"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."Ernest Hemingway Tuesday, April 6, 2021 was a good day for Alphacution in the press... The morning started with a feature by Bloomberg Editor Tom Maloney, "Citadel Gets the Spotlight," wherein he tells the story of Ken Griffin and Citadel Securities' rise as major trading force in the post GFC landscape and - most notably since GameStop - as a recent focal point of politicians and regulators. (I'm sure Ken is not thrilled with the title image.) Here at Alphacution, this article will be remembered primarily for two things: First, for providing a few useful financial tidbits - and, second, for placing a few of our words in the largest font in our history to date - Should it have been "Amazonization" or "Amazonification"? Either way, you get the gist... One more thing on this: I may have told this tale before, but after throwing an unsolicited sharp elbow in Tom's direction in our December [...]
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...
"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 [...]
"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 [...]
“No matter the outcome of the struggle between China and the U.S. over video-sharing app TikTok, an unlikely winner will be a secretive trading firm based outside of Philadelphia.” – by Wall Street Journal reporters Rolfe Winkler, Jing Yang and Alexander Osipovich. Alphacution contributes analysis to Wall Street Journal story on legendary option-trading powerhouse, Susquehanna International Group’s ownership interest in ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of video-sharing social media app, TikTok, “Secretive High-Speed Trading Firm Hits Jackpot With TikTok” (October 1, 2020). Additional related analysis on share of option markets in Alphacution’s Feed post, “Runaway Concentration Risks is 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 [...]
“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 [...]
"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 [...]
“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 [...]
"The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics." - Galileo Galilei As we prepare to turn the page on a new year, and consider what we may want to accomplish during that year, derivatives are on the priority list. Why? Options are important for many reasons from risk management to computational rigor and signal generation. And, if you had been paying close enough attention over the course of this year, you might have noticed that each of our case studies have touched, in one way or another, on options. Now, given that Alphacution is committed to its research providing new pictures to ponder, I wanted to drop the following chart on you with little additional commentary for this go 'round - except to say that the plan right now is to dedicate a full case study to the key players in options trading during 2020. Stay tuned... Until next time...