Based on the unprecedented collapse in trading volumes of cash products over the past 6 years, one thing has become clear: retail, and increasingly, institutional investors and traders are gone, probably for ever and certainly until the Fed's market-distorting central planning ends. However, one entity appears to have taken the place of conventional equity traders: central banks.
Courtesy of an observation by Nanex's Eric Hunsader, we now know, with certainty and beyond merely speculation by tinfoil fringe blogs, that central banks around the world trade (and by "trade" we mean buy) S&P 500 futures such as the E-mini, in both futures and option form, as well as full size, and micro versions, in addition to the well-known central bank trading in Interest Rates, TSY and FX products.
In fact, central banks are such active traders, that the CME Globex has its own "Central Bank Incentive Program", designed to "incentivize" central banks to provide market liquidity, i.e., limit orders, by paying them (!) tiny rebates on every trade. Because central banks can't just print whatever money they need, apparently they need the CME to pay them to trade.
So the next time you sell some E-minis, ask yourself: is the ECB on the other side? Or the BOE? Or, perhaps, you are selling S&P 500 futures to Kuroda. Who knows: there is no paper trail anywhere, although a FOIA request and/or the discovery from a lawsuit, class action or otherwise, of the CME's central bank incentive program would likely yield some stunning results.
But the only place where "discovery" would be by far the most interesting, is for the CME to disclose just which central banks provide, or take such as at 8am every morning when one market sell order takes out the entire bid staack, the most liquidity when it comes to central bank trades in "Metals Futures Contracts (Physicals)."
Because imagine the shock and awe if and when it is uncovered that the biggest active manipulators of gold are not some junior-level traders out of Britain's criminal bank cartel, but the central banks themselves.
Finally, while the list above deals with international central banks "providing" ES liquidity, those wondering why the NY Fed is not on the list and just how the Fed's active trading team participates in the market without breaking the law, we have just one word: Citadel.