60 Minutes Brings HFT To The Mainstream, As CFTC Refutes HFT Liquidity-Provisioning Argument

Tyler Durden's picture Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/11/2010 10:21 -0500

Commodity Futures Trading CommissionHigh Frequency TradingJoe SaluzziKaufmanTed KaufmanTrading Strategies

Last night on 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft, finally brought mainstream America’s attention to the topic that has been the primary scourge of efficient markets over the past 5 years: High Frequency Trading (not to be confused with Signing, aka RoboSigning). In Wall Street: The Speed Traders, Kroft spoke to such advocates of a robot parasite-free as Themis Trading’s Joe Saluzzi and (now ex) Senator Ted Kaufman, as well as some other individuals who stand to benefit by computerized feedback loops making a mockery of price discovery, and which have now caused something like ten mini flash crashes in as many days, not counting the Flash Crash itself. Of course, the only defense the HFT lobby continues to use is that it provides liquidity. Which is why, once again falling back to scientific literature, this time a study by Andrei Kirilenko of the CFTC et al (which is also obviously biased as the CFTC, just as the SEC, stand to lose what last credibility they have if it is indeed discovered that it was precisely SEC and CFTC endorsed HFT, and not Waddell and Reed, that was the cause of the Flash Crash, something we refuted flatly last week), which demonstrates just how fallacious any claims that HFTs provide liquidity are. In a word: “HFTs traded over 1,455,000 contracts, accounting for almost a third of total trading volume on that day. Yet, net holdings of HFTs fluctuated around zero so rapidly that they rarely held more than 3,000 contracts long or short on that day.” Said otherwise, Liquidity-to-Volume ratio: 0.00206%.

Full 60 Minutes:

And key section from Kirilenko et al say on the topic of HFT liquidity provisioning:

We find that on May 6, the 16 trading accounts that we classify as HFTs traded over 1,455,000 contracts, accounting for almost a third of total trading volume on that day. Yet, net holdings of HFTs fluctuated around zero so rapidly that they rarely held more than 3,000 contracts long or short on that day. Because net holdings of the HFTs were so small relative to the selling pressure from the Fundamental Sellers on May 6, the HFTs could not have prevented the fall in prices without dramatically altering their trading strategies.

We also find that HFTs did not change their trading behavior during the Flash Crash. On the three days prior to May 6, on May 6, as well as specifically during the period when the prices are rapidly going down, the HFTs seem to exhibit the same trading behavior. Namely, HFTs aggressively take liquidity from the market when prices were about to change and actively keep inventories near a target inventory level.

During the Flash Crash, the trading behavior of HFTs, appears to have exacerbated the downward move in prices. High Frequency Traders who initially bought contracts from Fundamental Sellers, proceeded to sell contracts and compete for liquidity with Fundamental Sellers. In addition, HFTs appeared to rapidly buy and contracts from one another many times, generating a “hot potato” effect before Opportunistic or Fundamental Buyers were attracted by the rapidly falling prices to step in and take these contracts off the market.

Can we finally move beyond the cheap, overused, and flat out flawed justification that HFT provides liquidity? he correct  It does nothing of the sort, and since the operative word here is “churn” all HFTs do is merely concentrate (lack of) liquidity risk to a point where should HFTs decide to step away from the market suddenly and without regulatory recourse, as they did on May 6, the next step is a complete market collapse.


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by Temporalist
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:27

Was going to submit this to you all.  Thanks for posting it. 

Login or register to post comments by chopper read
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:40

NASDAQ and the NYSE have failed to protect their franchise.  More surprisingly, CME Group has also failed to protect their franchise.  No market is well-functioning that drives out participants in such mass numbers.  as on May 6th, liquidity will disappear when it is needed most because ‘liquidity providers’ have been driven out of business by HFT cannibals.  most likely, HFTs will cannabilize each other while the rest of us wait patiently on the sidelines to capitalize on 1 or 2 major ‘flash crashes’ per year. 


as for now, continue to ‘live to trade another day’ until this reaches its ugly conclusion. 



Login or register to post comments by Bob
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:56

NASDAQ and the NYSE have failed to protect their franchise . . .

That’s it.  Hubris in the context of full regulatory capture got them cocky and thinking they were untouchable.  Good old greed, they just couldn’t leave a good enough thing alone. 

