Thursday, October 25, 2012

Waiting Game

This is the account that I will start my quest for a 10% return over one year. It has remain dormant for the past few months after I quit from the trading arcade. My fast TT trading platform plus stable Internet lease line is still very very slow compared to the co-location of the Algo machines beside the Exchanges. No more calender spread trading, arbitrating and scalping, the machines have replaced these manual specialist traders.

This account bring back fond memories of my glorious days as a floor trader, it's not uncommon for floor traders to make 100% return a month as the brokers offered us up to 4 times the Exchange margin for short term trading like scalping or spreading. The machines have taken over these roles, they are so fast that sometimes I had my trade filled without even realizing it. It's time for me to move on. I have lost my edge in short term trading.

I have not put on any trade so far, training my patience, no hurry, I have got a year to do so which in the past, it would have taken me just a day for a 10% return. Now I am back to earth, learning again how to trade longer term. It won't be easy even for such a miserable return, what a joke! Where is the confidence? Where is the passion? It has faded away.

The account is mostly in Sing dollar, thus trading other currency contracts would incur interest on margin holding them. The most appropriate contract would then be the Simsci which is in Sing dollar. At the price of 3470 currently trading, one Simsci nominal contract value would be S$69,400 giving me some leverage over the roughly S$45,000 capital base.

It's unfortunate that the Simsci options contract failed to take off, or else it would be good to write the call option to get some passive income hedging against a long position.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Power of Consciousness

One of my student send me this link,

Probably it will help you change the way you think.

Napoleon Hill inspired me with his book "Think and Grow Rich" when I was still struggling as a lowly paid bank employee. Think positive, you will be able to overcome all obstacles in your life with the right mental attitude.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Challenging myself

After some consideration, I have decided not to post the daily trading results of trader FAT8023 on a regular basis, as his performance is by far mediocre and nothing much we can learn from him. Probably will mention some of his trades once in a while.

Looking at the daily S&P cash chart, there is high possibility that the market will head further south for the time being, any retracement offer good opportunity to go short.

What is consider good return for our money?  The world financial system is flush with cheap money from irresponsible governments that keep printing money. With such low interest rate of less than 1% from a Fixed Deposit account and high Inflation rate, our money is gradually being devalued. The prices of everything from houses, cars, food, drinks, etc have increased tremendously over the past few years.

Going into semi retirement from active trading, I am looking into how best I can perform for a decent return from taking longer term position trading. Recent corporate bonds yield less than 4%, some even less than 3% and still being over subscribed. There is just too much money floating around looking for some safe return.

After some thought, I shall re-activate a dormant account and challenge myself for 10% return for a year. No stress, anything above 10% would be a bonus. It's going to be a patient game looking for the right contract and waiting for the right level for an entry. I will also use options to enhance the return.

Friday, October 12, 2012

7 Signs That You're Trading in the Danger Zone

From a friend who email this to me.

7 Signs That You're Trading in the Danger Zone

There are warning signs that a trader is going down the wrong road in a trade or in their trading in general. Traders have to go with the flow of the market, manage risk, and keep their mind open to actual price action. Departing from these principles are dangerous and could result in huge draw downs in capital and even blowing up their accounts. Trading through the filters of fear, greed, or ego are very dangerous.

1) You stop trading your plan and start “shooting from the hip” you are losing or winning so you believe that you are above your own rules, you start trading your opinions instead of your plan.

2) You are about to take a trade you are 100% sure of, you have no doubt that it will work out. Trades that feel good to do and feel like can’t lose trades rarely win because everyone is already positioned in those trades.

3) When you ignore your first stop and start deciding that you should give your trade “more room”, when you allow a loss to grow and rationalize why you should hold it instead of following your plan and stopping out you are in trouble.

4) Averaging down in a position that is going against you is never a good idea, fighting trends are very dangerous amplifying your losses by increasing your position size can be fatal to your account.

5) Fighting against the prevailing market trend over an over again can chop your account to pieces.

