Home » Market Structure » “This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”

“This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”

Felix Salmon, Reuters, Don’t cry for “the little guy on Wall Street”, here.

This happens every time something goes wrong on the stock market — every time there’s a flash crash, or a high-frequency trading firm blows up, or the Nasdaq is forced to go dark for three hours. A bunch of editors who don’t really know anything about HFT ask for stories about it, and they all want the same thing: a tale of how a small group of high-speed trading shops, armed with state-of-the-art computers, are using their artificial information advantage, and their lightning-fast speed, to extract enormous rents from the little guy.

The result is a spate of stories like Rob Curran’s latest piece for Fortune, which appears under the headline “Make $377,000 trading Apple in one day”. Of course, there are lots of ways to do that: one way would be to buy about 77,000 shares of Apple, for $37.7 million, and then watch them rise by 1%. But Curran reckons he’s found a better way — indeed, an easy profit which involves no risk at all. What’s more, this method is particularly evil, since apparently all of the profits that it generates are coming straight out of your pocket.

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