Login or register to post comments by chopper read
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:04

yep.  they used to just “sell Levi’s” (gain their transaction fees) as speculators rushed in for equity market gold.  But the lure of HFT transaction fees paying them much more quickly than ‘joe speculator’ has now resulted in a total boycott of their exchanges. 

speculators have always understood that the markets exist to take our money, not the other way around.  but a great trader knows when they are outclassed, and lives to trade another day.  ‘joe speculator’ (i.e., mainstreet) is taking what is left of their ball and going home (and into physical gold).

life will go on.  any exchange that protects their franchise from HFT algos will gain new market participants.  it will take time, but it will happen. 

i see nothing wrong with the greed of the exchanges as it will eventually be punished by market participants like any other greed.  There is opportunity here, just not in equities and exchange-traded derivatives outside of a few ‘flash crash’ occurences per year. 

buy gold.  protect your right to bear arms.  life will go on. 

Login or register to post comments by TheMonetaryRed
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:43

The author thinks that there’s a difference between “churn” and real “liquidity”. 

That’s funny.

Login or register to post comments by Bob
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:57

Fancy words meet cold reality. 

Login or register to post comments by hambone
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:28

“Honey, these here people on 60 minutes talking ’bout numbers and stuff…what channel is Sunday night football on?…oh, and then I wanna watch that there show where they fix them houses and give ’em to poor folk.  I hope they give me something fur nuthing!”

Login or register to post comments by gwar5
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:31

I saw bits of it last night and friend called me this am about it. I told him to get his butt to ZH if he wants to know what is going on. That was old news for ZH, they’ve been the tip of the spear and all over this for months and months.

New media rules. Old media is just old.

Login or register to post comments by PlausibleDenial
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:37

I have forwarded ZH’s articles and graphs to my distribution list with some return comments such as “scary”.  The 60 minutes segment may at least have been watched by more folks thus making them a little more aware as a lot of people just don’t read…..  But, more frustrating was Krugman on “This week”. I can’t seem to get the screen to stay together with duct tape any more.  Those damn bricks…

Login or register to post comments by johngaltfla
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:31

Translation: 60 Minutes tried but the sheeple are no longer “invested” in equity markets so they don’t care.


They should, but they don’t because laws, rules, and regulations do not matter to Wall Street or Banksters.

Login or register to post comments by Votewithabullet
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:32

…”brought it to their attention”. So the fuck what? They will hear it, they will understand it and they will ignore it. It has always been thus. They’re more concerned with the location of a mosque. “yes they deserved to die and I hope they burn in hell”.

Login or register to post comments by Overpowered By Funk
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:34

Stock market in 2010 = a big fucking game of electronic Hot Potato.

Login or register to post comments by SheepDog-One
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:35

AH so those big machines there ‘provide liquidity’…yes its all clear now!

Login or register to post comments by Cognitive Dissonance
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:39

When the mainstream media (MSM), aka the fawning corporate press, get their teeth into an issue, I become very worried. There is little doubt that just as Congress and the regulators have been completely captured, so is the MSM. In fact, the MSM has been playing ball for decades. And I could make a coherent argument its been centuries.

So what’s going on here? How are they going to spin this? What straw man are they setting up to take the fall? Who’s the patsy in this one? Because that’s the sole purpose of the MSM as the appointed spin doctors for the Powers That Be. To pre-condition the public mind and direct public opinion away from the real fire and towards the diversionary blazes they set alight.

Login or register to post comments by kornholio
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:42

it dont make a shit, because the FED has already made it plain they are gonna buy assets with money from thin air till the cows come home. and the stock market continues to soar so WTF…

Login or register to post comments by LeBalance
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:49

It was all those pimply-faced Ph.D.’s fault!

Kill the intellectuals!

Burn the Universities!

Rape and Pillage the Dorms!

Death to the Pocket Protectors!

(the only people who can possible thwart or avoid the shit storm.)

Hegel’s rules.


“We are grateful to The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the work is now much more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.” David Rockefeller, founder of the Trilateral Commission, in an address to a meeting of The Trilateral Commission, in June, 1991.

“Today, America would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order [referring to the 1991 LA Riot]. Tomorrow they will be grateful! This is especially true if they were told that there were an outside threat from beyond [i.e., an “extraterrestrial” invasion], whether real or *promulgated* [emphasis mine], that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will plead to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this *scenario*, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the World Government.” Dr. Henry Kissinger, Bilderberger Conference, Evians, France, 1991


Its through the looking glass, Alice.

Login or register to post comments by Attitude_Check
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:55

What is the source for those quotes?

Login or register to post comments by Cruel Aid
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:51

It’s got Czar written all over it.

