Markets run into inefficiencies for technical reasons all the time. But every now and then inefficiencies are purposefully engineered into markets, for profit.
Financial market regulators are charged with policing shenanigans to keep markets fair and transparent. When caught, market manipulators are fined to discourage others from trying.
But the remit of financial regulators only extends so far. They can’t, for example, influence the world of tangible goods, products and collectibles nearly as easily.
This matters because negative interest rates are making investments in everything from super-cars to art and collectibles increasingly appealing. As speculators pile in, those markets are getting financialised, which increases the potential profit gained from obstructing the ordinary flow of operation. Read more
A company called Cambridge Quantum Computing, which is developing qubit algos for commercial applications, has just received £50m worth of investment from private equity firm Grupo Arcano, a.k.a this man:
Since we just spent a good while arguing against the idea of blockchain society, we thought we’d quickly follow up with a post explaining why that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re against blockchain innovation itself.
It’s very likely that the blockchain might one day be usefully incorporated into existing services to make them better and fairer. We’re just not convinced this will necessarily democratise the world the way Matthew Sparkes at the Telegraph envisions or make it cheaper to process information. If anything, it’s likely to de-risk markets (the sort that feature real goods and services) through improved information gathering, sharing and transparency — something which limits the need for currencies, not increases it. Read more
One doesn’t need Michael Lewis to point out that the world of order flow (and asset transfer) is murky. Purposefully so.
Getting data on the sector, somewhat unsurprisingly, is not that easy. One of the few companies that does assess the market and shares those findings with journalists is Rosenblatt Securities (albeit, with conditionality). But even this, to some extent, is only an estimate because not all market participants share their data with Rosenblatt. In Europe, meanwhile, there is also the problem of double counting amidst the consolidated OTC figures, which means the figures against which dark pool activity is compared against can be unfairly drowned out. Read more
John Gapper has an excellent column on Thursday about art auctions, focusing on the degree to which they are fixed or obfuscated by insiders and long-standing established practices.
As he notes, the auction market is a duopoly geared towards protecting and serving vested interests through a system of guaranteed bids and sales incentives, which to some degree obscure public price discovery.
Herein lies the similarity with modern market structure more generally. By providing the means to disguise the hands of “informed” players, the duopoly of Sotheby’s and Christie’s behaves like a dark pool system within a wider market which has no public alternative to cross check prices against. Read more
The fallout (or wholesome debate, depending on which side you’re on) from Michael Lewis’ new book “Flash Boys” continues.
We’ve not read the book, so we shan’t be commenting about its relative merits or weaknesses specifically, but we shall propose that the relentless march of technology into finance is unlikely to be slowed or reversed any time soon. Read more
The full Citigroup blast against Nasdaq’s handling of the Facebook IPO is well worth a read. (Big hat-tip to NYT Dealbook, click to enlarge)
Oh the weird and wonderful charts of Nanex.
Here’s the latest one from the market data analytics firm (click to enlarge): Read more
Sharp thoughts on Friday from Andrew Haldane, executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England, on the changing topology of the market — including the rise of high-frequency trading.
Haldane — champion of the “we may have become too impatient” philosophy — wonders in a speech to the International Economic Association in Beijing, about a number of issues connected to the above. Read more
Joe Saluzzi of Themis Trading has spotted a sharp almost flash-crash like move in India’s Sensex index on Monday:
What happens when computer-driven trading reaches a high-speed saturation point?
That is, when high frequency trading reaches its natural limit — it simply cannot get any faster? Read more
The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating computer system failures at electronic marketplaces including Nasdaq to determine whether internal controls are sufficient, according to people familiar with the matter, the FT reports. The investigation is being handled by the enforcement division’s market abuse unit and is part of a broader regulatory review of stock exchanges following last year’s “flash crash”, recent hacking attempts and trading glitches. Mary Schapiro, SEC chairman, signalled in March that exchanges could face new rules governing their technology policies, which would formalise guidance issued following the 1987 stock market crash. The guidance, known as Automation Review Policies, advises exchanges to “acquire appropriate technology and assure its functionality”.
Battle lines are being drawn in Canada between supporters and opponents of a C$3.6bn ($3.7bn) bid by nine domestic banks and pension funds for TMX Group, operator of the Toronto and Montreal stock exchanges, the FT reports. The bid consortium, Maple Group Acquisition, announced on Sunday that it would offer cash and shares valued at C$48 per TMX share, about 20 per cent above the value of an all-share deal between TMX and the London Stock Exchange agreed in February. Reaction to the Maple bid has been divided. Supporters see it as a vehicle for the creation of a Canadian “national champion” and an affirmation of the strength and stability of Canada’s financial system. Critics contend that a takeover of TMX will severely restrict competition in securities trading and exacerbate conflicts of interest.
Recent trends in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) could create “potential financial stability issues” says the Financial Stability Board.
We say: about time someone stated the obvious. Read more
Given Monday’s mini flash crash in the SPY S&P 500 ETF — one of the most traded securities in the United States –we thought the following datapoint might be worth flagging up.
Via LPL Financial: Read more
Two Norwegian day traders have been handed suspended prison sentences for market manipulation after outwitting the automated trading system of a big US broker, the FT reports. The two men worked out how the computerised system would react to certain trading patterns – allowing them to influence the price of low-volume stocks. The case, involving Timber Hill, a unit of US-based Interactive Brokers, comes amid growing scrutiny of automated trading systems after the so-called “flash crash” in May, when a single algorithm triggered a plunge in US stocks. Svend Egil Larsen and Peder Veiby had won admiration from many Norwegians ahead of the court case for their apparent victory for man over machine. But prosecutors said Mr Larsen and Mr Veiby “gave false and misleading signals about supply, demand and prices” by manipulating several Norwegian stocks through Timber Hill’s online trading platform.
Themis Trading’s Sal Arnuk picks up on a really important point from the SEC-CFTC’s joint flash crash report published last Friday.
That being: the clear and demonstrable non-role played by broker-dealer/large market maker internalisation desks on May 6. Read more
Zero Hedge draws attention to a remarkable little study by a group called Nanex.
The datafeed company’s research shows that high frequency players approach trading in an almost ‘paint by numbers‘ way. That is to say, when broken apart and analysed, their algorithmic order sequencing displays patterns which verge on cyber art. Read more