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Algorithmic trading is a method of executing a large order too large to fill all at once using automated pre-programmed trading instructions accounting for variables such as time, price, and volume  to send small slices of the order child orders out to the market over time.
They were developed so that traders do not need to constantly watch a stock and repeatedly send those slices out manually. In the twenty-first century, algorithmic trading has been gaining traction with both retails and institutional traders.
Algorithmic trading is not an attempt to make a trading profit. It is simply a way to minimize the cost, market impact and risk in execution of an order.
The term is also used to mean automated trading system. These do indeed have the goal of making a profit. Also known as black box trading , these encompass trading strategies that are heavily reliant on complex mathematical formulas and high-speed computer programs.
Such systems run strategies including market making , inter-market spreading, arbitrage , or pure speculation such as trend following.
Many fall into the category of high-frequency trading HFT , which are characterized by high turnover and high order-to-trade ratios.
Algorithmic trading and HFT have resulted in a dramatic change of the market microstructure , particularly in the way liquidity is provided.
In March , Virtu Financial , a high-frequency trading firm, reported that during five years the firm as a whole was profitable on 1, out of 1, trading days,  losing money just one day, empirically demonstrating the law of large numbers benefit of trading thousands to millions of tiny, low-risk and low-edge trades every trading day.
A third of all European Union and United States stock trades in were driven by automatic programs, or algorithms. Algorithmic trading and HFT have been the subject of much public debate since the U.
Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said in reports that an algorithmic trade entered by a mutual fund company triggered a wave of selling that led to the Flash Crash.
As a result of these events, the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its second largest intraday point swing ever to that date, though prices quickly recovered.
A July, report by the International Organization of Securities Commissions IOSCO , an international body of securities regulators, concluded that while "algorithms and HFT technology have been used by market participants to manage their trading and risk, their usage was also clearly a contributing factor in the flash crash event of May 6, In practice this means that all program trades are entered with the aid of a computer.
At about the same time portfolio insurance was designed to create a synthetic put option on a stock portfolio by dynamically trading stock index futures according to a computer model based on the Black—Scholes option pricing model.
Both strategies, often simply lumped together as "program trading", were blamed by many people for example by the Brady report for exacerbating or even starting the stock market crash.
Yet the impact of computer driven trading on stock market crashes is unclear and widely discussed in the academic community. Financial markets with fully electronic execution and similar electronic communication networks developed in the late s and s.
This increased market liquidity led to institutional traders splitting up orders according to computer algorithms so they could execute orders at a better average price.
These average price benchmarks are measured and calculated by computers by applying the time-weighted average price or more usually by the volume-weighted average price.
A further encouragement for the adoption of algorithmic trading in the financial markets came in when a team of IBM researchers published a paper  at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence where they showed that in experimental laboratory versions of the electronic auctions used in the financial markets, two algorithmic strategies IBM's own MGD , and Hewlett-Packard 's ZIP could consistently out-perform human traders.
As more electronic markets opened, other algorithmic trading strategies were introduced. These strategies are more easily implemented by computers, because machines can react more rapidly to temporary mispricing and examine prices from several markets simultaneously.
For example, Chameleon developed by BNP Paribas , Stealth  developed by the Deutsche Bank , Sniper and Guerilla developed by Credit Suisse  , arbitrage , statistical arbitrage , trend following , and mean reversion.
This type of trading is what is driving the new demand for low latency proximity hosting and global exchange connectivity. It is imperative to understand what latency is when putting together a strategy for electronic trading.
Latency refers to the delay between the transmission of information from a source and the reception of the information at a destination.
Latency is, as a lower bound, determined by the speed of light; this corresponds to about 3. Any signal regenerating or routing equipment introduces greater latency than this lightspeed baseline.
Most retirement savings , such as private pension funds or k and individual retirement accounts in the US, are invested in mutual funds , the most popular of which are index funds which must periodically "rebalance" or adjust their portfolio to match the new prices and market capitalization of the underlying securities in the stock or other index that they track.
Pairs trading or pair trading is a long-short, ideally market-neutral strategy enabling traders to profit from transient discrepancies in relative value of close substitutes.
Unlike in the case of classic arbitrage, in case of pairs trading, the law of one price cannot guarantee convergence of prices. This is especially true when the strategy is applied to individual stocks — these imperfect substitutes can in fact diverge indefinitely.
