Wall Street goes “Putin” on IEX

From Michael Lewis:

One of our financial sector’s most striking traits is how fiercely it resists useful, disruptive entrepreneurship that routinely upends other sectors of our economy. People in finance are paid a lot of money to disrupt every sector of our economy. But when it comes to their own sector, they are deeply wary of market-based change. And they have the resources to prevent it from happening. To take one example: in any other industry, IEX, the new stock market created to eliminate a lot of unnecessary financial intermediation and the subject of my last book would have put a lot of existing players out of business. And it still might. The people who run IEX have very obviously found a way to make the U.S. stock market — and other automated financial markets — more efficient and, in the bargain, reduce, by some vast amount, the take of the financial sector. Because of this they now face what must be one of the best organized and funded smear campaigns outside of U.S. politics: underhanded attacks from anonymous Internet trolls, congressional hearings staged to obfuscate problems in the market, by senators who take money from the obfuscators; op-ed articles from prominent former regulators, now employed by the Wall Street machine, that spread outright lies about the upstarts; error-ridden pieces by prominent journalists too stupid or too lazy or too compromised to do anything but echo what they are told by the very people who make a fortune off the inefficiencies the entrepreneurs seek to eliminate….

Read more at Occupational Hazards of Working on Wall Street | Bloomberg View.

ASIC: High-frequency trading taskforce—Key findings

Findings of the recent ASIC investigation into dark liquidity and high-frequency trading.

The high-frequency trading taskforce found that:

(a) some of the commonly held negative perceptions about high-frequency trading are not supported by our analysis of Australian markets—for example:

(i) that high-frequency traders exhibit unacceptably high order-to-trade ratios. Increases in order-to-trade ratios in Australia have been moderate compared with overseas markets, and other algorithmic traders operate at similar levels; and
(ii) that high-frequency traders’ holding times are often a matter of seconds and therefore that they make no contribution to deep, liquid markets. Our analysis shows that only 1.2% of high-frequency traders held positions for an average of two minutes or less, 18% for less than 10 minutes and 51% for less than 30 minutes; and

(b) there is some basis in fact for other perceptions (e.g. about high-frequency trading creating excessive noise and exhibiting predatory or ‘gaming’ behaviours), but other traders are also contributing to the problem.

Both [the HFT and Dark Pools] taskforces have found evidence of potential breaches of ASIC Market Integrity Rules and the Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act), and some matters have been referred to our Enforcement teams for investigation. We have also seen a change in behaviour as a result of our inquiries. For example:

(a) fundamental investors are asking more questions about where and how their orders are executed;
(b) there have been improvements to automated trading risk management controls; and
(c) at least one high-frequency trader has ceased trading in Australia.

The main problem with HFT is investor perceptions that they are paying more for stocks than they should be. HFT trading profits can only come out of investors pockets. While the ASX receives massive fees from HFT traders, the erosion of investor trust in fair pricing is too serious to ignore. Failure to address this could see investors migrate to other exchanges or platforms, especially if there is a transparent auction process where HFT traders are unable to intercede.

The high frequency trading threat

Extract from a paper by Tom McDonald at the Australian Risk Policy Institute (ARPI), as quoted by Sell On News at Macrobusiness.com.au:

The principal purpose of capital markets is to facilitate the efficient allocation of capital across industries, and by extension, society, and via efficient means of allocation, create financing options to facilitate consumption and future additional wealth creation. Capital markets are unique but constitute the lifeblood of capitalism and thereby promote national growth, opportunity, peace, order, good government and individual welfare.

That said, the risks inherent in capital markets are like no other. Ultimately, when these risks manifest, they can destroy national economies (Iceland), even the world economy, wreak famine and the total collapse of ordered society. Accordingly, any development that carries uncertainty or intrinsic risk must be scrutinised, understood and dealt with to protect the whole.

Put in the bluntest way, HFT is parasitic in relation to capital markets. It adds little or no value and it creates friction, as opposed to greater liquidity. It can also dislocate or render markets unusable. Most importantly, it operates within an environment alien to the underlying structure that underpins markets. In fact, it operates generically across different market platforms so that in a worst case scenario, automated decisions may dislocate multiple markets at the same time.

via How politicians failed us | | MacroBusiness.

EU: Trades Must Live for Second | Securities Technology Monitor

By Laton McCartney

Members of the European Parliament tightened up the EU’s proposal on high-frequency algorithmic trading, voting that all high-frequency trading orders should be valid for one half second. The rule means orders cannot be cancelled or modified for at least five hundred milliseconds………All firms and trading venues also would have to ensure that trading systems are resilient and prepared to deal with sudden increases in order flows or market stresses. These could include Europe’s own “circuit breakers” to suspend trading………

via EU: Trades Must Live for Second | Securities Technology Monitor.

Anatomy of a flash crash | Fiscal Times

By John Kemp


In their report on the 2010 equity market crash, the SEC and CFTC staff found that “against a backdrop of unusually high volatility and thinning liquidity, a large fundamental trader (a mutual fund complex) initiated a sell program to sell a total of 75,000 E-mini contracts (valued at approximately $4.1 billion) as a hedge to an existing equity position”.

