For all the talk about how High Frequency Trading has rigged markets, most seem to be ignoring the two most obvious questions: why now and what happens next?
Active traders and professional money managers already know how the U.S. stock market actually works, but Joe and Jane Citizen, whose pensions generally depend on the market in some way, typically do not. This entry is for them. Today's financial markets are endlessly complex, and this complexity implicitly serves to mask the true nature of market operations. Most of this complexity can be boiled away with zero loss of understanding. Indeed, manipulating this complexity is what earns the big bucks on Wall Street, while boiling it away earns the big bucks for commentators and analysts. Thus complexity serves the financial industry extremely well.
- The first and most important thing to understand about the U.S. stock market is how few humans are actually involved in the decision to buy or sell large blocks of shares.
- The second important thing to know about the stock market is that central banks and governments intervene as buyers to trigger rallies and put floors under declines.
- The third thing to know about U.S. stock market is that their operations are opaque, invisible, and hidden from the citizenry and non-Elite human traders.
- The fourth and last thing to know about U.S. stock markets is that this skimming and intervention have left the markets extremely vulnerable to collapse.
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.
There is no mystery to the “headwinds” that continue to plague and mystify monetary policymakers. The global economy is not pulled into re-recession by some unseen magical force, conspiring against the good-natured efforts of central bankers. Instead, the very thing central banks aspire to is the exact poison that alludes their attention. Conventional economics will continue to believe and empirically “prove” that the theory of the neutrality of money is valid, giving them, in their minds, unrestricted ability to intervene and manipulate over any short-term period (though it is getting harder to argue that these emergency measures are “short-term” nearly five years into their continued existence). The occurrence of panic in 2008 and the unresolved and unremoved barriers to recovery in the years since, however, fully attest to nonneutrality, an ongoing form of empirical proof that their models will never be able to refute. And we are all condemned by it.
Matt Goldstein over at Reuters may have just broken a story that could spell doom for if not the entire Goldman Sachs program trading group, then at least those who deal with "low latency (microseconds) event-driven market data processing, strategy, and order submissions." Visions of swirling, gray storm clouds over Goldman's SLP and hi-fi traders begin to form.
After Boaz Weinstein blew the place up, others are refusing to pick up the shrapnel. Bberg reports that DB's entire quant trading group, Equitech, has left to start on its own. The new fund will be called Roc Capital Management, based in NY and will be run by Arvind Raghunathan. Nicola Ralston, an advisor on investing in hedge funds points out the blatantly obvious "In this environment, it’s particularly important for individuals to have reputations in order to get access to seed money."