In theory the long-short nature of the strategy should make it work regardless of the stock market direction. In practice, execution risk, persistent and large divergences, as well as a decline in volatility can make this strategy unprofitable for long periods of time e.
It belongs to wider categories of statistical arbitrage , convergence trading , and relative value strategies. In finance, delta-neutral describes a portfolio of related financial securities, in which the portfolio value remains unchanged due to small changes in the value of the underlying security.
Such a portfolio typically contains options and their corresponding underlying securities such that positive and negative delta components offset, resulting in the portfolio's value being relatively insensitive to changes in the value of the underlying security.
When used by academics, an arbitrage is a transaction that involves no negative cash flow at any probabilistic or temporal state and a positive cash flow in at least one state; in simple terms, it is the possibility of a risk-free profit at zero cost.
During most trading days these two will develop disparity in the pricing between the two of them. Arbitrage is not simply the act of buying a product in one market and selling it in another for a higher price at some later time.
The long and short transactions should ideally occur simultaneously to minimize the exposure to market risk, or the risk that prices may change on one market before both transactions are complete.
In practical terms, this is generally only possible with securities and financial products which can be traded electronically, and even then, when first leg s of the trade is executed, the prices in the other legs may have worsened, locking in a guaranteed loss.
Missing one of the legs of the trade and subsequently having to open it at a worse price is called 'execution risk' or more specifically 'leg-in and leg-out risk'.
In the simplest example, any good sold in one market should sell for the same price in another. Traders may, for example, find that the price of wheat is lower in agricultural regions than in cities, purchase the good, and transport it to another region to sell at a higher price.
This type of price arbitrage is the most common, but this simple example ignores the cost of transport, storage, risk, and other factors. Where securities are traded on more than one exchange, arbitrage occurs by simultaneously buying in one and selling on the other.
Such simultaneous execution, if perfect substitutes are involved, minimizes capital requirements, but in practice never creates a "self-financing" free position, as many sources incorrectly assume following the theory.
As long as there is some difference in the market value and riskiness of the two legs, capital would have to be put up in order to carry the long-short arbitrage position.
Mean reversion is a mathematical methodology sometimes used for stock investing, but it can be applied to other processes.
In general terms the idea is that both a stock's high and low prices are temporary, and that a stock's price tends to have an average price over time.
An example of a mean-reverting process is the Ornstein-Uhlenbeck stochastic equation. Mean reversion involves first identifying the trading range for a stock, and then computing the average price using analytical techniques as it relates to assets, earnings, etc.
When the current market price is less than the average price, the stock is considered attractive for purchase, with the expectation that the price will rise.
When the current market price is above the average price, the market price is expected to fall. In other words, deviations from the average price are expected to revert to the average.
The standard deviation of the most recent prices e. Stock reporting services such as Yahoo! Finance, MS Investor, Morningstar, etc. While reporting services provide the averages, identifying the high and low prices for the study period is still necessary.
Scalping is liquidity provision by non-traditional market makers , whereby traders attempt to earn or make the bid-ask spread.
This procedure allows for profit for so long as price moves are less than this spread and normally involves establishing and liquidating a position quickly, usually within minutes or less.
A market maker is basically a specialized scalper. The volume a market maker trades is many times more than the average individual scalper and would make use of more sophisticated trading systems and technology.
However, registered market makers are bound by exchange rules stipulating their minimum quote obligations.
For instance, NASDAQ requires each market maker to post at least one bid and one ask at some price level, so as to maintain a two-sided market for each stock represented.
Most strategies referred to as algorithmic trading as well as algorithmic liquidity-seeking fall into the cost-reduction category.
The basic idea is to break down a large order into small orders and place them in the market over time. The choice of algorithm depends on various factors, with the most important being volatility and liquidity of the stock.
For example, for a highly liquid stock, matching a certain percentage of the overall orders of stock called volume inline algorithms is usually a good strategy, but for a highly illiquid stock, algorithms try to match every order that has a favorable price called liquidity-seeking algorithms.
The success of these strategies is usually measured by comparing the average price at which the entire order was executed with the average price achieved through a benchmark execution for the same duration.
Usually, the volume-weighted average price is used as the benchmark. At times, the execution price is also compared with the price of the instrument at the time of placing the order.
A special class of these algorithms attempts to detect algorithmic or iceberg orders on the other side i. These algorithms are called sniffing algorithms.
A typical example is "Stealth. Modern algorithms are often optimally constructed via either static or dynamic programming.
