High Frequency Trading

>> Wednesday, September 30, 2009


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What is high frequency trading? Is this something good for traders of something that is not really good for them? Here is what NY Times has posted about HFT a few months ago:


It was July 15, and Intel, the computer chip giant, had reporting robust earnings the night before. Some investors, smelling opportunity, set out to buy shares in the semiconductor company Broadcom. (Their activities were described by an investor at a major Wall Street firm who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his job.) The slower traders faced a quandary: If they sought to buy a large number of shares at once, they would tip their hand and risk driving up Broadcom’s price. So, as is often the case on Wall Street, they divided their orders into dozens of small batches, hoping to cover their tracks. One second after the market opened, shares of Broadcom started changing hands at $26.20.

The slower traders began issuing buy orders. But rather than being shown to all potential sellers at the same time, some of those orders were most likely routed to a collection of high-frequency traders for just 30 milliseconds — 0.03 seconds — in what are known as flash orders. While markets are supposed to ensure transparency by showing orders to everyone simultaneously, a loophole in regulations allows marketplaces like Nasdaq to show traders some orders ahead of everyone else in exchange for a fee.

In less than half a second, high-frequency traders gained a valuable insight: the hunger for Broadcom was growing. Their computers began buying up Broadcom shares and then reselling them to the slower investors at higher prices. The overall price of Broadcom began to rise.

Soon, thousands of orders began flooding the markets as high-frequency software went into high gear. Automatic programs began issuing and canceling tiny orders within milliseconds to determine how much the slower traders were willing to pay. The high-frequency computers quickly determined that some investors’ upper limit was $26.40. The price shot to $26.39, and high-frequency programs began offering to sell hundreds of thousands of shares.

At first glance it may look good and promising but the keen eyes of people like that guy over there at Market Ticker sees something that is not that good at all about High Frequency Trading, here's how he sees it:

The disadvantage was not speed. The disadvantage was that the "algos" had engaged in something other than what their claimed purpose is in the marketplace - that is, instead of providing liquidity, they intentionally probed the market with tiny orders that were immediately canceled in a scheme to gain an illegal view into the other side's willingness to pay.

For more of this, you can go to http://market-ticker.denninger.net/archives/1259-High-Frequency-Trading-Is-A-Scam.html

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