Today’s price action in Chevron will come as no surprise to any reader of ZH, but maybe, just maybe, in flipping from porn site to porn site, the SEC will stumble across our earlier note on unemployment in the ‘adult movie’ business and will look at the following remarkable charts. As Nanex shows, with 37 seconds to the close, one of the largest market-cap firms in the entire world saw its stock price attacked by an HFT algo that oscillated it by +/-2% about twice-per-second. As Nanex exclaims, “no longer can any HFT’ers or exchange or regulator blame THIS on humans.” Perhaps the odds of another black-out on NASDARK should be higher than the current 28%.
HFT Rocks Chevron
On September 6, 2013, beginning at 15:59:23, the stock of Chevron Corporation (Symbol CVX, market capitalization $234 Billion) was rocked by an HFT algorithm gone awry. No longer can the High Frequency Traders (HFT) or exchanges blame this on humans. Or a fat finger. Or a market order. Or a glitch involving a squirrel. No, this can only be the work of HFT computers delirious from dollar signs flashing in their CPUs all day (or their owners wanting to buy a bigger boat).
The charts below show the price of Chevron oscillating about twice per second over 8 seconds: at first in a 50 cent range, gradually building until the price swings over $3 in less than a second. We’ve seen this algo pattern many times before, so many times, that we’ve given it a name: Whac-a-mole.
Incredibly, we see quotes from 12 exchanges actively participating in this ruse. There are more than 5 orders placed and canceled for every trade during this event, at rates approaching 20,000 per second: a level that one exchange blamed for causing a 3 hour black-out.
We believe this type of algorithm operates all the time – but at levels that are hard to detect. Every so often, something about the algo misfires and exposes its manipulative ways. If you are wondering what the SEC is doing about this, so are we. In fact, just two months ago we alerted them about a similar event (in a smaller stock) that was caused by this HFT algo. Maybe they want a bigger boat too.
1. CVX – Trades color coded by reporting exchange.
2. CVX – Bids and asks color coded by reporting exchange.
3. CVX – Trades color coded by reporting exchange. Zoom of Chart 1.
4. CVX – Trades color coded by reporting exchange. Zoom of Chart 3.
5. CVX – Trades color coded by reporting exchange. Zoom of Chart 4.
6. CVX – Best bids and offers color coded by reporting exchange.