Alphacution Feed

Phenomenon: On This Score, Robinhood Now Exceeds E*Trade, Others

"It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." - Winston Churchill   The holidays, with all of its gift-giving elves, came early this year with new data; data that I have been crunching non-stop for the past week - and will likely continue to crunch in the week ahead. The exercise has yielded one "I-shit-you-not" revelation after another after another, almost as if such a trove could not exist in the public domain lying around for free. However, rather than fully unwrap any of these gifts right hear and right now (and go through the instructions in detail), I'm just going to set this one down under the tree for the weekend... Until next time...

By | 2020-06-25T23:57:33+00:00 June 25th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Trick Shot: Robinhood Underwrites MEMX

“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” - Leonardo da Vinci   If there ever was a time to see how things are connected to other things, it is now. This is particularly true in places where something that is "free" is interpreted to be "without cost." After all, like "free" drinks at the casino, human nature tends to regress to its most lizard-like tendencies when presented with a frictionless environment... When will we ever learn that "free" is never the best price? Anyway, without becoming distracted by a rant about the true cost of Facebook, et al, let's take a brief look at the impact of "commission-free" trading on the macrostructure of the US market ecosystem over a very short window since October 2019: Thanks, in large part, to the popularity of retail broker, Robinhood Financial, LLC ("Robinhood) - the upstart financial [...]

By | 2020-06-18T00:20:58+00:00 June 18th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Peak6 Investments and the Baking Soda Index

"For every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction." - Sir Isaac Newton   The performance - or, health - of complex systems is difficult to measure. Typically, you need deviations from norms across numerous sensors - the analytics - converging to signal whether a complex system is functioning properly or not. Add the inevitability of change, and the task becomes exponentially more challenging as continuity of measurement over time decays... And then, there's the stuff that's difficult to measure, if it's measured at all. The intangibles. The slippage factors that don't come into play until they do. Like, a global pandemic - or when a frustrated segment of the population spills out into the streets in cities - big and small - across the landscape... The indicators most commonly used to signal the health of our complex markets may no longer serve their stated purposes. For instance, does the VIX still measure fear? Aside from today's notable spike, the equity markets appeared to have returned to normal volatility [...]

By | 2020-06-12T01:38:20+00:00 June 12th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Capitalism? Both Automation and Failure Elude Major Banks

"I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring." - David Bowie   For someone who has spent a career scanning the landscape for cataysts - as if in perpetual "sentry mode" - it's damn near impossible to consume the latest news and not become introspective. Perhaps that is merely the occupational disposition of someone who regularly commits thoughts to pixels. It's difficult to conjure up this week's musings on the state of play without a corresponding level of seriousness and mood to risk opening Pandora's Box with a brief flurry of thoughts that are worth writing - and reading. Anyway, here we go: With the scent - and evidence - of economic upheaval in the air, I thought it would be a good time to revisit one of our older themes, the Investment Bank Headcount Index. The last time we touched on this topic was a year ago in, "How Many Heads Does It Take To Run A Bank?" It's never been a [...]

By | 2020-06-04T13:35:27+00:00 June 4th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Case Study: History of Jane Street

"I don't stop when I'm tired, I stop when I'm done." - James Bond   Alphacution publishes its 125-page, 149-exhibit, 26,000-word case study, "History of Jane Street," with notable expansions into regional, US option strategy and revenue estimation details. The following is the Opening to that report with Table of Contents, including download of the full Executive Summary. Access to this report is available to Premium Subscribers. Subscription and individual report purchase inquiries can be directed to info@alphacution.com. NOTE: No representative of Alphacution has been in contact with any representative of Jane Street Group, LLC or affiliated entities for the preparation of this report. This report is solely based on the author’s interpretation of Alphacution’s ongoing assembly of raw, open-access data; library of contextualized modeling; and, internally-developed content. This report does not benefit from, nor include, any material non-public information (MNPI). Introduction Volatility... It’s like the highest-octane fuel in the engine of every proprietary trading and market making firm – and it is very difficult to capture, harvest [...]

