High Frequency Trading

High Frequency Trading

This Is Why High Frequency Trading Will Never Go Away

In April of 2009 we warned very explicitly that reliance on the fake "liquidity" (which was never liquidity per se but merely volume and churn) by the HFT algos that stuff quotes, frontrun each other, spoof, layer, and generally make a mockery out of the thing fomerly known as the market (which is now more than anything a policy vehicle for central planners but that's a different story) would result in tears. A year later the first flash crash happened, and ever since then more and more people have finally realized how our 3+ year long crusade against HFT (which sadly is now a minor distraction against the far greater evil which is central bank dominance of capital markets) was spot on, confirmed by the recent segments (here, here and here) on CNBC which effectively confirmed the markets are not only a joke, but without any real depth, i.e. fake. What is amusing is that people still don't understand why the exchanges, and the regulators (coopted by the exchanges) allow HFT to continue. Here is the answer: in 2011 the CME made 31.5% of all its revenues from HFT, the ICE: 25.1%, the NYSE: 21.4%, the Nasdaq: 17.1%, the CBOE: 22.4%, and so on.

Will Nasdaq Be The Next Casualty Of The SEC's Anti-Latency Arbitrage Push?

Back in 2009 Zero Hedge was first the only, and shortly thereafter, one of very few non-conformist voices objecting to pervasive high frequency trading and other type of quantitative market manipulation in the form of Flash Trading (which has recently reemerged in yet another form of frontrunning known as "Hide not Slide" practices) quote stuffing, and naturally latency arbitrage: one of the most subversive means to rob the less than sophisticated investor blind, due to an illegal coordination between market markers, exchanges and regulators, which effectively encouraged a two-tier market (one for the ultra fast frontrunning professionals, and one for everyone else). A week ago we were amused to see that the SEC charged the NYSE with a wristslap, one for $5 million dollars and where the NYSE naturally neither admitted nor denied guilt, accusing it of doing precisely what we said it, and all others, had been doing for years: namely getting paid by wealthy traders, those using the prop data feed OpenBook Ultra and other paid systems, to create and perpetuate a two-tiered market, all the while the regulator, i.e., the SEC was paid to look the other way. This action was nothing but a desperate, and futile, attempt to regain some investor confidence in the market. It has failed, and since said "enforcement" action has done nothing to restore confidence, expect to see more exchanges slapped with fines for actively perpetuating latency arbitrage opportunities for "some" clients. Well, since the SEC will be desperate to come up with more means of "restoring credibility" of both the market and its regulator, another exchange it may want to look at is the NASDAQ, which as Nanex demonstrates, may well have been engaging in comparable (most likely not pro-bono) latency arbitrage benefiting some: those paying for its direct feed aka TotalView, and thus not harming others, or those relying on the Consolidated Feed (UQDF) for data dissemination.

Guest Post: What To Do When Every Market Is Manipulated

What do the following have in common? LIBOR, Bernie Madoff, MF Global, Peregrine Financial, zero-percent interest rates, the Social Security and Medicare entitlement funds, many state and municipal pension funds, mark-to-model asset values, quote stuffing and high frequency trading (HFT), and debt-based money? The answer is that every single thing in that list is an example of market rigging, fraud, or both. How are we supposed to make decisions in today’s rigged and often fraudulent market environment? Where should you put your money if you don’t know where the risks lie? How does one control risk when control fraud runs rampant? Unfortunately, there are no perfect answers to these questions. Instead, the task is to recognize what sort of world we happen to live in today and adjust one’s actions to the realities as they happen to be. The purpose of this report is not to stir up resentment or anger -- although those are perfectly valid responses to the abuses we are forced to live with -- but to simply acknowledge the landscape as it is so that we can make informed decisions.

Philly Fed Misses For 5th Consecutive Month, Employment Index Lowest Since September 2009

Even though in a centrally-planned world nobody cares about fundamental data anymore, and high frequency economics can't hold a candle to high frequency trading, today's Philly Fed was not good, missing expectations for the 5th month in a row, and printing in negative territory for the 4 month in a row, coming at -7.1 on expectations of -5.0, and down from -12.9. Sadly for the market, the data was not horrible enough to suggest that despite the seasonally adjusted economic data euphoria from earlier this wee, that the Chairsatan would surprise to the upside and preannounce MOAR NEW QE in 2 weeks. The data, however, was quite realistic, in that unlike BLS data which lately only keep track of part-time jobs, the Employment index in the Philly Fed printed at -8.6, the lowest since September 2009, and likely the most realistic indication of the jobs picture possible. And with prices paid soaring far over priced received, margins got crushed even more, as US companies continue to discover with every passing day.

