For Subscribers

Citadel Securities Picks Fight With SEC Over Crystal Ball

"If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product."The Social Dilemma In a rare display of miscalculation, Citadel may have overplayed its hand... Here's the setup: According to Bloomberg, "Citadel Securities LLC has sued the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the regulator’s approval of an order type introduced by stock-exchange operator IEX Group Inc." Approved by the SEC in August and launched on October 1, IEX's discretionary limit order type - or, "D-Limit" - is essentially a mechanism designed to protect liquidity providers from potential adverse selection by latency arbitrage strategies - otherwise known in less polite company as getting "picked off" on the basis of stale quotes. In a comment letter, dated April 23, 2020, Citadel Securities expresses its objection to IEX's proposal, in part, because it "will broadly and indiscriminately affect myriad liquidity takers, including retail and institutional investors as well as market makers in equities and related asset classes, such as ETFs, options, and futures." (Hold that thought for a minute...) Now, [...]

By |2020-10-28T23:55:05-04:00October 28th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Options Powerhouse IMC Financial Markets: Stung by Pandemic Volatility?

“The best way to differentiate the good from the bad is to look at economic incentives. Companies that sell you a physical product or a subscription are far less likely to abuse your trust than a company with a free product that depends on monopolizing your attention.Robert McNamee, Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe Amsterdam-based International Marketmakers Combination BV - more commonly known simply as IMC - is one of the most legendary proprietary option trading powerhouses in the world today; one of only three remaining independent prop firms - behind Optiver BV (1986) and Susquehanna International Group, LLP (1987) - founded in the 1980's during an era known for other pioneers like O'Connor & Associates, Hull Trading and Cooper Neff: IMC has a very successful Chicago-based unit representing roughly 40% of global headcount of ~800 known as IMC Chicago, LLC (d/b/a IMC Financial Markets) that was established on April 27, 2000 - originally under the name, Holland Trading House, LLC - to engage in proprietary trading in securities, [...]

By |2020-10-25T23:29:55-04:00October 25th, 2020|For Subscribers|

All About the Flow: Tower Research Capital Launches “SDP Latour”

"If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten."George Carlin A silver lining of living in a suspended state of lock down is that there is a lot of good content to fill the daily spaces that need to be filled. And, now that Bluetooth earbuds allow us to basically live with these digital appendages in our ears all the time, I have been devouring an expanding library of podcasts lately. (Participating in some, as well). Of the few market structure-oriented podcasts that are out there, IEX's Boxes and Lines is among my favorites. It's both thought-provoking and the banter of the hosts raises an audible chuckle from time to time... Now, the reason I wanted to take a longer-than-necessary stroll to my point is that today's Boxes and Lines episode just so happened to be entitled, "The State of Displayed Liquidity." It's a topic that's relevant to the story I wanted to tell here because the state of displayed liquidity - which is in decline - provides a [...]

By |2020-10-26T22:38:06-04:00October 23rd, 2020|For Subscribers|

Simplex Trading: Against the Odds

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”Henry Ford On occasion, we have framed the world's leading proprietary trading firms with the following graphic: And, as many of you know, this is the terrain upon which we have focused a notable component of our attention to date - and likely where we will place a disproportionate share of our attention going forward. This is partly due to the fact that this group bears out-sized responsibility for a quiet cascade of impacts throughout the global markets ecosystem, and partly because there are so few others that have managed to marry such scale with such creativity. This dynamic is made more notable by the idea that winner-take-all market dynamics that tend to reinforce an "incumbency of incumbents" make such an ascension less likely than the previous unlikeliness from all the yesterdays before... That said, based on our ongoing surveillance of the broader landscape, there are always exceptions. If you watch [...]

By |2020-10-16T23:50:57-04:00October 16th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Wholesale Market Makers: Adding Price Improvement to the PFOF Analysis

"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones." John Maynard Keynes Just because the rule requires “market centers that trade National Market System (NMS) securities to make available standardized, monthly reports containing statistical information about covered order executions that are free and readily accessible to the public" does not mean that that information is lounging around under a bank of Klieg lights in an easily consumable format. Like a lot of raw regulatory data, you need to know where to look while simultaneously in possession of a decoder ring... Meanwhile, there is a dramatic falling of US equity market dominoes that began a year ago with an industry-wide move to zero-commission retail brokerage models. This move became exacerbated in March by a convergence of pandemic-related forces that has resulted in a gusher of unprecedented profitability for a short list of leading proprietary trading firms that are otherwise known in the light of day as wholesale market makers. At the intersection where [...]

