Alphacution provides numbers, pictures and rationale for "price improvement" - in the context of captive retail order flow - having an indelible function that is different than what you have been told by those who traffic in it...
Leveraging numbers and narrative, Alphacution builds a higher-dimension analysis of market structure mechanics on top of Bloomberg Opinion's Matt Levine's recent manifesto on payment for order flow (PFOF). Disclaimer: No unsolicited elbows were thrown during the creation of this Feed post...
This is the fuel that ignites the chaos. Without it, the New Market Kamikazes run into the friction that keeps the rubber on the road...
"What's really happening here is that instead of people becoming engaged in finance when they're 40, 50, 60 or whatever, they're finally starting to learn that - hey - this is really cool. And so, we have an entire generation now which is not only going to support capitalism, it's going to accelerate the growth in free markets and [provide] massive amounts of liquidity so that everybody out there is going to benefit. This is the best thing to happen to the global economy in three or four decades. Getting millennials engaged in finance is transformational."Tom Sosnoff, co-founder, Tastytrade; on CNBC Squawk Box, January 29, 2021 in response to a question about the "democratization of finance" and the status of capitalism With all the craziness this week around GameStop, Robinhood and the whole STONKS meme, an event from last week is at risk of being swept under the rug. So, I wanted to add this one to the Feed as a marker before we lose the thread entirely. Here's the [...]
"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by avoiding it today."Abraham Lincoln With protestors storming the U.S. Capital - some of which breaching the outer doors and freely strolling the U.S. Senate floor - as surreal and unprecedented backdrop, I sit down to organize a sketch of Alphacution's outlook for the year ahead, starting with a very wide lens: The U.S. economy - much like the rest of the other "developed world" economies - is naturally weaker than the meticulously curated employment and productivity numbers suggest. Technology adoption (from workflow automation to social media distraction), growing debt burdens, ossified resource allocation practices, cross-region labor arbitrage, deteriorating infrastructure, and other factors all converge to deteriorate "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for a growing portion of the population. The COVID pandemic of 2020 - and however long it remains disruptive throughout 2021 as vaccines are being rolled out - acts as an accelerant of many of these factors. Ours is a deteriorating version of capitalism. Symptoms emblematic of the stage [...]
"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 I was going to start out by saying that it's been a pivotal year for Alphacution. Problem is, I said the same things at this time last year. So, I supposed that means it's been a good coupla years. The pandemic, volatility, subsequent lockdown - and some luck in timing - drove a lot of attention towards Alphacution's content in 2020. Clearly, Robinhood and payments for order flow (PFOF) were top themes for the year. Our Feed post on Robinhood and trailing stop orders led the year in page views, and represented like no other before it what it looks like when a story goes viral. Not to be outdone, the timely post on the downfall of Ronin Capital also attracted a ton of attention. In fact, if [...]
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."Viktor Frankl Alphacution's exploration to tease insight from the available data - to make the data dance - continues to expand. Sometimes this is due to weaving a new and unfamiliar data source. And, sometimes it's due to seeing something entirely new in a familiar dataset. A challenge in the process is the growing sense that we can never quite tell all the fascinating nuggets of the stories we discover. Be that as it may, the fact that data can be electrified to dance about the most consequential and mythological players in the capital markets ecosystem after they have expended so much energy to remain secretive makes this journey that much more thrilling. What follows here is a concentrated example of our expanding capabilities... Today's story takes advantage of Virtu Financial's latest Q3 2020 earnings-related data dump. Virtu is a regular topic on the [...]
"The opportunities that everyone cannot see are the real opportunities."Jack Ma When counting the top four retail brokerage platforms engaged in payments for order flow - including Robinhood, TD Ameritrade (along with TD Ameritrade Clearing - both of which currently in the process of being acquired by Charles Schwab), E*Trade (now a unit of Morgan Stanley), and Charles Schwab - Alphacution estimates YTD order routing revenue for 2020 thru the third quarter is nearly $1.8 billion. Of these main players, only Robinhood grew its order routing revenue for Q3 to $194.5 billion from $180.3 billion in Q2. Among the other major headlines are these: By wholesale broker, Citadel Securities leads; paying $711.9 million (or, 40.3% of total) for combined stock and option order flow thru Q3 2020;By retail broker, TD Ameritrade (including TD Ameritrade Clearing) leads; receiving $825.2 million (or, 46.7% of total) in combined stock and option order routing revenue thru Q3 2020;By product segment, payments for options order flow led at over $1.0 billion (or, 59,1% of total) [...]
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."Ralph Waldo Emerson The juggernaut that is the Robinhood commission-free trading app has accumulated some dents and bruises over the year, along with a number of truly breathtaking successes. One of the more overexposed stories in a year engorged with superlatives, system outages, a customer suicide and, most recently, the hacking of thousands of accounts has challenged Robinhood's meteoric rise along the way. Together, these headwinds have delayed Alphacution's prediction of the timing of an oncoming IPO. All that said, one aspect of the Robinhood juggernaut - certainly among the more important aspects to its key stakeholders - is persistent growth in order routing revenue; the largest component of total revenue. After two quarters of blockbuster, pandemic-fueled numbers showcasing the inner workings of Robinhood's order flow firehose, the Q3 2020 order routing figures have recently been made public. The headline is that after the second quarter's monstrous $180.3 million in payments for [...]
"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, [...]