6) When losing, you start trading bigger and bigger to get back to even. When you are losing you should start trading smaller and smaller to decrease losses.

7) When you actually disagree with the market and believe it is wrong and you are right. Price is reality wherever it is, your job is to trade trend and price action not your own opinion.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Interview with a High-Frequency Trading Expert

Below is an article sent to me by a good friend which I would like to share.
High-frequency trading (HFT) – wherein computers transact thousands of
times per second with incomprehensible speed – now accounts for over 60%
of all trades on American exchanges. How does this sweeping market change
affect retail investors?

There are two very different answers to that question. Supporters claim that
high-frequency traders (HFTs) are a net-positive market force because they
provide liquidity and tighten bid-ask spreads. They say that high-frequency
trading is rarely if ever used for nefarious purposes, and regulators make sure
of it.

On the other side, detractors claim that HFTs regularly manipulate unaware
investors and otherwise destabilize markets. They say that HFTs are a net-negative
force on the market and should be reined in.

The answer surely lies somewhere in between. But which is closer to the
truth? To find out, we talked to Garrett, an expert on market systems and
high-frequency trading. Having experienced first-hand the problems HFTs can
cause, he fits firmly in the “detractor” camp, for reasons you’ll read below.

Garrett gave us excellent insight into how HFTs profit, along with tips on how
to make sure they don’t profit at your expense.
I found this interview highly educational, and I hope you do too. It contains the
kind of inside intelligence that separates the informed from the uninformed
and allows us as individual investors to understand and adapt to our changing

The Casey Report

Hello Garrett, and thanks for taking the time to chat with us. First, can you tell us your back-story and explain how you got into highfrequency trading and real-time trading research?


Sure. I worked for an asset management firm as a portfolio manager’s assistant. We used traditional fundamental analysis to calculate company prices. Beginning with the July 2011 crash, our strategy no longer seemed to be working. We lost a lot of our clients’ money – nearly 40%. It was brutal.
During that same time, I started to notice odd price movements on my charts,
ones that I had never seen before. Prices would randomly spike in amounts
and directions that made no sense. When I dug deeper, I realized the
movements were too fast and too uniform to be human. Computers caused
My bosses didn’t understand this, and didn’t want to. I couldn’t raise my
concerns because of the old-school culture of the firm. But that refusal to
acknowledge the new reality – that computers were increasingly driving the
market – was leaving my firm at an enormous competitive disadvantage.
Essentially, the market was changing, and we weren’t adapting.
I began to study high-frequency trading on my own. I started by following a
few professionals who were sounding the alarm, trying to alert investors that
the game has changed. My favorite sources were (and are) Themis Trading
and Nanex.

Eventually, I narrowed my focus to study the market micro-structure – which is
basically what happens to orders after you click the “buy” or “sell” button on
your brokerage platform. That’s where all the action is, and it’s where you can
see exactly what the HFTs are doing.

I came to the conclusion that, because of HFTs, our markets are broken and
fragmented. I left my old firm in mid-December, took my own money and
started running my own shop, based on this premise. My strategy uses
software to exploit the dislocations caused by HFT.

TCR: What made you think that high-frequency trading was behind those
strange price movements you were seeing?

GARRETT: For one, the movement didn’t look like anything I’d seen in the
past. It didn’t match human action. It was too fast, too consistent.
Anomalies would randomly pop up on my screen. A particular stock would
drop 10% in one second, then run right back up a second later. I asked
colleagues what these movements were and where they were coming from,
but no one had an answer. Even the shortest-term charts, in which every data
point represents one second and the data is extremely granular (or so I
thought) didn’t yield any answers.

Eventually, through my own research, I realized that there was something
more going on inside these one-second data points - something you can’t see
on a standard chart. That’s where the HFTs operate – in milliseconds.

TCR: So you’ve made a career of exploiting the dislocations caused by HFTs.
What’s your answer to the question on everyone’s mind: does high-frequency
trading affect the average retail investor?

