Tuesday, July 28, 2009
...to our new home: www.zerohedge.com
For a little over 6 months blogger has served us well, and yet it reached its limitations some time ago. Our new website, in addition to all currently existing features, now has a full RSS feed, a Contributors section, a complete term Glossary, and a full Forum for reader initiated content, and after a one month beta testing period, is now fully functional (not to mention faster).
And this just the beginning - the flexible architecture of the new site has allowed us to develop some really cool, brand new features which we will be launching in a few weeks. We are extremely excited about these.
We will keep blogger until such time as google/blogger decides to shut it down: it will be a repository for the roughly 2,600+ posts put on here since January 9. Going forward, no more posts will be uploaded to blogger. Also, this website will be preserved as a backup blogsite in case of some unpredictable infrastructure failure at www.zerohedge.com
Readers who wish to continue following our analyses, reports, presentations and opinions are kindly invited to visit us at www.zerohedge.com: you will find it a very hospitable new home.
While it saddens me to leave blogger, it is time to move on to the next phase of the project.
TD Sphere: Related Content
Monday, July 27, 2009
Hey Ron, didn't realize your new position as a contributing editor on CNBC came with the contributing title of "Portfolio Manager." Didn't Stevie put a one year kibbosh on that? But I digress... And in all honesty I am surprised that you seem to have the correct spin on things (as per letter below from Jim Cramer's failed media experiment TheStreet). When you say:
I'd prefer that regulators look into whether a firm like Goldman Sachs (GS) unfairly view [sic] order and information flow ahead of its customers and clients.
we are pleasantly surprised... Yet when you follow up by saying:
But the press won't touch that topic
we are totally ecstatic that you do not lump us into the definition of that derogatory word. Then again, feel free to do a search for "Goldman Sachs" here. Even an erudite portfolio manager such as yourself may learn a thing or two.
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High-Frequency DistractionBy Ron Insana
Portfolio Manager7/27/2009 11:40 AM EDT
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are taking aim at a new form of computerized trading known as "High Frequency" trading. The algorithm-based trading is allegedly an illegal form of front-running, as high-frequency traders hook into exchange computers and use "flash trades" to suss out incoming order flow and use the lightning speed of their own programs to jump ahead of customer orders. Critics argue that individual investors are at a distinct disadvantage for this reason and a variety of others. The proximity of high-frequency computers, which can be placed next to exchange computers for a fee, allows for an almost-osmotic transfer of information. Senator Charles Schumer (D, N.Y.) is asking the SEC to ban "flash trades," which are phony orders placed by high-frequency programs that aim to fool market participants into entering orders. The programs jump in front of customer orders and gain a trading advantage. If that is indeed what is happening, it qualifies as "front-running," an illegal practice on Wall Street. If high-frequency traders are just faster than everyone else and not illegally jumping in front of others or paying off the exchanges to get preferential trading treatment, then this new area of technology-based trading is no less legitimate than the use of the telegraph, the telephone, the ticker, computers, handheld devices or older-style "black box" or "dark pool" programs that give sophisticated traders the ability to simply trade faster. I'd prefer that regulators look into whether a firm like Goldman Sachs (GS) -- whose former executives continue to run the New York Stock Exchange (NYX) ; advised on the merger between NYSE and Archipelago, and formerly owned a portion of the combined entity; own Speer, Leeds & Kellogg, the largest specialist firm on the Big Board floor; and control the greatest number of seats in the equity markets -- unfairly view order and information flow ahead of its customers and clients. I am far more concerned about that than I am about the emergence of "high-frequency" trading. But the press won't touch that topic. It's easier to go after the dreaded speculators and dark pool traders than lose access to the most profitable and prestigious firm on Wall Street.
After numerous posts on this blog discussing speculation of assorted forced buy ins, it seems that this phenomenon is quite factual and quite pervasive among the asset management community. As Zero Hedge has noted previously, forced buy-ins are a critical issue as it leaves shorts at the mercy of their securities lenders and repo desks (most of which are TARP recipients and thus beneficiaries of higher stock prices) which generically have the option of recalling lent out shares at a moment's notice, and thus creatingartificial purchasing pressure: i.e. a forced short squeeze. According to Securities Industry News, in a recent survey by Callan Associates, over half of the respondents said they are undergoing a "controlled unwind" with their securities lending desks (aka State Street, BoNY, and Northern Trust).
Firms participating in securities lending programs are trying to reduce their risks and push for greater disclosure of what happens to cash given as collateral, according to a survey released this week by Callan Associates, a San Francisco-based investment consulting firm.
About half of the respondents to the Callan survey said they are undergoing a process called “controlled unwind” to reduce the risks in their existing securities lending programs and minimize current and future losses. Properly executed, an unwind involves recalling securities out on loan without incurring any financial loss or restricting either the number of transactions or the types of securities lent.
Almost all the respondents are using their current custodian or securities lending provider for the unwind and most believe it will take one to three years to complete, said Callan.
More than half of the 44 respondents who said they wanted to make changes to their securities lending programs rank fine-tuning their cash collateral reinvestment guidelines as their top priority. This reflects a common concern among respondents about losses coming from the reinvesting of cash used as collateral against the securities that are lent out.
The firm surveyed 72 fund and plan sponsor organizations of which public and corporate funds comprised the majority of survey respondents. About 54 percent of the respondents were mid-sized funds that hold from $1 billion to $9 billion in fund assets. Nineteen percent of the respondents were small funds with less than $1 billion. The remaining respondents were split between “mega” funds with more than $25 billion in assets and large funds with between $10 billion and $24 billion in assets.
Bottom line - in a market where an unknown but significant amount of trading is based on widely permitted and pervasive advanced looks compliments of the exchanges, ECNs and the regulators, and the balance consists of artificial buying from rolling buyins, only the most insane, or foolhardy or both, believe they can trade with any hope of short or long-term success.Sphere: Related Content
From an interview earlier with NYSE's Larry Leibowitz, who is surprisingly vocal against Flash trading. Larry - since the NYSE does not engage in Flash trading, can you please indicate whether or not the SLP program provides advance notice to Goldman Sachs ala Direct Edge's ELP program. Regardless, the escalation in the ECN wars is starting and should be a very interesting one to follow, especially now with a toothless and clueless Mary Shapiro stuck in the middle.
