High-frequency traders (HFTs) are characterized by their use of sophisticated and incredibly fast computers to trade securities like stocks, options, and even currencies. They usually use algorithms to analyze market data and enter their orders. HFTs profit from their speed and small but consistent profits.
Aside from helping major hedge fund firms, HFTs also benefit other traders as the rush of orders provide liquidity to the markets.
The problem starts when these same features start to disrupt and destabilize the markets.
For example, HFTs supposedly practice “flash trading” where they see orders milliseconds before the other market players do. And for computers that trigger orders with hyperspeed, milliseconds are all they need to make profits.
Another popular claim against HFTs is “quote stuffing,” or the practice of flooding the market with orders and then immediately canceling them. This confuses other market players into thinking that there is activity and demand in the currency pair.
Last but definitely not least, other market players hold a grudge against HFTs for their statistical arbitrage advantage. Apparently, HFTs capitalize on sudden discrepancies in the forex market. For example, HFTs can profit from a release of a news report in the U.K. milliseconds before it even reaches New York’s trading platforms.
But other market participants aren’t taking this lying down. To better understand price action and combat HFTs, old-school traders are using new tools and questioning prices they receive. Through such actions, they’re hoping to bring back trust and stability into the forex markets.
A few investment banks have joined the fight against HFTs by offering new trading platforms, such as Tradition’s traFXpure, that aim to put an end to market manipulation and high frequency trading.
As a matter of fact, five banks have already signed on to support traFXpure, which claims to nullify high frequency traders’ speed advantage over manual traders.
Even FXCM is taking action against HFTs. Last month, it announced that it’ll be teaming up with Credit Suisse to roll out FastMatch. This new forex trading platform is expected bring “the speed and transparency of equities trading” to the forex world to give manual traders a fighting chance against HFTs.
It’s clear that high-frequency trading, which was once considered the future of trading, is receiving a lot of flak from other market players. Many are worried that these HFTs could take over the markets.
But while we can’t say for certain whether the market will eventually fall into the hands of HFTs, for now at least, it seems that manual traders are fighting back.