All Empires Crash Soon After They Reach Their Peak
One of the New Normal responses to allegations, first started here in 2009 and subsequently everywhere, that all HFT does is to frontrun traditional market players (among many other evils) now that its conventional and flawed defense that it "provides liquidity" lies dead and buried, is that "everyone does it" so you must acquit because how can you possibly prosecute a technology that accounts for over 60% of all market volume and where if you throw one person in jail you would throw everyone in jail. Today we learn that this indeed may be the case, and not only at the traditional locus of HFT frontrunning such as conventional exchanges for stocks such as the NYSE or even dark pools, but at the heart of the biggest futures exchange in the US, the CME where as the WSJ's Scott Patterson explains frontrunning by HFT algos is not only a way of life, but is perfectly accepted and even smiled upon.
While many will shrug at yet another "fat finger", we thought it useful to 'know' - as opposed to 'guess' - what really drove a more-than-10% flash-crash in Symantec stock this morning. As Nanex illustrates so clearly, in less than a second, over 500,000 shares were traded in a waterfall across 13 exchanges (and who knows how many dark pools). This triggered a circuit breaker which halted the stock trading for 5 minutes and when it resumed... it had recovered all those losses. We await news of the Johnny 5s' trades being disqualified as this was simply not a fat finger. Just another day in our efficient and highly liquid stock markets...
Still chasing US equities up and down each day? Buying-and-holding large caps for their 'safety'? Reassured that money-on-the-sidelines will take us higher? Waiting for the Great Rotation? Perhaps the following post-mortem from Nanex on today's flash crash in the stock not of some microcap but of nearly $300 billion market cap behemoth Google, will reduce just a little of the fervor over what so many call the stock 'market' and its 'free' and 'efficient' nature.
The problem with cutting the links between risk and consequence and the real economy and the stock market is that a market deprived of feedback from reality is prone to disorderly disruption. Why is this so? Participants make decisions based on the information made available to them. If the information from the real world is suppressed or limited, then the decisions made by participants will necessarily be misinformed, i.e. wrong. If feedback from the real world is suppressed, then decisions will necessarily be bad. The only choice for participants who have lost faith in central planning's promise of permanently higher markets will be to abandon the manipulated markets entirely.
- JPMorgan Leads Job Cuts as Banks Seek to Bolster Profit (BBG)
- North Koreans don't show for work at Kaesong factory park (Reuters), as NK urges foreigners to leave South Korea (FT)
- Lisbon Struggles to Close New Budget Gap (WSJ)
- Portugal may face delay to bailout funds (FT)
- Putin Squeezing Out UBS to Deutsche Bank Using Oligarchs (BBG)
- China's Xi Says Fast Growth Over (WSJ)
- Spain’s PM wants more powers for ECB (FT)
- Bernanke Says Interest on Reserves Would Be Main Tightening Tool (BBG)
- Bird Flu Claims 7th Victim in China (WSJ)
- Texting While Flying Linked to Commercial Helicopter Crash (BBG)... No, Bernanke wasn't the pilot
- Goldman's Mario Draghi convinced Italy president Napolitano not to resign (Reuters)
- David Stockman Warns of Crash Of Fed-Fueled Bubble Economy (BBG)
- Cyprian archbishop calls on Central Bank's head, Finance Minister to resign (Voice of Russia)
- Cyprus Parliament President Says Country Should Exit Eurozone (Zero Hedge)
- Cyprus seeks to find people behind bank crisis (FT)
- Argentina sticks to its guns over holdout creditor payments (FT)
- 40% of all trading is now done in dark pools and off exchanges (NYT)
- Sequester Impact Remains Elusive (WSJ)
- China’s Home Prices Increase Most in 26 Months, SouFun Says (BBG)
- Beijing, Shanghai Add to Home Curbs as China Acts to Cool Market (BBG)
- Two men die in Shanghai in first human cases of bird flu strain (SCMP)
- Economics will catch up with the euro (FT)
- How much gold is there in the world? (BBC)
- Fannie Mae Regulator Sets No-Doc Modifications for Borrowers (BBG)
After exposing the stock market manipulative arsenal that is High Frequency Trading, quote stuffing, flash trading, packet churning, layering, sub-pennying, liquidity, latency and dark pool arbitrage, NBBO and Reg NMS exemptions, "hide-not-sliding", collocation, and much, much more for four years, or so long even Credit Suisse joined the chorus we started in April of 2009, we are glad to learn that finally, with a ridiculous Rip Van Winklesian delay, but better late than never, "the FBI has teamed up with securities regulators to tackle the potential threat of market manipulation posed by new computer trading methods that have taken operations beyond the scope of traditional policing." In other words, the SEC has finally realized it can no longer pretend it is not co-opted, but because it has no clue where to even start with HFT, has asked the help of the Feds. Which in itself is hardly reason for optimism, but if there is one thing Hans Gruber has taught us, it is that when the Feds get involved, the first thing they do is cut the power, and in this algo-based market that will end some 99% of all daily manipulative practices we have all grown to love and look forward to every single day.
