On This Page March, No. 272

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this technology-dependent trading environment, and how are its risks controlled?

Controlling Risk in a Lightning-Speed Trading Environment
Last Updated: 02/03/10

A small group of high-frequency algorithmic trading firms have invested heavily in technology to leverage the nexus of high-speed communications, mathematical advances, trading and high-speed computing. By doing so, they are able to complete trades at lightning speeds. High-frequency algorithmic trading strategies rely on computerized quantitative models that identify which type of financial instruments to buy or sell (e.g., stocks, options or futures), as well as the quantity, price, timing and location of the trades. These so-called black boxes are capable of reading market data, transmitting thousands of order messages per second to an exchange, cancelling and replacing orders based on changing market conditions and capturing price discrepancies with little or no human intervention.