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
A bit of a hodgepodge of charts to review. I'll start with my favourite of the bunch: the relationship between oil and gold prices. Peaks in the relative price between these commodities have historically provided swing lows for commodities - oil in particular. Certainly, sufficient time has passed between peaks to mark a major low.
The relationship between Nasdaq Highs and Lows doesn't suggest we have reached any major inflection yet. Ideally, Nasdaq Lows should spike above 100 to mark a major low, with 200+ for 'back up the truck' style low.
As widely expected, the New Year has begun with plenty of volatility on high trading volume, as investors fear more than just a mild correction to start out the year. Despite the strong fundamentals here in the U.S., there are plenty of dangers around the rest of the world, and many fear that our cozy comfort at home simply cannot remain insulated for much longer.
In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart, review our weekly fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings of the ten U.S. business sectors, and then offer up some actionable trading ideas, including a sector rotation strategy using ETFs and an enhanced version using top-ranked stocks from the top-ranked sectors.
Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.
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.
Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.
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An interview with John Ehlers of Stock Spotter and Mesa Software
Ilene: John, in our last discussion about trading systems in general and yours in particular (Can trading be reduced to cycles, stresses and vibrations?) you mentioned Monte Carlo simulations and their use in measuring performance. Can you explain more about how you measure the performance of a trading system?
John: Let's start with comparing trading with gambling. The two have several things in common. In both ...
So as I was saying yesterday (Bitcoin: The Biggest Clown Show In History?), Bitcoin has several obstacles on the path to potential success as an alternative currency. But I forgot to mention hacking and theft at Bitcoin exchanges and other technical problems. This is related to the lack of government backing and the fact that the value of Bitcoins is based entirely on confidence.
Reminder: Pharmboy is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.
PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
Stocks got off to a rocky start on the first trading day in December, with the S&P 500 Index slipping just below 2050 on Monday. Based on one large bullish SPX options trade executed on Wednesday, however, such price action is not likely to break the trend of strong gains observed in the benchmark index since mid-October. It looks like one options market participant purchased 25,000 of the 31Dec’14 2105/2115 call spreads at a net premium of $2.70 each. The trade cost $6.75mm to put on, and represents the maximum potential loss on the position should the 2105 calls expire worthless at the end of December. The call spread could reap profits of as much as $7.30 per spread, or $18.25mm, in the event that the SPX ends the year above 2115. The index would need to rally 2.0% over the current level...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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