Everyone recalls the slow motion trainwreck from the afternoon of January 25, when in an epic bitchfest, hedge fund titans Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn screamed at each other telephonically for about an hour on CNBC in what was nothing but one big pissing match. Just over two weeks later, Icahn forced a major squeeze in the stock when as we wrote previously and as we predicted, he disclosed a massive 13% stake, or some 14 million shares in the company built up through stock and calls (essentially costless thanks to Icahn's recent profits on Netflix). What many may not know however, is that for Icahn, the HLF stake was nothing more than a $500 million dollar impulse buy. Why? Because as the chart below, which breaks down the cumulative purchases of HLF stock by various Icahn's funds, shows, the billionaire only held some 1.7 million shares until the January 25 afternoon of his screamfest with Ackman. Then the Monday after the feud Icahn went ballistic, and proceeded to buy some 120,000 shares on Monday and 197,459 option-equivalent shares, after which he tapered off his stock purchases while ramping up the call buys, and buying an epic 10 million share-equivalent calls in the next two weeks, without pause, compassion or remorse, and with just one thought: crush, mangle and destroy Ackman!
And now it's on us to mobilize and make sure at least one of us in each district contact our representatives and do what we can to inform them. The longer this goes on, the more bad algo's will manipulate the system
Fresh off the printers today comes a new release from Haim Bodek titled The Problem of HFT.
On January 8, 2013 there were two separate events where an exchange stopped disseminating quotes, which caused the last quote sent from that exchange to lock (bid price equals ask price) or cross (bid price is greater than ask price) the NBBO (National Best Bid/Offer) when market prices moved higher or lower on other exchanges. Crossed quotes cause many problems for wholesalers (who internally match orders), order-routers, traders, financial web-sites, business news channels, and any of the 2.5 million subscribers that use the consolidated quote to analyze stock prices. From IWM to HLF, the crosses (and thus integrity of the consolidated feed) were everywhere.
- A Bold Dissenter at the Fed, Hoping His Doubts Are Wrong (NYT)
- China and Japan step up drone race as tension builds over disputed islands (Guardian)
- How Mario Draghi is reshaping Europe's central bank (Reuters)
- Merkel Economy Shows Neglect as Sick Man Concern Returns (BBG)
- US oil imports to fall to 25-year low (FT)
- China Loan Share at Record Low Shows Financing Risks (BBG)
- Dimon Says Some JPMorgan Execs ‘Acted Like Children’ on Loss (BBG) - children that reveleased who 'excess reserves' are truly used
- Fed injects new sell-off risk into Treasuries (FT) - really? So the Fed will stop monetizing the US deficit some time soon?
- Obama aide presses Republicans to accept more tax revenues (Reuters)
- Ex-SAC analyst named 20 alleged insider traders (FT)
- BOJ easing bets help dollar regain ground vs yen (Reuters)
- Goldman Sachs Said to Be Part of Fed-Led Foreclosure Settlement (BBG)
- Venezuela postpones inauguration for cancer-stricken Chavez (Reuters)
Ironically, the very success of stock market manipulation only thins the market of legitimate participants and thus increases the probability that risk that has been suppressed for years will erupt uncontrollably. That the stock market is manipulated is no longer in question. One explicit goal in the Fed's zero-interest rate policy (ZIRP) is to drive capital into risk assets such as stocks. That is a first-order, transparent policy of manipulation, i.e. a centrally managed policy aimed at managing markets to meet a key central-planning goal: creating an illusion of prosperity via an elevated stock market and the resultant "wealth effect" for the 10% who own enough stocks to matter. Indirect manipulation is hidden from public view lest the rigging of the market taint the perception that a rising market is "proof" that Federal Reserve and Administration policies are "succeeding." Indirect manipulation is achieved via Federal Reserve quantitative easing operations, unlimited liquidity and lines of credit to fund bank speculations and masked buying of market futures. This multilevel manipulation creates a Boolean either/or for any Bear market: either it is a planned "panic" that profits the banks or a systemic failure of the orchestrated campaign of market manipulation.
If you often wonder why ‘free market capitalism’ feels like it is failing despite universal assurances from economists and political pundits that it is working as intended, your intuition is correct. Free market capitalism has become a thing of the past. In truth free market capitalism has been replaced by something that is truly anti-free market and anti-capitalistic. The diversion operates in plain sight. Beginning sometime around 1970 the U.S. and most of the ‘free world’ have diverged from traditional “free market capitalism” to something different. Today the U.S. and much of the world’s economies are operating under what I call Monetary Fascism: a system where financial interests control the State for the advancement of the financial class. This is markedly different from traditional Fascism: a system where State and industry work together for the advancement of the State. Monetary Fascism was created and propagated through the Chicago School of Economics. Milton Friedman’s collective works constitute the foundation of Monetary Fascism. Today the financial and banking class enforces this ideology through the media and government with the same ruthlessness of the Church during the Dark Ages: to question is to be a heretic. When asked in an interview what humanities’ future looked like, Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, said “Imagine a boot smashing a human face forever.”