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It seems only yesterday that Zero Hedge had some questions in regard to Goldman's VaR Fed exemption. No response was received from 85 Broad. Today it appears several Congressmen, lead by Alan Grayson, are willing to drive a sharp stick pretty deep into the hornets' nest, by sending a letter directly to Wall Street Don Ben Bernanke, demanding an explanation exactly to the question of Goldman's VaR Exemption.
Among the reasons provided as casue for potential alarm are the following:
1) In the letter granting a regulatory exemption to Goldman Sachs, you stated that the SEC-approved VaR models it is now using are sufficiently conservative for the transition period to bank holding company. Please justify this statement.
2) If Goldman Sachs were required to adhere to standard Market Risk Rules imposed by the Federal Reserve on ordinary bank holding companies, how would its capital requirements differ from the current regulatory regime?
3) What is the difference in exposure to the taxpayer between these two regulatory regimes?
4) What is the difference in total risk to the portfolio between these two regulatory regimes?
5) Goldman Sachs stated that “As of June 26, 2009, total capital was $254.05 billion, consisting of $62.81 billion in total shareholders’ equity (common shareholders’ equity of $55.86 billion and preferred stock of $6.96 billion) and $191.24 billion in unsecured long-term borrowings.” As a percentage of capital, that’s a lot of long-term unsecured debt. Is any of this coming from the Government? In this last quarter, how much capital has Goldman Sachs received from the Federal Reserve and other government facilities such as FDIC-guaranteed debt, either directly or indirectly?
6) Many risk-management experts, most notably best-selling author Nassim Taleb, note that VaR models can dramatically understate risk. What is your overall view of Taleb’s argument, and of the utility of Value-at-Risk models as regulatory tools?
Zero Hedge had a rather comparable battery of questions, and believes it would be in the general interest of whatever remains of the general investing public, the one that for some reason or another still has not lost all faith in a fair and efficient marketplace, compliments of several major monopolists who have usurped exchanges and ECN as their personal taxpayer and speculator funded piggy banks.
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"I write out of concern that the integrity of our capital markets is being compromised by the ability of some insiders to view order information before it is available to the entire market, and use electronic trading strategies to profit from that information at the expense of other investors."
Full letter here:Sphere: Related Content
Damage control... Or is Goldman a little worried what Direct Edge may disclose.
From the appended Schumer piece on Bloomberg:
“Goldman Sachs believes high-frequency trading should have an accompanying obligation to provide liquidity, and be subject to appropriate regulatory oversight,” Canaday said.
Ed, we have been giving you the chance to provide your side of the story for months. Please take us up on the offer.Sphere: Related Content
The mythical "TRADER - The Documentary" is finally available on You Tube. Relevant "full frontal" insights on the making of a hedge fund legend, and a paleolithic market dominated by monochrome PCs (what, no Bloomberg?), running to the municipal library for that 10-K, and no Flash orders frontrunning every trade.
Part 1, and related series (2-7) are on You Tube.
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hat tip j.m.
Bearish bets made impossible, compliments of UBS. Either that, or UBS' recently upgraded (with i7 chips of course) computers just cant handle the basis calculations. Either way, is something very fried with ETFs going on behind the scenes?
Hopefully iShares and Direxion have some good class action defense lawyers. Sphere: Related Content
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Inverse, Leveraged and Inverse-Leveraged Exchange Traded Funds are no longer available for new or additional purchases at UBS
Effective July 27, 2009, UBS is suspending the offering of Inverse, Leveraged and Inverse-Leveraged Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). You will no longer be able to make new or additional purchases and will only be able to liquidate current positions through UBS at this time. Any attempt to execute a trade of such ETFs will be rejected.
Please contact your Financial Advisor with questions.
- Administration looking for Chinese help to narrow trade gap and boost US jobs.
- Advertisers are getting cheaper rates than a year ago on television commercials.
- Aetna 2Q profit dropped to $346.6M due to greater commercial expenses and cuts full year forecast.
- Asian markets were higher Monday on hopes for further earnings recovery, Nikkei hits 10,000 mark.
- China's new small-company stock exchange gets 108 IPO applicants on 1st day as launch nears.
- China shares up for 4th day on high liquidity-driven sentiment, led by metals and airlines.
- Euro rises to $1.4263 in European morning trade as investors continue to leave dollar.
- EU says Iceland's entry talks will likely be simpler, shorter than others.
- German consumer confidence rises amid lower prices and stable job market.
- Oil rises above $68 in Asia as economic recovery hopes fuel 3-week rally.
- US Economy probably shrank at slower pace, signaling recession abated.
- US stock futures point to higher open ahead of earnings, new home sales update.
- Aetna Inc. puts its pharmacy-benefit management business on the block.
- ArcelorMittal exploring a JV spin off of its stainless steel business, est. $3B.
- Citigroup trader is pressing it to honor a 2009 pay package that could total $100M.
- Corning's June net income declines from $3.2B to $611M.
- De Beers qtrly net drops 99%; but sees sales of uncut diamonds improving.
- Eastman Chem beats by $0.15, posts Q2 EPS of $0.86. Revs fell 31.7% to $1.25B.
- Ericsson to buy Nortel's North American Wireless unit for $1.13B.
- Fortune Brands' net falls 27% on continued weakness in home-products segment.
- Honeywell's June net income declines from $723M to $450M.
- Julius Baer profit falls 47% to $204.3 million as managed assets slump.
- MSFT bows to pressure, gives European users of Windows choice of Web browsers.
- Pearson raises earnings guidance for 2009, shares rise 9 percent to top FTSE.
- RadioShack 2nd-quarter profit rises to $48.8 million as company trims expenses.
- Verizon added 1.1M customers in Q2 vs. 1.4M added by AT&T in the same period.
- Virgin Blue of Australia airline reports losses, launches capital raising of $189M.
