US equities were gripped by panic selling as the Dow plunged almost 1,000 points driven by a cascade of 100 share high frequency program trading, estimated to have been about 80% of volume. Gold rocketed higher to $1,210.
The stock exchange circuit breakers do not effectively apply after 2:30 PM NY time unless the market declines over 20% and they close the exchange for the day.
A bit of a detail perhaps, but it serves to enhance the convenient artificiality of today’s market break.
This is highly reminiscent of the 1987 crash driven by a flawed market structure based on automated trading and bad theories.
The entire stock market rally which we have seen this year off the February lows resembles a low volume Ponzi scheme, and formed a huge air pocket under prices.
This US equity rally was driven by technically oriented buying from the Banks and the hedge funds. There was and still is a lack of legitimate institutional buying at these price levels. This was machine driven speculation enabled by the lack of reform in a system riddled with corruption, from the bottom to the top.
This is yet another indication that the US regulatory and market oversight organizations, especially the SEC and CFTC, continue to be disconnected from and remarkably ineffective in their responsibilities in guarding the public against gross market abuse, price manipulation, and insiders playing games with cheap money supplied by the NY Fed.
And as you might expect, the anchors on financial television are trying to excuse and blame the sell off on a ‘fat finger’ order that caused Proctor and Gamble to drop 20 points in 45 seconds. Or a typist inputting an order to sell 16 million e-mini SP futures, and typing "B" instead of "M." Oops. Crashed the free world.
"Ordinarily, the financial risk in a market, and hence the risk to the economy at large, is limited because the assets traded are finite. There are only so many houses, mortgages, shares of stock, bushels of corn, [bars of silver], or barrels of oil in which to invest.
But a synthetic instrument has no real assets. It is simply a bet on the performance
It has been a while since we revisited Goldman’s domination of NYSE program trading courtesy of the SLP [supplemental liquidity providers]. For the past two months we have been waiting for additional information from the NYSE on what other firms are currently SLP vendors to the exchange. By the lack of any data from the NYSE we can only assume that Goldman is still the defacto monopolist in SLP, and in essence the primary privileged DMM on the NYSE. One wonders with liquidity "back to normal" when the NYSE, SEC and Goldman will agree to disassemble the SLP program so that the market can go back to its efficient old-school ways (this is rhetorical).
As the data suggests, Goldman Sachs & Co. now has a staggering 22-to-1 ratio of principal to agency transactions: in the last week Goldman traded 662 million shares in principal capacity (instead of blaming all of this on Goldman’s prop trading cash machine, we would love to be able to break down how much of this is attributable to SLP, but a reborn NYSE which believes in nothing but transparency will simply not provide that data). Taking into account GSEC adds another measly 10 million agency shares doesn’t change the big picture that out of the top 10 NYSE firms, Goldman trades the third lowest amount on an agency basis. Goldman’s casino is now not even pretending to trade on behalf of clients, as all of its money is made on FICC spreads and volumes (aka trading monopoly).
[click on chart to enlarge]
Maybe one of these days Goldman Sachs can do a philanthropic, non-profit seminar on how to ramp futures every single day in the 11pm-3am block. That, or how to use taxpayer money to pay for a trunk line straight into the Marriner Eccles buildling.
Is it the private client? Not really — stock funds actually had net outflows of $1.33 billion last week, while bond funds enjoyed an $8.2 billion net inflow.
Is it corporate insiders? Well, heck no — Robert Toll (CEO of Toll Brothers) just disclosed that he sold a total 1.6 million shares of his company’s stock yesterday.
Is it buybacks? Not at all — in fact, S&P 500 companies bought back a mere $24.4 billion on stock repurchases in 2Q, down 72% from a year ago and the lowest in recorded history, according to Howard Silverblatt of Standard & Poor’s.
So who’s doing the buying? Very likely it is still a combination of program trading, short coverings and portfolio managers desperately trying to make up for last year’s epic losses.
The permabid is the new riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an HFT market enema.
In case you’re wondering, does Robert Toll know something? Zero Hedge informs us on that too. Apparently, he’s out of the JP Morgan circle and is going to feel really silly if the stock hits $29 next year.
