The Day the Free Market Died

Thursday, May 13, 2010
By Paul Martin

by Christopher M. Quigley B.Sc., M.M.I.I., M.A.
FinancialSense.com
May 13, 2010

Following quite a number of requests this note deals with my understanding of what transpired last Thursday the 6th. May when just after 2.30 PM the Dow Industrials collapsed by nearly 10% and then suddenly recovered in 11 minutes. The implications of what occurred are far reaching and unless the regulatory issues are resolved we can expect similar “events” of like nature.

In the main to comprehend the evolving situation in the “Market” one must realise that there are now many markets. In the good old days, in America, all we had was the New York Stock Exchange where real people dealt with real market makers in real time. But computers in general and the internet in particular have changed all that. Now in addition to the NYSE “public market” we have the (OTC) Over the Counter Market. The OTC is basically a private market between banks and large institutions which has little or no active supervision. I find this development strange because the trading activity on the OTC is 60 trillion dollars annually, while turnover on the public market is 5 trillion. Now in addition to public markets and private markets let us now bring “Dark Pools” into our explanation.

“Dark Pools” What are they ? ” Dark pools of liquidity” are crossing networks that provide liquidity that is not displayed on order books. This situation is highly advantageous for institutions that wish to trade very large numbers of shares without showing their hand. Dark liquidity pools thus offer institutions many of the efficiencies associated with trading on the exchanges’ public limit order books but without showing their actions to other parties. This is achieved because neither the price nor the identity of the trading entity needs to be displayed. Many of the OTC “exchanges “used by the dark pools use high frequency trading programmes to minimise order size and maximise order execution. Now you may think that this manner of doing business on the “stock market” is carried out by minor unknown entities but this is not the case. Below I list the Independent dark pools, the broker-dealer dark pools and exchange-owned dark pools that we currently know about.

Independent dark pools: Instinet, Smartpool, Posit, Liquidnet, Nyfix, Pulse Trading, RiverCross and Pipeline Trading.

Broker-dealer dark pools: BNP Paribas, Bank of New York Mellon, Citi, Credit Suisse, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, Knight Capital, Deutsch Bank, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, USB, Ballista ATS, BlocSec and Bloomberg.

Exchange-owned dark pools: International Securities Exchange, NYSE Euronext, BATS Trading and Direct Edge.

The Rest…HERE

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