Login or register to post comments by michigan independant
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:06



Login or register to post comments by Bob
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:12

Understand your cynicism, CD.  Journalists have let us down tremendously, particularly over the years beginning with the PR/propaganda campaign leading to the invasion of Iraq. 

Unlike other professions, however, their educations focused upon digging up and exposing the truth.  A lot of them were simply had in the “patriotic” ferver following 911.  The vast majority have surely suffered in that knowledge since then. 

Sure, many can certainly still be fully silenced by their corporate overlords, but they are  an extremely bitter bunch of people who want to do the right thing . . . and many know exactly what it is.  The truth (please don’t debate me on what that means) is now coming out and somebody’s gonna get a Pulitzer followed by a long career of fame and fortune. 

Given the risk that somebody else is gonna enjoy the benefits of a story which now appears inevitable to hit the mainstream, it seems likely to me that even a corrupt MSM outlet is now going to run it.  From the most cynical perspective, one might view this as the first rat to flee a sinking ship. 

I know, just an opinion that can be argued against.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Login or register to post comments by the rookie cynic
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:18

What will be the MSM diversionary blaze that sets up QE2?

Login or register to post comments by TheMonetaryRed
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:39




It’s their market. You just trade in it. 

Of course “HFTs did not change their trading behavior during the Flash Crash,” the interaction of HFT algorithms inevitably leads to flash crashes. When flash crashes come, you just invalidate the trades. What could be the problem? I mean, it’s not as if you’re ever gonna get a crash that’s too big to invalidate, right?


HFT-traded Gold to $1700. 


Login or register to post comments by chopper read
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:49


these are the facts.  HFTs are outcompeting ‘locals’.  humans are not competing well with HFTs that can absorb one trade in a bid or offer while simultaneously laying that trade off in similar markets.  they are mopping the floor with individual ‘liquidity providers/speculators’.  good for them.

however, as a result, there are less and less daily participants in these markets as the ‘day trading’ becomes the monopoly of a handful of HFTs.  fair enough, i suppose, but the flash crashes, as predicted, will come more frequently. 

the rest of us will continue to wait on the sidelines until these flash crashes occur. 

no whining here.  just living to trade another day! 

…and buying gold.

Login or register to post comments by TheMonetaryRed
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:19

Of course trading in gold will be HFT-dominated in a year or two – if it’s not already!


I have to say that although I appreciate his bringing the information to the public, I’m not very sympathetic with Saluzzi and Themis. They’re basically pickpckets who just got too slow for the game. These days, if you’re a short-term trader and you’re not co-located, you should just get out of the business. You can’t possibly compete with traders who are so fast they can afford to both supply information to as well as harvest information from the market in few milliseconds. 

Login or register to post comments by count_de_monee
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:42

Wow, I give you good political analysis on a story that could potentially be very big and is completely ignored by the MSM and not 1 comment.

You heard it here first: Portugal’s budget will not pass and they’ll be forced to come hat in hand to the EFSF/IMF.

“In case no one is watching, I’d like to let the ZH community know that the political situation in Portugal is very tense at the moment. The current government has been in power for over 5 years and is increasingly weak and scandal ridden (check out this youtube video where an english businessman admits to bribing the current PM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nmIcGdlZiM). The increasingly desperate government has a slim majority that is not enough to pass any of the announced austerity measures. Furthermore, there is a massive general strike being planned for early November in a country where over 60% of the population either works for the government or is dependent on government subsidies to survive.

But the real clincher is that the largest opposition party, the PSD, has so far refused to help the govt pass the austerity budget which is due to be voted on the 29th of October.

Without their support (see this article http://dn.sapo.pt/inicio/portugal/interior.aspx?content_id=1682921 in today’s Diario de Noticias where the leader of the opposition says he will not vote favorably no matter how much pressure they put on him), the PM has already said he will resign. Throw in the fact that Portugal has presidential elections in early January which means parliament cannot be dissolved until spring 2011 at the earliest, and you have an explosive cocktail that most news outlets are either ignoring or know little about.

This could be the event that gets the default ball rolling again.”

Login or register to post comments by chopper read
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:51

thanks for the post.  great info.

Login or register to post comments by count_de_monee
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:55

You’re quite welcome.

Glad someone out here actually likes to learn something new.

Login or register to post comments by traderjoe
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:53

Count – thanks for the information. Keep us posted. 


