And you were wondering why the SEC and certain politicians with extensive connections to the financial services lobby are starting to stir now that it is common knowledge that every single hedge fund and trading desk's woes are a function of HFT run amok (which is exaggerated BS of course, but from Wall Street's darling, HFT has now become the one thing everyone loves to hate, and blame their own underperformance on). And as we suspected, there is a far more structural issue underlying the recent faux-move to restore confidence in markets, namely imminent pain for Wall Street headcounts... and bottom lines. According to Meredith Whitney, who had been relatively quite in recent weeks, Wall Street faces the departure of about 80,000 staffers, or 10% of all, within 18 months, not to mention a major drop in Wall Street compensation. The reason is the same as the one we pointed out earlier: slowing revenue growth, primarily due to the complete collapse in trading volumes, as computers have used their binary elbows to push everyone else out of the markets, and with Wall Street's primary revenue model now being exclusively reliant on trading, this is equivalent to a partial extinction event as many trading firms will have to close. This also means that the New York City economy is facing another major solvency crisis as tax receipts are sure to plummet.
More from Bloomberg, citing Whitney:
“The key product drivers of Wall Street’s revenues and profits over the past decade have been in a structural decline over the past three years,” Whitney said in the report. “2010 marks the first year in many in which Wall Street-centric firms will go through structural changes.”
Barclays Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc may lead a slowdown in hiring in Europe as the fixed-income trading boom fizzles out, recruiters said last month. Barclays Capital’s income from trading bonds and commodities fell 40 percent in the first half amid the sovereign debt crisis. Fixed-income, currencies and commodities trading was the biggest revenue contributor at investment banks from Deutsche Bank AG to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
While regulatory reform, including higher capital requirements, will force some of these shifts, there will be a “deeper secular change” due to declining revenue in businesses such as securitization, Whitney wrote.
Even though emerging markets will continue to expand, they won’t do so fast enough to offset the declines in the U.S. and Europe, Whitney said.
So as we speculated presciently (yet again) a few weeks ago, look for Wall Street to scapegoat HFT increasingly more for all sorts of troubles: everything from subpar P&L to RIFs. That the sudden and dramatic departure of HFTs from the market (read: not in an orderly fashion) will means increasing volatility for stocks, and likely major losses for retail investors is irrelevant to the Wall Street crew. The one good outcome is that when all is said and done, and likely a few flash crashes down the road, the market should finally return to some semblance of normality.