Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Next Financial Crisis Is Already Here! John Lewis 99% Profits CRASH - Retail Sector Collapse - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Why Is Apple Giving This Tiny Stock A $900 Million Opportunity? - James Burgess
3.Gold Price Trend Analysis - - Nadeem_Walayatt
4.The Beginning of the End of the Dollar - Richard_Mills
5.Stock Market Trend Forecast Update - - Nadeem_Walayat
6.Hindenburg Omen & Consumer Confidence: More Signs of Stock Market Trouble in 2019 - Troy_Bombardia
7.Precious Metals Sector: It’s 2013 All Over Again - P_Radomski_CFA
8.Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk - Ellen_Brown
9.Gold Stocks Forced Capitulation - Zeal_LLC
10.The Post Bubble Market Contraction Thesis Receives Validation - Plunger
Last 7 days
Next Tory Leader, Prime Minister Forecast and Betting Market Odds - 18th Nov 18
The Fed's Misleading Money Supply Measures - 17th Nov 18
Stock Market Outlook: Why the Economy is Bullish for Stocks Going into 2019 - 17th Nov 18
NO DEAL HARD BrExit Tory Chaos, Theresa May Leadership Challenge - 17th Nov 18
Gold vs Several Key Investments - 17th Nov 18
GDX Gold Mining Stocks Q3 18 Fundamentals - 17th Nov 18
Is Gold Under or Overpriced? - 17th Nov 18
Active Managers are Bearish on Stocks. A Bullish Contrarian Sign - 16th Nov 18
Will The Fed Sacrifice Retirement Portfolio Values For The "Common Good"? - 16th Nov 18
BrExit War - Tory Party About to Replace Theresa May for NO DEAL BrExit - 16th Nov 18
Aspire Global Makes Significant Financial Strides - 16th Nov 18
Gold Oil and Commodities …Back to the Future ? - 16th Nov 18
Will Oil Price Crash Lead to “Contagion” for the U.S. Stock Market? - 15th Nov 18
How NOT to Be Among the MANY Stock Investors Fooled by This Market Myth - 15th Nov 18
Tory BrExit Chaos Cripples UK Economy, Wrecks Housing Market Confidence - 15th Nov 18
Stocks Could End 2018 With A Dramatic Rally - 15th Nov 18
What Could Be the Last Nail in This Stock Bull Markets Coffin - 15th Nov 18
Defensive Stock Sectors Outperforming, Just Like During the Dot-com Bubble - 15th Nov 18
Buying Your First Home? Here’s How to Save Money - 15th Nov 18
US Economy Ten Points or Ten Miles to ‘Bridge Out’? - 14th Nov 18
US Stocks: Whither from Here? - 14th Nov 18
Know exactly when to Enter&Exit trades using this... - 14th Nov 18
Understanding the Benefits of Keeping a Trading Journal - 14th Nov 18
S&P 500 Below 2,800 Again, New Downtrend or Just Correction? - 13th Nov 18
Warning: Precious Metals’ Gold and Silver Prices are about to Collapse! - 13th Nov 18
Why the End of the Longest Crude Oil Bull Market Since 2008? - 13th Nov 18
Stock Market Counter-trend Rally Reaches .618 Retracement - 13th Nov 18
How to Create the Best Website Content and Generate Organic Traffic - 13th Nov 18
Why the Stock Market Will Pullback, Rally, and Roll Into a Bear Market - 13th Nov 18
Stock Markets Around the World are Crashing. What Not to Worry About? - 12th Nov 18
Cyclical Commodities Continue to Weaken, Gold Moves in Relation - 12th Nov 18
Olympus Tough TG-5 Camera Stuck or Dead Pixels, Rubbish Video Auto Focus - 12th Nov 18
5 Things That Precede Gold Price Major Bottoms - 12th Nov 18
Big US Stocks Q3 Fundamentals - 12th Nov 18
How "Free Money" Helped Create Sizzling Housing Market & REIT Gains - 12th Nov 18
One Direction More Likely for Bitcoin Price - 12th Nov 18
The Place of HSE Software in Today's Business - 12th Nov 18
Gold Asks: Are US Bonds Overvalued? - 11th Nov 18
Why the Stock Market Will Pullback Before Heading Higher - 11th Nov 18
GDX - Will you Buy This Hated Stock with Me? - 11th Nov 18
Christmas and Halloween LED Dynamic Projector Light Review - 11th Nov 18
Wall Street Veteran: Why I Don’t Lend to Family and Friends - 10th Nov 18
Stocks Breaking Higher, but Resistance Ahead - 10th Nov 18
Stock Market Was Supposed to “Crash Like 1987” - 10th Nov 18
SPX : The Incredibull Stock Market Plays On - 9th Nov 18
USD/CAD – The Moment of Truth Is Coming - 9th Nov 18
Is the Stock Market’s Rally “All Good To Go”? - 8th Nov 18
End in Sight for 'Unloved' Silver - 8th Nov 18
Outlook for Gold & Silver Precious Metals Sector is 'Positive' - 8th Nov 18
A Great Day for Metals as Platinum Price Breaks Out - 8th Nov 18
Future US Interest Rates, Financial Markets, and the FED - 8th Nov 18
Buying an Approved Used Land Rover From a Dealer - What You Need to Know! - 8th Nov 18

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Free Online Trading Session

Rise of the (Selling) Machines - Threat of Automated Trading to the Financial Markets

Stock-Markets / Financial Markets Mar 13, 2007 - 10:24 AM GMT

By: Michael_J_Panzner

Stock-Markets

In the popular 1984 film, The Terminator , current California governor and former actor Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg sent back in time to eliminate the mother of future leader John Connor before he could be born. Single-minded and highly developed, the robotic killer relentlessly pursues his intended prey throughout the movie, despite strong resistance fromF the hero's supporters, although the good guys eventually win out in the end.

