The Island-Renaissance fusion was a vision of the future in which high-speed AI-guided robots would operate on lightning-fast electronic pools, controlling the daily ebb and flow of the market. The AI Bots poured their valuable liquidity into Island, which, in turn, made it possible for the Bots to operate at high frequencies. They fed off one another, creating a virtuous cycle that would become un- stoppable. Little-known outfits such as Timber Hill, Tradebot, RGM, and Getco would soon start trading on Island, forming the emergent ganglia of a new space-age trading organism driven by machines. Tricked-out artificial intelligence systems designed to scope out hid- den pockets in the market where they could ply their trades powered many of these systems. In the process, the very structure of how the U.S. stock market worked would shift to meet the endless needs of the Bots. The human middlemen, though they didn’t know it, were being phased out, doomed as dinosaurs. And the machines were breeding more machines in an endless cycle of innovation, as programmers pushed the boundaries of speed more ruthlessly than Olympic sprinters. Trading algorithms would mutate, grow, and evolve, feeding off one another like evolving species in a vast and growing digital pool.
High-frequency trading became so competitive that on a truly level playing field no one could make money operating at high volumes. Starting in 2008, there had been a frantic rush into the high-frequency gold mine at a time when nearly every other investment strategy on Wall Street was imploding. That competition was making it very hard for the firms to make a profit without using methods that Bodek viewed as seedy at best. And so a complex system evolved to pick winners and losers. It was done through speed and exotic order types. If you didn’t know which orders to use, and when to use them, you lost nearly every time. To Bodek, it was fundamentally unfair—it was rigged. There were too many conflicts of interest, too many shared benefits between exchanges and the traders they catered to. Only the biggest, most sophisticated, connected firms in the world could win this race.
Haim Bodek thought practically nonstop for days about what the trade-venue representative had told him that night at the New York party. The way that the abusive order types worked made him think back to a document he’d been given by a colleague that summer as he researched what was going wrong at Trading Machines. The document was a detailed blueprint of a high-frequency method that was said to be popular in Chicago’s trading circles.
It was called the “0+ Scalping Strategy.”
In early December 2009, Haim Bodek finally solved the riddle of the stock-trading problem that was killing Trading Machines, the high-frequency firm he’d help launch in 2007. The former Goldman Sachs and UBS trader was attending a party in New York City sponsored by a computer-driven trading venue. He’d been complaining for months to the venue about all the bad trades—the runaway prices, the fees—that were bleeding his firm dry. But he’d gotten little help.
Some interesting market chatter was recently intercepted: if true, then JP may be quietly offloading at least some part of his financial exposure using dark liquidity.
Europe Begins Push To Ban HFT: Calls "Quote Stuffing" Market Abuse, Dark Pools "Tragic Error", And "Explicitly Rules Out" Flash OrdersSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/25/2010 15:07 -0400
The push back against the HFT market-propping travesty is finally starting to gain steam...but for now only in Europe. After all, the Fed realizes all too well that it needs all the resources it can get in its bid (no pun intended) to keep stocks as artificially high as possible, of which the HFT upward biased feedback loop is a critical one (the PD POMO monetization circuit being a second one... and when both fail, there is always the Citadel dark pool direct purchasing channel). Reuters reports thet "Britain and France flagged on Thursday a looming crackdown on ultra-fast share trading that featured in May's brief "flash crash" freefall on Wall Street, alarming regulators and investors globally. French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said a
form of computerized trading known as high-frequency trading (HFT) may
need banning in some cases." Lagarde, who has recently shown a willingness to be seen as not part of the Bernanke mold, told reporters that her "natural tendency would be at least to
regulate, to oversee it very strictly and after a cost-benefit analysis
of these methods, maybe to forbid it." Elsewhere, a European Parliament November 16 report on MiFID "Calls for the practice of ‘layering’ or ‘quote stuffing’ to be explicitly defined as market abuse." This is something Zero Hedge has been demanding for about a year now, and obviously something that the corrupt regulators at the SEC, headed by the galactically incompetent Mary Schapiro continue to pretend does not exist. Lastly, in an attempt to make the life of the NYSE easier, whose primary source of revenue, now that Chinese IPOs have been uncovered to be a pathological, unauditable scam, has collapsed, the target has now shifted to dark pools: "The proliferation of dark pools was a tragic error and I would like us to come back to it" according to Bank of France Governro Christian Noyer. The latest onslaught against dark pools is not at all surprising: after all the NYSE is pushing hard to preserve some semblance of relevance (and EPS) as it is now attempting to create "a global network of as many as 40 "liquidity hubs" in data centers around the world." All in all, this smells like the role of HFT right here in our own back yard is about to get seriously curbed. Add the fact that Prett Bharara is about to open at least one criminal case against a domestic HFT outfit, and the robotic permabid behind the market may soon be very, very scarce.
