Can Technical Indicators Still Work When High Frequency Trading Dominates the Market? → Washingtons Blog
Can Technical Indicators Still Work When High Frequency Trading Dominates the Market? - Washingtons Blog

Monday, November 9, 2009

Can Technical Indicators Still Work When High Frequency Trading Dominates the Market?

In July, I pointed out that high-frequency trading is distorting the market, and that - at least on some days - many more high-frequency trades occur than normal trades by human investors.

Friday, I quoted Senator Ted Kaufman:

The chief executive of one of the country's biggest block trading dark pools was quoted two weeks ago as saying that the amount of money devoted to high-frequency trading could "quintuple between this year and next."
I know that technical market systems such as Elliot Wave are supposed to work no matter what is going on. And I know that people program the computers used for high -frequency trading.

But given the massive distortions by hft, dark pools and other shenanigans, and the speed with which things can happen in this volatile market, can Elliot Wave and other predictive systems still work?

I look forward to comments one way or the other from technical traders who are more knowledgeable than me on this subject.


  1. bizarre financial instruments are an obviously fraudulent artifice of the current rulers. irony erases neither bullying, propaganda, nor theft. the frog-pot slowly reaches boil.

  2. great question...I really am not sure. I've been trading for about 2 years and I have to admit, things have been rough using technicals since March 09'. Some short term systems still work, but it seems as if Ben and his friends have completely destroyed the weekly and daily charts and their respective indicators.

    As for Elliott Wave....It does seem to work to a certain extent, but it sure isn't what it used to be.


    I have cut back to using almost nothing on all my trades. Not even enough to make any money, it is more to see if I'm right or not at this point than to profit.

  3. I'd also like to know how technical analysis fares in a really severe and persistent excess liquidity environment.

  4. If you are referring to a bull market....they work fine, as they have for trading gold and the oil bull in 2008.

  5. As with everything it comes down to experience, the stock market is ready to read if you know how ;)

  6. Zero Hedge has been documenting that intraday moves down are correlated with high volume, up moves with low volume, Spikes when volume dries up are a sign of weakness, spikes on large volume characterize blow offs, and gradual upticks on increased volume indicate strength show a balance bull move. That is a very powerful technical indication that this is a momentum driven market instead of a value driven one.

    A momentum driven market separates price from value as it drives up prices on momentum alone. This is called MOMO (momentum only).

    This market resists the upside as indicated by low volume and reinforces the downside as shown by high volume on pull backs. Sophisticated players know that a momentum driven, or MOMO, market can collapse quickly once selling starts if big market makers don't step in.

    The suspicion about the price-volume divergence is that high frequency players are not only front-running but also pumping the market to keep up the momentum as they distribute. The game is that the big money buys on the way up and distributes to the retail buyers that come it at the top due to the persistent upward momentum.

    Many people have also noticed that equity markets inversely to dollar. When the dollar falls, equities rise. This is an indication that the Fed is using its operations to support a policy of asset reflation. Traders definitely watch the Fed and take their signals based on whether the Fed is loosening or tightening. So far the Fed is signaling that it has no intention of tightening any time soon, jawboning aside, and that it will back up the financial system no matter what it takes.

    Many technical analysts are predicting a big down move in the making, For example, Robert Prechter, one of the foremost Elliott Wave theorists, was calling for an equity rally in March and is now forecasting a new bottom coming. (His overall record isn't that impressive, however, although he has made some good calls recently.)

  7. It's funny that you refer to HFT as distorting the market. For technical analysis to be profitable, the market must be inefficient. If HFT comes along, and TA is no longer profitable, the markets are by definition more efficient. How can more efficient markets be 'distorted'?

  8. Tom Hickey, you refer to HFT players as distributing while simultaneously pumping up the market. That is one incredible trick!!! How exactly does one buy and sell at the same time?

  9. @jon

    its called market making , here is a easy to follow description for in this case nasdaq equities


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