Subscribe: RSS Feed | Twitter | Facebook | Email
Home | Contact Us

Archive for the ‘Program trading’ Category

Why High Frequency Program Trading Smells

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 14th, 2009 2:24 PM |

Who does not want the American dream?

Get a decent job, save a few bucks, make some reasonable investments, and try to get ahead. As part of that process, there is a premise that our government officials and market regulators will keep the playing field level.

Why are an increasing number of investors in our country questioning the integrity of our markets? The perception that the playing field is not necessarily level.

Is the field level? Is that perception actually a reality?

I commend Joe Saluzzi of Themis Trading for exposing a few weeks back the questionable integrity of  ‘high frequency program trading.’  The nature of the trading involved in these high frequency programs is consistent with my feeling that the equity markets are following technical analysis to a much greater extent than fundamental valuations.

I commend Joe and his colleagues at Themis again today for highlighting an example of the effect of high frequency program trading on their ability to execute equity transactions on their customers’ behalf. From the Themis website today, Real Life HFT Hijinks Example:

I am trading a small cap stock for a customer today (I leave out the ticker for anonymity purposes). It has traded 4,300 shares so far today. I have 75,000 shares to buy.

The scenario: 100 shares offered at $11.16, and 400 shares offered at $11.17. I place an order to buy 1,000 shares at 11.17.  You would think that I should get at least 500 shares executed (100 at $11.16 and 400 at $11.17). Sigh. I get none. As soon as I hit enter, those offers vanish. No trades on tape even. The HFT players offering the stock have convinced the market centers (ECN’s, Exchanges,  and ATS’s) to cater to them and “show” them my order before they have to execute, thereby giving them the split-second option to back away from their offers without honoring them.

Market makers have to honor their quotes, and even have to do so a certain percentage of the time. The HFT’s have to honor NOTHING. In fact, they can back away and even run ahead of your orders!  So much for their liquidity. Again the real danger is that fund managers assume that the markets can handle their 250,000 share small cap position, and that they can exit with a predictable minimal trade cost.

God, I hope we don’t retest.

There is nothing level about that field. This high frequency program trading is done with the blessing of the exchanges and the SEC.

It smells.

I welcome any market participants involved in high frequency program trading to make the case for the defense. Since Joe Saluzzi truly brought this issue out into the open earlier this month, I have yet to see any case, let alone a reasonable one, made in defense of this activity.

Thus, with overall liquidity in the marketplace less than what it may appear, investors should factor that into their overall risk assessment when making investment decisions in the equity and commodity markets.

Challenge your brokers and financial planners on this topic. I’d love to hear their responses. Please share this post with them. Please share their thoughts on this topic, if they are even aware of it.

I think we will all learn who is truly looking out for investors’ interests as we navigate the economic landscape.

LD

Is Uncle Sam Manipulating the Equity Markets?
Part III

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 8th, 2009 6:47 AM |

Kudos to the blog Zero Hedge for highlighting the questionable nature of the technical flows in the equity market that have occurred via high frequency program trading.

Massive kudos to Joe Saluzzi of Themis Trading for going public last week on Bloomberg with this story. While Zero Hedge, Sense on Cents, and every other financial blog sit outside the fray, Joe Saluzzi is actually ‘in the arena.’ I commend him for his character and courage in shedding light on this opaque and arcane program trading business. Yesterday on his blog at Themis Trading, Saluzzi wrote a piece entitled “Manipulation?”:

We have talked extensively on our blog and in our white papers about the power of high frequency trading and program trading.  We have noted that these trading strategies can move the market quickly  during the trading day.  We have always suspected that there have been certain major players that can dominate this space.    Now comes the case of the stolen proprietary trading code from Goldman Sachs.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=axYw_ykTBokE

Most interesting in this Bloomberg article is the following statement by Assisitant U.S, Attorney Joseph Facciponti:

“The bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways,” Facciponti said

Is this an admission by Goldman Sachs that there is the possibility of manipulation in the market?  Does anyone think that this is the only program in the world that can “manipulate” markets?  With all the programmers in the world, we can only imagine how many more manipulative programs are out there.  Now here is the best part according to the assistant U.S. Attorney:

The proprietary code lets the firm do “sophisticated, high- speed and high-volume trades on various stock and commodities markets,” prosecutors said in court papers. The trades generate “many millions of dollars” each year.

Markets are a zero sum game – somebody wins and somebody loses. Where do you think these “many millions of dollars” are coming from?  They are coming from you – the average retail investor and the large institutional investor.  These programs are taking advantage of real order flow and are siphoning off small profits throughout the day that belong in the pockets of the retail investor and the traditional money manager.

So, who is out there to protect you from these “machines” and their army of programmers?  One would think the SEC has your back.  But what did they have to say about high frequency trading.  According to an article in the WSJ (http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20090618-707189.html )

The Securities and Exchange Commission believes institutional money managers are “sophisticated” enough to trade against the machines without further regulation.

“We don’t want to curtail liquidity,” said Gene Gohlke, associate director for the SEC. Gohlke said it’s up to the managers themselves to make sure other traders aren’t manipulating their models.

This story is just at the beginning stages and we here at Themis Trading intend to keep a careful watch on it.

WOW!!! This statement by Mr. Saluzzi is as powerful a condemnation of a Wall Street business practice as I have seen in a long time.

Effectively, Mr. Saluzzi is stating that the high speed program trades ‘front run’ order flow from retail and institutional investors. This practice helps explain the disconnect between the underlying economic fundamentals and the technical support of our equity markets. The SEC has given the practice of program trading its blessing.

This smells.

For those interested in this topic, please reference previous posts by Sense on Cents on this topic:

Is Uncle Sam Manipulating the Equity Markets?

Is Uncle Sam Manipulating the Equity Markets? Part II

Kudos again to Zero Hedge and especially Joe Saluzzi!!

LD






Recent Posts


ECONOMIC ALL-STARS


Archives