GARRETT: Absolutely, although the impact varies based on what type of
investor you are. For a shortterm trader, someone who makes many trades
per month, the effects are huge.

I think the best way to understand HFT’s impact on you is to understand its
advantages over you. There are three major ones.

One, HFTs have better access to the market. They have what we call direct
access, which means they don’t have to go through a broker to execute their
trades. When you place an order with, say, Scottrade, Scottrade will choose
which exchange the order goes to, and they’re going to execute the order
where it’s best for them. They’re going to buy it at the best price they can and
then sell it to you.

HFTs, on the other hand, can choose the exchange that they want to trade on.
They can look at all the prices for a given stock on all of the exchanges and
make their own decision, rather than having a broker make it for them.

Two, HFTs obviously have a major speed advantage over other investors.
They glean this advantage in many ways: by putting their servers right next to
the exchanges’ servers, by using very sophisticated equipment, and also
simply by virtue of programming a computer to act on pre-set instructions,
which it can do much, much faster than a human ever could.

Third, the best HFTs have an impeccable understanding of the market microstructure: what happens after you submit an order to your broker? Where
does your order go, how is it executed, how are orders prioritized? HFTs are
experts on this, but very few retail investors even understand the basics.

TCR: It sounds like the average investor is seriously outgunned. But what
about a retail investor with a longer timeframe who only makes 1-2 trades a
month? Does he need to worry about high-frequency trading?

GARRETT: HFT affects all investors to an extent, because stocks are now
priced differently than in the past. The market used to consist mostly of
investors analyzing cash flows and balance sheets, trying to calculate a
company’s fair value. HFTs, on the other hand, react to movements in stock
prices alone. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but since HFTs are
responsible for two-thirds of the trading volume, we have the strange situation
where they can set the price based on what they perceive others’ perceptions
to be.

Also, even long-term investors have to enter and exit their trades at some
point, which is where the most risk is. You might enter the trade when the
computers are doing their trending movements and inadvertently buy at a

TCR: What are trending movements?

GARRETT: Trending movements are when an HFT deliberately moves a
stock price up or down for its own benefit. For example, a computer can
submit an overwhelming number of sell orders, knock the price of a stock
down a few percentage points, then buy the stock back cheaply.

TCR: That sounds like overt manipulation.

GARRETT: It is, which is why investors need to understand how to protect
themselves. One of the most important tips I can give you is to never enter
stop-losses into the market. There are algos designed to sniff out stop-losses
and manipulate them against you.

I’ve seen this many times: prices drop 2-4%, clear out stop-losses, then run
up for substantial profits. So the poor retail investor gets his stop-loss tripped
and sells on the cheap to an HFT, whereas the HFT buys cheap and profits
once the price ramps back up.

TCR: Do HFTs target smaller or illiquid stocks because their prices are easier
to move?

GARRETT: Sometimes, but I wouldn’t make that generalization.
Counterintuitively, many HFTs target the most liquid stocks.

TCR: So what are some other ways that HFT shops make money?

GARRETT: There are many different strategies. Some take advantage of
rebates, which are financial incentives the exchanges offer for being a marketmaker.

Here’s where I should clarify that not all HFTs are bad. I’m very sour on HFTs
in general because I’ve seen the havoc they can wreak, but there are good
ones. Market-makers increase liquidity and make the markets more efficient.
That’s great. There are good HFTs.

Some HFTs try to read and process the news quicker than everyone else.
There are algorithms designed to read newspaper headlines, search for key
words and execute trades based on what they read, all in seconds or less. I
wouldn’t say this is particularly nefarious, because the HFTs in this case are
just doing what humans do – trading the news – but faster.

That said, it can create problems. Awhile back, there was an errant news
release about Boeing going bankrupt, and the HFTs started selling because
they saw the keywords “bankruptcy” and “Boeing.” The story turned out to be
an error.

In that situation, most human traders would pause and think, “Wait a minute,
I’ve never heard a thing about Boeing going bankrupt. What’s going on here?”
But the computers don’t think. They just execute their instructions, and in this
case, it caused a crash.