Login or register to post comments by count_de_monee
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:57

I shall, although I presume that sooner or later this will become a big story item in the MSM as well. It’s not just the Ireland fire burning although that’s where the MSM seems more focused.

Login or register to post comments by chopper read
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:06

more americans are irish versus portugese.  good for ratings. 

Login or register to post comments by michigan independant
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:42

Hunter – Seeker algo’s and they just do not care.

On October 30, 1999, The Economist printed a warning that decision-making was being dispersed around global networks of individuals that fall beyond the control of national governments and nothing could be done about it. “Innovation is now so fast and furious that big organizations increasingly look like dinosaurs while wired individuals race past them.”


They noticed on 1999

Reality was 1993 for us and our group. Good luck kids.

Login or register to post comments by Voodoo Economics
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:44

“Some people may be using computers to manipulate the market!!”  NOh – Way!!

Like OMG!!

Login or register to post comments by Rick64
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:48

 40 M shares a day traded for a penny profit or less by one small firm (Tradeworx). Says a lot.

Login or register to post comments by RobotTrader
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:49


So much money wasted on servers, fiber-optics, leasing space right next to the NYSE data centers, overpaid programmers with foreign accents, etc.

Why not just hire a 17-year old gamer wearing a skullcap who can follow price action instead?

Sell what ever is going down.

Buy what ever is going up.

What is so hard about that?



Login or register to post comments by LeBalance
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:55

Because after that gamer ripped off the 10^8th old lady they might start feeling bad.  And they might read the news and think “I am not doing a good thing for certain segments of society.”  Where the programs churn on into the night with the core programmers getting turned over as they sour on the ethics of the project.

Login or register to post comments by Dollar Bill Hiccup
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:50

Let the chickens come home to roost …

Relentless pressure by ZH, keep squeezing it’s working.

Login or register to post comments by Waterfallsparkles
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 10:50

I see it as a National Security issue.  The Big Banks that Own these HFT Computers could take the Country down the tubes in a day.  It gives them the Power to Control the Country and the Government.

Remember when Paulson wanted 700 Billion?  He got it as he held the Government and the People Hostage.  Either give us 700 Billion or there will be Marshal Law.  What about Al Qaeda Hackers?


Login or register to post comments by FunkyMonkeyBoy
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:06

Big Banks = Government = Al Qaeda.

All tenticles of the same beast control system.

Login or register to post comments by LMAO
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:01

Although, in general, I like 60 min. and their way of reporting on serious issues like this to the broader public, I have a feeling that this report is a none event and a rather poor attempt to inform Joe Sixpack what the ramifications  are of HFT and how it affects the economy.

Other than being a rather questionable liquidity provider it tells nothing about the impact on price discovery (or lack thereof) and how it basically supports the Ponzi.



Login or register to post comments by Cvillian
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:12

My bet is that this is the 101 piece they throw out to inform and then follow it up with “startling findings of manipulation!”

Next week: MortgageGate 101

Login or register to post comments by Blaise Pascal
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:01

Aside from the great handle, cognitive dissonance shows more and more understanding of what is actually going on.

MSM is just diversionary, and their themes are to condition the masses.  Political correctness? a conditioning tool.  Ascent of sports, reality shows? Same.  Marketing to 20-somethings as being master of your own domain?  How?  Because they can configure Facebook?  Simply idiocy.

Dumbing-down of American numerical and economic educations have achieved most of the goals.

CD raises the best question: Who is the next patsy / fall-guy?

China is too smart, too rich, and has too many reserves.  They know they have to solve their problems., and not let their currency appreciate too quickly, to satisfy (who?) their potential competitors?  Right.  Like that will happen.


Login or register to post comments by rosebud
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:02

I’m still trying to figure out how they get the camera all the way up from your ctrotch to your brain along with the toolkit?

Login or register to post comments by HerbieHandcock
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:02

To the morons at Zero hedge who keep beating this anti-HFT non-sense drumbeat.

You can’t make money just bidding stocks up and making money on rebate.  This is absolute drivel.  The cost to provide liquidity is always less than the cost to take.  This is true for professionals, high frequency traders, and retail investors alike.  For example, if you provide liquidiy, you might earn a rebate of 1/5 of a penny, but if you take, it will cost you 2/5 of a penny.  Since high frequency traders and other professionals are almost always hedging their trades, the true cost of a trade must account for both the liquidity rebate, AND the cost of removing liquidity on the hedge side of the trade.  This is dead simple and obvious to any professional trader.  The fact that zero hedge keeps trotting out this horse shit is a clear sign this site is more spin than fact.  I actually used to consider this site a source of  research.  And while I still do value the research posted here by other firms, the actual postings by this site staff are mostly over-spun, non-factual book-talking bullshit.  I still read it for the same reasons I watch Cramer, to see what the idiots are thinking.

