“Entrepreneurship, you will only understand it if you experience it for yourself. It’s not something I can explain in words.” – Masayoshi Son On September 4, the Financial Times was first to report that “SoftBank is the ‘Nasdaq Whale’ that has bought billions of dollars’ worth of US equity derivatives in a series of trades that stoked the fevered rally in big tech stocks…” Since then, a consistent drumbeat of other articles and podcasts have been published; some of them tying SoftBank in with Robinhood and other retail brokers as leading factors that may explain the (concentrated) run-up in US equities from the March lows to the early September highs. For those of you who don’t speak options as a first or second language, the logic of SoftBank’s potential impact on cash equity markets based on equity derivatives positions goes like this: Derivative markets are zero sum. For every unit long there is a unit short. Customers, like SoftBank, typically buy options – outright or via spreads – to be long deltas of the underlying security. Market [...]
"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 [...]
"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...
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 or [...]
Alphacution quoted in Financial Times story by Philip Stafford on options exchanges, “US options exchanges prepare to reopen trading floors” (May 3, 2020).
"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 [...]
“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” – Muhammad Ali While so many seem to be pleasuring themselves with the Tiger King, some of us continue to geek out with the latest data. Now, with March so freshly in the review mirror, certain monthly and quarterly data updates are going to be among our first chances to benchmark the significance of what has just happened in capital markets. We started with a focused comparison of the volatility patterns of the GFC period to the unfolding CVP period here and here, and then detailed the first trading casualties of that volatility here, here and here. Below, is our latest visual of that volatility comparison, where we are beginning to break down the components of volatility represented by the gap and range... Among the more fascinating aspects of this perspective is the illustration that there have been 8 volatility spikes with intraday ranges greater than 20 VIX points since January 2008, and the greatest of these occurred on February [...]
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever." - Steve Jobs In an article published today (March 26) by Risk.net based on a statement also released today from ABN AMRO (below), new details about the demise of Ronin Capital emerge - along with that of a "mysterious second default." According to Risk.net, a spokesperson for ABN AMRO has repeatedly suggested Ronin was not the source - a US client - of the $200 million (net) loss. It's just a matter of time now before we learn of another potential victim of this latest volatility spike... ++++++ Update 9:59PM NYC: Well, that was fast! The source of $200 million loss revealed by Risk.net as New York-based Parplus Partners, an equity volatility hedge fund with close ties to Ronin... Until next time, stay safe out there...
“If it be now, tis not to come, if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all." - Shakespeare: Hamlet Act 5, Scene 2 UPDATE HERE (3/26/2020) Last Friday, March 20, CNBC was first to report that "one of the CME’s direct clearing firms was unable to meet its capital requirements. The move forced the exchange to step in and invoke its emergency protocols to auction off the portfolios. Ronin Capital, based in Chicago, was confirmed to be the firm in question, according to sources. Additional sources said Ronin’s problems stemmed from positions in futures tied to the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX)." In concert with Alphacution's recent feed post, "Marketquake: The Volatility of Volatility," on unprecedented volatility levels that surpass that of the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) period, I wanted to assemble whatever we could on Ronin. A story not well known outside of Chicago prop trading circles, John S. Stafford, Jr. - the founder of [...]
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” - Friedrich Nietzsche “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” ― M.C. Escher One intangible cost of being the sole US publicly-traded market making firm is the required level of financial and operational transparency - and the investor relations burden - that comes with that status. In this case, that cost may be unusually high because of the relative opacity of the competitors in this sector - what Alphacution typically refers to as the structural alpha zone of its asset management ecosystem map - coupled with the unparalleled use of technology and extraordinary magnitude of wealth generated by that small group of players. To compound this dynamic, recent dramatic shifts in the landscape for retail order flow sparked by the late 2019 moves - en masse - to $zero commissions by retail-oriented brokerage platforms, and the quick follow-on consolidations of TD Ameritrade (by Charles Schwab) and E*Trade (by Morgan Stanley), and given the pandemic-fueled volatility and volumes of [...]