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Thread: Stock market rigged, says Michael Lewis in new book

  1. #1

    Stock market rigged, says Michael Lewis in new book

    Michael Lewis' "Flash Boys" reveals how a group of unlikely characters discovered how some high-speed traders work the stock market to their advantage

    The U.S. stock market is rigged in favor of high-frequency traders, stock exchanges and large Wall Street banks who have found a way to use computer-based speed trading to gain a decisive edge over everyone else, from the smallest retail investors to the biggest hedge funds, says Michael Lewis in a new blockbuster book, "Flash Boys."

    The insiders' methods are legal but cost the rest of the market's players tens of billions of dollars a year, according to Lewis, who speaks to Steve Kroft in his first interview about the book. Kroft's report will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, March 30 at 7 p.m. ET/PT. High-frequency traders have found ways to use their speed to gain an advantage that few understand, says Lewis. "They're able to identify your desire to buy shares in Microsoft and buy them in front of you and sell them back to you at a higher price," says Lewis. "The speed advantage that the faster traders have is milliseconds...fractions of milliseconds."
    Lewis says a former trader at the Royal Bank of Canada in New York, Brad Katsuyama, figured this out after he consistently failed to have his entire order filled at the price he wanted. Katsuyama, who speaks to Kroft, put together a team of experts to figure out how to defeat the problem and started a new exchange, IEX, that he believes will level the playing field. Katsuyama launched IEX in October and investors, large and small, can route their trades through IEX without fear of predators lurking. IEX has accomplished this by creating a unique speed bump. "They slowed down high-frequency traders' ability to trade on their market," says Lewis.
    While many on Wall Street are trying to starve IEX because it has upset the status quo, large institutional investors are onboard. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, has invested in the new exchange and tells Kroft that he believes IEX is "going to succeed in a very big way."
    Stock market rigged, says Michael Lewis in new book - CBS News

    Don't miss it!
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.


  2. #2
    "The Market Is Rigged" - Michael Lewis Explains How HFTs "Screw" Investors Every Day

    It was almost excatly five years ago to the day, on April 10, 2009, that Zero Hedge - widely mocked at the time by "experts" - began its crusade against HFT and the perils of algorithmic trading (which of course were validated a year later with the Flash Crash). In the interim period we wrote hundreds if not thousands of articles discussing and explaining the pernicious, parasitic and destabilizing role HFT plays in modern market topology, and how with every passing day, markets are becoming increasingly more brittle, illiquid and, in one word, broken. Or, as Michael Lewis put it most succinctly, "rigged." With Lewis' appearance last night on 60 Minutes to promote his book Flash Boys, and to finally expose the HFT scourge for all to see, we consider our crusade against HFT finished. At this point it is up to the general population to decide if this season's participants on Dancing with the Stars or the fate of Honet Boo Boo is more important than having fair and unrigged markets (obviously, we know the answer).

    For those who missed it click here Is the U.S. stock market rigged? - CBS News
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.


  3. #3
    Jon Stewart On HFT: "It's Not American; It's Not Even Capitalism. It's Cheating"

    Jon Stewart is stunned by the world of HFT (where "stock exchanges sell the right to advance information to high frequency traders [by locating their computers closest to the exchange]") and the mainstream media's immediate jump to defend it "as good for us", but as Michael Lewis explains "anyone whose livelihood is dependent on Wall Street [from CNBC, FOX and even the SEC] is invested in this... it sounds like a conspiracy." In this excellent interview, The Daily Show doubter asks "we have set a standard for share buying (you can't but 1/100th of a share) so why not set a standard for frequency of trading?" Lewis stoic response sums up our world perfectly, "in a sane world, we would... but the money is too big," and adds that indeed that is what IEX is doing. The HFTs "function on volume and volatility" alone and "they know the prices before you do... which is illegal if it's a person, but as a computer, meh?"
    Jon Stewart On HFT: "It's Not American; It's Not Even Capitalism. It's Cheating" | Zero Hedge

    I love this anthology: "It's Not American; It's Not Even Capitalism. It's Cheating"
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.