By | 2020-06-03T17:49:15+00:00 May 28th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Virtu Financial: Master Exploder, Part II

"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water." - Bruce Lee   In "Master Exploder, Part I," we presented a first pass at Virtu's Q1 2020 earnings release given the impacts of unprecedented volatility in March. If you're tracking closely - or merely fascinated by - this neck of the woods, be sure to check in on that one, and the one on Flow Traders' Q1 earnings that preceded. Both releases presented outstanding, one-of-a-kind results. As noted in the last Virtu post, we were waiting for some additional data to come out before wrapping our thoughts on the Q1 impacts, both specifically and more generally. After some of that additional data has come out, here we are - and the results are oddly surprising (as in, not what was expected). In the chart, below, Alphacution presents the components of net trading income (NTI). This is a rolling, quarterly view of the composition of NTI that we have updated from time to time here on the Feed. You may recognize [...]

By | 2020-05-22T00:25:15+00:00 May 21st, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

This Fed Put is Out of the Money

Don Dale, Chief Risk Strategist for Equity Risk Control Group, is a guest contributor to the Alphacution Feed.   I am not a funny guy. (Ask my wife...) And yet, occasionally - when I say the quiet part out loud - I manage to get a laugh. My latest bit is an idea about how to "fight the Fed." So, while you may enjoy a chuckle at the thought, here's why I think things might be different this time: The “Fed Put” is a common reference in capital market circles – particularly since the GFC – given their increasingly likely position to backstop some asset classes. Of late, the Fed’s actions were the driving force behind the stabilization of the bond market since the March gyrations; by extension, the equity markets. However, the primary driver for equity market performance within US indices has been the mega cap FAANGM names, given the thematic benefit of social distancing on factors like home delivery, video bingeing and all manner of online interactions. This [...]

By | 2020-05-19T13:55:30+00:00 May 16th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

quantPORT: First Look at Jefferies Quant Spinout

"Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda   Today, a post by efinancialcareers was first to report - followed by Bloomberg News - that Jefferies Group would be spinning out the quantPORT division of its Jefferies Investment Advisors (JIA) subsidiary. According to these sources - and regulatory filings - quantPORT (branded as such in 2018) began as a proprietary systematic equity trading team within Jefferies in 2006. As of January 2020, quantPORT claimed regulatory AUM of $3.7 billion. quantPORT's website lists $5 billion as a milestone in 2017. The bet? Better fundraising on the outside; better incentives (and more risks) for the guys behind the wheel... Now, given that Alphacution knows the key players in the story here, it's been on our radar to dig the stat arb data out of the Jefco filings for a long time, if possible. Today's news provided a catalyst to do just that... A few disclaimers before we get to a couple early samples of chart candy: As an "other reporting [...]

By | 2020-05-15T00:37:10+00:00 May 14th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Virtu Financial: Master Exploder, Part I

"As you think, so shall you become." - Bruce Lee   Like a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, sometimes the scenario is grim. And yet sometimes, the tailwinds converge in your favor - like a three-legged man in an ass kicking contest - and the scenario presents itself very much to the contrary... Historically, Alphacution has not been shy about pointing out the former. Who can forget "Virtu Financial: The Frying Pan and the Fire" from August 2019; a favorite of @Dougielarge, for sure? But, to give credit where credit is due, this story is quintessentially about the latter scenario: Today (May 7), Virtu Financial reported Q1 2020 earnings and, given an extra appetizer of preview from the company on March 20, it was - to borrow a riff from Tenacious D - "The. Best. Quarter. Ever. Period!" Now, it's no secret to anybody on the planet why a strong Q1 was to be expected from Virtu because nearly everyone on the planet is directly impacted by the [...]

By | 2020-05-08T00:01:48+00:00 May 7th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Cheap Volatility: A Lesson In Market Structure Mechanics

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway   Alphacution has always been fascinated by the players. Unlike the world of sport, market players have unique potential to influence the field of play, and thus create a feedback loop that influences other players, and so on causing market ecosystem evolution. In this game, the rulemakers and overseers - the referees - are typically playing catch up... This is not to suggest that markets don't have naturally occurring limits in addition to those that are imposed by referees. They do. There are always capacity constraints, given performance requirements and performance expectations; and so, we are further fascinated by how players navigate - how they survive, thrive and scale (or not) - relative to the inevitability of market limitations, many of which are currently not well understood. Throughout these digital pages, Alphacution has plotted a journey to fill this unmet need for understanding -  presenting the output of our fascinations - the stories of [...]

By | 2020-05-05T18:22:20+00:00 May 1st, 2020|Alphacution Feed|