Recently, HFT, which comprises a broad set of buy-side as well as market making sell side traders, has become more prominent and controversial.
When several small orders are filled the sharks may have discovered the presence of a large iceberged order. Strategies designed to generate alpha are considered market timing strategies.
These types of strategies are designed using a methodology that includes backtesting, forward testing and live testing.
Market timing algorithms will typically use technical indicators such as moving averages but can also include pattern recognition logic implemented using Finite State Machines.
Backtesting the algorithm is typically the first stage and involves simulating the hypothetical trades through an in-sample data period.
Optimization is performed in order to determine the most optimal inputs. Forward testing the algorithm is the next stage and involves running the algorithm through an out of sample data set to ensure the algorithm performs within backtested expectations.
Live testing is the final stage of development and requires the developer to compare actual live trades with both the backtested and forward tested models.
Metrics compared include percent profitable, profit factor, maximum drawdown and average gain per trade. As noted above, high-frequency trading HFT is a form of algorithmic trading characterized by high turnover and high order-to-trade ratios.
Although 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 for orders.
Among the major U. There are four key categories of HFT strategies: All portfolio-allocation decisions are made by computerized quantitative models.
The success of computerized strategies is largely driven by their ability to simultaneously process volumes of information, something ordinary human traders cannot do.
Market making involves placing a limit order to sell or offer above the current market price or a buy limit order or bid below the current price on a regular and continuous basis to capture the bid-ask spread.
Another set of HFT strategies in classical arbitrage strategy might involve several securities such as covered interest rate parity in the foreign exchange market which gives a relation between the prices of a domestic bond, a bond denominated in a foreign currency, the spot price of the currency, and the price of a forward contract on the currency.
If the market prices are sufficiently different from those implied in the model to cover transaction cost then four transactions can be made to guarantee a risk-free profit.
HFT allows similar arbitrages using models of greater complexity involving many more than 4 securities. A wide range of statistical arbitrage strategies have been developed whereby trading decisions are made on the basis of deviations from statistically significant relationships.
Like market-making strategies, statistical arbitrage can be applied in all asset classes. A subset of risk, merger, convertible, or distressed securities arbitrage that counts on a specific event, such as a contract signing, regulatory approval, judicial decision, etc.
Merger arbitrage also called risk arbitrage would be an example of this. Merger arbitrage generally consists of buying the stock of a company that is the target of a takeover while shorting the stock of the acquiring company.
Usually the market price of the target company is less than the price offered by the acquiring company.
The spread between these two prices depends mainly on the probability and the timing of the takeover being completed as well as the prevailing level of interest rates.
The bet in a merger arbitrage is that such a spread will eventually be zero, if and when the takeover is completed. The risk is that the deal "breaks" and the spread massively widens.
One strategy that some traders have employed, which has been proscribed yet likely continues, is called spoofing. It is the act of placing orders to give the impression of wanting to buy or sell shares, without ever having the intention of letting the order execute to temporarily manipulate the market to buy or sell shares at a more favorable price.
This is done by creating limit orders outside the current bid or ask price to change the reported price to other market participants.
The trader can subsequently place trades based on the artificial change in price, then canceling the limit orders before they are executed.
The trader then executes a market order for the sale of the shares they wished to sell. The trader subsequently cancels their limit order on the purchase he never had the intention of completing.
Quote stuffing is a tactic employed by malicious traders that involves quickly entering and withdrawing large quantities of orders in an attempt to flood the market, thereby gaining an advantage over slower market participants.
HFT firms benefit from proprietary, higher-capacity feeds and the most capable, lowest latency infrastructure. Researchers showed high-frequency traders are able to profit by the artificially induced latencies and arbitrage opportunities that result from quote stuffing.
Network-induced latency, a synonym for delay, measured in one-way delay or round-trip time, is normally defined as how much time it takes for a data packet to travel from one point to another.
Joel Hasbrouck and Gideon Saar measure latency based on three components: Low-latency traders depend on ultra-low latency networks.
They profit by providing information, such as competing bids and offers, to their algorithms microseconds faster than their competitors.
This is due to the evolutionary nature of algorithmic trading strategies — they must be able to adapt and trade intelligently, regardless of market conditions, which involves being flexible enough to withstand a vast array of market scenarios.