Guest Post: An Austrian View On High Frequency Trading

What is high-frequency trading? We will never exhaustively address this issue here. We recommend that you do your own research on the subject. There are numerous articles on this topic. High-frequency trading (HFT) consists in using sophisticated technology to trade securities. It is highly quantitative, employing algorithms to analyze incoming market data. HF investment positions are held only very briefly, with HF traders trading in and out of positions intraday tens of thousands of times. The important feature is that at the end of a trading day there is no net investment position. Processing speed and access to the exchanges are critical.

Elliott Management: We Make This Recommendation To Our Friends: If You Own US Debt Sell It Now

Every now and then we prefer to sit back and let some of the smartest money speak, especially when said smart money agrees with us. In this case, we hand the podium over to none other than Paul Singer's Elliott Management, which after starting with $1.3 million in 1977 was at $19.8 billion most recently. No expert networks, no high frequency trading, no "information arbitrage", no crony capitalism and pseudo monopolies of scale, and most certainly no bailouts: Singer did it all the old fashioned way: by picking undervalued assets and watching them appreciate. The timing is opportune because while Elliott has much to say about virtually everything in their latest 20 pages Q2 letter, it is the billionaire's sentiment vis-a-vis US Treasury debt that may be most critical, and may be the catalyst that resulted in today's abysmal 10 Year bond auction. To wit: "long-term government debt of the U.S., U.K., Europe and Japan probably will be the worst-performing asset class over the next ten to twenty years. We make this recommendation to our friends: if you own such debt, sell it now. You’ve had a great ride, don’t press your luck. From here it is basically all risk, with very little reward." There is little that can be misinterpreted in the bolded statement. And while many have taken the other side of the Fed over the past 3 years, few have dared to stand against Paul Singer because if there is one person whose opinion matters above most, certainly above that of the Chairsatan, it is his.

From Chicago To New York And Back In 8.5 Milliseconds

Back in 2009 when the world wasn't filled with HFT 'experts', we deconstructed the topic of High Frequency Trading on a daily basis, and predicted not only the flash crash, not only debacles such as the Knight trading fiasco, not only the death of capital markets as a fund raising vehicle for companies who wish to go public (i.e. the FaceBook IPO fiasco), but much more (all of which has yet to pass before the stock market, as it was once known, is no more). The reason why little if anything can and will be done to fix the persistent threat to capital markets that is HFT is two fold: i) none of the current regulators understand anything about modern market topology, and ii) HFT is so embedded in markets that unrooting it would result in a complete reboot of "fair" stock valuation: imagine what would happen to stock prices if Knight and its "buy everything" algos were no longer present. Mass hysteria as the realization that vacauum tubes are now TBTF. That said it is always amusing to observe as more and more people get in on the scam that is the "equity market", now completely dominated by robots which do nothing but accelerate and perpetuate momentum moves - after all it is all they can do in lieu of being able to read financials, or anticipate events. Remember: it is always the market that makes the news, never the other way around. So it was entertaining and informative to read the latest recap of all events HFT-related as narrated by Wired's Jerry Adler, whose write up "Raging Bulls: How Wall Street Got Addicted to Light-Speed Trading" does an admirable job of showing how not only nothing has changed since those days in 2009 full of warning, but how in fact things are moving ever faster to what will one day be a trading singularity, limited strictly by the speed of light (and maybe even surpassing that). Of all the things in the article, the one we found most curious is that since 2009, the round trip from the biggest quant trading hub in Chicago to the exchange hubs in NY and NJ, has been cut by over 50%, or from over 13 milliseconds to just about 9 milliseconds, courtesy of Microwaves.

Interview With A High-Frequency Trader

While the attached interview between the Casey Report and HFT expert Garrett from CalibratedConfidence will not reveal much unknown new to those who have been following the high frequency trading topic ever since ZH made it a mainstream issue in April of 2009, it will serve as a great foundation for all those new to the topic who are looking for an honest, unbiased introduction to what is otherwise a nebulous and complicated matter. We urge everyone who is even remotely interested in market structure, broken markets and the future of trading to read the observations presented below.

