High-frequency trading (HFT) is a type of algorithmic trading characterized by high speeds, high turnover rates, and high order-to-trade ratios that leverages high-frequency financial data and electronic trading tools. While there is no single definition of HFT, among its key attributes are highly sophisticated algorithms, specialized order types, co-location, very short-term investment horizons, and high cancellation rates of orders.
In the United States in 2009, high-frequency trading firms represented 2% of the approximately 20,000 firms operating today, but accounted for 73% of all equity orders volume. The major U.S. high-frequency trading firms include Chicago Trading, Virtu Financial, Timber Hill, ATD, GETCO, Tradebot and Citadel LLC. The Bank of England estimates similar percentages for the 2010 US market share, also suggesting that in Europe HFT accounts for about 40% of equity orders volume and for Asia about 5-10%, with potential for rapid growth. By value, HFT was estimated in 2010 by consultancy Tabb Group to make up 56% of equity trades in the US and 38% in Europe.
As HFT strategies become more widely used, it can be more difficult to deploy them profitably. According to an estimate from Frederi Viens of Purdue University, profits from HFT in the U.S. has been declining from an estimated peak of $5bn in 2009, to about $1.25bn in 2012.
Though the percentage of volume attributed to HFT has fallen in the equity markets, it has remained prevalent in the futures markets. According to a study in 2010 by Aite Group, about a quarter of major global futures volume came from professional high-frequency traders. In 2012, according to a study by the TABB Group, HFT accounted for more than 60 percent of all futures market volume in 2012 on U.S. exchanges.
May 6, 2010 Flash Crash
Main article: 2010 Flash Crash
The brief but dramatic stock market crash of May 6, 2010 was initially thought to have been caused by high-frequency trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged to its largest intraday point loss, but not percentage loss, in history, only to recover much of those losses within minutes.
Spoofing and layering
Main articles: Spoofing (finance) and Layering (finance)
In July 2013, it was reported that Panther Energy Trading LLC was ordered to pay $4.5 million to U.S. and U.K. regulators on charges that the firm's high-frequency trading activities manipulated commodity markets. Panther's computer algorithms placed and quickly canceled bids and offers in futures contracts including oil, metals, interest rates and foreign currencies, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission said. In October 2014, Panther's sole owner Michael Coscia was charged with six counts of commodities fraud and six counts of "spoofing". The indictment stated that Coscia devised a high-frequency trading strategy to create a false impression of the available liquidity in the market, "and to fraudulently induce other market participants to react to the deceptive market information he created".