The Truth About High Frequency Trading and The Coming Market Crash
According to high-frequency traders and their backers, the super-fast, computer-driven stock trading desks that employ HFT are a benefit to investors and exchanges here in the U.S. and wherever they ply their trades.
But that's not true.
In fact, if you know exactly what high-frequency traders actually do and how they do it, you'll know what the SEC hasn't figured out, namely what caused the May 2010 Flash Crash.
You'll also realize that it's only a matter of time before these market manipulators cause a real catastrophic market crash.
Today I'll talk about what HFT players do and how they do it. And tomorrow I'll tell you how HFT could destroy our markets and economy.
What High-Frequency Traders Actually Do
High-frequency trading is fundamentally based on how market participants (for this discussion I'm talking about stock markets) place their orders to buy and sell shares and how HFT players act on those orders.
For every stock that's traded there is always (or at least it used to be "always") a "bid" and an "ask" price. Sometimes you'll hear the term "offer" or "offered" price, those terms are interchangeable with the term "ask" or "asking price."
The bid price is the price which someone is "bidding," or willing to pay to own shares. The ask price is the price which someone is willing to sell shares, or is "offering" or "asking" to sell at.
Bids and offers each come with the quantity of shares that the buyer or seller want to trade. There are millions of bids and offers made all day long, every trading day.
In fact, for every stock there are many bids and offers at several different prices.
The best bid, the highest price someone is willing to pay and how many shares they are willing to buy, and the best offered price, the lowest price at which someone is willing to sell their shares, constitutes a stock's current "quote."
In the U.S. we call that quote the NBBO, or national best bid and offer. But there are almost always other bids at lower prices and other offers at higher prices for all stocks.
High frequency traders employ pattern recognition algorithms that look deeply at bids and offers on stocks to determine if the movement on the bid quotes or offered quotes implies a directional tendency.
Computer-driven algorithms are "reading" the quotes, the intentions of buyers and sellers as they put down their orders in real-time, to make a trade that the HFT player expects to profit from if the directional bias their computers pick up is correct.
High-Frequency Trading is a Scam That is Crippling the Markets
Let me make this perfectly simple…
High-frequency trading is a scam. It should be outlawed.
Regulators, namely the pimps and panderers at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the exchanges, all of them, are in on the game.
The game, known as HFT, isn't arbitrage, isn't fair, isn't consistent with the keeping of "fair and orderly markets," and so should be illegal.
In case you don't know, here are the rules of the game…
- Pay the exchanges to "co-locate" your servers next to their servers, at the locations where they house them (and rent space to you for that explicit purpose).
- Get access to quote information (what stocks are being "bid" for at what price and for how many shares, and what is the "ask" price and number of shares that sellers are trying to unload), and be able to place your own bid and ask quotes as fast as technologically possible.
- Get yourself a bunch of money to trade with. You'll need millions, so maybe form a partnership to raise money or partner with some banks that don't already have their own HFT desks, you know, the ones that want to hide what they do.
- Get yourself a few nuclear physicists, rocket scientists, and computer wizards to write algorithms that can read quotes on both sides of every stock to determine patterns, the depth of markets, and how many shares you can buy or sell and then sell or buy in a matter of less than one-hundredth or one-thousandth of a second.
Stock Market Today: Banks Net Record Profits, But Stocks Slip
The stock market today is trying to end what has been a negative week on a positive note.
Markets have traded down all week on global economic concerns and today are being held back by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) even though the two financial giants posted record earnings.
Here's what's bringing those stocks down and why consumer sentiment is at a five-year high:
- Banks slide amid record earnings- JPMorgan and Wells Fargo each reported record quarterly profits but neither stock is surging on the results. Wells reported third-quarter net income of $4.94 billion, or 88 cents per share, up from $4.06 billion, or 72 cents a year ago and JPMorgan announced third-quarter earnings of 5.71 billion, or $1.40 a share, up from $4.26 billion, or $1.02 a share a year earlier. The record results were spurred by homeowners taking advantage of lower interest rates in order to refinance their mortgages. "The one big positive is clearly mortgage origination revenues," Richard Staite, an analyst at Atlantic Equities LLP in London, told Bloomberg News in an interview before results were announced. "Rates will remain at this level or potentially drop further and ultimately that will drive a recovery in the housing market."
If You're Worried About Stock Market Crash 2013, Buy These
The market has surged in recent action, but these gains haven't eradicated the chances of a stock market crash in 2013.
Global markets are up on news that central banks will deliver more stimulus measures, such as QE3 in the United States.
Even though stimulus measures trigger market rallies, they're actually admissions that economies are so weak they need government assistance.
As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently stated, the economic conditions in the United States, particularly high unemployment, should be of "grave concern" to all.
Legendary investor Jim Rogers declared in an interview that, "In America, we have had recessions every 4 to 6 years at the beginning of the republic. 2013 is going to be a mess. It always has been, there's no reason it won't be this time too. Be careful…"
In order to heed Rogers' warning, investors should consider adding the following stocks to their portfolios.
Stock Market Today: This Stock Wins With or Without QE3
The major headlines in the stock market today include the Fed's decision to implement QE3, increased producer prices, and higher jobless claims.
