High Frequency Trading
However, while price manipulations may work in the short term, in the long term gold prices will be dictated by the real world forces of physical supply and demand for gold coins, bars and jewellery. The smart money is fading out the considerable noise regarding volatile intraday price falls and focusing on gold's importance as a long term diversification in a portfolio.
Just another day in the markets, just another HFT algo going completely insane and Nanex catching it in the act.
In the minute preceding last week's highly anticipated payrolls report, Nanex exposes the appearance of a High Frequency Trading (HFT) algo in both the December 2013 Nasdaq (NQ) Futures and the QQQs (an ETF). When it was active, it caused prices to gyrate wildly over a few seconds of time. This is the brief period that also saw Treasury Futures halted (and gold prices jumping) and looking closer at the charts, it appears this HFT algo caused wild price oscillations in the futures in a way that enable it to establish a short position in QQQs. We are sure the regulatory world is already on this blatant manipulation (or simple front-running on information received)...
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.
We'll give you a hint, says Nanex: fantaseconds. Fantaseconds, everywhere. This is how High Frequency Trading (HFT) practically minted money during the financial crisis. With no regulators in sight, HFT robbed investors and other traders blind. With very little effort, Nanex has created numerous charts to illustrate the absurdity that markets functioned well during the financial meltdown. Many of the short term oscillations shown in these charts were created by HFT algos to induce a lag and create latency arbitrage opportunities. And yet the regulators could not spot a single one. Even after spending millions on MIDAS.
While the recent Federal Reserve inaction is bullish for stocks in the short term there are plenty of reasons to remain somewhat cautious. Stocks are overvalued, rates are rising, earnings are deteriorating and despite signs of short term economic improvements the data trends remain within negative downtrends. Investors, however, have disregarded fundamentals as irrelevant as long as the Federal Reserve remains committed to its accommodative policies. The problem is that no one really knows how this will turn out and the current assumptions are based upon past performance. Complacency is not an option; it is critically important to understand that market reversions do not occur without a catalyst. Whether it is the onset of an economic recession, a natural disaster or a financial crisis - there is always something that sparks the initial selloff that leads to a full blown market panic. With this idea in mind here are 3 rising risks that investors should be paying attention to.
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.
Just three weeks ago, Goldman Sachs cried 'uncle' when their market-making options algo-machine exploded in a fit of guilt causing the firm to face hundreds of millions of dollars losses (should the exchange not have DK'd the deals). Nanex has investigated the rogue algo and here are the findings... "As soon as option quotes in the affected symbols began exceeding theoretic economic values by some threshold, quotes (and therefore liquidity) on other options exchanges for those contracts would immediately disappear - bid/ask prices would go to zero at other exchanges. Within 10 seconds of starting, one algo, in effect, completely destroyed the concept of the National Market System and obliterated liquidity..." As they sadly conclude, what was the fine for shutting down an options exchange, and destroying liquidity in hundreds if not thousands of options contracts? There was no fine. Worse, they were able to get the trades busted. As in, pretend we didn't just do that. Pretty shocking. Until there are financial consequences for firms that turn on market disrupting algos, the markets, will continue to be disrupted.
Nearly four years after Zero Hedge first suggested an HFT tax should punish algos that "churned" quotes and blasted empty bids and offers to stimulate "momentum ignition" strategies, and generally corrupt market structure in a way that lead to both the flash crash, the BATS IPO farce, the FaceBook IPO debacle and the Nasdaq 3 hour crash, the first such tax is now a reality. And while it is not, and likely never will be implemented in a major (if declining) exchange such as the NYSE or Nasdaq, the first country to finally put an end to millions of parasitic empty quotes is Italy.
When you add High Frequency Trading exchange 263 and High Frequency Trading exchange 264 (read all about DirectEdge over the years here), you get a whole lot of happy algos. It also means that MtGox is on its way to becoming the world's most stable exchange. We now expect the market to crash in celebration. We joke, of course, but if anyone trips over the BATS extension cord that sends AAPL under $500 and the NYSE Arca and NASDAQ shutting down again, we take no responsibility. Finally, in continuing the spirit of full transparency and openness of everything HFT-related, the terms of the transaction will not be disclosed.
Kate and William had a boy. Our bet on a name is George, but only because that appears to be the odds-on favorite among the London bookies. Still, all that money flowing around must at least be a little “Smart”, right? But as ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, the same dynamic applies, albeit on a larger and hopefully more informed scale, when it comes to how capital markets price securities. We have our baselines – the price-earnings ratio of the market, the interest rate on Treasuries, the average price per square foot for real estate, and so forth – and then we tweak everything else up or down from there. That method has the benefit of simplicity, but comes with problems as well. More than anything, Colas warns, it pushes investors to “Anchor” their notions of valuation to benchmarks which may move when the wind shifts.
Lately, the parasitic, price manipulative "Office Space"-inspired HFT practice known as "spoofing" has been consistently in the news: a week ago, it was the third largest futures broker, Newedge, who made headlines following a "record" FINRA handslap. Then yesterday, a Red Bank, NJ-based HFT shop called Panther Energy Trading, and its sole owner Michael Coscia were fined $4.5 million and got a 1 year ban from the industry for engaging in the same activity. "Panther, based in Red Bank, New Jersey, and Coscia used a computer algorithm that placed and quickly canceled bids and offers in futures contracts for commodities including oil, metals, interest rates and foreign currencies. Panther and Coscia engaged in spoofing from August 8, 2011, to October 18, 2011, related to 18 futures contracts. The firm accumulated $1.4 million in profits by using the algorithm." While none of this is fundamentally new to any of our readers, we are happy to report that in conjunction with Nanex, we can now present documentary evidence of the Panther algo in action.
When we tapered our coverage of HFT manipulation and stock market abuse some time ago, we thought that the message had been heard loud and clear: high frequency trading is a sophisticated market manipulating parasite, whose only real function is to abuse market structure and integrity, by making conventional market manipulation practices more difficult to spot and identify. It turns out some, i.e., Newedge, thought they could still get away with traditional manipulative practices such as spoofing, layering, momentum ignition, wash trading, bypassing, and others, if only they were wrapped in an HFT blanket. It did so for four years from 2008 until 2011. As it turns out it was wrong, and in a stunning example of actually doing its job, FINRA fined Newedge, which is one of the largest futures brokers in the world and ranks third in terms of U.S. customer assets on deposit, a record $9.5 million.
To summarize, the SEC which admits it was clueless in analyzing the modern, fragmented market (yet which found definitively that the culprit for the May 2010 flash crash was Waddell and Reed, and nobody else, using what technology at the time, nobody knows), uses a platform developed by High Frequency Trading firm Tradeworx... to reach a conclusion that High Frequency Trading firms are innocent of every flash crash resulting from an HFT algo gone haywire...
"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"