- Volkswagen plans to raise up to $5.7B via rights issue to fund purchase of Porsche.
Recent Egan-Jones Rating Actions
SCHLUMBERGER LTD (SLB)
FORTUNE BRANDS INC (FO)
DELUXE CORP (DLX)
FOOT LOCKER INC (FL)
AMAZON.COM INC (AMZN)
AMERICAN EXPRESS CO (AXP)
CIT GROUP INC (CIT)
BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB CO (BMY)
AIRTRAN HOLDINGS INC (AAI)
VF CORP (VFC)
NABORS INDUSTRIES LTD (NBR)
UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INC (UNH)
BOEING CO/THE (BA)
- Tenacious G - Is Goldman Sachs evil? Or really good? (NY Mag)
- Bernanke feared a second great depression; he may still very well get it (WSJ)
- Europe braced for rising credit card defaults (FT)
- Loans by U.S. banks shrink as fear lingers (WSJ)
- Credit crunch part deux (Merk Mutual Funds)
- Real yields highest since 1994 aid record debt sales (Bloomberg)
- Ryanair plunges on outlook for fares, earnings (Bloomberg)
- Earnings - not what they seem (Investment postcards)
- Aetna again cuts 2009 outlook, profit slides (WSJ)
- Verizon profit falls 21% (WSJ)
- Same old story from Radioshack - revenue down, earnings up (MarketWatch)
- David Rosenberg on BNN (BNN)
- Weekly economic and financial commentary (Wells Fargo)
- Deutsche Bank also expected to post profits on credit trading (Bloomberg)
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Zero Hedge, in collaboration with David Rosenberg, Chief Economist & Strategist, Gluskin Sheff + Associates, Inc., is pleased to release the attached analysis "The End Of The End Of The Recession." It is our hope that this piece will provide some badly-needed perspective on "the recession is over" debate, a topic that has become as one-sided as it is wrong-headed. Our purposes is to promote rational, informed discourse on the subject and to this end we enthusiastically solicit reader feedback. Our presentation is licensed "creative commons: attribution" and we hope that our readers will feel free to forward it on or excerpt from it freely, provided attribution is preserved.Sphere: Related Content
Some interesting stuff in John Mauldin's latest piece. We'll include some pertinent quotes along with our thoughts.
China is growing by about 8% a year, which is amazing on the surface of it, as their exports are down about 20% (more in some sectors). How can that be? I continually read about how China is going to lead the world out of its global funk. And 8% growth in GDP does seem pretty strong. But we need to look a little deeper.
If I told you that the next US stimulus package would be $4.5 trillion dollars, mostly given to banks that would be forced to loan out the money quickly, do you think that might jump spending and GDP in the short term? Would you start looking for a few bubbles to be created? What about the dollar?
That is the equivalent of what China is now doing. The volume of credit that is flowing into China is equivalent to one-third of their GDP. Banks that already have large problem-loan portfolios are now lending even more, in a very short time frame. China has severe capacity-utilization problems, as trade has sharply fallen; and the US consumer is unlikely to return to anywhere near the level of consumption that was the case in 2006.
The Chinese stock market is up 85% this year, and commodity and real estate prices are rising. And no wonder: the money supply shot up 28.5% in June alone. That money is looking for a home. My friend Vitaliy Katsenelson has written a very perceptive essay for Foreign Policy magazine, talking about the nature of the current growth in China.
"But don't confuse fast growth with sustainable growth. Much of China's growth over the past decade has come from lending to the United States. The country suffers from real overcapacity. And now growth comes from borrowing -- and hundreds of billion-dollar decisions made on the fly don't inspire a lot of confidence. For example, a nearly completed, 13-story building in Shanghai collapsed in June due to the poor quality of its construction.
"This growth will result in a huge pile of bad debt -- as forced lending is bad lending. The list of negative consequences is very long, but the bottom line is simple: There is no miracle in the Chinese miracle growth, and China will pay a price. The only question is when and how much."
This is very much in line with our theme of the recent China bubble. John has done a much better job in attaching specific numbers and analogies to the situation but the fundamental picture aligns with many of our posts going back to April. The larger view has not changed and the question becomes if China can complete this transition before the legs give out. The US can not be expected to provide the bubble year levels of aggregate demand that has created and supported the existing Chinese manufacturing and employment infrastructure.
"There is no better example of this speculative activity than what is being seen in the copper market. It is easy for global merchants, hedge funds etc to ship cathode into China and warehouse it outside the reporting system, so fuelling investors' sentiments that copper demand in China is soaring and at the same time draining copper from the rest of the market.
"It is not so much industry which is doing this buying in China, but individuals, financial institutions and even small companies divorced from the copper industry who are buying and holding the metal because copper is a store of value and prices will go up is the common response. We updated our numbers for the first half of this year. They are truly staggering. Over 1 million tonnes of cathode is sitting in China mostly outside the reporting system as a punt on rising prices." (Emphasis mine)
If it is happening in copper it is likely to be happening in other commodity markets as well. If you are trading the metals, you should be aware that a quick drop could happen if demand falls off due to there being a glut of supply coming back onto the market.
This is another long-term theme that we have been exploring. Again, John does a much better job of providing specifics to back up our original assertions. We don't know who Simon Hunt is but if John asserts that he is a "true expert", we'll take his word for it. This piece we put up covers most of our thoughts on the subject, so we won't rehash but it is an ongoing story with the potential to have some serious impacts across global markets.
This is a very big deal, and from the Chinese point of view, quite smart. Right now they are stuck with $2 trillion in US Treasuries, agency paper, etc. They can't sell their dollars without really hurting the dollar, thereby forcing the renminbi to rise and hurting their own exports. But they, and much of the world, feel that the US is pursuing policies that are going to be harmful to the value of the dollar and therefore to China's largest reserve exposure.
What to do? Take those dollars and buy physical assets. Companies, natural resources, maybe a few small countries. (To my Chinese readers: that's a joke, although some in the West worry about that.)
In the card game called Old Maid we played as kids, the loser was the one who ended up with the "Old Maid" at the end of the game. For the past decade, the Chinese sent us "stuff" and we sent them dollars in the form of electrons. They in turn invested those dollars in our debt so we could buy more stuff. It was a form of vendor financing.