How "Sub-Pennying" In Dark Pools Ignores SEC Rule 612, Makes A Mockery Of The NBBO, And Is Another Illicit Source Of Billions For Wall StreetSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/08/2010 14:19 -0400
One of the key "market integrity" (actually, much more appropriately said, lack thereof) topics that has not been touched at all by the Mainstream Media is the issue of Sub-Pennying, or the process of stepping in in front of displayed orders in blatant violation of NBBO rules as determined by Rule 612, in which broker-dealers profit to the tune of billions of dollars from "playing inside the spread" and in the process compromising the NBBO, having stocks being propped up by passive limit orders, pushing legitimate liquidity providers out of the market (after all,who wants to be constantly front run by block sniffing algos) and in general hurts the price discovery process. With regular exchanges predominantly used by schmucks and market small-timers, who trade in small volumes as the bulk of block order traffic has moved to various ATS and dark pools (primarily that of Goldman Sachs' Sigma X) leave it to the pros to find a way to make a mockery out of the market. Of course, as long as everyone is buying (with the taxpayer selling involuntarily) nobody has much reason to complain. However, when the ponzi ends and the rush to offload hits a fever pitch, the spirit of friendly thievery may turn sour very, very fast. Also, anyone who has any illusions they can trade fairly in dark pools (or the broader market), you have our condolences. We present a great guide on the dangers to market integrity from Sub-Pennying as presented by Dennis Dick of Bright Trading.
The Proposal That Has Dark Pools Sweating; The Dark Pool Vs. HFT Scramble Is About To Enter Round TwoSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/11/2009 19:11 -0400
Dark pool operators, who have quietly been redirecting shady order flow via dark pools of "liquidity" with minimal supervision and below the radar for many years, are getting spooked by a proposed SEC rule which would have these same dark pools identifying their trades in real time, thus removing the benefits associated with what is effectively an OTC equities market. Their response: blame it all on the HFT guys, who use the information that would leak to front-run the crap out of the "long-onlies." Yet weren't these same HFTs claiming just yesterday that all they do is provide liquidity and tighten spreads? ... Someone is lying.
“The Chief Executive of One of the Country's Biggest Block Trading Dark Pools Was Quoted Two Weeks Ago as Saying That the Amount of Money Devoted to High-frequency Trading Could ‘QUINTUPLE Between this Year and Next’"Submitted by George Washington on 11/06/2009 22:13 -0400
The United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs is currently holding an extended hearing on Market Structure Issues, where Senator Kaufman is presenting currently. Link to live webcast can be found here
"As many of you know, we are already moving forward on our market structure initiative. In recent weeks, we have proposed rules that would address the inequities of flash orders and dark pools of liquidity. Both of these undermine the integrity of the market by providing valuable pricing information to select market participants — information that is not widely available to the public. This in turn creates a risk of private markets and two-tiered access to information." - Mary Schapiro, SEC
"The investing community (especially retail) has benefitted from the evolving market structure" - Goldman Sachs
"Has the era of the dark pool come to an end?" Thus begins the Traders Magazine cover article "End of the Line? SEC Targets Dark Pools and Off-Board Trading", which deconstructs all the incipient issues, criticisms and concerns facing the utterly discredited Mary Schapiro who is hell bent on getting at least one thing right during her career at the SEC, before she is brushed off as even less effective than her arguably much worse predecessor Chris Cox.
Now that Flash trading is practically a thing of the past, everyone's attention is shifting to dark pools. And if the just released letter by the World Federation of Exchanges is any indication, dark pools' days could be comparably numbered.
"The environment of exchange trading has been altered, and in sorne ways has been adversely affected by many of the changes that have occurred in the world's financial system in recent years. Therefore, the continued proper functioning of regulated exchange markets should not be taken for granted." - World Federation of Exchanges Letter to G-20
Per a letter disclosed in the WSJ earlier, it appears the torch that Chuck Schumer picked up for a regulatory response on Flash orders is now being carried up by Senator Ted Kaufman over a much broader set of market issues: in fact Kaufman seeks a neutral review of virtually every aspect of modern equity capital markets.
I heard an incredible thing yesterday. Apparently, mutual funds are being stolen from by algorithmic traders.
Late in the day "The Narrator," one of our dedicated public relations gurus, spoke for almost an hour with a reporter who called in to talk about high frequency trading, dark pools and topics of similar ilk. I talked with The Narrator for a couple of hours after the encounter. I paraphrase: What, the reporter asked, do we make of the argument that "predatory algos" (a brand of algorithmic trading) cost large mutual funds billions a year by sniffing out "iceberging" (the practice of breaking up of large orders into smaller blocks to avoid swinging the price significantly in response to a large block of demand or supply)? What did we make of the TABB Group's estimate that $20+ billion in profits stem from certain algorithmic trading strategies. Are algorithms evil?
In a word: no.