  4. #4
    "HFT Is A Growing Cancer" Says Mom And Pop's Favorite Retail Broker Charles Schwab

    On one hand CNBC does its darnedest to refute Michael Lewis' claim that markets are rigged (even if it woefully does so by showcasing the most clueless "defenders" it can afford), and yet on the other "mom and pop's" preferred retail broker Charles Schwab, just came out and slammed HFT as a "growing cancer that needs to be addressed." Hmmm.... who to believe?
    From Charles Schwab:
    High-frequency trading is a growing cancer that needs to be addressed
    April 3, 2014
    Schwab serves millions of investors and has been observing the development of high-frequency trading practices over the last few years with great concern. As we noted in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal last summer, high-frequency trading has run amok and is corrupting our capital market system by creating an unleveled playing field for individual investors and driving the wrong incentives for our commodity and equities exchanges. The primary principle behind our markets has always been that no one should carry an unfair advantage. That simple but fundamental principle is being broken.
    High-frequency traders are gaming the system, reaping billions in the process and undermining investor confidence in the fairness of the markets. It’s a growing cancer and needs to be addressed. If confidence erodes further, the fuel of our free-enterprise system, capital formation, is at risk. We can’t allow that to happen. For sure, we still believe investing in equities is a primary path to long-term wealth creation, and we believe in the long-term structural integrity of the markets to deliver that over time for individual investors, which is all the more reason to be vigilant in removing anything that creates unfair advantage or undermines investor confidence.
    On March 18, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his intention to “continue to shine a light on unseemly practices in the markets,” referring to the practices of high-frequency trading and the support they receive from other parties including the commodities and equities exchanges. He has been a consistent watchdog on this matter. We applaud his effort and encourage the SEC to raise the urgency on the issue and do all they can to stop this infection in our capital markets. Investors are being harmed, and they shouldn’t have to wait any longer.
    As Michael Lewis shows in his new book Flash Boys, the high-frequency trading cancer is deep. It has become systematic and institutionalized, with the exchanges supporting it through practices such as preferential data feeds and developing multiple order types designed to benefit high-frequency traders. These traders have become the exchanges favored clients; today they generate the majority of transactions, which create market data revenue and other fees. Data last year from the Financial Information Forum showed this is no minor blip. High-frequency trading pumped out over 300,000 trade inquiries each second last year, up from just 50,000 only seven years early. Yet actual trade volume on the exchanges has remained relatively flat over that period. It’s an explosion of head-fake ephemeral orders – not to lock in real trades, but to skim pennies off the public markets by the billions. Trade orders from individual investors are now pawns in a bigger chess game.
    The United States capital markets have been the envy of the world in creating a vibrant, stable and fair system supported by broad public participation for decades. Technology has been a central part of that positive story, especially in the last 30 years, with considerable benefit to the individual investor. But today, manipulative high-frequency trading takes advantage of these technological advances with a growing number of complex institutional order types, enabling practitioners to gain millisecond time advantages and cut ahead in line in front of traditional orders and with access to market data not available to other market participants.
    High-frequency trading isn’t providing more efficient, liquid markets; it is a technological arms race designed to pick the pockets of legitimate market participants. That flies in the face of our markets’ founding principles. Historically, regulation has sought to protect investors by giving their orders priority over professional orders. In racing to accommodate and attract high-frequency trading business to their markets, the exchanges have turned this principle on its head. Through special order types, enhanced data feeds and co-location, professionals are given special access and entitlements to jump ahead of investor orders. Last year, more than 95 percent of high-frequency trader orders were cancelled, suggesting something else besides trading is at the heart of the strategy. Some high-frequency traders have claimed to be profitable on over 99 percent of their trading days. Our understanding of statistics tells us this isn’t possible without some built in advantage. Instead of leveling the playing field, the exchanges have tilted it against investors.
    Here are examples of the practices that should concern us all:

    • Advantaged treatment: Growing numbers of complex order types afford preferential treatment to professional traders’ orders, most notably to jump ahead of retail limit orders.
    • Unequal access to information: Exchanges allow high-frequency traders to purchase faster data feeds with detailed information about market trading activity and the specific trading of various types of market participants. This further tilts the playing field against the individual investor, who is already at an informational disadvantage by virtue of the slower Consolidated Data Stream that brokers are required by rule to purchase or, even worse, the 15- to 20-minute-delayed quote feed they have public access to.
    • Inappropriate use of information: Professionals are mining the detailed data feeds made available to them by the exchanges to sniff out and front-run large institutions (mutual funds and pension funds), which more often than not are investing and trading on behalf of individual investors.
    • Added systems burdens, costs and distortions of rapid-fire quote activity: Ephemeral quotes, also called “quote stuffing,” that are cancelled and reposted in milliseconds distort the tape and present risk to the resiliency and integrity of critical market data and trading infrastructure. The tremendous added costs associated with the expanded capacity and bandwidth necessary to support this added data traffic is ultimately borne in part by individual investors.