- QE3 a 99% certainty?… Not quite- When the Federal Open Market Committee makes its statement at 12:30 p.m. EDT every investor will be waiting to hear if QE3 has finally arrived. After what seems like two years of speculation since QE2 was announced will we finally get QE3? According to Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) a gauge of indicators of market expectations for additional central bank stimulus rose to a record 99% in August. Yet many economists do not expect QE3 to be announced today for many reasons. If the Fed takes action it will be viewed as highly political coming just months before Election 2012. Even if the Fed announces QE3 but says it will delay QE3 purchases until after the election as it did with QE2, the political implications will still be there. Other reasons are the lack of progress the previous rounds of QE have had in turning around the economy – and not just the stock market. "The Fed continues to want the economy to grow faster and specifically, to grow more jobs, but the ability of QE to do that is extraordinarily limited," Catherine Mann, a finance professor at Brandeis and former Federal Reserve economist told CNN. "We know that QE reduced interest rates, but we also know that has not led to more construction, more mortgages, more business investment, or more lending. Since it hasn't done any of that, it probably hasn't created jobs either."
- Producer prices rise most in three years- Wholesale prices, measured by the producer price index, climbed 1.7% in August – the most since June 2009 – due to higher gasoline and natural gas prices. This was a faster increase than the 0.3% reported in July and ahead of the median forecast for a gain of 1.3%. Food prices rose 0.9% due to a rise in dairy and egg prices. The core producer price index which excludes food and energy rose 0.2%, which was in line with expectations. Tomorrow's consumer price index will be a good indicator if higher wholesale prices have translated into increased consumer prices.
Stock Market Today: This Tech Stock Rallies to All-Time High
The major headlines in the stock market today include Europe's latest rescue effort, cautious optimism on U.S. jobs, and these big-name stocks leading the rally:
- ECB unveils unlimited bond buying plan- European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi announced in Frankfurt today (Thursday) that the ECB will embark on a drastic new bond-buying plan. The new program, called "Outright Monetary Transactions," allows the ECB to buy bonds with maturities between one and three years without announcing any limits in advance, as long as the government in question is under a program approved by the Eurozone. The plan is aimed at stabilizing interest rates in the euro area and will require countries such as Spain and Italy to request aid from the ECB to activate the bond purchases.
"Under appropriate conditions, we will have a fully effective backstop to avoid destructive scenarios with potentially severe challenges for price stability in the euro area," Draghi said at a press conference. "Governments must stand ready to activate the EFSF/ESM in the bond market when exceptional financial-market circumstances and risks to financial stability exist — with strict and effective conditionality. The ECB reserves the right to terminate bond purchases if governments don't fulfill their part of the bargain." The ECB held its benchmark rate at its record low level of 0.75%. Draghi announced that the ECB won't claim the status of a senior creditor if the bonds it buys have to be restructured and that the purchases will be "sterilized" meaning there will be no impact on the monetary supply.
What Drove Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) Shares to a New Low
Since Facebook Inc.'s (Nasdaq: FB) debut as a public company at $38 a share on May 18, and the stock's peak at $45 on the same day, shares have tumbled nearly 50%.
Facebook stock hit a fresh low yesterday (Tuesday), with shares reaching $17.55 before closing at $17.73.
The slump came after a trio of brokerage firms slashed their price targets for Facebook shares. The firms cited the wave of expiring lockup periods that will flood the market with close to 1.7 billion shares over the next several months.
The first lockup period expired Aug. 16, freeing a first batch of some 268 million shares. In mid-October, 192 million more shares will be let loose, and on Nov. 14 a whopping 1.2 billion shares will be free to sell.
The total is more than four times the number of shares floating on exchanges before the lockup periods began expiring.
"It's like a train coming around the corner toward shareholders, so they better get out of the way," Francis Gaskin, president of research firm IPOdesktop told the Los Angeles Times right before the end of the first lockup.
Will Fiscal Cliff Trigger Muni Bond Defaults?
Turns out our nation's counties and cities are in much worse financial shape than previously believed – and the impact of the fiscal cliff could drag these municipalities down even lower.
A recent report by the New York Federal Reserve determined that while Moody's Investment Service reported only 71 defaults from 1970 to 2011, there were actually 2,521.
That's because Moody's only reports on the defaults of rated bonds, which are safer for investors. Taking all U.S. muni bond defaults into account, the default rate is actually 4%, not 1%, according to The New York Times.
It's not just Moody's that missed on municipal bond default statistics. The Fed's combined database indicated 2,366 defaults from 1986 to 2011, compared with Standard & Poor's 47 defaults during this same period.
And now the looming fiscal cliff, scheduled to be reached on Jan. 2, 2013, could drive up many more city debt levels to dangerous highs.
If Congress doesn't agree on a solution, $530 billion in tax increases and reductions in federal spending will take place at the start of next year. According to a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), going over the fiscal cliff could take the United States -and its cities and counties – back down into the valley of another recession.
That's when muni bond defaults could tick up.
Stock Market Today: Markets in the Red Ahead of Jackson Hole
Here are the major headlines in the stock market today.
- Consumer spending gains most in five months- Consumer spending rose for the first time in three months, increasing 0.4% in July from June but slightly below expectations of 0.5%. This follows no change in June and a slight drop in May. The gain was the best in five months for consumer activity which accounts for roughly 70% of the economy. Even though it was a good monthly gain, U.S. consumers' purchases advanced at a 1.7% annual rate in the second quarter, the smallest increase in a year. "The quarter is getting off to a decent start," Gus Faucher, a senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. told Bloomberg News. "The consumer's situation is slowly improving, but the job growth isn't there to support really big gains in future spending."
- Jobless claims remain unchanged- The number of people filing for initial unemployment claims matched last week's upwardly adjusted figure of 374,000. Economists on average expected this week's initial claims to be 370,000 and the data suggests that hiring is not improving. The unemployment rate, which moved up to 8.3% in July, has been stuck above 8% for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression.