It is widely used by investment banks, pension funds, mutual funds, and hedge funds that may need to spread out the execution of a larger order or perform trades too fast for human traders to react to. However, it is also available to private traders using simple retail tools.
The term algorithmic trading is often used synonymously with automated trading system. These encompass a variety of trading strategies, some of which are based on formulas and results from mathematical finance, and often rely on specialized software.
Examples of strategies used in algorithmic trading include systematic trading, market making, inter-market spreading, arbitrage, or pure speculation, such as trend following. Many fall into the category of high-frequency trading (HFT), which is characterized by high turnover and high order-to-trade ratios. HFT strategies utilize computers that make elaborate decisions to initiate orders based on information that is received electronically, before human traders are capable of processing the information they observe. As a result, in February 2012, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) formed a special working group that included academics and industry experts to advise the CFTC on how best to define HFT. Algorithmic trading and HFT have resulted in a dramatic change of the market microstructure and in the complexity and uncertainty of the market macrodynamic, particularly in the way liquidity is provided.
History: Early developments
With the rise of fully electronic markets came the introduction of program trading, which is defined by the New York Stock Exchange as an order to buy or sell 15 or more stocks valued at over US$1 million total. In practice, program trades were pre-programmed to automatically enter or exit trades based on various factors. In the 1980s, program trading became widely used in trading between the S&P 500 equity and futures markets in a strategy known as index arbitrage.
The financial landscape was changed again with the emergence of electronic communication networks (ECNs) in the 1990s, which allowed for trading of stock and currencies outside of traditional exchanges. In the U.S., decimalization changed the minimum tick size from 1/16 of a dollar (US$0.0625) to US$0.01 per share in 2001, and may have encouraged algorithmic trading as it changed the market microstructure by permitting smaller differences between the bid and offer prices, decreasing the market-makers' trading advantage, thus increasing market liquidity.
A further encouragement for the adoption of algorithmic trading in the financial markets came in 2001 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. MGD was a modified version of the "GD" algorithm invented by Steven Gjerstad & John Dickhaut in 1996/7; the ZIP algorithm had been invented at HP by Dave Cliff (professor) in 1996. In their paper, the IBM team wrote that the financial impact of their results showing MGD and ZIP outperforming human traders "...might be measured in billions of dollars annually"; the IBM paper generated international media coverage.
As more electronic markets opened, other algorithmic trading strategies were introduced. These strategies are more easily implemented by computers, as they can react rapidly to price changes and observe several markets simultaneously.
A third of all European Union and United States stock trades in 2006 were driven by automatic programs, or algorithms. As of 2009, studies suggested HFT firms accounted for 60-73% of all US equity trading volume, with that number falling to approximately 50% in 2012. In 2006, at the London Stock Exchange, over 40% of all orders were entered by algorithmic traders, with 60% predicted for 2007. American markets and European markets generally have a higher proportion of algorithmic trades than other markets, and estimates for 2008 range as high as an 80% proportion in some markets. Foreign exchange markets also have active algorithmic trading, measured at about 80% of orders in 2016 (up from about 25% of orders in 2006). Futures markets are considered fairly easy to integrate into algorithmic trading, with about 20% of options volume expected to be computer-generated by 2010. Bond markets are moving toward more access to algorithmic traders.
|ATS-ZB32 ALGO Trading System