• Does Human Trading Matter?

    From Monsters in the Market, by Timothy Lavin (The Atlantic, July/August 2010):

    Algorithms like Dagger can exploit the smallest inefficiencies in the market. They can parse trades in millionths of a second. Some species can detect other algos embarking on predictable trading strategies, and ruthlessly adjust their techniques. …

    By some estimates, algorithms now trigger 70 percent of all trades in U.S. equities. The speed and volume of everyday trading have propelled the market into a new and esoteric dimension, and rendered traders in the pits largely obsolete. …

    At least a few high-frequency traders have learned to make a killing by detecting the more simplistic algo strategies deployed by basic pension funds and mutual funds, buying the next stock the funds plan to buy, and then selling it to them at a higher price. …

    If the majority of trades racing back and forth are simply lines of code swapping with other lines of code, moved by indicators obscure to even the mortal authors of the algorithms themselves, what exactly is the financial market? “The market structure’s totally changed, and it’s distorted what we do,” says Joe Saluzzi, the co-head of equities trading at Themis Trading and a vocal opponent of some high-frequency strategies. “The machine thinks for itself.”

    I don’t have much to say, just this question: in the trading world, do humans still matter?

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