High Frequency Trading
Having spent a week in surprisingly bright and sunny London, ConvergEx's Nick Colas reports that the consensus opinion in this global financial hub is that equities are where the sun shines the brightest. Public companies are intent on tapping those better days with more aggressive global investor outreach, and asset managers/brokers of all stripes feel that the developed economy bull market has a few more years to run. At the same time, everyone agrees that the near term feels a bit damp and acknowledges that the low levels of actual volatility are worrisome for their artificial “Keep calm and carry on” sentiment. Other heard/seen observations: London is no longer a British city, the surge in foreign buyers is creating a world-class property bubble. His conclusion, as long as humans are humans there will always be financial bubbles, either due to groupthink over real estate prices or financial assets. Just as surely as there will always be an England.
In what we are sure will be a reassuring hearing full of confirmation that markets are unrigged, safe for investors, and why retail has never had it better, the Permanent Subcommitte on Investigations will start by hearing from IEX's Brad Katusyama who will, as he did before, put them straight on the real actions of the high frequency trading community... Remember the last time HFTs tried to defend themselves... they lied.
in the past year it has became very clear that the asset class where the growth of HFT has been most pronounced is not in equities but in FX - perhaps linked to the tidal departure of all carbon-based FX traders all of whom it now appears were engaging in gross "chat room" mnaipulation - and to a lesser extent, options. But one place that seemed somewhat immune from the ravages of the constant millisecond back-and-forth churn and quote stuffing known as high frequency "trading" were bonds.
Our response to a question asked by CNBC-- “Why if everybody is talking about inflation is the bond market not moving?
The recent public outcry over high frequency trading is pointless. Solutions exist. Virtually every comparable market in the world uses them already. But, some electronic exchanges may not willingly adopt them. Doing so may disrupt their current business model. The incentives are misaligned, and competitors or regulators may need to force the issue to see change. Luckily, the issue to be forced is far simpler than most think. It’s time to add quality to the matching process.
One allegation about price manipulation was made by the German regulator BaFin. That proves it, right? Not so fast.
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.
Capture, corruption, irreparable harm--and little hope for change.
[J. Bradley Bennett]...compared high frequency trading to buying a first-class ticket on an airline...“Is there anything unfair about that? Doesn’t sound like it to me.”
On the subject of High Frequency Trading, our respondents are thus far unimpressed with the argument that HFT helps U.S. equity market participants. Fully half answered that it is “Harmful” or “Very Harmful”. Only 19% said it was “Helpful” or “Very Helpful” to participants. ... In short, the survey seems to tell a very clear story. Most professional investors and institutional brokers do not feel that markets treat all participants fairly. They worry about how fragile markets might become during periods of abnormally high volume. At the same time, they are cautiously picking their way through the minefield in which they find themselves and are unsure what role regulators should play. How the landscape will change as a result of their unease is still unclear. What is certain is that change is coming.
Ultimately, I think the problem for HFT liquidity providers is not that they are skinning investors, but that they are outsiders. They're doing what the keepers of the market infrastructure keys have always done - skin investors, retail and institutional alike, to the outer limits of what technology and the law allows. But while their outward behavior and appearance may be familiar, they are clearly an alien species on the inside, without so much as a microgram of Wall Street DNA. They are Rakshasa's. HFT liquidity providers are technology companies disguised as financial intermediaries. They hijacked the market infrastructure in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stealing it away from under the noses of the big financial firms who had come to see control over market structure as their birthright, and they had a good run. But now the big boys want their market infrastructure back, and they're going to get it.
“Bail-in” means that the bank’s owners - the shareholders, and creditors - the bondholders and now even depositors, will be line to absorb losses banks will incur, before outside sources of finance may be called upon. Deposit confiscation cometh ...
Ukraine is quickly turning into a Vietnam moment for the US political scene. When will parties in the USA (including Obama camp “progressives”) stop cheerleading for a showdown over this hapless doormat of a faraway nation whose destiny is not entwined with the people of Ohio, Nebraska, Rhode Island, or any of the other fifty states? We have enough to do in our own country to adjust to the new realities of the unraveling turbo-industrial global economy — and, by the way, we are not doing a damn thing to address any of it. Our domestic political conversation at all levels is juvenile and idiotic.
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 market is facing an increasingly negative environment. Historically speaking April and May have not been big months for crises, but the number of negatives the market is facing today is rather unique.