And now the Chinese have apparently decided to pass the Old Maid of the dollar on to other parties, who will sell them their assets for dollars. Seriously, did anyone not think they would do this? Massively selling the dollar, which so many conspiracy-theory types keep saying they will, was never really a rational option. But using those dollars to acquire productive assets? Very smart, very rational. If you figure out what they want to buy and get there first, there are profits to be had. Attention should be paid.
This is going to be a long, jobless recovery. Hours worked per week are at an all-time low. As noted above, part-time work is very high. Employers, when things actually start to turn around, and they will, will first give current employees more hours and then expand the hours of part-time workers. There will be few new jobs for a long time.
Because our population is growing, between 130-150,000 new jobs are required each month to keep unemployment from rising. Initial and continuing claims suggest we are currently losing at least 300,000 a month.
(As an aside, the media talks about initial unemployment claims falling. That is actually not true. Unemployment claims are in fact quite high and rising, but the seasonal adjustments make them look smaller. Normally, this would not be a big deal. But the summer seasonal adjustment assumes a normal automobile manufacturing market, with layoffs in July. The layoffs came much earlier this year, distorting seasonal adjustments.)
Higher and persistent unemployment, lower incomes and wages, higher savings rates, capacity utilization at 50-year lows and still falling, rising home foreclosures, a deleveraging financial system, etc. are not the stuff of "V-shaped" recoveries. Throw in that Moody's estimates that US banks will have to write off $400 billion in 2010, and it's a very weak recovery indeed that shapes up for next year.
Sphere: Related Content
- Must read: Fast-on-the-draw trades need spot of marshalling (FT, h/t Joe)
- Roubini Op-Ed on Bernanke: The Great Preventer (NYT)
- Lennar signals fleeting buildling rally as buyers flee (Bloomberg)
- JP Morgan to raise banker salaries (FT)
- The man spreading false rumors about Harman and Textron takeovers (that fooled fast-money's Najarian) found dead in suicide (Bloomberg)
- Chinese steel executive beaten to death, (FT)
- Alan Abelson: It could be worse (Barron's)
- Real homes of genius: The California housing collapse deconstructed (Dr Housing Bubble)
- Rally may cool on earnings reality check (Reuters)
- California officials worried about new budget woes (BusinessWeek)
- US probe targets UBS banker visits (Reuters)
- Phibro trader Andrew Hall is holding Citi hostage over $100 million pay package (WSJ)
- Who caused the economic crisis: an email debate between Simon Johnson and Goldman's John Tablott (Salon part 1, part 2 and part 3)
When the former head of product development in the electronic client solutions group at none other than JP Morgan, Carl Carrie, was last quoted on Zero Hedge, he had some very nasty words for High Frequency Trading. Today, in a podcast transcript by algotradingpodcast Carl shares much more light in just why any reform movement against HFT and PT in general will be met by a huge pushback by exchanges, brokers, infrastructure providers, telcos, and all derivative market players:
Clearly, algorithmic trading is a huge factor. High-frequency trading for Arbitrage's, indexes, ADRs, pairs, ETFs, interlisted trading, as well as automation around auto-working, have all been factors contributing to the growth of algorithmic trading and trading on exchanges.
The exchanges themselves have also been contributing factors. They've invested heavily in capacity and throughput. And the allocations of assets to European equities has also been a minor factor.
Carl also touches on another, so far undiscussed issue - the industrial oligopoly and the economies of scale advantages to the select few:
In the electronic trading space, you're seeing the beginnings of a fallout, and you're seeing larger scale players, some of them become clear winners. Not that they can permanently sustain their competitive advantage, but for a period of time, there is an economic advantage in being the preeminent, top scale player, and probably the next two rungs below.
Hey Christine Varney - if you can look away from Google for longer than 10 seconds, maybe you can focus on where the next real fight for monopoly is ocurring, with materially greater consequences than Firefox being bundled in with Windows 7.
Most notably, Carl discusses the emerging risk types with this new technology. Not surprisingly as Joe Saluzzi would attest, and much to the chagrin of program trading "specialist" Irene Aldridge, the key risk is liquidity, and much more so to the downside, i.e., when it disappears.
There are new risk types. I think, it used to be about timing cost and market impact. Those were two twin pillars that most algorithmic trading has been based on.
And I think, if you look at what's happened recently in the credit markets, it hasn't opened our eyes to liquidity risk, but liquidity cost and liquidity risk is perhaps a different animal. It's not just about price volatility. It's about volume volatility. It's about timing of that volume volatility. It may be there today, and when you want to get out of your position, it may not be there tomorrow. And how do you reflect that into your own trading and into, not just your alpha generation, but on the risk side of the alpha generation? Most risk models don't really take into consideration the kinds of anomalies that we may see on a yearly basis.
It's not a Six Sigma event, typically, that happens when we have a liquidity crisis. And a liquidity crisis very easily moves across from one market, as a class, to another. So, you've got this contagion correlation effect that's massive. So, I think, it's important for all of us to develop new science and new tactics to really deal with that. And particularly, as you talk about emerging markets, there's no sphere that is as liquidity-sensitive as emerging markets is.
Curiously, when Carl left JPM his parting letter had this to say: "Yes, I love equities but I think the biggest transformation in the market over the next couple of years will be in the OTC fixed income, credit and commodity markets that are both begging for more liquidity and transparency and are ripe for a major transformation. I want to be there at the genesis of that transformation." We at Zero Hedge completely agree with this statement and will be presenting some of our extended ideas on this matter over the next several weeks.
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Saturday, July 25, 2009
Zero Hedge will attempt to categorize all the relevant players in FlashTradingGate. This is the initial focus of Senator Charles Schumer's recent campaign for market equality and transparency. As we will undoubtedly miss critical connections between these and other pertinent industry players, we solicit readers' insight as we develop this org chart: we invite readers to send emails to: email@example.com with any input.
For a sense of services provided by Direct Edge, Here is the Direct Edge fee schedule.