We’ve been following the HFT story since Zero Hedge first shed light on this unfair practice and noted that the market is increasingly dominated by program trading between investment banks. The article below from Money Morning shows that this issue has finally become well-known and market participants are seeking solutions.
Consider Phil’s example from Wednesday’s market update:
"The lack of a retrace was getting downright unhealthy. As I often complain – rapid rises in the market, especially when accomplished through what we call “stick saves” create virtual air pockets in stock prices and make investing more and more dangerous as we move up. A simple example I use for members is to imagine the stock market has just 100 total shares. In March, those 100 shares were worth $1,000 and there was $1,000 sitting on the sidelines in cash. Shares are bought and sold every day but it doesn’t really matter as they are never all bought or all sold. The bottom line is that perhaps 25% of the cash actually moved off the sidelines but the market has gained 50% since March. Where does that leave us? Well that means we now have 100 shares of stock “worth” $1,500 but now there is only $750 on the sidelines to buy it.
That makes it exponentially harder to move the market higher as the values grow as it takes more and more sideline capital to grow the market each day… In fact, the entire expansion of “value” of the market is an illusion as it WAS possible in March to exchange 100% of the stocks for the cash on the sidelines for $1,000 (assuming everyone on the sidelines would make the trade). Now that we have USED 25% of the sideline money to inflate the apparent value of the stocks, we have a serious problem because, even if EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR of sideline capital were exchanged for stocks in a panic sale, there is only enough to pay out 50% of the market’s current ‘value.’"
So, are HFT programs being used to increase the price of stocks on a daily basis? How? If, for example, GS keeps the bid artificially high and moving higher in its program trading, stock prices will rise due to GS’s volume dominance. Stock prices keep rising, but not because each…
Paul Wilmott is a legend in quant circles: his website Wilmott.com, which Zero Hedge highly recommends to all readers for an in depth analysis on all things that are below the surface of the market, is one of the most popular resources dealing with the constantly changing topology of our increasingly more complex equity capital markets. Simply said, his opinion on matters in program and high-frequency trading is second to none.
Which is why we read his latest Op-Ed in the New York Times today, Hurrying Into The Next Panic, very carefully. His piece is a stunner – in summary, and in agreement with what Hedge discussed at length many months ago (we suggest readers familiarize themselves with this ZH piece as it is the one that started it all, and also explains partially our fascination with VWAP), Paul sees HFT as a force that is tantamount to what index arb and "dynamic portfolio insurance" was in the crash of 1987.
Thus the problem with the sudden popularity of high-frequency trading is that it may increasingly destabilize the market. Hedge funds won’t necessarily care whether the increased volatility causes stocks to rise or fall, as long as they can get in and out quickly with a profit. But the rest of the economy will care.
This argument goes to the real heart of the problem with HFT – the monopolization of liquidity provisioning, and the complicit nature of both exchanges and specific broker/dealers who are willing to usurp this "liquidity=volume" fallacy in exchange for perpetuating the $20+ billion revenue stream spread among a minute number of market participants. As such, Zero Hedge increasingly believes that what Goldman does on the NYSE (for example) is not so much an SEC issue (ignore the fact that the SEC is about 10 years behind the curve on this topic) but is in actuality an anti-trust concern.
Here is Zero Hedge’s 2 cents: Christine Varney, forget about Google for one day and instead focus on what is easily the scariest, stealthiest, and potentially most expensive anti-trust issue in American society (and history) – that of HFT’s increasingly monopolizing capital markets.
All this other talk about Flash frontrunning is for all
Some short term indicators are flashing that we are nearing at least a short term top. There is also indication of distribution of stock here by insiders to the public, which is also an indication of a possible top. This judgement is based on many charts and indicators not shown here.
Having said that, our discipline will not prompt us to do any seriously non-hedged shorting until the ‘trendline’ Key Pivot is violated at least on a daily close, and then confirmed by a move lower.
The market is rising on thin volumes, and unless the sellers come back in, it can continue to drift higher on program trading and short squeezes.
We are within two weeks of a potential ‘crash window’ where a final top will be made, and a selloff with a significant leg lower will be seen into the end of year. The window is a bit wide for now, a six week period starting around August 17th. We will hope to tighten that up by the end of July.
This is only a probability, not a hard forecast. But it has us edgy to be on the long side, even in precious metals miners, without hedging a general market decline. The Cashflow in the market is looking a bit stretched. We may have to wait until later in earnings season for this to shake out.
