High-frequency trading is quantitative trading that is characterized by short portfolio holding periods (see Wilmott, 2008). All portfolio-allocation decisions are made by computerized quantitative models. The success of high-frequency trading strategies is largely driven by their ability to simultaneously process large volumes of information, something ordinary human traders cannot do. Specific algorithms are closely guarded by their owners and are known as "algos".Many practical algorithms are in fact quite simple arbitrages which could previously have been performed at lower frequency—competition tends to occur through who can execute them the fastest rather than who can create new breakthrough algorithms. Some examples of standard arbitrages used in HFT are listed below.
According to www.sec.gov, a "market maker" is "a firm that stands ready to buy and sell a particular stock on a regular and continuous basis at a publicly quoted price. You'll most often hear about market makers in the context of the Nasdaq or other "over the counter" (OTC) markets. Market makers that stand ready to buy and sell stocks listed on an exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange, are called "third market makers." Many OTC stocks have more than one market-maker. Market-makers generally must be ready to buy and sell at least 100 shares of a stock they make a market in. As a result, a large order from an investor may have to be filled by a number of market-makers at potentially different prices." There can be a significant overlap between a 'market maker' and 'HFT firm'. HFT firms characterize their business as "Market making - a set of high-frequency trading strategies that involve placing a limit order to sell (or offer) or a buy limit order (or bid) in order to earn the bid-ask spread. By doing so, market makers provide counterpart to incoming market orders. Although the role of market maker was traditionally fulfilled by specialist firms, this class of strategy is now implemented by a large range of investors, thanks to wide adoption of direct market access. As pointed out by empirical studies this renewed competition among liquidity providers causes reduced effective market spreads, and therefore reduced indirect costs for final investors." A crucial distinction is that true market makers don't exit the market at their discretion and are committed not to, where HFT firms are under no similar commitment. Some high-frequency trading firms use market making as their primary strategy.Automated Trading Desk, which was bought by Citigroup in July 2007, has been an active market maker, accounting for about 6% of total volume on both the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange. Building up market making strategies typically involves precise modeling of the target market microstructure together with stochastic control techniques. These strategies appear intimately related to the entry of new electronic venues. Academic study of Chi-X's entry into the European equity market reveals that its launch coincided with a large HFT that made markets using both the incumbent market, NYSE-Euronext, and the new market, Chi-X. The study shows that the new market provided ideal conditions for HFT market-making, low fees (i.e., rebates for quotes that led to execution) and a fast system, yet the HFT was equally active in the incumbent market to offload nonzero positions. New market entry and HFT arrival are further shown to coincide with a significant improvement in liquidity supply.
Ticker tape trading
Much information happens to be unwittingly embedded in market data, such as quotes and volumes. By observing a flow of quotes, computers are capable of extracting information that has not yet crossed the news screens. Since all quote and volume information is public, such strategies are fully compliant with all the applicable laws. Filter trading is one of the more primitive high-frequency trading strategies that involves monitoring large amounts of stocks for significant or unusual price changes or volume activity. This includes trading on announcements, news, or other event criteria. Software would then generate a buy or sell order depending on the nature of the event being looked for. Tick trading often aims to recognize the beginnings of large orders being placed in the market. For example, a large order from a pension fund to buy will take place over several hours or even days, and will cause a rise in price due to increased demand. An arbitreur can try to spot this happening then buy up the security, then profit from selling back to the pension fund. This strategy has become more difficult since the introduction of dedicated trade execution companies in the 2000s which provide optimal trading for pension and other funds, specifically designed to remove the arbitrage opportunity.
Certain recurring events generate predictable short-term responses in a selected set of securities. High-frequency traders take advantage of such predictability to generate short-term profits.
Another set of high-frequency trading strategies are strategies that exploit predictable temporary deviations from stable statistical relationships among securities. Statistical arbitrage at high frequencies is actively used in all liquid securities, including equities, bonds, futures, foreign exchange, etc. Such strategies may also involve classical arbitrage strategies, such as covered interest rate parity in the foreign exchange market, which gives a relationship between the prices of a domestic bond, a bond denominated in a foreign currency, the spot price of the currency, and the price of a forward contract on the currency. High-frequency trading allows similar arbitrages using models of greater complexity involving many more than four securities. The TABB Group estimates that annual aggregate profits of high-frequency arbitrage strategies exceeded US$21 billion in 2009, although the Purdue study estimates the profits for all high frequency trading were US$5 billion in 2009.
Company news in electronic text format is available from many sources including commercial providers like Bloomberg, public news websites, and Twitter feeds. Automated systems can identify company names, keywords and sometimes semantics to trade news before human traders can process it.
A separate, "naïve" class of high-frequency trading strategies relies exclusively on ultra-low latency direct market access technology. In these strategies, computer scientists rely on speed to gain minuscule advantages in arbitraging price discrepancies in some particular security trading simultaneously on disparate markets. Another aspect of low latency strategy has been the switch from fiber optic to microwave technology for long distance networking. Especially since 2011, there has been a trend to use microwaves to transmit data across key connections such as the one between New York and Chicago. This is because microwaves travelling in air suffer a less than 1% speed reduction compared to light travelling in a vacuum, whereas with conventional fiber optics light travels over 30% slower.
High-frequency trading strategies may use properties derived from market data feeds to identify orders that are posted at sub-optimal prices. Such orders may offer a profit to their counterparties that high-frequency traders can try to obtain. Examples of these features include the age of an order or the sizes of displayed orders. Tracking important order properties may also allow trading strategies to have a more accurate prediction of the future price of a security.