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."
The numbers out last night were once again largely on the weak side of disappointing, with very little reaction and even less of an intuitive reaction. As Bloomberg’s Richard Breslow writes, this is the downside of everyone having the same positions. Simply put, we've been trained to catch the falling knife by the CBs, one of those trading strategies that will work until it doesn’t and when the knife slips you will really have a taper tantrum.
The Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has been long viewed as one of the most corrupt of American institutions – and that’s saying a lot... when a retiring judge accuses the other remaining judge of being a total bought and paid for Wall Street crony, you know something is wrong. And sure enough, today we learn the CFTC will impose a meager $650,000 fine on JP Morgan, despite years of warnings about fraudulent data reports. You gotta love American justice. In the same week that an NYPD officer’s illegal and fatal chokehold was ruled a homicide (incredibly the man who shot the video has now been arrested), JP Morgan gets off with another slap on the wrist. As Glenn Greenwald noted, it’s Liberty and Justice for Some.
The gold price manipulation scheme will go down as the biggest financial market scandal in US history for numerous reasons. They include the destruction of the free market system in the United States.
At some point there is going to be a sea change in bonds. The question is does the last week in July finally cause the Sea-Change in Bonds?
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...
First it was gold, now it is HFT - poor Barclays just can't get away with any market rigging crime these days: "In sum, Barclays’ courting of high frequency traders, and its willingness to falsify the extent of high frequency trading activity in its dark pool, was contrary to Barclays’ representations to clients that Barclays operated with “transparency” and provided a safe venue in which to trade. As described by one former senior Barclays Director: “there was a lot going on in the dark pool that was not in the best interests of clients. The practice of almost ensuring that every counterparty would be a high frequency firm, it seems to me that that wouldn’t be in the best interest of their clients . . . It’s almost like they are building a car and saying it has an airbag and there is no airbag or brakes.”
Once Central Banks get out of markets, and I know some critics think that once they get in they are here to stay, healthy volatility and actual price discovery should come back to asset classes.
With the 2014 calendar nearly half way done, and the macro hedge fund community not only underperforming the S&P 500 for the 6th year in a row, but generating a negative return YTD, what is a macro hedge fund universe to do? Why lose all pretense of being sophisticated fundamental trend pickers and do what Bernanke and Yellen have been forcing everyone to do from day one: go all in stocks of course! According to JPM as of this moment there is no difference in the positioning of both traditional long/short hedge funds and macro funds, both of which have increased their equity exposure to the highest since May 2011!
"The government bond markets right now present one of the most one sided trades I've ever seen in my professional life."
Committees, investigations, concerns... but no actions. The SEC's Mary White spoke about market micro-structure this morning but mereley asked a lot of questions - as opposed to answered any. Two things she did mention of note: increased transpraceny for dark pools and internalizers; and forcing more high-frequency traders (and prop shops) to register as broker-dealers (and thus come under closer regulatory scrutiny). However, by the time any of this becomes 'law', we suspect the lobbyists will have created loopholes the size of Draghi's ego for HFTs to walk through. As WSJ reports, the SEC's enforcement division is investigating whether some high-speed traders are using order types - commands exchanges provide that determine how traders' buy and sell orders will be handled - in ways that can give them an advantage over less-savvy investors. We apologize for not seeing this 'investigation' as a positive but we've been here before with every other regulator... vested interests remain strong.
"You’re picking up pennies on a train track. You are not getting paid much but you are sure that there will be a very negative surprise at some point. The risk / reward profile is as bad as ’07." - Portfolio manager speaking to Citigroup
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.
The types of “research” SAC may acquire include, but are not limited to, the following:
- reports on or other information about particular companies or industries;
- economic surveys and analyses;
- consulting services regarding products, technologies, issuers or industries;
- non-mass-marketed financial publications (delivered in hard copy or electronically);
- computerized pricing and market data services;
- pre-trade and post-trade analytics, software and other products that generate market research, including research on optimal execution venues and trading strategies;
- advice from brokers-dealers on order execution, including advice on execution strategies, market color and the availability of buyers and sellers (and software that provides such market research);
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?