And here is the July 2007 commentary by Goldman Sachs and Citadel when the two firms purchased a 19.9% stake each in Direct Edge.
"Direct Edge has quickly become a major market center for U.S. equities by virtue of its innovative market model and competitive pricing schedule" said Greg Tusar, Managing Director, Goldman Sachs.
"Goldman Sachs is a fantastic addition to the Direct Edge partnership," said Mathew Andresen, Co-Head of Citadel Derivatives Group. "Volumes have grown significantly in recent weeks and we expect that trend to continue as Direct Edge becomes a more important liquidity destination for the marketplace."
For some other, more recent and relevant perspectives by Goldman's Greg Tusar, who has been abnormally vocal about another aspect of HFT, pre-trade monitoring, read here.Sphere: Related Content
Great recap piece in the New York Times on whether or not Wall Street is picking the pockets of "non-club" investors (read - the guys who do not generate 80% returns with a Sharpe > 5.0 - can someone explain how risk/return works again). The consensus sure looks good for class action lawsuit lawyers.
The piece also recognizes the tremendous contribution that Zero Hedge's readership has had in this ongoing debate, once more highlighting the interactive nature of new media and how crowdsourcing is the new dominant paradigm for Media 2.0.
Even the New York Stock Exchange itself is acknowledging the HFT media campaign.
For anybody new to the site, please check out the Zero Hedge glossary for all the relevant articles on specific topics.
Additionally, should it be odd that Direct Edge, the company in the eye of the Flash hurricane with its ELP program, has the following reported ownership structure:
Yes. Direct Edge is an independent broker-dealer owned by a consortium that includes the International Securities Exchange (“ISE"), Knight Capital Group, Inc., Citadel Derivatives Group, The Goldman Sachs Group, and J.P. Morgan. Knight Capital Group was originally the sole owner of Direct Edge and the firm was spun off in the third quarter of 2007 when Citadel and Goldman made investments. With a 31.54% stake, the ISE is currently the largest shareholder of Direct Edge, followed by Knight, Citadel, and Goldman, each with 19.9%.
And here are the latest ruminations out of Max Keiser, who takes on a curious angle in his most recent Goldman Sachs attack:
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Friday, July 24, 2009
It seems 1-2's and Marla's post earlier could not have come at a more opportune time. In a presentation by Andrew Gluck of Advisor Products, the author touches on some starkly comparable points (and, usefully, those with acute ADHD may find this presentation a tad more palatable, hehe, just kidding Marla) in the context of the epic paradigm shift occurring in the media world. Zero Hedge explicitly agrees that while the course of new media is still very much uncharted, the inherent conflicts of interest at the nexus of mainstream media and its providers of funding (not to mention bloated leverage and CDS levels in the 20pts upfront even in these artificially tight times), will make the survival of legacy media products increasingly more impossible.
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Zero Hedge recently had some choice words against a subset of HFT, namely Flash Trading, and as even Irene Aldridge confirmed earlier, there is something very wrong with this critical component of program trading. It seems our admonitions have not fallen on deaf ears. In a startling development of anti-establishmentarian activism, Senator Charles Schumer has asked the SEC to ban Flash Trading in its entirety, as it "gives high-speed traders an unfair advantage over other investors."
Senator Charles Schumer asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to ban “flash orders,” saying the transactions give high-speed traders an unfair advantage over other investors.
Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., Bats Exchange Inc. and Direct Edge Holdings Inc. hold these orders for milliseconds, giving their customers the opportunity to gauge demand before traders on other exchanges get the chance to bid, Schumer said in a letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro. Brian Fallon, a spokesman at Schumer’s office, confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
“Flash orders allow certain members of these exchanges to obtain access to order flow information before that information is made available to the public,” Schumer wrote. That allows “those members to use rapid trading programs to trade ahead of those orders and profit from advanced knowledge of buying and selling activity,” he added.
The implications of this development are immense: if politicians are willing to take a major chunk of out exchanges' primary revenue streams, one may even hope that they won't stop there but will in fact continue much higher in the food chain and start investigating the perpetrators of real market malfeasance.Sphere: Related Content
This is so much more than just a short covering rally. Oh wait, it's not. 72.19% drop in Short Interest across securities, compliments of stock loan-cum-TARP bailout recipients. So you see, if you are a taxpayer, who believes that fundamentals are more critical than an artificially inflated market compliments of the biggest, most orchestrated short squeeze in history, you got Got by the same people you bailed out.
Update: Apparently Bberg had not completed filling its data at time of posting. We apologize for Bloomberg not having the perspicacity and alacrity of a 10 million SPARC turbo cluster. The end result: 21.05 billion shares short at 1.72% of float. The odd discrepancy is the increase in short-interest on NYSE-issued securities. Any readers who have an idea what is going on here, please chime in.
Nonetheless, below is the trend chart for the % of float as most recently reported by Bloomberg. If this data changes in 24 hours, an update will be posted.
hat tip JB
hat tip JBSphere: Related Content
Irene, I would love to get a copy of your book. Are you willing to exchange one Digital Dickweed coffee mug for a few hundred copies? I am sure you have them lying around, and it sounds about equitable.
Also, good thing of Irene to admit that any variant of forntrunning is illegal. We are with you!Sphere: Related Content
There has been (finally) a lot of attention to program trading, a theme Zero Hedge has been focusing on for 4 months. This week, the NYSE finally switched over to its new methodology of providing program trading, which, as Zero Hedge announced previously, involves the , HFT of the DPTR and the delay/cancellation of implementation of "the proposed redefined program trading account type indicators (J and K)."
While Zero Hedge is comparing this data with historical ones, it is notable that the weekly public disclosure again provides Index Arbitrage stock data partitioning. We were curious why this is included and sent a query to NYSE's Ray Pellecchia. Here is his response:
"Tyler -- Index arbitrage has been reported since the release was started in 1988; the reason at the time was that there was discussion that index arbitrage accelerated the market's fall in the crash of October 1987, so it was determined to provide some additional disclosure on it."