For this purpose they established trade colonies the Greeks called emporia. From the beginning of Greek civilization until the fall of the Roman empire in the 5th century, a financially lucrative trade brought valuable spice to Europe from the far east, including India and China.
Roman commerce allowed its empire to flourish and endure. The latter Roman Republic and the Pax Romana of the Roman empire produced a stable and secure transportation network that enabled the shipment of trade goods without fear of significant piracy , as Rome had become the sole effective sea power in the Mediterranean with the conquest of Egypt and the near east.
In ancient Greece Hermes was the god of trade   commerce and weights and measures,  for Romans Mercurius also god of merchants, whose festival was celebrated by traders on the 25th day of the fifth month.
Free trade between states was stifled by the need for strict internal controls via taxation to maintain security within the treasury of the sovereign, which nevertheless enabled the maintenance of a modicum of civility within the structures of functional community life.
The fall of the Roman empire, and the succeeding Dark Ages brought instability to Western Europe and a near collapse of the trade network in the western world.
Some trade did occur in the west. For instance, Radhanites were a medieval guild or group the precise meaning of the word is lost to history of Jewish merchants who traded between the Christians in Europe and the Muslims of the Near East.
Archaeological evidence Greenberg of the first use of trade-marks are from China dated about BCE. The emergence of exchange networks in the Pre-Columbian societies of and near to Mexico are known to have occurred within recent years before and after BCE.
Trade networks reached north to Oasisamerica. There is evidence of established maritime trade with the cultures of northwestern South America and the Caribbean.
During the Middle Ages, commerce developed in Europe by trading luxury goods at trade fairs. Wealth became converted into movable wealth or capital.
Banking systems developed where money on account was transferred across national boundaries. Hand to hand markets became a feature of town life, and were regulated by town authorities.
Western Europe established a complex and expansive trade network with cargo ships being the main workhorse for the movement of goods, Cogs and Hulks are two examples of such cargo ships.
The English port city of Bristol traded with peoples from what is modern day Iceland, all along the western coast of France, and down to what is now Spain.
During the Middle Ages, Central Asia was the economic center of the world. They were the main caravan merchants of Central Asia.
From the 8th to the 11th century, the Vikings and Varangians traded as they sailed from and to Scandinavia. Vikings sailed to Western Europe, while Varangians to Russia.
The Hanseatic League was an alliance of trading cities that maintained a trade monopoly over most of Northern Europe and the Baltic , between the 13th and 17th centuries.
Vasco da Gama pioneered the European Spice trade in when he reached Calicut after sailing around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the African continent.
Prior to this, the flow of spice into Europe from India was controlled by Islamic powers, especially Egypt.
The spice trade was of major economic importance and helped spur the Age of Discovery in Europe. Spices brought to Europe from the Eastern world were some of the most valuable commodities for their weight, sometimes rivaling gold.
In the 16th century, the Seventeen Provinces were the centre of free trade, imposing no exchange controls , and advocating the free movement of goods.
Trade in the East Indies was dominated by Portugal in the 16th century, the Dutch Republic in the 17th century, and the British in the 18th century.
It criticised Mercantilism , and argued that economic specialisation could benefit nations just as much as firms. Since the division of labour was restricted by the size of the market, he said that countries having access to larger markets would be able to divide labour more efficiently and thereby become more productive.
Smith said that he considered all rationalisations of import and export controls "dupery", which hurt the trading nation as a whole for the benefit of specific industries.
In , the Dutch East India Company , formerly the world's largest company, became bankrupt , partly due to the rise of competitive free trade.
In , David Ricardo , James Mill and Robert Torrens showed that free trade would benefit the industrially weak as well as the strong, in the famous theory of comparative advantage.
In Principles of Political Economy and Taxation Ricardo advanced the doctrine still considered the most counterintuitive in economics:. The ascendancy of free trade was primarily based on national advantage in the mid 19th century.
That is, the calculation made was whether it was in any particular country's self-interest to open its borders to imports. John Stuart Mill proved that a country with monopoly pricing power on the international market could manipulate the terms of trade through maintaining tariffs , and that the response to this might be reciprocity in trade policy.
Ricardo and others had suggested this earlier. This was taken as evidence against the universal doctrine of free trade, as it was believed that more of the economic surplus of trade would accrue to a country following reciprocal , rather than completely free, trade policies.
This was followed within a few years by the infant industry scenario developed by Mill promoting the theory that government had the duty to protect young industries, although only for a time necessary for them to develop full capacity.