US Attorneys General Jump On The Lieborgate Bandwagon; 900,000+ Lawsuits To Follow, And What Happens Next?

The second Barclays announced its $450 million Libor settlement, it was all over - the lawyers smelled not only blood, but what may be the biggest plaintiff feeding frenzy of all time. Which is why it was only a matter of time: "State attorneys general are jumping into the widening scandal over whether banks tried to manipulate benchmark international lending rates, a move that could open a new front against the top global banks. A handful of state attorneys general said they are looking into whether they have jurisdiction over the banks, and are starting preliminary discussions to determine what kind of impact the conduct involving the Libor rate may have had in their states."

Joe Saluzzi: HFT Parasites Are Killing The Market Host

Joe Saluzzi, expert on algorithmic trading -- also known as high-frequency trading, or HFT -- returns as a guest this week to explain how the players behind this machine-driven process act as parasites that are destroying our financial markets (and, increasingly, even themselves). Since Joe first spoke with us last year, HFT firms have only increased in size and share of market activity. Here are some staggering statistics on how influential they have become:

  • HTFs make up between 50-70% of the volume seen across market exchanges today
  • 2% of the traders on many exchanges (HFTs, specifically) represent 80% of the volume
  • a single large HFT firm (referred to as a Direct Market Maker) can account for 10%+ of a market's volume on a given day
  • Large HFT firms make between $8 to $21 billion a year
  • HFT trades occur in milliseconds (i.e. a small fraction of the time it takes your eye to blink)

With such scale, speed and profitability, HFTs have turned the market away from being an efficient price-setting mechanism and perverted it into a casino where the clientele (i.e. human investors) gets fleeced. And our regulators are so outmatched by the scope, complexity and funding of these titanic HFT players that at moment, there are pretty much zero consequences for bad actors.

Equity Analysts: "In A Bull Market, You Don't Need Them. In A Bear Market, They'll Kill You"

From bull market gods and goddesses of the 1980s and 1990s, stock analysts now preside over a much more modest kingdom.  Nic Colas, of ConvergEx notes that the world has moved on to new golden calves, from currencies (with great leverage) to exchange traded funds (with generally less volatility) to macro analysts (the current Zeuses and Heras).  This even extends to the world of the retail investor – there are far more Google searches in the U.S. for "Storage auctions" (246,000/month) than for "stock research" (just 33,000/month), and the rate of decline resembles a fast-decaying radioactive particle. With asset price correlations near 90% for a wide range of investment choices, the on-off switch to market direction sits in Washington, Frankfurt, Beijing, and other centers of political and central bank power. Nic believes stock research will make a comeback for both technological (systemically delivering information to algorithmic traders) and cyclical reasons - as old-school stock research, with sector analysts, is ultimately tied to the fortunes of the equity market. And for analysts and stock market investors, that inflection point cannot come too soon.

Guest Post: Who Destroyed The Middle Class - Part 2

The middle class has a gut feeling they are being screwed by somebody, they just can’t figure out who to blame. The ultra-wealthy elite keep up an endless cacophony of propaganda and misinformation designed to confuse an increasingly uneducated and willfully ignorant public while blurring the facts for those educated few capable of understanding the truth. They have been able to keep the masses dumbed down through government run education; distracted by sports, reality TV, Facebook, internet porn, and igadgets; lured by mass media messages of materialism; and shackled with the chains of debt used to acquire the goods sold by mega-corporations. We’ve become a society oppressed by a small faction of ultra-wealthy masters served by millions of impoverished, uneducated, sedated slaves. But the slaves are getting restless and angry. The illegally generated wealth disparity chasm is growing so large that even the ideologue talking head representatives of the elite are having difficulty spinning it. Even uneducated rubes understand when they are getting pissed on.

Guest Post: Black Is White, Hedges Are Bets, And Your Money Is Mine

As we witness the riotous dissolution of corrupted capitalism, we need not wait for the history books to identify the mile markers of self-destruction. If we are to rebuild capitalism, even as it is tearing itself down, then we will need to become street-smart detectives in analyzing the current economic murder-suicide in progress. Every fall has its tell-tale confirmations and corrupt capitalism is no exception. There arrive key points where a system’s own contradictions become so evident and self-damaging, where motive, means, and opportunity become so clear, that one can mount an informed, effective counter-offensive.