It is good to know that the exchange is concerned about a data set that was relevant and deemed important the last time the market collapsed 20% in one day, and will be included going forward in weekly program trading disclosure.
Also, as it has been a while since we did a longitudinal analysis on NYSE program data, I provide an updated chart of several key data segments, all of which solidify the conclusion that Goldman's domination of NYSE program trading started exclusively with the inception of the NYSE mandated and SEC approved Supplemental Liquidity Provider program.Sphere: Related Content
By 1-2 and Marla Singer
It can hardly have escaped your notice that a battle of epic proportions, simmering at the fringes for months, was this very week finally joined. Pursuing what can only be termed a "mobius strip news cycle" strategy, certain "financial news" programs have taken to throwing those pesky "parasitic" bloggers to the proverbial wolves at every opportunity. Given the tenor of discourse and the ad hominem pursuits of our mainstream colleagues, conveniently beamed right into our offices from the from the otherwise warming glow of our LCD panels, we at Zero IntelligenceHedge welcome the opportunity to contribute to the discussion- not, mind you, because our feelings are hurt (you can’t hurt something that doesn’t bleed), but rather because our appraisal of these attacks puts them on par with the baseless ramblings of the Tourette's afflicted homeless guy who loiters about outside our offices. Pure stream of consciousness, laden with panic and paranoia, and characterized more by shrill tone and volume than a respectable signal to noise ratio. Desperate, and desperately ill.
Not so long ago, the dual-class share structure of newspapers was a bedrock principal of media corporate governance. Insulating- the argument went- the paper from the whims of the public was necessary to the independence of the Fourth Estate (can't have pesky shareholders dictating sacrosanct editorial policy, after all). Those days are over. This change is neither the result of some maverick revolt in corporate governance, nor is it the consequence of a dramatic awakening by institutional holders (who would require close order thermonuclear detonations to rouse). It is merely the sad result of the most abject and base squandering of a valuable estate since the Manor of Marr fell into the bloodsucking clutches of early 19th century English probate.
The Fourth Estate has spent and leveraged its reputation capital in keeping with the finest traditions of 21st century investment banking. As a consequence, these age-old institutions are quickly for the way of their banking parallels: Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. We are actually quite fortunate to witness the historic dying gasps of old media, painfully resisting the very same creative destruction they utilized to, temporarily, supplant town criers, printed pulp, Valueline and teletype as primary sources of daily news-flow. When the future of no lesser institution than the New York Times seems uncertain, and Tribune's only real valued asset is a baseball team (and the Chicago Cubs at that) it becomes difficult to go long old media brands. However, like all dying industries, instead of changing their own ways they choose to attack the new guardians of the estate: New Media. This is not to say "new media" is perfect, far from it. It does, however, have the virtue of being effective. Too effective, in fact, if you ask certain networks. Is it any wonder that we are now in the midst of new "circulation wars" or that the same "yellow journalism" has once again become en vogue? Today, however, we call them "click through rates" and "hard hitting programming." ("Hard hitting" referring primarily to the effect the carefully selected anchors have on viewers of the opposite sex- and so it has been since Arthur "The Desert Fox" Kent went to the sandbox for CNN).
It is easy to point fingers, to try to shift blame for what is, at the core, a lack of adaptability. Viewed from a distance, that mainstream media, burdened by its wholesale dependence on personality, would be threatened by anonymous speech is totally unsurprising. How old exactly is the phrase "media personality" after all? How alien must it be to veterans of the business that media without the personality might appeal? How difficult it must be to fight in a ring with someone who doesn't play by the rules, and when there is no ammunition for the only weapons available, the personal attack and the dirt-digger? If the primary complaint is that we have yet to provide a photocopy of our driver's licenses, that is concerning. With this in mind, Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, we would like to make a few points:
1. Anonymous speech is not a crime.
You may or may not be aware that there is a long tradition of anonymous speech in the United States. It did not begin here. Not by a long shot. In 509 BC Publius Valerius Publicola and colleagues transformed, with the help of extensive pamphleteering, the monarchy that ruled Rome into a republic by deposing and banishing Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. (What a great anchor name that would make!) The result was twofold. First, the invention of the Roman title of "Consul." Second, the beginning of the Roman Republic. You may recognize "Publius Valerius Publicola," as the precursor later taken by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison in the form of "Publius," the pen name over which they wrote the Federalist Papers. We shouldn't have to point out the import of these events. If they escape you, may we recommend the World Book’s new age form, Wikipedia. (Britannica is, as one might expect, as dead as parchment). All this is a long way of pointing out exactly what you are indicting when you belittle pseudonymity. (As an aside, in sophisticated discourse, it pays to know the difference between anonymity and pseudonymity).
Confusing identity with reputation is a common error made by the enemies of anonymity. Do we respect the anchor of a well-known financial news channel (roll with us for a minute here) because of his Italian last name? Or do we respect him because of his reputation for hard-hitting financial journalism? Surely some embarrassing moments about his past might cause some snickering. But this is identity, not reputation- certainly not professional reputation. Is it relevant to the content of the news that another anchor on said channel got a wee-bit amorous in a taxi with a woman (or two) not his wife? (Or a woman someone else's wife?) Only insofar as that anchor makes his career about identity, that is personality, instead of reputation. If he does that, he is fair game for all the snark and gossip he whorishly solicits.
Since we write under pseudonyms we have but one currency: the quality of our content, and the reputation built since we started writing it. Readers will decide for themselves whether our content is informative and worthy of their time. There is no cloak of personality in which we may hide. Our professional "brands" are just as vulnerable as any reporter on any network. Unless you are a Luddite of some kind we are easy to contact. Contrast this with our experience with you. We have discovered, as it happens, that you never return our e-mails. It is apparently beneath you. Furthermore, owing to our lack of a highly leveraged, publicly held parent, we lack the traditional gatekeepers many personalities use to screen potential "bearers of bad newscorrection." Are there some bloggers out there who seek no more than to rake muck? Of course, but the same can be said for any circle of journalists you may care to name. Our writing is all we have (personality does not interest us) and so we strive to keep it accurate, informative, and interesting- just as any journalist would. Does that mean we consider ourselves journalists? What's in a name? Many of us are closer to op-ed writers. Many of us are purely editors. Some of us even fancy ourselves philosophers. But, may i remind you, editorials are generally written by a “board” even more anonymous than ourselves- subject to no army of instant-gratification grammar Nazis, and rarely lowering themselves to so much as issue a correction. Think anonymous writers are all scum? Read the Economist some time.