By |2020-10-27T20:10:25-04:00October 9th, 2020|For Subscribers|

The Fourth Exchange

“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” – Sophocles With a geyser of attention-snatching news as our normal daily backdrop, one could easily be forgiven for missing a signal from a collection of recent market structure clues. Individually, most of these have been on the radar of those that follow capital markets closely. And then there are others that are much deeper down in the weeds. Taken together, however, they paint of picture of increasing levels of market complexity coupled with increasing dependencies on fewer dominant players. Here’s the evidence: By now, most of you know that the launch of Long-Term Stock Exchange (LTSE), the launch of Members Exchange (MEMX), and the launch of MIAX Pearl equities exchange – all of which going live this month – bring the total number of US equities exchanges to 16. Now, considering that 33 alternative trading systems (ATSs) and at least another 12 internalizing broker-dealers (including wholesale market makers, single dealer platforms (SDPs) and central risk books) executed trades in NMS (national market system) stocks in 2019, US equity market fragmentation continues to [...]

By |2020-10-02T16:22:22-04:00September 29th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Runaway Concentration Risks in US Option Markets

“The future is a choice between utopia and oblivion. Whether it is to be utopia or oblivion will be a touch and go relay race right up to the final moment…” – Buckminster Fuller On September 23rd, the Financial Times reported, “Citigroup halts market making in retail options” in an apparent response to the challenges brought about by the era of zero-commission retail trading; an era that is swiftly nearing its one year anniversary. Among the more notable impacts of this Citi news, the fact that Morgan Stanley now remains as the sole major Wall Street bank still standing as an intermediary for retail option flows ranks high. Truth be told, it ranks second only to a backdrop of creeping concentration as bulge players like Citi and Barclays before them and Goldman before them and others before them – including those that have been winding down their cash equities businesses – have punted on their options businesses because it has become so mind-numbingly complicated and expensive to make money in [...]

By |2020-10-02T16:17:22-04:00September 23rd, 2020|For Subscribers|

Stranded, As Virtu Bids Farewell to Madison Tyler

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us.” – Marcel Proust With pandemic-era factors being historically and paradoxically hospitable for market volumes and volatility, those players that stand in closest proximity to the sources of listed liquidity have experienced an unexpected windfall so far in 2020. Today, with market making revenue for the past two consecutive quarters at all-time highs and seeming to bend a long-term downward trend in a new upward direction, VIRT stock found its own all-time high… For the remainder of this story, we need to refresh your perspective with a little context: Founded in 2008, Virtu is the youngest of a dozen leading proprietary trading and market making firms in the world: What is most unique about Virtu, however, in the context of this group is that it has grown primarily by acquiring other people’s trading strategies – typically by outright acquisition of other companies – from the beginning. By comparison, all the others on this roster have [...]

By |2020-10-02T16:02:53-04:00September 9th, 2020|For Subscribers|

ETF War Games

“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 Market making in individual stocks has become so competitive that most hyperactive strategies – the ones that reside in Alphacution’s structural alpha zone – have turned to increasingly rely on some form of ETF arbitrage. This competitive dynamic is exacerbated by factors such as liquidity fragmentation, liquidity internalization, payments for order flow (PFOF), and the winner-take-all impacts of process automation (aka – scaling via technology). For those proprietary trading firms with few, if any, options positions in their portfolio, cash ETF position concentrations (based on total 13F position counts) are represented as follows: When we isolate the leading order flow wholesalers and consider aggregate cash ETF positions as a percentage of 13F gross value, one of the clues that rises to the surface (in concert with the findings in the prior chart) is the prominence G1 Execution Services (G1X), a unit of legendary derivatives powerhouse, Susquehanna [...]

By |2020-10-02T15:50:55-04:00September 2nd, 2020|For Subscribers|

Daily Average Fugazi’s: Robinhood Postures for IPO

“Name of the game? Move the money from your client’s pocket into your pocket. Number one rule of Wall Street: Nobody knows if the stock is going up, down, sideways or in … circles. It’s all a fugazi…“ – Mr. Hanna, Wolf of Wall Street On Monday, August 10 at exactly 11am EDT (you know, after the opening bell was safely in the rearview mirror), Robinhood Markets, Inc. – the anti-incumbency insurgent trading app platform and self-proclaimed democratizer of all things financial – set out to dominate the week’s financial news cycle by enticing media powerhouse, Bloomberg, to drop a news bomb into an ecosystem already negligently over-stimulated on the topic: “Robinhood Blows Past Rivals in Record Retail Trading Year.“ One piece of data was exclusively revealed to Bloomberg at the center of this story: 4.31 million daily average revenue trades – commonly known as DARTs (and generally defined as customer orders executed divided by trading days) – were recorded in June with the additional explanation that “the firm is revealing the data for the first time, [...]

By |2020-10-02T15:34:20-04:00August 13th, 2020|For Subscribers|