In sum, the markets seem ‘precarious’ and unstable to us, but not enough to jump in front of the market to the bear side yet.
As an aside, we are seeing quite an increase in ‘screwy fills’ on the bid ask level II where fills on the retail side seem to be made ‘out of bounds’ of the usual bid/ask action.
We do not use market orders normally and would not suggest them here for those that do. The market makers are shaving fills and front running perhaps although that is harder to spot except on the thinly traded stocks where other issues may come into play.
But we are seeing far too many fills BELOW our limit bids on some stocks to believe this market is functioning normally.
A paper has been going around that describes a startling new world of high-velocity computerized trading that causes volume and volatility to soar and costs ordinary investors billions of dollars.
The paper, Toxic Equity Trading On Wall Street, appears to have been published late last year by Sal Arnuk and Joseph Saluzzi from a firm called Themis Trading. (One word of caution: We have not yet verified a single assertion made in the paper, and we had not heard of Themis Trading. We would be grateful if those of you with insight into this would help us understand the real facts here.)
The paper is embedded below (you can also download it at Themis’s web site). Here, in brief, is the world it describes:
Many trading orders these days are executed by computers. Like human traders, the computers break big orders into small chunks (say, 100 or 500 shares) and then match them with orders on electronic stock exchanges. The reason the orders are broken into chunks is so they won’t move the market too much. Stock trading is relatively illiquid, and big orders can drive the price of a stock sharply up or down. Since the dawn of Wall Street time, clever traders have tried to hide the amount of stock they ultimately want to buy or sell to avoid having their own orders move the market sharply against them.
In recent years, such "algorithmic" electronic trading execution has grown in popularity, and a number of electronic trading strategies have sprung up to exploit it.
In one of these strategies, called "liquidity rebate trading," a program analyzes the incoming order flow on an electronic exchange to try to spot a big institutional order that is just hitting the market (apparently this is relatively easy to do). The program then front-runs the order by modestly outbidding the institution for the stock and then turning around and selling it to the institution at a higher price than the institution would have otherwise paid.
Front-running is an age-old cheating technique: A trading firm gets a big order from a client and, before it executes it, buys some of the same stock for itself. Front-running is, in fact, what many Wall Street insiders thought Bernie Madoff was doing before they discovered he…
This Is Outrageous
The Land of the Setting Sun
Buddy, Can You Spare $5 Trillion?
There is no doubt that the US is in financial trouble. Those talking of a strong recovery are just not dealing with reality. But the US is in better shape than a lot of countries. This week, we begin by looking at Japan. I have written for years about how large their debt-to-GDP ratio is, yet they keep on issuing more debt and seemingly getting away with it. But now, several factors are conspiring to create real problems for the Land of the Rising Sun. They may soon run into a very serious-sized wall. And it is not just Japan. Where will the world find $5 trillion to finance government debt? We look at some very worrisome graphs. Those in the US who think that what happens in the rest of the world doesn’t matter just don’t get it. There is a lot to cover in what will be a very interesting letter. I suggest removing sharp objects or pouring yourself a nice adult beverage.
This Is Outrageous
But first, I want to direct the attention of those in the US finance industry to a white paper written by Themis Trading, called "Toxic Equity Trading Order Flow on Wall Street." Basically, they outline why volume and volatility have jumped so much since 2007; and it’s not due to the credit crisis. They estimate that 70% of the volume in today’s markets is from high-frequency program trading. They outline how large brokers and funds can buy and sell a stock for the same price and still make 0.5 cents. Do that a million times a day and the money adds up. Or maybe do it 8 billion times. It requires powerful computers, complicity of the exchanges (because the exchanges get paid a lot), and highly proximate computer connections. Literally, the need for speed is so important that to play this game you have to have your servers physically at the exchange. Across the river in New Jersey is too slow. Forget Texas or California. This is a game played out in microseconds.
Back-up: This week’s NYSE Program Trading report was very odd: not only because program trading hit 48.6% of all NYSE trading, a record high at least since the NYSE keep tabs of this data, and a data point which in itself was startling enough to cause some serious red flags as I jaunt from village to village in what little is left of Europe’s bison country, but what was shocking was the disappearance of the #1 mainstay of complete trading domination (i.e., Goldman Sachs) from not just the aforementioned #1 spot, but the entire complete list. In other words: Goldman went from 1st to N/A in one week.