This became the policy in many countries attempting to industrialise and out-compete English exporters.
Milton Friedman later continued this vein of thought, showing that in a few circumstances tariffs might be beneficial to the host country; but never for the world at large.
The Great Depression was a major economic recession that ran from to the late s. During this period, there was a great drop in trade and other economic indicators.
The lack of free trade was considered by many as a principal cause of the depression causing stagnation and inflation.
Also during the war, in , 44 countries signed the Bretton Woods Agreement , intended to prevent national trade barriers, to avoid depressions. It set up rules and institutions to regulate the international political economy: These organisations became operational in after enough countries ratified the agreement.
In , 23 countries agreed to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to promote free trade. The European Union became the world's largest exporter of manufactured goods and services, the biggest export market for around 80 countries.
Today, trade is merely a subset within a complex system of companies which try to maximize their profits by offering products and services to the market which consists both of individuals and other companies at the lowest production cost.
A system of international trade has helped to develop the world economy but, in combination with bilateral or multilateral agreements to lower tariffs or to achieve free trade , has sometimes harmed third-world markets for local products.
Protectionism is the policy of restraining and discouraging trade between states and contrasts with the policy of free trade. This policy often takes of form of tariffs and restrictive quotas.
Protectionist policies were particularly prevalent in the s, between the Great Depression and the onset of World War II.
Islamic teachings encourage trading and condemn usury or interest. Judeao-Christian teachings prohibit fraud and dishonest measures, and historically also forbade the charging of interest on loans.
The first instances of money were objects with intrinsic value. This is called commodity money and includes any commonly available commodity that has intrinsic value; historical examples include pigs, rare seashells, whale's teeth, and often cattle.
In medieval Iraq, bread was used as an early form of money. In Mexico under Montezuma cocoa beans were money.
Currency was introduced as a standardised money to facilitate a wider exchange of goods and services. This first stage of currency, where metals were used to represent stored value, and symbols to represent commodities, formed the basis of trade in the Fertile Crescent for over years.
Numismatists have examples of coins from the earliest large-scale societies, although these were initially unmarked lumps of precious metal. The Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations aimed to lower barriers to trade around the world, with a focus on making trade fairer for developing countries.
Talks have been hung over a divide between the rich developed countries , represented by the G20 , and the major developing countries.
Agricultural subsidies are the most significant issue upon which agreement has been hardest to negotiate. By contrast, there was much agreement on trade facilitation and capacity building.
The Doha round began in Doha , Qatar , and negotiations were continued in: In contrast to the previous Soviet -style centrally planned economy , the new measures progressively relaxed restrictions on farming, agricultural distribution and, several years later, urban enterprises and labor.
The more market-oriented approach reduced inefficiencies and stimulated private investment, particularly by farmers, that led to increased productivity and output.
One feature was the establishment of four later five Special Economic Zones located along the South-east coast.
The reforms proved spectacularly successful in terms of increased output, variety, quality, price and demand. In real terms, the economy doubled in size between and , doubled again by , and again by On a real per capita basis, doubling from the base took place in , and By , the economy was International trade progressed even more rapidly, doubling on average every 4.
Total two-way trade in January exceeded that for all of ; in the first quarter of , trade exceeded the full-year level. International trade is the exchange of goods and services across national borders.
In most countries, it represents a significant part of GDP. While international trade has been present throughout much of history see Silk Road, Amber Road , its economic, social, and political importance have increased in recent centuries, mainly because of Industrialization , advanced transportation, globalization , multinational corporations , and outsourcing.
Empirical evidence for the success of trade can be seen in the contrast between countries such as South Korea , which adopted a policy of export-oriented industrialization , and India, which historically had a more closed policy.
South Korea has done much better by economic criteria than India over the past fifty years, though its success also has to do with effective state institutions.
Trade sanctions against a specific country are sometimes imposed, in order to punish that country for some action. An embargo , a severe form of externally imposed isolation, is a blockade of all trade by one country on another.
For example, the United States has had an embargo against Cuba for over 40 years. International trade, which is governed by the World Trade Organization , can be restricted by both tariff and non-tariff barriers.
International trade is usually regulated by governmental quotas and restrictions, and often taxed by tariffs. Tariffs are usually on imports, but sometimes countries may impose export tariffs or subsidies.
Non-tariff barriers include Sanitary and Phytosanitary rules, labeling requirements and food safety regulations.