The US Dollar, gold, and oil closed the week unchanged... Treasury yields rose 6-8bps on the week... and the Russell 2000 had its best week in 2014... Sure, why not? VIX was crushed back to a 10-handle as managers lifted hedges and the Tepper-induced short-squeeze from yesterday followed through (+2.5% against a 1% rise in the S&P). The Dow and S&P 500 both closed at record highs (notably rich to the Fed balance sheet). Volume was 20% below average (and that was a payrolls day!). Copper tumbled over 2% - its worst week in 3 months as China's warehouse probe continues. VIX closed at its lowest close since Feb 2007 (and once again the strange shadowy figure of massive after-0hours volume spikes in VXX appeared).
Committees, investigations, concerns... but no actions. The SEC's Mary White spoke about market micro-structure this morning but mereley asked a lot of questions - as opposed to answered any. Two things she did mention of note: increased transpraceny for dark pools and internalizers; and forcing more high-frequency traders (and prop shops) to register as broker-dealers (and thus come under closer regulatory scrutiny). However, by the time any of this becomes 'law', we suspect the lobbyists will have created loopholes the size of Draghi's ego for HFTs to walk through. As WSJ reports, the SEC's enforcement division is investigating whether some high-speed traders are using order types - commands exchanges provide that determine how traders' buy and sell orders will be handled - in ways that can give them an advantage over less-savvy investors. We apologize for not seeing this 'investigation' as a positive but we've been here before with every other regulator... vested interests remain strong.
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.
With gold holding gains over 6% year-to-date (and the best performing asset-class), this morning's silver slamdown has taken the precious metal notably into the red for 2014 (-2%) and makes it the worst performing asset-class. Silver is back under $19 and near its lowest price since July 2013. Of course, it all started with the futures market where the sudden fiduciary need to dump over 2000 contracts 0505ET sent the complex collapsing, sending the gold-to-silver ratio to its highest since 2010.
The topic of High-Frequency-Trading quickly dissolves into a smorgasbord of mnemonics and 'inside-baseball' technical terms - just complicated enough to lose everyone that matters or should care about its implications. Despite the fair-and-balanced defense from the mainstream media business channels (sponsored by the belief in the status quo fair markets that 'America the free' is known for), the fact is that HFT does front-run (perfectly legal under the umbrella protection of Reg NMS) order flow, but there may be one more wrinkle - one which would cement the Michael Lewis (accurate) allegation that the market is rigged.
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."
In what the firm believes will be an improvement over other so-called dark pools because it will be a collaboration among big mutual-fund firms, WSJ reports that the giant fund manager is quietly building a new trading venue designed to let big money managers sidestep many of the problems that they argue lead to unfair or costly trading - i.e. avoid the HFT predation. Fidelity, with $1.95 trillion of assets under management, is in the initial stages of planning the trading venue and has just begun to pitch the idea to other large asset managers. It seems 5 years of vociferous exposure and a Michael Lewis book may be beginning to starve the HFTs of their prey.
I contend that Lewis should have done a lot more to identify the parties involved and tell the full story of latency arbitrage in Sigma X.
Back on March 21, before the release of Michael Lewis' Flash Boys and before the infamous 60 Minutes interview, when Goldman COO Gary Cohn wrote his infamous WSJ Op-ed bashing HFT, it was clear that something was afoot. That something became promptly clear when it was revealed that Goldman is among the core backers of the pseudo dark-pool IEX exchange popularized as the protagonist in Flash Boys, and juxtaposed to the frontrunning, and faceless, HFT antagonist that Lewis maanged to demonize so well in the span of a few hundred pages, he promptly provoked a renewed investigation by the FBI, the SEC and DOJ into HFT. A few days later, the shocker became a double whammy when Goldman announced that in addition to turning its back on HFT which had served it so well for years, the firm would also say goodbye to the NYSE and its designated market maker post, the last remaining legacy of its $6.5 billion Spear Ledds & Kellogg acquisition from 2000. Moments ago we got the third and final "shocker" in this series of stunning disclosures by Goldman, this time involving Goldman's own "unlit" venue - one involving its own Dark Pool - the infamous, and market dominant Sigma X, which according to the WSJ, is about to be shut down!
The Father Of High Speed Trading Speaks: "The Market We Created Is A Casino; A Complete Mess; A Rigged Game"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/07/2014 18:42 -0400
"I must confess to you that I was an ardent proponent of bringing technology to trading and brokerage. Unfortunately, I only saw the good sides. I saw how electronic trading and record-keeping could be used to force people to be more honest, to make the process more efficient, to lower transaction costs and to bring liquidity to the markets. I did not see the forces of fragmentation and the opportunity for people to use technology to keep to the letter but avoid the spirit of the rules -- creating the current crisis.... Technology, market structure, and new products have evolved more quickly than our capacity to understand or control them. ... To the public the financial markets may increasingly seem like a casino, except that the casino is more transparent and simpler to understand.... The result has been a series of crises over the past few years that have caused many investors to lose confidence or to think that the whole system is a rigged game."
What is there in this world that is transparent? Is there anything left? You just need to take a look around you. The growing number of corruption cases, the people that embezzle, fraudulently take, borrow, beg and steal at whim.
The blog posts and defenses of high frequency trading in the past week have come with dizzying high frequency. Flash Boys has struck many a nerve; the truth can be a bitter pill at times. And of course, the pro-HFT defenses are all made by many who are very, very staked in the status quo of our market structure. Now, bloggers using twitter is one thing; conflicted insiders using television to make their HFT defenses are another.
In the aftermath of Michael Lewis' book "Flash Boys" there has been a renewed surge in interest in High Frequency Trading. Alas, much of it is conflicted, biased, overly technical or simply wrong. And since we can't assume that all those interested have been followed our 5 year of coverage of a topic that finally has earned its day in the public spotlight, below is a simple summary for everyone.
- The counter-HFT-attack begins with first target - dark pools: Dark markets may be more harmful than high-frequency trading (Reuters)
- Malaysia Jet Team Hears Pings Consistent With Black Box (BBG)
- At Toyota as Humans Steal Jobs From Robots (BBG)
- ‘Reverse Auctions’ Draw Scrutiny (NYT)
- Death knell sounds for Brazil’s economic strategy (FT)
- Technology Traders Head for the Exit as Put Trades Surge (BBG)
- NSA Uses Corporate News to Spread Propaganda and Silence Dissent (TruthDig)
- Holcim, Lafarge agree to merger to create cement giant (Reuters)
- Any minute now: Investment Jump Seen From Macy’s to Berkshire After 2013 Fizzle (BBG)
- India kicks off world's biggest election in remote northeast (Reuters)