Daily Archive: September 27, 2012

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Putting the Brakes on High Speed Trading

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

High Speed Frequency Trading (HFT) has been known to rattle traders and disrupt the stock market but has yet to be harnessed by regulators, until now.

Germany Acts to Increase Limits on High-Speed Trades

by Melissa Eddy and James Kanter

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government approved draft legislation on Wednesday that foresees imposing additional controls on such trading. The proposed measures include requiring that all high-frequency traders be licensed, requiring clear labeling of all financial products traded by powerful algorithms without human intervention and limiting the number of orders that may be placed without a corresponding trade. Traders who violate the limits, which would be set once the law took effect, would face a fine.

“Computer-generated algorithmic transaction involves a variety of new risks,” Germany’s finance ministry said in a statement. “Germany is reacting to these risks with legislation that will create more transparency, security and a better overview.”

The legislation, which is subject to approval by both houses of Parliament, was written with an eye toward similar legislation being discussed in Brussels that could eventually apply across the European Union, which has 27 member nations, the official said.

A prime example of what happens when HFT runs amok occurred in August this year by Knight Match, a system used by high speed trades, nearly bankrupted the trading company Knight Capital that lost $440 million in 45 minutes.

Knight was saved by a hastily assembled $400 million from a consortium of investors, but it appears the damage to Knight’s reputation with customers, particularly high frequency traders, will take longer to repair. Knight says the volume numbers, which were compiled by stock market and technology research firm Tabb Group, exclude the trading glitch, which happened on August 1st. Knight was forced to shut down its systems for part of that day. The volume drop shows that traders shied away from Knight longer than just in the days following the trading glitch. A Knight spokeswoman says the company won’t comment on whether trading volumes rebounded in September until early next month.

The HFT system has caused some concern in Washington. At a Senate Banking Committee hearing trading professional expressed the the fears of investors:

It no longer is your parents’ or grandparents’ stock market. Rather, it’s become a Wild West of trading, with errant technology too often in control and setting stocks, commodities, currencies and futures up for violent moves that could make the $1 trillion flash crash of May 2010 look tame by comparison, testified David Lauer, who has designed trading technology and worked as an analyst for Allston Trading and Citadel Investment Group.

“U.S. equity markets are in dire straits,” Lauer said. “We are truly in a crisis.”

He noted that “retail investors have been fleeing the stock market in droves” and that the Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index shows “investor confidence is nonexistent – with only 15 percent of the public expressing trust in the stock market.”

Rather than buying a stock and holding onto it, institutions using high-frequency trading buy and sell stocks constantly in milliseconds, or much faster than a blink of the eye. Lauer said about 50 to 70 percent of the volume of trading in the stock market now takes that form. Often trading systems send out phony trades aimed at manipulating others into buying or selling. The activity can mislead legitimate traders working for mutual funds, pension funds or individuals to buy a stock at too high a price or sell it at too low a price.

The system is also riddled with fraud:

A New York-based brokerage allowed overseas clients to run a scheme aimed at distorting stock prices by rapidly canceling orders, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Clients of Hold Brothers On-Line Investment Services were “repeatedly manipulating publicly traded stocks” by placing and erasing orders in an illegal strategy designed to trick others into buying or selling, the SEC said today in a release. Hold Brothers, its owners, and the foreign firms Trade Alpha Corporate Ltd. and Demonstrate LLC agreed to settle allegations that the New York broker failed to supervise customers and pay $4 million in total SEC fines.

The SEC complaint targeted practices that abused high-speed computer trading on American equity venues. As high-frequency activity has grown in recent years, the agency’s efforts to stop fraudulent practices such as “layering” or “spoofing” have extended to the automated trading tactics.

However, the SEC has been called the “Barney Fife” of regulators when it comes to regulating HFT and their competence has been questioned:

But the agency is clearly outgunned when it comes to dealing with high-frequency trading, many experts agree. And a new lawsuit goes so far as to accuse the SEC of covering up high-speed fraud so nobody will know just how incompetent it really is, Courthouse News reports.

In the suit, a Wisconsin company called EMM Holdings accuses the SEC of not investigating a Houston high-speed trading firm called Quantlab Financial. According to EMM, Quantlab is perpetrating fraud amid all the high-speed churning and burning it does in the stock market. EMM notes that Quantlab has been flagged six times in the past eight years by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the brokerage industry’s self-regulatory body, for not properly documenting its trades. EMM thinks this is evidence that Quantlab is trying to cover up some fraud, and it has asked the SEC (pdf) for any documents showing an investigation of Quantlab. The SEC has refused (pdf), on the grounds that doing so might interfere with law-enforcement activities. EMM has sued the SEC to force it to give up whatever goods it has on Quantlab.

