For Subscribers

Robinhood’s Trailing Stop Orders: Extreme Profitability, By Design

"They make it so easy." - Richard Dobatse, Robinhood user (via New York Times) "A fool and his money are soon parted." - Thomas Tusser, poet   Imagine if you knew, ahead of time, exactly what bait to use? Not only which bait to attract and influence the behavior of specific customers, but how to package the output of those behaviors - into an additional form of bait - in such a way as to leverage US listed market structure and maximize the probability of financial windfall. If so, chances are, you would share some of the vision that the founders of retail trading app and rising zeitgeist symbol, Robinhood, did circa 2013... Now, the fact that Alphacution has been beating this drum for four weeks in a row (starting here, here and then here) is unintentional and unrehearsed. Certainly, we much prefer that our riffs come with a level of variety - and we will return to that variety shortly. However, as we have been grinding the numbers around order [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:01-04:00July 15th, 2020|For Subscribers|

From Citadel Securities to Tastyworks: The New Economics of Liquidity, Part 1

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust   The data contained in the revised SEC Rule 606 reporting has landed like a transparency bomb for those few of us who try to make sense of complex - and historically opaque - market structure issues; perhaps even more so for those fewer of us that are able to triangulate on the strategic movements of the various players by weaving additional insight from multiple datasets. Add the moves of the largest retail brokerage platforms, in particular, to a zero-commission paradigm off the back of the controversially-successful Robinhood platform, and we have a potent cocktail made of disruption and intrigue. For those of you that have been following along recently, Alphacution has toggled widely between intense fixation on these themes - with our latest Robinhood-related Feed posts, "Phenomenon: On This Score, Robinhood Now Exceeds E*Trade, Others" and "Trick Shot: Robinhood Underwrites MEMX" and our recent contributions to the July 8 New York Times [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:46:52-04:00July 9th, 2020|For Subscribers|

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 |2020-08-17T07:14:01-04:00June 25th, 2020|For Subscribers|

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 |2020-10-14T21:47:06-04:00June 18th, 2020|For Subscribers|

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 |2020-08-17T07:14:01-04:00June 12th, 2020|For Subscribers|

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 |2020-10-14T21:39:52-04:00May 21st, 2020|For Subscribers|

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 |2020-08-17T07:14:01-04:00May 14th, 2020|For Subscribers|

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 |2020-10-14T21:40:04-04:00May 7th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Blast Off: First Look at Q1 First Responders

"It is action, not rest, that constitutes our pleasure." - John Adams   Amidst the doom and uncertainty of any unfolding saga, there are always bright spots, if you know where to look. After all, every problem can be an opportunity in disguise. And so, besides the uptick in all things online relative to most things not online during a pandemic lockdown, the expectation has been that there would be some bright spots for listed market first responders - the market makers and high-turnover arbitrageurs - given the unprecedented volatility that erupted in global markets in late February. This week, Alphacution has begun to confirm some of those expectations as critical data necessary to fill in the picture of what actually happened below the unprecedented volatility headlines began flowing... To create the proper gravity of perspective, let's start with average daily volume (ADV) in US cash equity markets for March arriving at more than 15.6 billion shares. This is an all-time high and a level not even remotely approximated since the [...]

By |2020-10-05T16:04:51-04:00April 23rd, 2020|For Subscribers|

“We” Were Wrong About Jane Street

"Two wrongs may not make a right, but a thousand wrongs make a writer." - Dennis Miller "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything." - John Wooden   In my last in-person meeting of the B.C. (Before Coronavirus) era, a noted Chicago hedge-fund-slash-market-making C-suiter told me: "You're just making this stuff up..." Answer: "Well, yes - yes I am. Based on an interpretation of an assembly of data supplied by you - and others..." There is no roadmap here, other than the one that is constantly being course-corrected in my head. No textbook. No lexicon. No Ivy League curricula to provide structure or Council of Elders to guide. Just the kind of seemingly unending puzzle-solving exercise to soothe a delusional level of puzzle-solving desire... And, the feedback loop supplied by you - Feed readers, subscribers and clients, alike - that informs a faint sense of navigation. With that, "we" are just making stuff up: Inventing language and pictures - and the stories that seem to fit well [...]

By |2020-10-05T16:07:36-04:00April 15th, 2020|For Subscribers|