While most in the United States were celebrating the Fourth of July holiday, a Russian immigrant living in New Jersey was being held on federal charges of stealing secret computer trading codes from a major New York-based financial institution. Authorities did not identify the firm, but sources say that institution is none other than Goldman Sachs.
The charges, if proven, are significant because the codes that the accused, Sergey Aleynikov, tried to steal are the secret sauce to Goldman’s automated stock and commodities trading business. Federal authorities contend the computer codes and related-trading files that Aleynikov uploaded to a German-based website help this major financial institution generate millions of dollars in profits each year.
Oh this is bad for Goldman if true.
It’s even worse for the NYSE however, as Reuters goes on to explain:
The case against Aleynikov may explain why the New York Stock Exchange moved quickly last week to stop reporting program stock trading for its most active firms. Goldman was often at the top of the chart — far ahead of its competitors. It’s possible Goldman had asked
Major developing story: Matt Goldstein over at Reuters may have just broken a story that could spell doom if not [for] 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.
Back-up: This week’s NYSE Program Trading report was very odd: not only because program trading hit 48.6% of all NYSE trading, a record high at least since the NYSE has kept tabs on this data, and a datapoint which in itself was startling enough to cause some serious red flags as I jaunt from village to village in what little is left of Europe’s bison country, but what was shocking was the disappearance of the #1 mainstay of complete trading domination (i.e., Goldman Sachs) from not just the aforementioned #1 spot, but the entire complete list. In other words: Goldman went from 1st to N/A in one week.
Even more odd, this "disappearance" comes hot on the heels of what Zero Hedge reported could be potentially a major change to the way the NYSE provides its weekly program trading report. Of course, Ray over at the NYSE immediately replied to Zero Hedge that all was going to be same as always … Odd, maybe he meant that all is back to normal except the reporting of Goldman’s trades. Either way, it might very well be time for proactive readers to again contact the two employees publicly disclosed by the NYSE as lead-contacts on the issue. Readers will recall that it was these same two who were previously steadfastly assuring anyone who would listen that there would be no change at all in data reporting.
Robert Airo, Senior Vice President, NYSE Euronext at (212) 656-5663 or AleksandraRadakovic, Vice President, NYSE Regulation at (212) 656-4144
Alas, the just released weekly data proves that either theirs was a material misrepresentation of facts, or Goldman simply suddenly decided to stop transacting with the
With Goldman proclaiming that half the recent downturn in US macro data is due to "weather" and the rest of the hockey-sticking sell-side extrapolators fully entrenched on the Spring-will-save-us-all bandwagon (despite the manifold examples of the worst macro data misses being from regions that simply were unaffected by the winter storms), we thought the following chart would be of interest.
RBC finds only a mere 19% of those surveyed "spent less" due to the weather - and 27% spent more!
Like yesterday, there was little economic news to influence the market. The S&P 500 opened fractionally higher, dipped briefly into the red and hit its 0.28% intraday high shortly before 11 AM. The index then sold off in a couple of waves to its -0.71% intraday low shortly after 3 PM. It trimmed its decline by the close to finish down 0.51, which puts it 0.55% below its record high on Friday. Tomorrow is another day of no significant US economic news, although the Eurozone's Industrial Production will be announced before the US markets open.
The yield on the 10-year note closed at 2.77%, down 2 bps from yesterday's close. The interim high was 3.04% at the end of 2013.
Vincent “Vinnie” Viola, the founder of Virtu Financial Inc, is High Frequency Trading's (HFT) first billionaire. He has an impressive track record of just “one losing trading day” during a 1,238 trading-day period.
How does he do it? The same way other High-Frequency do it: front running trades and scalping countless billions and billions of fractions-of-pennies in the process.
Before discussing the first HFT billionaire, let's post some background for those who are not familiar with the process.
What Is HFT?
Wikipedia reports ... High-frequency trading (HFT) is a type of algorithmic trading, specifically the use of sophisticated technological tools and computer algorithms to rapidly trade securities. HFT...
