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High Speed Trading Under Scrutiny

High Speed Trading Under Scrutiny High Speed Trading Under Scrutiny

Financial stability of the markets is under scrutiny of the Financial Stability Oversight Council - a multi-agency panel charged with identifying risks to the economy to Congress - regarding high-speed computerized trading, money-market funds and bank vulnerabilities in today’s low-interest rate environment. The FSOC is considering a formal recommendation that the Securities and Exchange Commission take action to impose tougher rules on money-funds. Top SEC officials say reform of the industry, considered by many to be systemically risky, is at the top of their agenda, a result of pressure from the FSOC. The impact of computerized high-speed trading and expansion of dark pools - trading systems not openly available to the public where buyers and sellers submit orders anonymously - will be the focus of the FSOC pertaining to the systemic market structure issues. Additional risks to be reviewed by the FSOC in the report, risks associated with mortgage REITs, money-market funds and large financial institutions. Publicly traded mortgage REITs include American Capital Agency (AGNC), Annaly Capital Management (NLY) and Newcastle Investment Corp. (NCT). Top money-market fund providers include Charles Schwab (SCHW), Federated Investors (FII) and Goldman Sachs. The left-leaning advocacy group Americans for Financial Reform policy director Marcus Stanley said the report from FSOC is likely to focus on concerns that financial institutions are having a tough time managing risk in today’s low-interest rate environment. Incentives to reach further for yields and get into more exotic products, is a result of the current low interest rate environment. The report is expected to look closer at riskier products such as high-yield bonds, leveraged loans and mortgage REITs, Stanley said. Exit strategies for institutions will be under review by the council, for the time when interest rates finally do rise. “How will they sell off bonds in a way that you don’t see bond prices drop across the board, driving a disorderly rush for the exit in the bond market?” Stanley asked. Some firms, in addition to banks that are systemically risky, will be designated by the council and subject to gradually increasing capital levels, lower leverage limits and more liquidity. These potentially designated firms may consist of the following: American International Group (AIG), BlackRock (BK), GE Financial, a unit of General Electric (GE), Pimco, a unit of Allianz (DE:ALV) and Prudential (PRU). The report from the FSOC is also likely to discuss the issue of whether U.S. banks also should hold a form of so-called “contingent capital" - a special kind of capital that would act like a bond in good times but convert automatically into loss-mitigating common equity in a crisis. The form of capital, also known as “bail-in capital,” would force the institution to give itself an injection of common equity during a crisis, thereby potentially avoiding the need for a taxpayer funded capital infusion.

Chicago Board Options Exchange opening was delayed on Thursday due to system problems. Several plans to reopen were cancelled, as the problems continued for CBOE. The outage meant that two critical tools for hedging stock-market risk - options on the S&P and VIX indexes -were unavailable to banks, institutions and trading firms for much of Thursday morning. CBOE delayed opening affected floor and electronic trading and caused business in options on key market indexes including the CBOE Volatility Index - the VIX - and options on the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, to be postponed.

Many sophisticated computers associated with automated or algorithmic trading, react to a host of words or terms that activate alerts for trading, by scanning news streams and social media then, proceed to initiate buy or sell actions in a matter of nano seconds. Computers at the office of the Associated Press sprang into action when the words “explosions” and “White House” popped up, on Tuesday, from its Twitter account. Moments later, the AP posted a rebuttal saying the Twitter post was a hoax and that their Twitter account had been hacked. Dataminr, a firm founded in 2009, located in New York City specializes in extraction of valuable data from social media for clients in finance and government sectors. On Tuesday, after the alert was released from the AP's Twitter account, computers at Dataminr quickly submitted alerts to their clients, informing them that the news may not be legitimate. Dataminr’s computer algorithms noticed quickly that there was no corroboration in the story and, alerted customers to another tweet from a reporter at the White House, confirming the report appeared to be a false alarm. Ted Bailey, chief executive and founder of Dataminr said the recent decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission to allow companies to release material information via Twitter had “legitimized” the strategy. Bailey said the firm is “making a lot of headwind” with large hedge funds and government clients. Dataminr’s program works by processing hundreds of millions of daily tweets, to find credible and actionable information that they share with clients. Important variables including influence of the user, geographical location the tweet is sent from and how tweets are clustered together. The firm has developed a broad suite of modular desktop and API products that transform social media streams into actionable signals. Dataminr's strategic partnership with Twitter includes real-time access to the full Twitter 'Firehose' of Public Tweets. The Firehose returns all public tweets, consisting of billions each month. The firm was recently selected as a Certified Product at the launch of Twitter's new Certified Products Program.

U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday that the number of people who applied for new unemployment benefits last week fell by 16,000 to 339,000, marking the lowest level in a month and a half. The average of new claims over the past month - which smoothes out weekly volatility - dropped by 4,500 to 357,500 to the lowest level in three weeks. In the week ended April 13, continuing jobless claims decreased by 90,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.0 million.


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April 25, 2013


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