    There are solutions. Today there is no restriction to pumping out millions of orders in a matter of seconds, only to reverse the majority of them. It’s the life-blood of high-frequency trading. A simple solution would be to establish cancellation fees to discourage the practice of quote stuffing. The SEC and CFTC floated the idea last year. It has great merit. Make the fees high enough and they will eliminate high-frequency trading entirely. But if the practice is simply a scam, as we believe it is, an even better solution is to simply make it illegal. And exchanges should be neutral in the market. They should stop the practice of selling preferential access or data feeds and eliminate order types that allow high-frequency traders to jump ahead of legitimate order flow. These are all simply tools for scamming individual investors.
    The integrity of the markets is at the heart of our economy. High-frequency trading undermines that integrity and causes the market to lose credibility and investors to lose trust. This hurts our economy and country. It is time to treat the cancer aggressively.
    "HFT Is A Growing Cancer" Says Mom And Pop's Favorite Retail Broker Charles Schwab | Zero Hedge

    I found surprising that no politicians seems to be concerned with this HFT scam.
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.


  5. #5
    Goldman Shutting Down Sigma X?

    Back on March 21, before the release of Michael Lewis' Flash Boys and before the infamous 60 Minutes interview, when Goldman COO Gary Cohn wrote his infamous WSJ Op-ed bashing HFT, it was clear that something was afoot. That something became promptly clear when it was revealed that Goldman is among the core backers of the pseudo dark-pool IEX exchange popularized as the protagonist in Flash Boys, and juxtaposed to the frontrunning, and faceless, HFT antagonist that Lewis maanged to demonize so well in the span of a few hundred pages, he promptly provoked a renewed investigation by the FBI, the SEC and DOJ into HFT. A few days later, the shocker became a double whammy when Goldman announced that in addition to turning its back on HFT which had served it so well for years, the firm would also say goodbye to the NYSE and its designated market maker post, the last remaining legacy of its $6.5 billion Spear Ledds & Kellogg acquisition from 2000. That Goldman was asking mere pennies on the dollar for the residual assets also showed just how "highly" Goldman valued said legacy operation.
    This is what we said at the time of the announcement:

    ... What is unexpected, is the complete transformation Goldman has undergone in in the past several weeks: first Goldman, the bank that everyone else on Wall Street always imitates, waving goodbye to HFT, and now departing the NYSE?

    When the world's most intelligent FDIC-backed hedge fund, pardon, bank says the current market structure is no longer necessary to Goldman, people notice, and promptly imitate.

    To be sure - if this is not indicative of a major storm coming for traditional "lit" market structure (as opposed to dark pools of which IEX, until recently, was one and where Goldman has nearly complete dominance with Sigma X), we don't know what is.
    Moments ago we got the third and final "shocker" in this series of stunning disclosures by Goldman, this time involving Goldman's own "unlit" venue - one involving its own Dark Pool - the infamous, and market dominant Sigma X, which according to the WSJ, is about to be shut down!

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is considering shutting down one of the world's largest private stock-trading venues, according to people familiar with the matter.

    In conversations with market participants over the past several months, Goldman executives have broached the subject of closing its so-called dark pool trading operation, known as Sigma X, the people familiar with the matter said.

    Goldman executives are weighing whether the revenue the firm generates from operating Sigma X is worth the risks that have been highlighted by a series of trading glitches and growing criticism of dark pools, the people said.

    No decision is imminent, and Goldman could keep the business, according to people familiar with the discussions.
    That this is a momentous development, if true, needs no explanation. Because while Sigma X may or may not be the top dark pool in the industry - a claim that Credit Suisse can possibly make alongside Goldman- Sigma X, which we have written about extensively over the past five years, certainly provides Goldman with not only extensive daily revenue but also gives the firm an inside look into what happens in the institutional marketplace, since the bulk of hedge funds and most mutual funds transact almost exclusively on dark pools now in an attempt to avoid precisely the parasitic HFT algos that have been the topic of so much discussion in recent days.
    And if Goldman is willing to exit not only HFT, not only legacy lit markets entirely, but also its dark pool, then something truly big and transformational is coming to not only the existing market structure, but something that will be so disruptive, that for once we can't wait to find out just what Goldman has up its sleeves, sleeves which also happen to house the key lawmakers in the Beltway.
    Why is Goldman doing this now? We don't know. It is worth noting however that on page 234 of Flash Boys, Michael Lewis cites Ron Morgan and Brian Levine, Goldman Partners and co-heads of Goldman's global stock markets, who said that "Unless there are some changes, there's going to be a massive crash, a flash crash times ten."

    Goldman exiting virtually all venues except the upstart IEX is certainly a major change.
    Another thing that is certain: take a long, hard look at the market as you know it today, because in less than a year it will be history.
    Triple Whammy Shocker: Goldman Shutting Down Sigma X? | Zero Hedge
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.


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