Shares in McDonald’s are up the most in the Dow Jones Industrial Average today, rising nearly 4.0% to $98.92 and the highest level since November 26th during the first hour of the session. The rally in shares of the world’s largest restaurant chain today is more than making up for yesterday’s dip in the price of the underlying on the heels of a larger than expected dip in February same store sales. Options traders hungry for continued gains in the stock in the very near term appear to be snapping up weekly options across several striking prices today.
The most traded weekly options by volume are the 14 Mar ’14 $97 strike...
DAILY PRICE REPORT
Today’s AM fix was USD 1,348.00, EUR 973.57 and GBP 810.44 per ounce.
Yesterday’s AM fix was USD 1,334.25, EUR 961.55 and GBP 800.87 per ounce.
Gold rose $0.7 or 0.05% yesterday, to $1,339.90/oz. Silver dropped $0.08 or 0.38% to $20.81/oz.
Gold in US Dollars - 1 Year (Bloomberg)
Gold rose in all currencies again today and headed towards a four month high in dollar terms as the standoff between Russia and Ukraine led to demand for gold as a haven. Silver surged 1.4%, platinum added 0.3% to $1,481.60/oz and pal...
Today was the beginning of “spring break” for the market. At least it seemed that way with a very low trading volume of only 600M shares on the NYSE. Either the college crowd does more trading than we imagined or parents are taking the week off as well.
The market barely woke up for the session with the S&P 500 down 0.05% and the NASDAQ down 0.03%. However, the DJI must have gotten extra sleep this weekend as it was up 0.21%. Small caps took a bigger hit with the Russell 2000 dropping nearly 0.50% percent. There was nothing major in the news other than a disappointing trading figure from China. Indeed, the whole week will only include a meager four major economic reports with Wholesale Inventories tomorrow, Retail Sales and Jobless Claims on Thursday, and Producer Price In...
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This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).
We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
Cross-eyed mosquitoes, and Bow-legged ants,
I come before you, To stand behind you,
To tell you something, I know nothing about.
And so the circus begins in Union Square, San Francisco for this weeks JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Will the momentum from 2013, which carried the S&P Spider Biotech ETF to all time highs, carry on in 2014? The Biotech ETF beat the S&P by better than 3 points.
As I noted in my previous post, Biotechs Galore - IPOs and More, biotechs were rushing to IPOs so that venture capitalists could unwind their holdings (funds are usually 5-7 years), as well as take advantage of the opportune moment...
Welcome to the fouth update of the IRA Virtual Portfolio. First I am going to summarize the current state of the Portfolio then I will get into all the activity we had during September expiration.
Profit and Loss – Net of closed positions the portfolio is up a total of $769
Market Commentary – Last expiration I said, "I would like to put a total of $20,000 to work by the end of SEP expiration. If the VIX pops up to around 20 I plan to put about $50,000 total to work." The market didn't quite reach the goal but I did manage to deploy $15,000 of buying power. I still feel the market is too high and expect a correction during October. If the vix pops up to around 20 I still plan to put about $50,000 to work. If a correction doesn't happen I still plan to have a total of $25,000 in buying power put to work by October expiration. Now on to the act...
Note: The material presented in this commentary is provided for
informational purposes only and is based upon information that is
considered to be reliable. However, neither MaddJack Enterprises, LLC
d/b/a PhilStockWorld (PSW) nor its affiliates
warrant its completeness, accuracy or adequacy and it should not be relied upon as such. Neither PSW nor its affiliates are responsible for any errors or omissions or for results obtained from the use of this information. Past performance, including the tracking of virtual trades and portfolios for educational purposes, is not necessarily indicative of future results. Neither Phil, Optrader, or anyone related to PSW is a registered financial adviser and they may hold positions in the stocks mentioned, which may change at any time without notice. Do not buy or sell based on anything that is written here, the risk of loss in trading is great.
This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or other financial instrument. Securities or other financial instruments mentioned in this material are not suitable for all investors. Any opinions expressed herein are given in good faith, are subject to change without notice, and are only intended at the moment of their issue as conditions quickly change. The information contained herein does not constitute advice on the tax consequences of making any particular investment decision. This material does not take into account your particular investment objectives, financial situations or needs and is not intended as a recommendation to you of any particular securities, financial instruments or strategies. Before investing, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, as necessary, seek professional advice.