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 |2020-08-17T07:14:01-04:00March 26th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Marketquake 2020 – Volatility Update

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” - Theodore Roosevelt   In last week's Feed post, "Marketquake: The Volatility of Volatility," we set up a comparison of volatility levels - and duration - from the GFC with that of the current pandemic period. In that, I implied that elevated volatility persisted for 218 trading days after the initial GFC shock. In other words, it took about 218 trading days for the VIX to traverse the round trip from normal vol levels (~mid-20's) through the associated shocks and back to normal. The chart below is a picture of that path along with where we are as of today, 23 trading days into the latest market shock... Now, 218 trading days into the pandemic shock puts us into early January 2021. The problem, however, is that with the latest vol shock being faster and higher than that of the GFC - and the likelihood that there will be subsequent shocks from the combined ongoing health and economic impacts [...]

By |2020-10-14T22:22:00-04:00March 25th, 2020|Open|

Marketquake: The Volatility of Volatility

“To develop a complete mind: Study the art of science; study the science of art. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else” – Leonardo da Vinci If there was ever a moment in time when we realized just how much everything connects to everything else - a quote (and concept) I have been using to repeatedly bludgeon you lo these many past months - now would be that moment. However, so as not to jump on the singularly overcrowded bandwagon of doom that is the current events flow of content (for now), I'd like to walk through a storyboard of related significance. That sadly familiar aroma in the air is fear; a specific vintage of which has not washed over the market ecosystem since 2008. Many are coming to the conclusion that if the virus doesn't take us down, the arsenal of preventative measures just might - and therefore, one way or another, we are likely entering a period of financial stress (to put it as [...]

By |2020-10-14T22:24:36-04:00March 19th, 2020|Open|

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 |2020-10-14T21:47:35-04:00January 15th, 2020|For Subscribers|

2020 Musings: In For A Penny, In For A Pound

Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it." - Steve Prefontaine "Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” - Leonardo da Vinci   Renowned columnist and author, Thomas Friedman often talks about unintended and unpredictable outcomes when tinkering with big systems. I am reminded of this thought as I drag myself, kicking and screaming, to write this next post. The source of my reluctance is this: I don't want to be in the prediction business mainly because the timing of the catalyst that dramatically alters the trajectory of prevailing themes is a fools errand. And, because we may be standing at such a consequential point in history that the events that await us along the journey in the months and years ahead are unimaginable. However, I do think it's important to start the year by reflecting out loud about the year ahead while leveraging what we have learned about those themes from [...]

By |2020-10-05T21:32:18-04:00January 8th, 2020|Open|

Tower Research Capital: The Joy of Spoofing

On November 7, 2019, the U.S. CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) announced that it was ordering proprietary trading firm, Tower Research Capital, LLC (TRC), to pay $64.7 million in restitution, disgorgement and penalties for what amounts to the "largest total monetary relief ever ordered in a spoofing case." Apparently, this is all due to activity in equity index futures (at least) between March 2012 and December 2013. Now, this is one of those slippery - and potentially toxic - topics where someone ends up getting pissed off by whatever I say next. But, hey, it's Thanksgiving season, the Arctic blast has arrived 3 months early, and someone's likely to get pissed off anyway... Actually, this is a topic I have much to say about, and maybe even more questions than answers. For instance, why is so much of the spoofing / layering litigation on the futures side? (Is there no spoofing in equities? Or, just harder to find?) And, why does it take so long? We're nearly six years past [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:02-04:00November 14th, 2019|For Subscribers|

Virtu Financial: The Frying Pan and the Fire

"If you are not growing, you are dying." - Tony Robbins On August 8, Virtu reported Q2 earnings and the stock (VIRT) fell 18%. Non-GAAP EPS came in lower than Street estimates. In addition to the costs of integrating the ITG acquisition, disappointing results in the market making segment were blamed on lower volatility and trading volumes. Now, here's what you're never going to hear from the company: The Frying Pan: Both the market making and execution businesses are under significant spread and fee pressure. If there isn't an ongoing arms race for speed - which there still is - then there's intense competition around execution costs. Payments for order flow continue to rise as a result. And, some are exiting the equities brokerage business... 2. The Fire: They claim to be diversified. They try to become more diversified. And yet, they remain grossly over-weighted to equities and ETFs. The increased balance sheet that resulted from the KCG acquisition has not been lightened up, now 2 years later, despite [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:43:52-04:00August 22nd, 2019|For Subscribers|

@VirtuFinancial: Yes, There Are More Acquisitions on the Way!

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. - Albert Einstein On October 4, news broke on all the major market news outlets that - after feasting on a meal formerly known as KCG Holdings, Inc. (KCG) in 2017, which itself was a combo platter made up of GETCO and Knight Capital - Virtu Financial, Inc. (Virtu) was returning to the all-you-can-eat buffet to consider the total consumption of multinational agency brokerage and financial markets technology firm, Investment Technology Group, Inc. (ITG). Of course, this news generated a chuckle around here because it seemed that it was not too long ago that someone was predicting that this kind of pairing would make sense for Virtu - if conditions were such that they needed to bolt something else onto their expanded frame. Oh, wait a sec, that was us... To wit, from Alphacution's post "Virtu Financial: More Acquisitions on the Way, If..." (March 27, 2018): "One other notable move for significant growth for a firm [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:06-04:00October 31st, 2018|For Subscribers|

Virtu: Q1-2018 Update on Extremes

With volatility spiking in Q1 of 2018 - and the successful porting of KCG's intellectual property (IP) prior to that in late 2017 - VIRT earned a welcomed reprieve from the conditions of recent quarters, as we predicted here (and elsewhere prior to that). In the exhibit below, Alphacution's as-if modeling of the combined entity - Virtu + KCG pre-Q3 2017 - yields a level of net trading income that would not have been seen since Q1-2016. Meanwhile, Alphacution's tracking of adjusted net trading income per employee - a proxy for our common look at revenue per employee (RPE) - starkly illustrates the path through the most recent maneuvers: Persistent declines in top line "productivity" since its most recent peak in early 2015 ultimately led to the acquisition of KCG, which closed in July 2017. Swift transfer of KCG's IP onto Virtu's infrastructure along with elimination of redundant technology and human capital allowed this productivity measure to bounce off its lows in Q3 2017 to finish the year as strongly [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:45:13-04:00May 15th, 2018|For Subscribers|

Virtu Financial: More Acquisitions on the Way, If…

When we launched our first trading program at Quantlab in the late 90's, we didn't have direct market access yet. We generated an order list (overnight) that was worked throughout the subsequent market session at the discretion of an algo-equipped executing broker; some of whom now roam the halls at Jefferies / Leucadia. This was the era when 1- to 3-day portfolio turnover was considered fast - SOES bandits were still a thing - and Schwab would soon acquire electronic trading pioneer, CyBerCorp, from Philip Berber - a short drive down the road from our Houston headquarters in Austin, TX. Of course, everyone had nicknames then - as I suspect they still do now. Ed Bosarge, founder of what eventually became Quantlab (after at least 3 prior related incarnations that began for me around 1996), was known as Dr. Evil. Let's just say it's a hair-raising story about a swashbuckling pioneer of applied math involving a hideous toupee... I was known as Mr. Bigglesworth - or, "Bigsy" for short. No [...]

By |2020-10-05T21:19:11-04:00March 27th, 2018|Open|