Then there are the manipulative algorithms, the ones that prey on other

TCR: Can you give us an example?

GARRETT: Sure. Many HFTs will make near-simultaneous trades on different
exchanges and profit because of the delay in one of the exchanges. An
example will help me explain: let’s use the NASDAQ and EDGE exchanges,
and say that ABC stock is trading at $1.00.

The HFT will send a bunch of quotes (offers) to NASDAQ and EDGE, trying to
sell ABC stock at $1.01. Once the NASDAQ order is accepted, the HFT can
simultaneously cancel the $1.01 sell order on the EDGE exchange and
replace it with a buy order at the original price of $1.00. EDGE immediately
accepts that $1.00 order, because its system has not caught up to the new
price of $1.01, and the HFT’s net position becomes zero.

This is possible because of latency, which is jargon for delay in the system.
The net result is, the HFT captures a $0.01 arbitrage.

By scalping this tiny amount from many trades, the profits add up quickly.

A second example: HFTs can model other traders’ behavior. When someone
trades through Scottrade or Interactive Brokers, their order has a unique
number attached to it – the same number every time a client places an order.
This number is bundled with all relevant trade information (time, price, etc.)
and sold as an encrypted “enhanced data feed.” An HFT can then use those
past results to predict the trader’s behavior.

TCR: So HFTs try to predict what you’re going to do before you do it. Do the
brokers admit to selling this information? Can traders opt out?

GARRETT: This data is standard and available to anyone who wants to buy it,
so it’s not that HFTs are purchasing illegal information. But the data set is
huge and is only of practical use to players with very fast and powerful
computers – meaning HFTs. And yes, most brokers I have encountered will
allow you to opt out of having your unique number attached to your information.

To be clear, I’m not saying HFTs track your individual account and literally
jump in front of you right before you trade. But they do use this information on
the aggregate to model traders’ behavior. So an HFT could have a very good
idea of when traders on, say, E*TRADE’s book will enter into a certain

TCR: Many defenders of HFT claim that it is a net-positive force in the market
because it provides much-needed liquidity and tightens the spread between
bid and ask. Are those claims true?

GARRETT: As I said earlier, there are many different HFTs that do many
different things. But in my experience, in the aggregate, both of those claims
are false. High-frequency trading will reduce liquidity when we need it most,
and will flood the system with nonsense at other times.

Case in point, computers regularly withdraw liquidity just before news
releases. Oil is a great example. The other day, there was a status report
scheduled at 10:30, and around 10:28-10:29, the buy orders on USO (United
States Oil Fund, an ETF that aims to track oil) dried up. That doesn’t happen
with human traders.

So anyone who wants to get out of USO before the news release is out of
luck; they can either take a bad price or wait until liquidity comes back.

Contrast that with the end of most trading days, when HFTs are unwinding
their positions; I actually turn my platforms off for the last 10 minutes of the
day because the action is confusing and useless. Sure, there’s plenty of
liquidity as the HFTs unwind, but the action is just nonsensical. There’s no
new information being introduced, no price discovery. It’s just scalping.

The whole liquidity argument is just a justification. On net, HFTs hurt liquidity
more than they help.

I also don’t buy the argument that HFTs keep the bid-and-ask spread tight.
I’ve seen algorithms that quote as far away from the NBBO as they are legally
allowed to.

TCR: Can you expand on that?

GARRETT: SEC rules say traders can quote up to 8% from what the National
Best Bid and Offer is, and they’re allowed to “drift” another 1.5%. So legally,
traders can trade 9.5% above or below the NBBO.

Well, there are algos that probe the market, starting by submitting an order
close to the NBBO, then working out to the fringes. These orders only last for
milliseconds – they are not intended to be hit, only to sniff out other traders’
orders. So the algo works its way out, trying to get a bite on a price further
away from the NBBO, and thus more favorable to them.