“This large fundamental trader chose to execute this sell program via an automated execution algorithm (“Sell Algorithm”) that was programmed to feed orders into the June 2010 E-Mini market to target an execution rate set to 9% of the trading volume calculated over the previous minute, but without regard to price or time,” the report noted. “On May 6, when markets were already under stress, the Sell Algorithm chosen by the large trader to only target trading volume, and neither price nor time, executed the sell program extremely rapidly in just 20 minutes”…………..

via When Oil Prices Drop in a ‘Flash’: Is It Real?.

For Superfast Stock Traders, a Way to Jump Ahead in Line – WSJ.com


Haim Bodek was a Wall Street insider at Goldman Sachs and UBS before launching his own [high-frequency] trading firm.

Mr. Bodek approached the Securities and Exchange Commission last year alleging that stock exchanges, in a race for more revenue, had worked with rapid-fire trading firms to give them an unfair edge over everyday investors.

He became convinced exchanges were providing such an edge after he says he was offered one himself when he ran a high-speed trading firm—a way to place orders that can be filled ahead of others placed earlier. The key: a kind of order called “Hide Not Slide”………

via For Superfast Stock Traders, a Way to Jump Ahead in Line – WSJ.com.

How to keep markets safe in the era of high-speed trading | Chicago Fed

By Carol Clark

With the chance of an order passing though controls at so many levels, how can things go wrong? One possibility Chicago Fed researchers found is that most of the trading firms interviewed that build their own trading systems apply fewer pre-trade checks to some trading strategies than others. Trading firms explained that they do this in order to reduce latency.

Another area of concern is that some firms do not have stringent processes for the development, testing, and deployment of code used in their trading algorithms. For example, a few trading firms interviewed said they deploy new trading strategies quickly by tweaking old code and placing it into production in a matter of minutes. In fact, one firm interviewed had two incidents of out-of-control algorithms. To address the first occurrence, the firm added additional pre-trade risk checks. The second out-of-control algorithm was caused by a software bug that was introduced as a result of someone fixing the error code that caused the first situation.

The study also found that erroneous orders may not be stopped by some clearing BDs/FCMs because they are relying solely on risk controls set by the exchange. As noted earlier, however, risk controls at the exchange may be structured in such a way that they do not stop all erroneous orders.

via Chicago Fed Letter (PDF)

BD = broker-dealer

FCM = futures commission merchant

ASX revenue from high frequency trading soars

A new data center, catering for high-speed trading, is becoming a major revenue-source for the ASX. My concern is that this could change the entire focus of the ASX, outweighing revenue from traditional stock market trading. Tom Steinert-Threlkeld at the Securities Technology Monitor writes:

The Australian Securities Exchange Group said Thursday that its revenue from Technical Services in its 2012 fiscal year topped the amount of revenue it received from stock market trading……

The growth in Technical Services revenue came as the company introduced different order types and execution services, and completed a state-of-the art data center. That data center operates at high speed and handles high volumes of trading orders, from computers belonging to trading firms that are located inside its walls. ASX said it was hosting 59 clients in the new data center as of June 30.

via Stock Trading Revenue Topped by Technology at Australia Exchange.


Nanex ~ High frequency traders at work [video]

High Frequency Traders (HFT) jam thousands of quotes in MasterCard stock at the millisecond level on May 16, 2012.
From Eric Hunsader – Nanex

Entire video shows about 5 seconds of time, slowed so you can see what goes on at the millisecond level.
Each box represents one exchange. The SIP (CQS in this case) at the bottom shows the National Best Bid/Offer.

Watch how much Best Bid/Offer changes in a fraction of a second. The shapes represent quote changes which are the result of a change to the top of the book at each exchange. The time at the top of the screen is the time of the last quote or trade update in Eastern Time HH:MM:SS:mmm (mmm = millisecond).

Every exchange must process every quote from the others — for proper trade through price protection. This complex web of technology must run flawlessly every millisecond of the trading day, or arbitrage (HFT profit) opportunities will appear. If any of the connections are not running perfectly, High Frequency Traders can profit from the price discrepancies that result. It is easy for HFTs to cause delays in one or more of the connections between each exchange.

New Research Busts High-Frequency Trading and Dark Pool Myths — CMCRC

Press Release: Capital Markets Cooperative Research Centre

CMCRC, the Australian independent academic centre for capital market research, has found that high-frequency trading (HFT) actually benefits capital market structures and performance, while dark pools may have damaging effects.

Speaking at an event in Beijing, Professor Frino outlined his research that showed that HFT activity adds real liquidity to markets and has no impact on price volatility — surprising findings, as HFT has regularly been accused of negatively impacting these measures of market quality.

“High frequency traders now account for more than 50 percent of trading volume in some global markets, whereas seven years ago it was virtually absent from markets,” Professor Frino said. “Alongside this trend is an explosion in so-called ‘dark pools,’ in which investors are executing their trading in invisible or non-transparent markets. Dark pools are making trading on exchanges less relevant.”

via New Research Busts High-Frequency Trading and Dark Pool Myths — CMCRC – Yahoo! Finance.