Trouble is, it’s not entirely clear if the SEC is actually investigating Quantlab at all. EMM argues in its complaint that the only way the SEC could deny its record request is “if there is an on-going and active investigation.” And EMM accuses the SEC of letting this investigation fester, hoping the statute of limitations will run out.

“Given [the SEC’s] near complete abdication of its prosecutorial duties during the 2008 financial crisis, inaction and delay may unfortunately have become [the SEC’s] modus operandi for dealing with complex financial malfeasance,” EMM said in its complaint.

At least the Germans are willing to take the “bull by the horns” by limiting the ability of these trades to disrupt the market with rules that would slow trading, curb the volume and make it more expensive for traders to cancel large volumes of orders.  

Cartnoon

Scab Wefewee.  Originally posted June 6 2011.

To Duck or Not to Duck

On This Day In History September 27

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 27 is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 95 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1922, Jean-François Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone with the help of groundwork laid by his predecessors: Athanasius Kircher, Silvestre de Sacy, Johan David Akerblad, Thomas Young, and William John Bankes. Champollion translated parts of the Rosetta Stone, showing that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs.

Thomas Young was one of the first to attempt decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, basing his own work on the investigations of Swedish diplomat Akerblad, who built up a demotic  alphabet of 29 letters (15 turned out to be correct) and translated all personal names and other words in the Demotic part of the Rosetta Stone  in 1802. Akerblad however, wrongly believed that demotic was entirely phonetic or alphabetic. Young thought the same, and by 1814 he had completely translated the enchorial (which Champollion labeled Demotic as it is called today) text of the Rosetta Stone (he had a list with 86 demotic words). Young then studied the hieroglyphic alphabet and made some progress but failed to recognise that demotic and hieroglyphic texts were paraphrases and not simple translations. In 1823 he published an Account of the Recent Discoveries in Hieroglyphic Literature and Egyptian Antiquities. Some of Young’s conclusions appeared in the famous article Egypt he wrote for the 1818 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

When Champollion, in 1822, published his translation of the hieroglyphs and the key to the grammatical system, Young and all others praised this work. Young had indicated in a letter to Gurney that he wished to see Champollion acknowledge that he had made use of Young’s earlier work in assisting his eventual deciphering of hieroglyphics. Champollion was unwilling to share the credit even though initially he had not recognized that hieroglyphics were phonetic. Young corrected him on this, and Champollion attempted to have an early article withdrawn once he realized his mistake. Strongly motivated by the political tensions of that time, the British supported Young and the French Champollion. Champollion completely translated the hieroglyphic grammar based in part upon the earlier work of others including Young. However, Champollion maintained that he alone had deciphered the hieroglyphs. After 1826, he did offer Young access to demotic manuscripts in the Louvre, when he was a curator. Baron Georges Cuvier (1825) credited Champollion’s work as an important aid in dating the Dendera Zodiac.

Julian Assange at the United Nations General Assembly

(h/t Kevin Gosztola @ Firedog Lake)

(Transcript from OpEd News)

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Art Glass 26

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning


Art Glass 27

My Little Town 20120926: School Lunch

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Back when I was going to grade school, lunch was always a welcome break from the humdrum of class, where most of the students did not care at all to learn and teachers who for a large part were not qualified to teach.  Lunch allowed you to talk with your friends and, if you got finished soon enough, take the rest of the period for recess.

In addition to lunch there were morning and afternoon milk breaks.  My friend Rex and I usually were the ones to carry the milk to the different classes because we were good students and could make up anything that we missed (and it is unlikely that we missed anything, because most of the teachers just read out of the book).

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Couscous Dinners, Ready When You Are

Couscous

All of this week’s recipes are hearty vegetarian bean and vegetable stews to serve with couscous. They are make-ahead dishes using the vegetables of late summer and early fall that will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. If you’re looking for vegetarian dishes to break the fast, or just dishes for getting ahead on the week’s meals, they’re perfect.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Couscous With Tomatoes, White Beans, Summer Squash and Sweet and Hot Peppers

This late summer/early fall couscous can also be made in winter using canned tomatoes. The hot and the sweet peppers contribute great contrasting flavors.

Couscous With Chickpeas, Spinach and Mint

Spinach and chickpeas are a popular combination throughout the Mediterranean, but chard and other greens work as well.

Couscous With Tomatoes, Okra and Chickpeas

Don’t let okra’s slimy reputation put you off: Whole small pods add great texture, flavor and nutrition to this dish, without the slime.

Couscous With Tomatoes, Cauliflower, Red Peppers and Olives

Cruciferous vegetables make few appearances in North African tagines, but this dish is an appealing vehicle for nutritious cauliflower.

Israeli Couscous With Mixed Summer Vegetables

In this one-pot meal, the couscous pearls cook in the stew just before mealtime.

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Our regular featured content-

And these featured articles-

Write more and often.  This is an Open Thread.

The Stars Hollow Gazette