26 February 2018

The robots v. robots trading that has hijacked the stock market

Why is it that when the market is climbing by improbable leaps and bounds month after month, that we are supposed to take that as a genuine reflection of the fundamentals, but when the market is in a free fall, we are supposed to write that off as momentary fits of irrationality?

The truth is that the market is just as irrational and divorced from fundamentals on the way up as it is on the way down. It is in the nature of markets more so today than ever, thanks to the computerized high-frequency trading strategies of the Wall Street wise guys. What we've watched this week is herd behavior on steroids.

In truth, there is no reason that a financial system has to be this complex and so volatile. There is no reason that it has to divert so much of the country's talent and capital, and to siphon off so much for traders and bankers and hedge fund managers. With a bit of intelligent regulation, we could have a financial system that is simpler, less risky, less expensive and less susceptible to manipulation.

There is a cost to the kind of financial "innovation" that produces instruments like the Velocity Shares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term Exchange-Traded Note. And my guess is that those costs now greatly exceed the benefits.

Steven Pearlstein