As to the personal habits of various mainstream reporters, we are totally uninterested in these details. They are only relevant where they expose the hypocritical tenor of someone who chides anonymous authors to reveal themselves and then hides behind a "no comment" when confronted with his or her own personality defects.
Attacking anonymity is the nexus of this misdirection error and an over-reliance on the media value of personality over content. This must end. We've said so long before mainstream media attacked us, not least in our manifesto. Content is what is important here, and none of you seem to understand that. You fall back to personality because it is your last and only hope. We don't care to play along, thank you. Why?
2. Your unveiling motives are less than pure.
Demanding the unveiling of anonymous authors is often a pretense for opening the door to personal attacks. We recognize that conflict makes for good prime time television. We understand that producers seek to capitalize on this and that, for reasons obvious even to a first year psychology student, juicy personal attacks draw ratings. Zero Hedge enjoyed a bit of personal experience in this vein when exposed to the high-pressure "are we doing this or what" come-on of a certain financial network producer. We declined, prompting "the talent"'s attempt to savage us on-air (and our largest spike of web traffic theretofore). Interesting as it will be in 20 years for sociologists to study, this is not journalism.
Ladies and Gentlemen, one-line zingers and contrived time limits designed to impale your hapless guests do not constitute "constructive conflict" worthy of the your interest in the Fourth Estate, which, incidentally, you do not own, but rather hold in trust on behalf of the citizenry. Want to see real, purposeful conflict on television? Try pulling some 5 or 10 year old archive tapes on the McLaughlin Group, or 1980s vintage runs of the British quiz show "Mastermind." The latter was invented by Bill Wright, a former gunner in the Royal Air Force who based the premise of the show on his experience resisting interrogation by the Gestapo. Do we need to point out that you are out of your league? That was conflict television. Mastermind itself is even purely entertainment (the British love to watch their fellows squirm). Your efforts pale in comparison and, as it happens, your urge to entertain is entirely misplaced when mixed with "financial journalism." We suggest you reflect seriously on this before you put the deci-split-screen up for the [n]th time. Actually, we take it back. Nothing better characterizes everything that is wrong with your approach than the deci-split-screen. As you were.
In case it was not already clear, let us just be plain: we are not interested in your ad hominem drama. We are not so in love with fame that we are prepared to subject ourselves to that kind of artifice in exchange for it. We understand this worldview puzzles and frightens you, and that we must seem an opponent no easier to grasp than quantum mechanics (well we have a former physicist among us, so maybe that's a bad example). Look back at real drama and notice that it never needed to be invented in the newsrooms of 1972. Demanding our unveiling is an excuse. An excuse wielded by those who have no content of value to offer. Just to be clear: this means you.
3. The era of personality-centric media needs to end- quickly, and (hopefully) painfully.
The fact that you thrive on the momentum of personality-centric reporting does not mean that we do, or that it is the right kind of reporting. Your shrill cries of "coward" in the face of anonymous or pseudonymous authors somehow implies that narcissism is equivalent to bravery. This is, in your case, self-serving. And, frankly, we beg to differ with respect to your basic premise.
On the contrary, we think narcissism is cowardice. Personality-centric reporting is the last resort of those who have no valuable content to offer on fading networks with waning delivery channels. Edutainment is a mutation designed (poorly) to forestall total decline. None of you seem to understand that the issue is content, not comment.
There was a time when the pinnacle of global discourse came from the newsroom at CBS. When no self-respecting citizen who considered themselves informed would go long without the evening news. What do we have now? Can we not all recognize what a severe devolution this is?
When we have Dan Rather's 77 year old face on HDTV, and this program is called "Dan Rather Reports," (the focus on the personality of the host is almost daunting) can we not agree that something is wrong? It is not that Dan Rather's majestic countenance is not comely (well, not only that) but that any countenance at all is a major portion of the visual offering. People, HDTV is for football, not news. If you have any doubt that this is so, consider how many HDTV reports of any weight emerged from Iran this month, or last. Zero. None. Of course. This was easily the most important foreign policy story of the year. Where did the scoops come from? Twitter and YouTube. We don't claim Twitter and YouTube are the next revolution. We think Twitter and YouTube are sort of lame. It's just that they are somewhat less lame than your medium. Stepping back for a moment, that is really quite sad.
Video killed the newsroom. Stop trying to jump-start the corpse.
4. You can't fight a dead model. (They don't respond to the sleeper hold at all, and getting caught with one while trying is bad news).
It is not our fault or our problem that your business model is dead. We didn't kill it. You did. You killed it when you did a 16 minute expose on the business of porn. You killed it when you stacked the anchor desk with stacked anchors. You killed it when you started writing books for six-figure advances, and schmoozing for access to fill those books with juicy tidbits about (and dialogue from) senior executives on Wall Street. You killed it when you hired an audio producer to dub in dramatic music in times of financial crisis. You killed it when you started paying someone six-figures to create eye-catching graphics. Every dollar you spent on this nonsense was a dollar you took away from the newsroom. Is it any wonder that reporters at the Wall Street Journal are paid shameful trifles while "the talent" (for the unwashed, we mean the TV anchors) rival investment banking paychecks?
