Equity Trading in the 21st Century

54 Pages Posted: 11 May 2010 Last revised: 8 Aug 2015

James Angel

Georgetown University - Department of Finance

Lawrence Harris

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business - Finance and Business Economics Department; Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance (the Q-Group); Interactive Brokers, Inc. (IBKR); University of Pennsylvania - Financial Economists Roundtable

Chester S. Spatt

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business

Date Written: February 23, 2010

Abstract

The U.S. equity market changed dramatically in recent years. Increasing automation and the entry of new trading platforms has resulted in intense competition among trading platforms.

Despite these changes, traders still face the same challenges as before. They seek to minimize the total cost of trading including commissions, bid/ask spreads, and market impact. New technologies allow traders to implement traditional strategies more effectively. For example, dark pools and indications of interest are just an updated form of tactics that NYSE floor traders used search for counterparties while minimizing the exposure of their clients’ trading interest to prevent front running.

Virtually every measurable dimension of U.S. equity market quality has improved. Execution speeds and retail commission have fallen. Bid-ask spreads have fallen and remain low, although they spiked upward along with volatility during the recent financial crisis. Market depth has increased. Studies of institutional transactions costs find U.S. costs among the lowest in the world. Unlike during the Crash of 1987, the U.S. equity market mechanism handled the increase in trading volume and volatility without disruption. However, our markets lack a market-wide risk management system that would deal with computer generated chaos in real time, and our regulators should address this.

“Make or take” pricing, the charging of access fees to market orders that “take” liquidity and paying rebates to limit orders that “make” liquidity, causes distortions that should be corrected. Such charges are not reflected in the quotations used for the measurement of best execution. Direct access by non-brokers to trading platforms requires appropriate risk management. Front running orders in correlated securities should be banned.

Keywords: Equity markets, transactions costs, dark pools, bid-ask spread

JEL Classification: G10, G18

Suggested Citation

Angel, James and Harris, Lawrence and Spatt, Chester S., Equity Trading in the 21st Century (February 23, 2010). Marshall School of Business Working Paper No. FBE 09-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1584026 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1584026

James J. Angel (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Department of Finance ( email )

McDonough School of Business
Washington, DC 20057
United States
202-687-3765 (Phone)
202-687-4031 (Fax)

Lawrence Harris

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business - Finance and Business Economics Department ( email )

Marshall School of Business
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-6496 (Phone)
213-740-6650 (Fax)

Institute for Quantitative Research in Finance (the Q-Group) ( email )

Q Group
P.O. Box 1540
Valley Stream, NY 11582
United States

Interactive Brokers, Inc. (IBKR) ( email )

209 South LaSalle Street
10th Floor
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

University of Pennsylvania - Financial Economists Roundtable ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States

Chester S. Spatt

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8834 (Phone)
412-268-6689 (Fax)

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