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|

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|

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|

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 | 2020-04-23T22:28:54+00:00 April 23rd, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Going Hyperbolic: Fed Battles Volatility, Everything Else…

"The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." - Albert Camus "Captain Jack will get you high tonight And take you to your special island Captain Jack will get you by tonight Just a little push, and you'll be smilin'." - Billy Joel   This one has a long fuse, but you might enjoy the customary overallocation of pictures as we get into it: In a March 22nd note entitled "The Great Leverage Unwind" published by Guggenheim Investments, Global CIO Scott Minerd estimates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic like this:  "...we would need to see about $4.5 trillion of quantitative easing (QE) before everything was resolved. This is in addition to emergency lending through the discount window, dealer repo operations, central bank liquidity swaps, and the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, Primary Dealer Credit Facility, and Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility. That would take the Fed’s balance sheet to at least $9 trillion, or about 40 percent of last [...]

By | 2020-04-17T01:12:58+00:00 April 16th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Ports in the Storm: US Options Exchange Rankings

 “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 [...]

By | 2020-04-09T16:45:28+00:00 April 2nd, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Parplus Impersonates LTCM, Drags Ronin Down

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe   With a name like Parplus, it's difficult not to take the bait. Not quite as fruitful as Lev Parnas' company, Fraud Guarantee, but ripe nonetheless, given the circumstances... For instance, we may never know if the advice - as recounted by Carl Spackler - of the Dalai Lama ever entered Jim Carney's mind: Gunga galunga. And, we may never know for sure whether the Parplus crew received total consciousness as the reality of the situation became clear. In fact, we may never know - as the Arnold Palmer story goes - what par actually was for this hole... But, one thing's for sure: It all happened fast... Here's the setup: Seeking to satisfy some of the hunger for yield enhancement solutions (and, ideally, some downside protection) - typically offered of late in the form of structured notes, "smart beta" products, and other clever overlay strategies - Parplus Partners was established [...]

By | 2020-04-01T13:02:41+00:00 March 30th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

ABN AMRO Clearing: Source of $200 Million Mystery Loss Revealed

“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...

By | 2020-03-26T22:45:45+00:00 March 26th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Implications: 2019 Payments For Order Flow Flat vs. 2018

"Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it." - Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow   With three quarters worth of financial reports for calendar 2019 long in the bag, it is not much of a courageous leap for us to deliver an estimate for order routing revenue - otherwise more notoriously known as payment for order flow (PFOF) - for the full year. And, with the quarterly earnings season coming in the month ahead, it won't be long before we are able to test the accuracy of this estimate. In the chart below, Alphacution extends our prior analysis not only to include 2011 and 2012 but also, more relevantly, to include the year just completed; thereby extending to nine years from six our focus on five of the primary players in retail order flow for US equity markets who also disclose order routing data: TD Ameritrade (soon to be acquired by Charles Schwab); E*Trade; the [...]

By | 2020-03-01T22:37:59+00:00 January 15th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|