5. Take it from us. It's time to punt.
When you've gotten to the point where you are attacking online media in order to boost viewing of embedded video clips of your content, inventing fights with new media to boost ratings, when you are boosting online ad revenue this way, might not it be the time to just cut out the expensive cost center middlemen (we are looking at you- in the eye- stacked anchors) and move to online distribution entirely? We've been watching quite carefully and we haven't seen a story above the 5th grade level out of you in over a year. (Except, perhaps for the piece on porn, that was at 7th grade level for sure). Instead it seems clear that you have been reduced to calling us "morons" and "dickweeds." (We can say "fuckhead" in our medium, how about you?) We are sorry to tell you that the last decent movie John Hughes wrote was Uncle Buck. (Some people cite Home Alone, which came out a year later, but we think this nonsense). That is to say, personal attacks, one-liners, snarky comedy and "zingers" were funnier in 1989. It is now 2009, and no one is going to play "Don't You Forget About Me" while you walk away through the parking lot after work. (That is unless your producer hangs speakers out the window). If you want to drop a zinger here and there, better make sure it is bracketed on both sides with some real content. Stick to parody and satire. Name calling only works for awhile.
6. Get out of the cycle of co-personality-dependence.
When your biggest ratings and embedded hit counts come from fights between the various gargantuan egos on your anchor desk it should tell you two things. First, that your have become addicted to on-air sideshows. Second, that you have hauled your audience down with you into the blackness of personality-dependence addiction. They are so starved for something real that they cannot comprehend that there might be something better than watching someone scream and push buttons to produce canned sound effects, or call a fellow anchor an intellectual lightweight. Of course, when you run out of material for staged, behind-the-scenes drama, we are the next easiest target. We are shocked. May we recommend something novel? Investigate something other than your co-anchor. How about fraud? Groundbreaking, we know.
All our criticism aside for a moment, we recognize that in many ways it is not your fault. A drowning institution grasps at anything that floats. If we are discouraged by anything it is your inability to just swim on your own. Perhaps it has been so long that you've forgotten how. That's easy to fix. Kick your legs. Breathe. Do a lap. Trust us. They get easier. Meanwhile, we'll keep researching and writing. See you for couple's swim!Sphere: Related Content
MSNBC's explanatory take on how the Federal Reserve "bailed" the system out and why the Fed is so keen on perpetuating the secrecy.
Eliot Spitzer: "The Fed is a Ponzi scheme, an inside job, it is outrageous, it is time for congress to say enough of this"
Sphere: Related Content
One feels the pain of New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Jr. Not only does he have to deal with the continuing lunacy over in Albany and the still ongoing power struggle in the wake of Spitzer's abrupt implosion, but he has to scramble to contain the fall out in the world's most financially dependent city. His only wildcard: hope, whether it be preached by 1,000 billboards across America, or Obama appearing on TV every 15 minutes to remind Americans that the only way out of a credit crisis is to max out their credit cards, or by watching comedy channels disguised as financial reporting.
In the meantime, underneath the still glitzy veneer, is a hollow core that is starting to shrivel at such an alarming pace that the $16 billion in projected budgetary shortfalls will likely double within 12 months at the current rate of deterioration.
A good indication of the real state of micro economy is a cursory read of the most recent edition of NYC's "Economic Notes", the Comptroller's inside view periodic report on the real pain in New York City.
Here are the bullet points for the attention impaired:
- Real Gross City Product fell at an estimated 4.1 percent annual rate in 1Q09, after a 6.1 percent decline in 4Q08.
- NYC payroll jobs have fallen by 108,000 since their cyclical peak in August, 2008.
- NYC’s unemployment rate rose to 9.0 percent in May, compared to 5.1 percent in May, 2008, representing its highest level on a seasonally-adjusted basis since 1997.
- For the first half of 2009, the city’s payroll tax withholding, a good indicator of worker incomes, was down 14 percent from the equivalent period of 2008.
- General city sales tax collections declined 7.8 percent for the first five months of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008.
- The Manhattan office vacancy rate rose to 9.6 percent in 1Q09, the highest since 3Q05.
- The number of Manhattan apartments sold rose 28 percent in 2Q09 over 1Q09, but were down 50 percent from 2Q08, according to a report by Prudential Douglas Elliman.
- Ridership on NYC Transit, an indicator of the City’s overall economic activity, fell 2.2 percent during the first four months of 2009.
And here is Bill's condensed message:
After enjoying a period of historically low unemployment, the city is experiencing a surge in joblessness. The recession’s impacts have fallen most heavily on men, on African Americans, on prime-age workers, and on the relatively well-educated. Income losses from unemployment are likely to be cushioned somewhat due to the preponderance of multi-earner families and an increase in self-employment, but thousands of families will see their incomes plunge.
Here is one for the PR specialists:
The severity of the current recession raises fears that the city’s job losses will match or exceed those of previous downturns. Except in 1980-82, the city always lost proportionately more jobs than did the nation, and national job losses have been mounting at an alarming rate for the past six months. If the city had merely suffered a proportional rate of job loss as has the nation since the beginning of 2008, it would have already lost about 165,000 jobs.
A point on unemployment:
Unemployment is usually measured at the individual level but its impacts are often felt by entire households. Nearly 70 percent of the city’s workers are heads-of-household, or are the householder’s spouse or partner. The rest are the child of a household head, the sibling, the unrelated housemate, or one of a variety of other relations. All told, the average New York City worker lives in a household with 2.2 other people, so each instance of unemployment typically affects the economic circumstances of at least three individuals.
During 2006 and 2007, new initial claims for unemployment compensation in the city averaged about 7,000 per week. During the first half of 2008 they rose to about 8,000 per week, and during the second half of 2008 they exceeded 9,000 per week. During the first half of 2009 they were averaging over 12,700 weekly. By February, 2009, the total number of beneficiaries in the city had risen to almost 119,000, an increase of 57,000, or 93 percent, over the previous February.
The conclusion: Strip club valuations are going down... way down.
Even if the city’s jobs base stabilizes, however, unemployment is likely to continue to increase, and by mid-2010, some 400,000 New Yorkers may be unemployed. That suggests that over one million residents will be living in households whose incomes are severely diminished by unemployment and underemployment.
So yes, while it is easy to wave the magic wand of generalization and hope at the overall broad and nebulous economy which is "stabilizing" simply due to a short squeeze in the markets, a drill down in regional areas exposes a lot more of the same truth that brought the market to its March lows. Alas, hope as a policy can and will only persist as there is one more marginal shorter whose forced buy in can lead the market that much higher. The question is what after.
Sphere: Related Content