High-frequency trading, also known as HFT, is a method of trading that uses powerful computer programs to transact a large number of orders in fractions of a second. It uses complex algorithms to analyze multiple markets and execute orders based on market conditions.
Typically, the traders with the fastest execution speeds are more profitable than traders with slower execution speeds. In addition to the high speed of orders, high-frequency trading is also characterized by high turnover rates and order-to-trade ratios. Some of the best-known high-frequency trading firms include Tower Research, Citadel LLC and Virtu Financial.
Understanding High-Frequency Trading
High-frequency trading became popular when exchanges started to offer incentives for companies to add liquidity to the market. For instance, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has a group of liquidity providers called Supplemental Liquidity Providers (SLPs) that attempts to add competition and liquidity for existing quotes on the exchange. As an incentive to companies, the NYSE pays a fee or rebate for providing said liquidity. In July 2016, the average SLP rebate was $0.0019 for NYSE- and NYSE MKT-listed securities on NYSE. With millionLehman Brothers in 2008, when liquidity was a major concern for s of transactions per day, this results in a large amount of profits. The SLP was introduced following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, when liquidity was a major concern for investors.
Benefits of HFT
The major benefit of HFT is it has improved market liquidity and removed bid-ask spreads that previously would have been too small. This was tested by adding fees on HFT, and as a result, bid-ask spreads increased. One study assessed how Canadian bid-ask spreads changed when the government introduced fees on HFT, and it was found that bid-ask spreads increased by 9%.