Login or register to post comments by trav7777
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:15

STFU, you idiot.

there is no hedging in HFT, they don’t HOLD positions!

If they do not succeed in capturing an arb, they cancel.

Only morons think HFTs are doing what “traders” do, which is trying to ride some kind of dipshit momo or something.

People are acting like HFT is some kind of quant fucking rocket science.  It’s NOT.  It’s H F.  The object is to use machines like a 3rd world bazaar vendor and get in front of a real bid or ask (mark), close, and flip for a profit, before any of the other street leeches can.

most of the 60M piece was a lie – there are no mathematical models necessary for this.  Speed matters.  Whoever can see the order flow and process it the fastest can find mismatches in B/A before the exchange can.

HFT is computerized fucking house flippers.

Login or register to post comments by SayItAintSo
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:02

Best quote from the Chief Operating Officer of the NYSE:  “Most long term investors don’t care about pennies, b/c they are in it for the long haul”


Did this guy just ADMIT TO STEALING PENNIES??? 

Login or register to post comments by trav7777
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:08

YES HE DID.  The freakin little semite ADMITTED that his industry is in the business of a CON where they just don’t steal so much from any individual that any individual feels victimized.

This is what HFT is built to do, steal pennies tens of millions of times.

Login or register to post comments by George Costanza
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:04

over time, the logic in the algos will synchronize, so they do the same thing at the same time, like on Flash Crash day.  There is no doubt that the programs will all sell at the same time.  The algos are 70% of the market and they will run and hide.  Equities could go down 25% to 50% in one day. The worst part is, if we try to buy stocks, our trades could be busted – that is the ultimate fraud in the market.

Login or register to post comments by trav7777
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:05

HFT ate the liquidity providers by frontrunning and arbing their algos to take their marketmaker rebates.  What used to be a utility-style profit margin to make markets got cannibalized by HFT.

the only reason a HFT bot would buy a stock is if it KNOWS that there is a bid elsewhere for more.  In fact, they will monitor the orderflow and buy and sell before your bid can even hit.

They rationalize by saying, the average retail guy doesn’t care about a few pennies here or there – this was IN the 60M piece and is an ADMISSION that they are stealing.  So, let’s run with that.  Many scams are in the folklore about people going into bank accounts and chopping off the pennies or fractions of pennies.  Nobody at an individual level cares about $.004, right?  So it’s OK if you steal that from 10M people and route it to your own account?

This is CLEARLY fucking stealing, is a crime, and has been prosecuted.

The notion that HFT works like a daytrader trying to spot “trends” and shit is absurd.  These freaking algos have positions with lifespans measured in milliseconds.  Their sole purpose is to find somewhere in the order stream where there’s a B/A mismatch and get to both sides before anyone else can and capture the delta before NBBO or the exchange can even know it’s there.  And, if the delta goes away before they can execute, they cancel.

they put up stub quotes and they can yank them down if they see ANYONE trying to hit their bid or ask, before the orders can even be filled.  The entire fucking industry is a SCAM OPERATION.

The main pushback the HFT industry gives to material inhibition of this fraud is that “it will be impossible for us to make money.”

Login or register to post comments by Bob
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:19

Hell yes–tell it, brutha!

Login or register to post comments by Bill Lumbergh
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:06

Good one:

“Make people feel like this is the place I can trust my retirement savings to.”

After the whole system blows up and we start fresh maybe then we can discuss that angle.

Login or register to post comments by Jake Green
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:09

How many sheeple watched this episode and said, “How can I get in on that?”

No one admits it, but everyone is selfish.

Login or register to post comments by liberal sodomy
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:10

These hindus “trade” like they “drive”.  Ever seen a road in mumbai?  it explains a lot.

Login or register to post comments by buzzsaw99
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:11

You mean someone is front running me when I trade 100 share blocks of C? I am shocked. Here I did all this reaseach to try and find some fundamental value in this market and someone is riding my coattails. lololololololol

Login or register to post comments by John McCloy
on Mon, 10/11/2010 – 11:17

I tuned in specifically to watch this piece. I especially found it cute to find out how NYSE leases out space to the HFT box owners so their program can cheat those not in such close proximity. I had no idea that was occuring.

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