nanex seems to have found out who... It appears the un-visible hand of VIX manipulation (that we have shown previously) has been forced into the open public markets as Barclays goes dark. Simply put, massive bursts of 1-lot TVIX orders flood and delay the markets enabling HFTs to manipulate the tail that inevitably wags the market (via VXX, SPX options hedges and leverage) and now that the dark pools are disappearing, we see it all in real-time.
In what appears to be the first real action post-Flash Boys, NY AG Eric Schneiderman will announce at 4pm ET that Barclays will be sued over fraud allegations related to its Dark Pool's preferential treatment of high-frequency traders. As Bloomberg notes, Barclays runs one of the market's largest dark pools. This comes 2 months after the NY AG sent requests for information to various major HFT shops. It seems, just as we noted here, that a potential scapegoat is being primed 'just in case' this 'market' can't withstand the Fed's pullback.
“You know what the difference is between an Economist/Analyst, and a Business owner? When a Business owner makes a prediction on his or her business and is wrong – the business could wind up in bankruptcy. When the Economist/Analyst makes a wrong prediction about business – they just make another prediction.”
in the past year it has became very clear that the asset class where the growth of HFT has been most pronounced is not in equities but in FX - perhaps linked to the tidal departure of all carbon-based FX traders all of whom it now appears were engaging in gross "chat room" mnaipulation - and to a lesser extent, options. But one place that seemed somewhat immune from the ravages of the constant millisecond back-and-forth churn and quote stuffing known as high frequency "trading" were bonds.
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.