The Waning Integrity of US Financial Markets

By Todd Harrison  JUN 19, 2013 9:26 AM

Sometimes the truth hurts.

 


Editor's Note: Todd posts his vibes in real time each day on our Buzz & Banter.

A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.
-- Don Mclean

Yesterday, we asked a pretty straightforward question: Will the S&P Breakout Matter?

Following a month-long technical tug-of-war, the bulls emerged victorious, consistent with the standard that the larger the pattern, the more likely it is to prevail. The uptrend has been in place since last November and the downtrend since May 22; it was, to carry the analogy, a technical knockout.

While I've been trading from the short side of late—shorting to buy, rather than buying to sell—I flipped my lid on Turnaround Tuesday and got long, opting to carry that exposure overnight.  It was a bold move as those things go and one of the more difficult moves for a trader to make.  Alas, when the market opened higher yesterday, I punted my directional SPY (NYSEARCA:SPY) exposure, carrying only single stock exposure through the rally.

One of my favorite axioms is "never let an opinion get in the way of making money." While I anticipated the breakout—we flagged a pattern  that "works" to S&P (INDEXSP:.INX) 1688—I don't particularly trust it.  I'm unsure if this is a function of my cognitive biases, the catalyst today that could trump technical analysis (although I believe Ben Bernanke walks the party line of status quo and data dependent) or the deterioration of the integrity in the capital market system, understanding that social mood and risk appetites shape financial markets.

That last point—the integrity of the markets—was brought to bear yesterday when I watched a CNBC segment about black box trading being offered to the masses. Perhaps this is an unavoidable evolution but it smacks of capitulation; the human element is being driven from the market which, coupled with the government hand, is making traditional analysis convoluted at best and antiquated at worst. 

Legendary investor Stan Druckenmiller spoke to this point yesterday.  I don't have the stripes that Stan does, but I couldn't agree with him more when he says, "price signals have been compromised," "the markets are rigged," and people "are chasing assets without growth necessarily backing confidence." 

These are not sour grapes from someone who has lost his way; it is an honest assessment from one of the best risk managers in the world, and he's not alone in his thinking.  We've been talking about financial leaders "going dark" for a long time; this is nothing new to our readers, and it continues to continue.

In the famous lyrics of Don Henley, "Who knows how long this will last; now we've come so far, so fast."  I am trading this market with defined risk-reward when I see advantageous setups; it's a style that has served me in good stead, in the instances when I have let an opinion get in the way of making money.

I will say this, however: I see a diminishing likelihood of this ending well, at least in the traditional sense. The DNA of this stock market is polluted and the human capital that will be necessary to unbox Pandora is tossing towels left and right.  When the music stops, and it will, we'll see just how talented the robots and black boxes are at finding their respective chairs.

Random Thoughts
R.P.

Twitter: @todd_harrison

Position in FB.

Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at todd@minyanville.com.

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