JP Morgan Launches New High Frequency Trading Algorithm

Dr. Joseph P. Farrell Ph.D.
August 9, 2017

The disconnect between genuine human market activity and that created by machines proceeds apace, for JP Morgan has just launched a new algorithmic high frequency trading algorithm, as this article from Zero Hedge, spotted and shared by Mr. B.H., states:

JPM Develops A.I. Robot To Execute High Speed Trades, Put Humans Out Of Work

The motivation, as usual, is the “bottom line,” and maximizing profits while minimizing costly (human) labor overhead:

In the latest victory for robot kind over humans, LOXM’s job will be to execute client orders with maximum speed at the best price, “using lessons it has learnt from billions of past trades — both real and simulated — to tackle problems such as how best to offload big equity stakes without moving market prices.”

In other words, one giant “big data” aggregator, using historical precedent to guide future decisions, which coming in a time when “this time it’s certainly different” for the broader stock market, could be a big mistake.

“Such customisation was previously implemented by humans, but now the AI machine is able to do it on a much larger and more efficient scale,” said David Fellah, of JPMorgan’s European Equity Quant Research team. Mr Ciment said that, so far, the European trials showed that the pricing achieved by LOXM was “significantly better” than its benchmark.

The development guarantees another round of downsizing among bank front offices as increasingly inefficient human traders are removes from the equation… and payroll. As the FT notes, investment banks have been increasingly using AI, automation and robotics to help cut costs and eliminate time-consuming routine work. “For example, UBS’s recent deployment of AI to deal with client post-trade allocation requests, which saves as much as 45 minutes of human labour per task. UBS has also brought in AI to help clients trade volatility.” (Italicized emphasis added)

It’s precisely that italicized phrase (which I have emphasized) that caught my attention in this article, as the reader might well imagine, for “tackling problems such as how best to offload big equity stakes without moving market prices” has been, I submit, one of the major problems with high frequency trading algorithms, as exemplified by the various “flash crashes” that occur from time to time, beginning with the infamous May 2010 flash crash. The problem, of course, has been that these algorithms can, and have, “run amok”, and caused market value of certain equities or commodities either to dramatically rise, or fall, within mere seconds, forcing shut downs of markets and price “resets,” as I have blogged here before. The problem, as I saw it then, and still see it, is that these “resets” are costly, and will inevitably involve humans and human activity, and that, of course, adds to overhead costs.

But now, supposedly, JP Morgan has waved a magic wand of code, and one can now “offload big equity stakes without moving market prices.” Let that one sink in for a moment… “big equity stakes” can be “offloaded” without any effect on market prices!?!?  Since when?!? The sentence, I submit, is a stunning admission of just how artificial, and unreal, these markets have become under trading algorithms. If prices are not affected by “offloading big equity stakes,” then one of the key mechanisms by which humans determine their investment decisions – the price of an equity itself within market movement – no longer is reflective of anything humanly real. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to invest my paltry $100 in a share of Twisted Trading Algorithm Partners, Inc.  when the price itself is being determined in part by an algorithm that will allow JP Morgan to dump, or buy, vast blocks of Twisted Trading (NASQUACK symbol, TT) without “moving market prices.” Yes, that means I’d personally really rather have human traders on a floor waving papers and shouting hysterically at each other to conclude trades. And yes, I’ll take a physical copy of that 1 share of Twisted Trading’s stock, thank you very much.

Thank goodness sanity reigns somewhere, for Zero Hedge captures my own concerns with the vast expansion of “dark pools” and high frequency trading algorithms:

PM also said it had no risk management issues with the technology. “The machine is restricted in its trading behaviour, as it learns under, and operates within, our general electronic trading risk framework, which is overseen by internal control groups and validated by regulators,” Mr Fellah said.

Of course, with such rapid propagation of technology among both stock investing and trade processing, it is only a matter of time before a “black hat” hack takes place, and sends trading – and markets – haywire. Which, incidentally, may be among the reasons for the concerted push: after all what better way to avoid blame for what is coming than to blame it on, who else, Russian hackers.(Italicized emphasis added)

There you have the problem clearly stated. And I cannot improve on it.

See you on the flip side…

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About Dr. Joseph P. Farrell

Joseph P. Farrell has a doctorate in patristics from the University of Oxford, and pursues research in physics, alternative history and science, and “strange stuff”. His book The Giza DeathStar, for which the Giza Community is named, was published in the spring of 2002, and was his first venture into “alternative history and science”.

The Latest Twist In HFT [High Frequency Trading]: Atomic Clocks

Dr. Joseph P. Farrell
July 11, 2016

Mr. J.K. shared this story with us, and I have to talk about it. In previous blogs I’ve talked about the growth of “dark pools” and HFT (high frequency trading) algorithms, where computers place trades on the stock markets and commodities markets, and a few pico seconds can mean whether a trade is placed or not, or whether a trade will be successful and profitable or not. Now, the latest twist, according to this article, is that atomic clocks are now to be brought into the picture:

Legendary Hedge Fund Wants to Use Atomic Clocks to Beat High-Speed Traders

Yes, that’s right, the rates of radioactive decay will be used to coordinate simultaneous trades in multiple markets:

The 16-page document was quietly published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in February. Replete with schematic drawings, the filing describes a novel way for “executing synchronized trades in multiple exchanges.” The invention consists of not only sophisticated algorithms and a host of computer servers, but atomic clocks — precisely calibrated to vibrations of irradiated cesium atoms — to sync orders to within a few billionths of a second.

And if it works as advertised, one of the most illustrious names in the hedge-fund business could gain exclusive U.S. rights to a weapon capable of thwarting even the most predatory of high-speed traders.

The application belongs to Renaissance Technologies, the ultra-secretive and highly profitable $32 billion firm founded by mathematician and former code breaker Jim Simons. And the lengths it’s been willing to go to build and patent its own computer-driven technology — at a potential cost of tens of millions of dollars — underscores just how big a threat high-frequency traders have become to the industry’s largest and savviest players.

As you might expect, I simply cannot resist some high octane speculation – or in this case, really way-out-there-in-orbit speculations – about this story. In the past, I’ve pointed out that HFT really is a kind of trading that is no longer reflective of genuinely human markets. After all, the 2010 Flash Crash showed us what can happen when a computer “goes rogue” and places trades that can literally drive down or pump up a stock or even whole blocs of stocks with no real reflection of their market value (AI anyone?). And for those wanting “the nightmare” scenario, think of that episode from the CBS television series Person of Interest, where a malevolent AI literally crashes the New York Stock Exchange, then miraculously shuts down its trades just before the NYSE’s “failsafe” systems kick in to suspend trading. And if you really want to speculate wildly, remember all those stories of UFOs shutting down, or worse, turning on, ICBMs in their silos and beginning the launch countdown. ETs, or AIs, take your pick, the bottom line is that HFTs provoke the philosophical debate not only of how secure digital systems are, and how well, or poorly, they reflect genuine market value and trades.

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Joseph P. Farrell has a doctorate in patristics from the University of Oxford, and pursues research in physics, alternative history and science, and “strange stuff”. His book The Giza DeathStar, for which the Giza Community is named, was published in the spring of 2002, and was his first venture into “alternative history and science”.