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.
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.
Judging by the market's reaction to the June FOMC statement and press-conference, Nanex shows the four things that US market participants can expect to happen over the next few hours:
- The HFT Machines Will Take Over (fake quotes will soar)
- Quote Spreads will Widen (but all that liquidity provision?)
- Quote Spreads will Become Unstable
- The Number of Stocks Locked (Bid=Ask) or crossed (Bid>Ask) Will Soar
But apart from that - do as you're told and BTFATH as every commission-taking muppet will tell you the Taper is priced in.
EB heads to TV...and reflects on predictions from 2009's "A Grand Unified Theory of Market Manipulation"
"I am going to hit on some of the landmines that you can encounter within order-matching engines, and then I am going to give a forecast on, at least from my perspective, what’s going to happen over the course of 2013"
Today, the very orders that make HFT a beneficial trading strategy and one worth the massive capex, are controlled by the exchanges. That's the difference between this form of "technological advancement" and those of the past, the direct ownership of the critical intersection between information processing and order execution.
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.
It will not come as a surprise to too many Zero Hedge readers but we feel a big told-you-so dance coming on again. Via BATS:
- *BATS SAYS 'SYSTEM ISSUE' CAUSED PRICING PROBLEMS OVER 4 YRS:WSJ
- BZX Exchange (10/24/08 - 01/04/13) Average Daily Incidents: 410.1 Total Incidents: 433,039
In simple terms BATS admits that the Reg NMS trading principle of NBBO (National Best Bid or Offer) has failed; meaning the core premise of market structure since 2005 has been massively abused by at least one and likely all exchanges. The bottom-line is that the primary and really only safeguard in the market when HFT was unleashed was never operational and the SEC has had i) no actual supervision over who or what was abusing the NBBO and ii) no way of keeping track of what really happens in the market.
Instead of uttering one more word in a long, seemingly endless tirade that stretches all the way to April 2009, we will this time let such dignified members of the credible, veritable status quo as Credit Suisse, who have released a two part primer on everything HFT related, with an emphasis on the broken market left in the wake of the "high freaks", which is so simple even a member of congress will understand (we would say a member of the SEC, but even at this level of simplicity its comprehension by the rank and file of the SEC is arguable). As Credit Suisse conveniently points out "market manipulation is already banned", but that doesn't mean that there are numerous loophole that HFT can manifest themselves in negative strategies that have virtually the same impact on a two-tiered market (those that have access to HFT and those that do not) as manipulation. Among such strategies are:
- Quote Stuffing: the HFT trader sends huge numbers of orders and cancels
- Layering: multiple, large orders are placed passively with the goal of “pushing” the book away
- Order Book Fade: lightning-fast reactions to news and order book pressure lead to disappearing liquidity
- Momentum ignition: an HFT trader detects a large order targeting a percentage of volume, and front-runs it.
Just in case anyone wanted to know what not to say to defend the absolute horrific mess of self-aware vacuum tubes and errant algos, formerly known as "the market", here is a great primer from Credit Suisse's trading strategist Phil Mackintosh.
Back in the summer of 2010, when the SEC was still desperate to (laughably) scapegoat the May 6 Flash Crash on Waddell and Reed, in an attempt to telegraph to the public that it was in control of the HFT takeover of the stock market (an attempt which has since failed miserably as days in which there are no occult trading phenomena have become the outlier and have resulted in the wholesale dereliction of stock trading by retail investors), we first presented and endorsed the Nanex proposal that the flash crash was an "on demand" (either on purpose or by mistake) event, one which occurred as a result of massive quote stuffing which prevented regular way trading from occuring and resulting in a 1000 DJIA point plunge in minutes (the audio track to which is still a must hear for anyone who harbor any doubt the market is "safe"). It turns out that in the nearly 3 years since that fateful market crash, not only has nothing been done to repair the market (ostensibly broken beyond repair and only another wholesale crash, this time without DKed trades, and bailed out banks, could possible do something to change the status quo) but the Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that HFT algos launch, for whatever reason, have become a daily occurrence as the following demonstrations from Nanex confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The chart below by way of Grant Thornton shows something rather disturbing: in recent months, the number of IPOs that are trading "at or above their issue price 30 days after IPO pricing" has been collapsing in virtually a straight line since the early 1990s, and in 2012 was just shy of all time lows (which have been recorded during periods of great market crashes, not when the S&P is about to hit its yearly highs). As such the lack of success of such prominent recent names as FaceBook, Zynga, Groupon and many others, is not simply a function of valuation and investor sentiment, but related to the ongoing deteriorating in the underlying market structure for a variety of reason, many of which have been written about here in the past.
Sometimes a picture can paint a thousand words; in the case of these two charts from Nanex, it paints more as it is abundantly clear that since Reg NMS, the 'noise' in our daily trading markets has risen exponentially as the apparent price we pay for the 'liquidity-providing' machines is up to 15-times more normalized 'price-changes' - or put another 'smoothed' way: averaged over a 20-day period, intraday volatility has doubled since HFT began (and was six times larger during the flash crash). How's your mean-variance efficient-frontier look now? Or your delta/gamma hedging program?
Haim Bodek thought practically nonstop for days about what the trade-venue representative had told him that night at the New York party. The way that the abusive order types worked made him think back to a document he’d been given by a colleague that summer as he researched what was going wrong at Trading Machines. The document was a detailed blueprint of a high-frequency method that was said to be popular in Chicago’s trading circles.
It was called the “0+ Scalping Strategy.”