That is not a recipe for a tight spread. Now, the spread might look tight on
your screen, but when you actually go to fill an order, you won’t get it,
because the order has already been withdrawn.

Think of it like a dying star. When a star dies, we still see its light here on
Earth, because the light is still traveling to earth. When an HFT cancels an
order, your comparatively slow computer still sees the order for awhile. Then
you try to fill it and it’s “Sorry, that order no longer exists.”

TCR: So are the quotes on Google Finance or Yahoo Finance reliable?

GARRETT: They are reliable enough to use as a broad snapshot. But I would
not trade on them.

TCR: What markets are least affected by HFT?

GARRETT: I don’t know the answer to that. I see HFT the most in equities,
but that’s just because I trade equities. It’s also prevalent in futures and Forex.

Within equities, HFTs tend to focus heavily on ETFs. The manipulation is far
less in most individual stocks.

TCR: Good to know. What long-term effects do you see as a result of HFT?

GARRETT: I think the biggest issue is the erosion of trust. The markets are
becoming so difficult to understand, and there are so many predators, that I
think people will start to withdraw and place their money elsewhere.

When investors start to realize (a) they don’t know enough about the market,
and (b) the learning curve is so steep as to be almost unnavigable for
someone with a full-time job, they’ll start to take their money elsewhere.
Instead of the stock market, why not go to Then they can at
least invest money with someone in their community and actually know what’s
happening with their capital. Not to mention, it will probably get them a better

This is a little off topic, but dark pools are another example of shady market
practices. Dark pools are arrangements between large institutions to trade
blocks of shares among themselves. The problem is, these trades can only be
seen by the participants – you and I can’t see them. They occur outside the

Themis Trading did a white paper called the Phantom Indexes, and they found
that only 30% of all traded assets are traded on visible exchanges. Think
about that: it means that indexes – like the Dow and S&P 500 – are being
calculated with only 30% of actual volume. The majority of trades – 70% –
occurs in the dark and is not factored into the indices.

It’s a little bizarre if you ask me. I don’t understand why that’s allowed. But it’s
another example of market trust being whittled away. It won’t be easy to earn
it back.

TCR: So you think the average investor will begin to shun the stock market?

GARRETT: Yes, but I also think it’s possible that companies like PIMCO and
BlackRock create their own exchanges and compete to make things fairer for
their clients. That would be a viable alternative to our national exchanges,
which are losing credibility fast.

The federal exchanges have sold their character. Take co-location, for
example, which is when HFTs put their servers as close as possible to the
exchange to gain a speed advantage.

I understand that NASDAQ wants to make money by selling these spots. But
not everyone can be located directly next to the exchange. So Goldman buys
a co-located spot for millions of dollars, which is great for them, but not so
much for everyone else. Once again, the little guy gets bilked.

TCR: Do you think there will be regulatory responses? Might the government
ban HFT?

GARRETT: I don’t see how. The quicker players will always have an
advantage. There will always be traders located closer to the exchanges than
others. But there are some steps that would help.

One proposal that I like is to mark the orders that are designed to last for 250
milliseconds or less – the ones that are designed never to be filled. That way,
when I see an order on my screen, I’ll know if it’s a legitimate order or just a
computer trying to accomplish who knows what.

The thing is, the SEC already has rules against placing orders not intended to
be filled. Obviously, it doesn’t enforce them very well.

I think anything that would slow down the market a bit would help. That would
bring more humans back as a percentage of traders, which is a good thing.

TCR: What about a transaction tax?

GARRETT: That sounds like a sad excuse to raise revenue. It’s not going to
deter the big guys with the deep pockets. Once again, it would end up hurting
the little guys, who already pay much higher transaction costs.

As I’m sure you and your readers are well aware, raising the cost of doing
something doesn’t usually have the intended effect. The government has tried
to make it more expensive for people to get DWIs, guns and drugs. None of it
has worked.

If anything, a transaction tax will hurt the marginal players. The big, deep pocketed institutions would be fine with a tax. They might even welcome it.

