That markets are rigged, at both the macro level, through central banks, and micro, through HFTs, dark pools and purposeful market fragmentation, should be painfully obvious to everyone by now. But when even the regulators engage in "jury rigging", or in this case blocking prominent HFT-critic Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winning economist (a prize which doesn't count for much on these pages but should - at least on paper - impress such statist cronies as the SEC), has been blocked from a government panel that will advise regulators on issues facing U.S. equity markets, it becomes clear as day that the rigging is not just in the markets: worse, it is openly involves the market's "regulator" and "enforcer."
As regular readers are well aware, when it comes to "more than arms length" equity market intervention in New Normal markets, the New York Fed's preferred "intermediary" of choice to, how should one say, boost investor sentiment aka "protect from a plunge", is none other than Chicago HFT powerhouse, Citadel. Yet one question had remained unanswered: just how does Citadel manipulated stocks? We now know the answer, and perhaps more importantly, it also links in to the true culprit behind the May 2010 Flash Crash, no not Waddell & Reed, but quote stuffing. Most importantly, the revelation that for Citadel quote stuffing is not just some byproduct of some "innocuous" HFT strategy, is that none other than the Nasdaq has now stated on the record, that the most leveraged hedge fund (at 9x regulatory to net assets), and the third largest after Bridgewater and Millennium, used quote stuffing as a "trading strategy."
When obnoxiously wealthy pricks with the ability to bribe stock exchanges to place their trading computers on the floor of the exchange and financially induce the Wall Street banks to funnel trades through their dark pools in order to know what is happening a nanosecond before everyone else, and use this information to front run unknowing investors to generate risk free profits, it’s wrong. It really is black and white. I don’t care that it is supposedly “legal”. By complying with Regulation NMS the smart order routers of institutional investor firms like Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab simply funneled naïve investors into various snares laid for them by the unscrupulous high frequency traders. The bad guys always win and the good guys always lose on Wall Street. And no one does anything because they are all on the take. Lewis puts it in terms the average person can understand.
“Flash Boys” is a book written for Hollywood instead of the history books or policy makers. Stay tuned for the movie.
The topic of High-Frequency-Trading quickly dissolves into a smorgasbord of mnemonics and 'inside-baseball' technical terms - just complicated enough to lose everyone that matters or should care about its implications. Despite the fair-and-balanced defense from the mainstream media business channels (sponsored by the belief in the status quo fair markets that 'America the free' is known for), the fact is that HFT does front-run (perfectly legal under the umbrella protection of Reg NMS) order flow, but there may be one more wrinkle - one which would cement the Michael Lewis (accurate) allegation that the market is rigged.
Now that both the FBI and the DOJ have woken up from a half-decade slumber realizing there was riggedness, RIGGEDNESS going on in these here stock markets courtesy of Michael Lewis' book, it wasn't long before those most impacted by the frontrunning startegies of HFTs spoke up - anyone who has lost money in the stock market since Reg NMS was conceived. Sure enough, in a lawsuit that was just filed by lead plaintiff William Charles Braman, seeking class-action status, and filed on behalf of all users of real-time futures market data and futures contracts listed on the CBOT and CME from 2007 to now, the CME is allegd to have sold order information to high-frequency traders ahead of other market participants.
Ever since Goldman's anti-HFT Op-Ed less than a month ago, and since the even more recent full-hearted support by Goldman of Michael Lewis' most recent entry into the anti-HFT crusade (one promoting the Goldman-supported IEX exchange), one thing has been clear: the days of market structure in its current format are numbered. This was further confirmed after Goldman exited both its legacy Spear Leeds & Kellogg designated market making post at the NYSE, and is said to be winding down its market-dominating dark pool, Sigma X. Sure enough, Post reports that just three weeks after the Gary Cohn Op-Ed, the SEC is "preparing to remove some high-frequency trading firms."
The Father Of High Speed Trading Speaks: "The Market We Created Is A Casino; A Complete Mess; A Rigged Game"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/07/2014 17:42 -0500
"I must confess to you that I was an ardent proponent of bringing technology to trading and brokerage. Unfortunately, I only saw the good sides. I saw how electronic trading and record-keeping could be used to force people to be more honest, to make the process more efficient, to lower transaction costs and to bring liquidity to the markets. I did not see the forces of fragmentation and the opportunity for people to use technology to keep to the letter but avoid the spirit of the rules -- creating the current crisis.... Technology, market structure, and new products have evolved more quickly than our capacity to understand or control them. ... To the public the financial markets may increasingly seem like a casino, except that the casino is more transparent and simpler to understand.... The result has been a series of crises over the past few years that have caused many investors to lose confidence or to think that the whole system is a rigged game."
In the aftermath of Michael Lewis' book "Flash Boys" there has been a renewed surge in interest in High Frequency Trading. Alas, much of it is conflicted, biased, overly technical or simply wrong. And since we can't assume that all those interested have been followed our 5 year of coverage of a topic that finally has earned its day in the public spotlight, below is a simple summary for everyone.
It is now quite clear why BATS CEO Bill O'Brien was so agitated during the Tuesday's screamfest on CNBC. As The Wall Street Journal's Scott Patterson reports, under pressure from the NYAG, BATS has hurriedly issued a statement correcting the CEO's false comments during the exchange with IEX's Brad Katsuyama. After Katsuyama said "you wanna do this, let's do this" clearly giving him an out, O'Brien stated that BATS priced its trades off 'high-speed' data feeds when in fact they price their trades off a much slower feed (and therefore 'enable' the exact HFT-front-running that is in question).
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."
Given our understanding that the number of large avalanches is positively correlated to the number of small avalanches, it seems pretty clear that (as Nanex and Zerohedge has been saying) the damaged market microstructure is mirrored in the increasing number of flash crashes since Reg NMS. Unfortunately, our murky understanding of how the microstructure causes the macrostructural changes can be used by the regulatory authorities to avoid investigation. They can't see a smoking gun. Accordingly, our modest proposal for dealing with HFT is this--nothing. Don't bust trades--let them stand. We'd be curious to see the response of the various Ivy-League endowment funds and pension funds when they suffer brutal, near-instantaneous, multi-billion-dollar losses. How would real companies, producing real products, react to a sudden monkey-hammering of their stock price, especially if it triggered debt covenants? Maybe they would all exit the market en masse. It might even force a real change.
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?
Market fragmentation in combination with the maker-taker market model, and in conjunction with a dramatic period of exchange “innovation,” had resulted in a new form of artificial edge.