While the story is pure fantasy, some may not realize that in the stock market there are the equivalent of dangerous man-made automatons lurking in every corner. Often technology-based, they are powerful, sophisticated, and difficult to keep under complete control. Yet they are exerting a growing and pervasive influence on prices. Unfortunately, these potential share-price assassins, if they were to be suddenly unleashed all at once, represent a Terminator-like threat to financial markets, especially if conditions are just right.


Like they are now, when the economy is rolling over and share prices have already begun to correct from historically overvalued and overbought extremes.

First among the potentially destructive creations are exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, which have become a significant feature of the modern investment landscape. Far too significant, some would say.

Recent research from Prudential Equity, for instance, suggests that buying and selling in three small cap ETFs is having a sizeable impact on certain stocks in the Russell 2000 index. By their reckoning, activity in Barclays Global Investors' iShares Russell 2000, iShares Russell 2000 Value, and iShares Russell 2000 Growth index funds accounts for 20% to 40% of turnover in some smaller issues, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Like index-related arbitrage and other forms of basket-type trading, such activity is not driven by fundamentals in the traditional, Graham-and-Dodd sense, but instead reflects the rapidly expanding role of various technical, arbitrage, thematic, and macro-type investing strategies.

The problem is that while some of this “price insensitive” trading—not based, in other words, on stock-specific information or insight—has been a boon for equity markets in recent years amid gushing liquidity and a mad dash for incremental returns, the negative consequences for prices as credit, economic, and investment cycles turn for the worse could be considerable.

Under the circumstances, index-related selling, for example, could transform markets in thinly-traded securities that have been unusually liquid and serene into boggy swamps of illiquidity. This would spur widespread fear and even a sense of panic, along with a substantial increase in volatility, as hordes of investors scramble nervously towards the exits.

The broad use of chart-based, trend-following, and momentum-driven trading and investing strategies is also likely to exacerbate the market's woes in the face of a sustained downturn. With fear a more powerful motivating force than greed, the herding behavior that such methods naturally encourage will likely create a snowball effect that will be hard for anyone—either those diving in or those bailing out—to resist.

Other modern risk-management methods and tactics will also fan the bearish flames once former long-term bull markets start coming apart at the seams. These include the widespread use of high-powered statistical and computerized models that measure and help manage risk exposure using data derived from recent market behavior. When trading conditions are serene, firms can take on more risk; if prices start swinging wildly, they must cut back on their exposure, which often means selling into a falling market.

In the past, corrections and full-fledged bear markets have been accompanied by significant price gyrations and converging correlations between different products, sectors, and markets. When that happens in an environment like we have now, where there are numerous large institutions with complex and highly-leveraged bets in myriad markets, it creates the potential for a seemingly relentless death spiral where selling leads to increased volatility, begetting further selling.

There is also the unsettling and potentially destabilizing fallout from the growing use of portfolio-based margining and risk management strategies. Aside from the sudden and unwelcome appearance of gaps between expected and actual risk of loss, rising illiquidity in some markets will force many participants to try and sell positions or hedge themselves in others that remain accessible, causing additional markets to quickly buckle under the pressure.

Another potential source of destructive energy will likely stem from capital flows linked to gyrations in foreign exchange markets, a far-reaching reassessment of trade policies in the face of slowing growth around the world, and the unwinding of global financial imbalances that are already at unsustainable extremes.

Moreover, during uncertain times, history suggests that investors tend to favor repatriating funds that are invested overseas, regardless of whether the decision makes sense in the long term. 

Finally, a dramatic increase in outstanding derivatives exposure, especially in recent years, suggests that violent crosswinds associated with speculation, hedging, and unwinding will wrack the underlying assets. Formerly deep out-of-the-money and structural long-term derivatives positions that were once thought to require little oversight will suddenly demand active risk management, as will exposure taken on in more recent times.

Overall, there are myriad signs that the economic winds are shifting and a bearish darkness is settling over the investment landscape. It's worth remembering, of course, that when the share-price Terminator shows up, he won't just be a character in a movie.

By Michael J. Panzner
http://www.financialarmageddon.com

Copyright © 2007 Michael J. Panzner - All Rights Reserved.
Michael J. Panzner is the author of Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future from Four Impending Catastrophes and The New Laws of the Stock Market Jungle: An Insider's Guide to Successful Investing in a Changing World , and is a 25-year veteran of the global stock, bond, and currency markets. He has worked in New York and London for HSBC, Soros Funds, ABN Amro, Dresdner Bank, and J.P. Morgan Chase. He is also a New York Institute of Finance faculty member and a graduate of Columbia University.


© 2005-2018 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules