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Another News Service for High Frequency Traders Draws Scrutiny

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Need To Know News has come under investigation from the Securities and Exchange Commission for selling early access to government data to high frequency trading (HFT) firms. This comes as other firmswho sell machine-readable market data to HFT, including Thomson Reuters, have also made news for potentially distorting markets.

The WSJ story offers an example of how Need To Know News assisted HFT firms:

A news event on Sept. 2, 2011, shows the critical...

The Effect of Oil Futures Markets on ETF Investors

Barron's reporter Brendan Conway is reporting on a relatively rare phenomenon occurring in oil markets that is benefiting some passive investors. Futures contracts for oil are generally more expensive as the time to expiration increases -- i.e. a contract expiring later is usually more expensive.The story goes that there are costs associated with storing oil and as a result the futures prices reflect the impact of these storage costs.

The current situation in the oil markets is the reverse:...

Goldman Sachs Sued Over Aluminum Storage

We mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Goldman Sachs has been in the business of aluminum metal storage for quite a while. A NY Times investigation found that, through a subsidiary, Goldman Sachs has been artificially inflating the prices of aluminum by magnifying storage costs.

Bloomberg News, the NY Times, and Law360 arereporting that Superior Extrusion Inc., a Michigan-based aluminum processor, has filed a class action lawsuit that alleges Goldman Sachs and theLondon Metal Exchange (LME)...

JP Morgan to Exit the Physical Commodities Business

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that JP Morgan plans to sell their physical commodities assets "amid heightened regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street's ownership of such assets."1 JP Morgan joins several other investment banks, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, who are looking to sell or wind down their stakes in physical commodities.

According to the WSJ, the sale by JP Morgan will include trading desks that trade metals, power and fossil fuels. JP Morgan has drawn particular...

Regulators Impose Record Fine for Brokerage Firm's Supervisory Failures

Yesterday evening, the Wall Street Journal reported that FINRA and several US exchanges fined the brokerage firm Newedge USA, LLC $9.5 million over alleged failures to adequately restrict automated client trading activity that "sought to manipulate U.S. markets for nearly four years." The trading activity took place on several exchanges including NYSE Euronext, NASDAQ OMX, and BATS Global Markets according to the WSJ article. FINRA's press release can be found on the FINRA website.


Hedge Funds and Private Placements May Soon Solicit Retail Investors

According to the Wall Street Journal, the SEC will soon lift the ban on soliciting shares of hedge funds and other private placement investments to the general public, "a move that's expected to unleash a wave of ads touting such investments." We've been covering this story for some time, as the SEC has seemed reluctant to implement this new rule due to concerns from Congress and others over the lack of investor protections.

However, the SEC may have no choice. Lifting the ban was required by...

Reuters to Stop Sneak Peek of Consumer-Confidence Data

Thomson Reuters will no longer be offering investors an early look at the results of the University of Michigan consumer-confidence survey, the NY Times reported yesterday and the Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning. The move was prompted by an investigation by the NY Attorney General and would likely be temporary while the investigation is ongoing.

We talked about this story a bit last week, emphasizing the in depth analysis conducted by Nanex, LLC on high frequency trading data...

Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing

Bloomberg News recently reported that traders at some of the world's largest banks have been in the business of rigging foriegn exchange (FX) rates. An FX rate essentially tells you how much of one currency you can buy with another currency: for example, currently you can buy about 100 Japanese yen for each US dollar. The rates affect "trillions of dollars of investments" according to Bloomberg, since they are used for the valuation of portfolios, derivatives, and even equity and fixed...

IRS Could Put a Halt to REIT Conversions

We've talked a lot about real estate investment trusts (REITs) before. In the US, REITs are companies that invest at least 75% of their assets in real estate, pay out almost all of their annual income in dividends, but also pay little or no corporate income tax. As we've discussed before, many companies have tried to qualify for the REIT designation to reduce their tax liabilities, even if their business is only peripherally related to real estate.1 This 'REIT conversion boom' has been...

Investors Returning to Capital-at-Risk Products

Yakob Peterseil of recently noted that "[b]anks are boosting issuance of leveraged notes linked to US equity indexes and notes that pay out when yield curves steepen." According to the article, reverse convertibles and buffered notes are seeing a resurgence as investors begin to be more optimistic about stock market growth. In addition, principal-protected structures like structured certificates of deposit and principal-protected notesare falling out of favor as attractive terms are...

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