Nanex Research

Nanex ~ 11-Nov-2013 ~ HFT Algo Gone Wild in Nasdaq Futures

On November 8, 2013, at 8:28:54 ET, a High Frequency Trading (HFT) algo appeared in both the December 2013 Nasdaq (NQ) Futures and the QQQ's (an ETF). When it was active, it caused prices to gyrate wildly over a few seconds of time. Note that this occurred just over 1 minute before the release of the widely watched Employment Situation report. See also Treasury Futures Halted (again) for more charts during that time.

Looking closer at the charts, it appears this HFT algo caused wild price oscillations in the futures in a way that enable it to establish a short position in QQQ's.

1. December 2013 Nasdaq 100 (NQ) Futures trades (blue squares) and quote spread (red shading).
The circled area is when the algo ran.

2. Same as Chart 1 above, but showing quote spread and quote rate.
Note the explosion of trade (chart above) and quote activity (this chart). There were more quotes during this period of quiet time than during the release of the Employment report! No other futures contracts or stocks showed any significant activity during this time, which means this was not news driven. The activity appears to have been caused solely by the HFT algo.

3. NQ Futures, Zooming to the area circled in Chart 1.
Compare this chart to the one below it: while price rises in NQ futures (this chart), they hit a wall in QQQ (chart 4 below).

4. QQQ Trades color coded by reporting exchange and NBBO.
Compare to chart above - notice how prices fail to rise in QQQ (this chart) when they do in futures (chart 3 above). Someone is selling QQQ's regardless of the futures. Is the algo causing the price oscillations in futures also selling QQQ's at the peak?

5. NQ Futures - showing just the quote spread over 2 seconds so you can appreciate the magnitude and speed of price oscillations.
This is pretty crazy.

6. QQQ best bids/asks color coded by exchange and NBBO over the same 2 second period as chart above.

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