Remember, it’s all about speed, and you’re not going to fill that gap by taxing
people. You’re only going to fill it by controlling the way information is
streamed. It needs to be slowed down.

TCR: Before we wrap up, can we recap and summarize how HFT affects the
individual investor and what he/she can do about it? From our conversation, I
count three broad types of manipulation.

The first occurs during the transaction, when you’re buying or selling a stock.
For example, an algo could use your stop-loss against you.

GARRETT: Yes. Keep stop-losses in your head, not entered into the market.

Also, we didn’t talk about this, and it should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway:
don’t place market orders unless you want to get shammed. If you place an
order and see the price is $15.60 on your screen, your order can be rerouted,
filled on a different exchange for, say, $15.65, and you just donated 5 cents a
share to an HFT.

TCR: We’ve always advised our readers to use limit orders, even before HFT.
Now it’s doubly important. The second major impact is that HFT actually
misprices stocks, meaning market prices are different than they would
otherwise be in the absence of computers.

GARRETT: Exactly. Fundamental investors used to dominate the market.
They would buy and sell based on companies’ results.

Today, HFTs outnumber humans in trade volume and thus are a stronger
force on prices. HFTs buy and sell based on what they perceive others’
perceptions to be, as quirky as that sounds. So instead of analyzing revenue
and expenses, computers analyze how other market participants act, and
trade accordingly.

TCR: It seems that normal investors can counteract this by investing for the
long term. HFTs create a lot of noise, trying to guess what other traders will
do. But ultimately, if a company is profiting, its stock will do well.

GARRETT: Precisely. You don’t want to get into a trading battle with them.
But if you have a long-time horizon, fundamental investing can still work.

TCR: Third, computers manipulate stock prices up and down, using the
movement to their advantage. This seems to be the most nefarious and
overtly manipulative. Is there any way to counteract it?

GARRETT: You can mitigate this risk by being patient with your orders. If you
enter a limit order and it isn’t hit in the first hour, don’t impatiently move it.
Stand your ground. That way, you can dictate the price you take, even in the
midst of all the HFT noise.

Also, HFTs love to manipulate ETFs, much more so than individual stocks. So
that’s something to keep in mind.

TCR: Great. Anything else?

GARRETT: I do want to add one more thing: talking to you about this actually
hurts my trading system in the long run, but truthfully, my strategy of exploiting
dislocations shouldn’t exist. For all I know, I’m taking money from my parents’
retirement fund because their financial advisor doesn’t understand what he’s
doing. I want my kid to be able to invest legitimately when he’s older. Pillaging
unsophisticated investors is bad for everyone in the long run, so I want this
information out in the open.

TCR: Well, this has been a very educational discussion, so mission
accomplished. Thank you very much for speaking with us today.

GARRETT: My pleasure.
An expert on market micro-structure, Garrett leverages his vast knowledge of
stock exchanges to build trading 

The Dirty Tactic Of HFTs

Below is a link on how HFTs took advantage of their speed to slows down the quote feed to others.

To regulate HFT, S.E.C. turns to one of them.

Is that Cheating?

HFTs can get away with murder at the moment, Exchanges welcome them as they provide huge growth to the trading volume, giving them fantastic volume rebates as well as the edge in the speed of execution.

Of course there are still traders like Coconut who are still able to stand up to the HFTs, my respect to them.

As for my beloved Simsci and Tw contracts, HFTs have murdered many of my fellow traders there, some too slow to run away and the rest stubbornly stayed on to fight the monsters.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fat8023 Week 7

Following 2 more bad trades, trader start questioning his own strategy.  Confidence is shaken, no doubt. Despite having performed well in the past one year trading his own mini account, trader just have a certain mental block trading a friends account, extra careful and fear set in.

Of course, he understood my concern over averaging on bad trades, thus he was unable to execute his strategy. From those trades he had taken, there was a tendency to pick top and bottom based on short term indicators for day trading. His stop was too far away and he didn't ride the profit far enough on those good trades. I told him that's a recipe for disaster.