Book Review: ‘The Speed Traders’, by Seeking Alpha’s Brenda Jubin

Posted on May 5, 2011. Filed under: Book Review, Flash Crash, Practitioners | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

High-frequency trading has mesmerized people in search of easy money, has challenged regulators, and has been an easy target for the press. In The Speed Traders: An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Phenomenon That Is Transforming the Investing World(McGraw-Hill, 2011) Edgar Perez tries to set the record straight. Alternating between an annotated timeline of the development of high-frequency trading and interviews with top high-frequency traders, Perez illuminates the world of speed.”

The Speed Traders: An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World“We normally think of high-frequency trading as super-fast order processing, measured in microseconds. And, yes, it is. But a traders’s data feed (whether market quotes or news feed) also has to be lightning fast, as does his database management system.”

Perez explores the charges that have been brought against high-frequency trading and for the most part, with the help of his interviewees, tries to dispel them. Did high-frequency trading cause the Flash Crash? No. As David Cummings, chairman of Tradebot Systems, wrote: ‘Who puts in a $4.1 billion order without a limit price? The trader at Waddell & Reed showed historic incompetence.'”

“Some traders also point the finger at the practice of busting trades, which can punish liquidity providers. The Speed Traders offers a sympathetic portrait of an industry that is often demonized. By tracing its roots (going back to Instinet, which began operating under an unwieldy name in 1970), Perez demonstrates it to be a logical development of technological change in the financial markets. By separating out some controversial practices, such as flash orders, from high-frequency trading, Perez makes it more defensible. All in all, an enlightening book.”

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