Stop the High Frequency Game: Bring Back the Uptick Rule

August 30th, 2011
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When the Dow crashed 514 points on August 8, the market lost a staggering $850 billion in market capitalization. High frequency traders were possibly responsible for half of this move, but generated a mere $65 million in profits, some 7/1,000’s of a percent of the total loss. Are market authorities and regulators being penny wise, but pound foolish?

The carnage the hedge fund traders are causing is triggering a rising cry from market participants to ban the despised strategy. Many are calling for the return of the “short sale test tick rule”, or SEC Rule 17 CFR 240.10a-1, otherwise known as the “uptick rule”, which permits traders to execute short sales only if the previous trade caused an uptick in prices. The rule was created eons ago to prevent the sort of cascading, snowballing selling that we are seeing today. It was repealed on July 6, 2007. Check out a chart of the volatility that ensued and it will make your hair raise on the back of your neck.

Those unfamiliar with how algorithmic trading works see it as something akin to illegal front running. “Co-location” of mainframes with exchange computers, or having them in adjacent rooms, gives them another head start over the rest of us. Much of the trading sees hedge fund traders battling each other, and involves what used to be called “spoofing”, the placing of large, out of the market orders with no intention of execution. Needless to say, if you or I tried any of these shenanigans, the SEC would lock us up in the can so fast it would make your head spin.

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CalPERS
Renaissance Technologies Corporation
Related People: Jim Simons
Related Entities: California Public Employees' Retirement System; CalPERS Equities; CalPERS Investments; Medallion; Nova; Renaissance Institutional Equities Funds; Renaissance Institutional Management LLC; Renaissance Technologies LLC; Rentec
Related Article Tags: Investment Management, Fund Manager and General Financial News


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