U.S. online brokers still profiting from ‘dumb money’

Oct 10, 2019

First Read

Hits & Takes
By JLN Staff

Want to attend tonight’s Rocktoberfest for ALTSO, but did not buy a ticket yet? Use “LothianRocks” to unlock 15% off full priced tickets.~JJL

Thomas J. Cashman was recently honored with a lifetime achievement award by the 100 Club of Chicago, an organization that supports fallen first responders. Tom is the person who brought me into the markets when I worked for him starting as a 17-year-old driver.~JJL

Both men and women are invited to attend when Women in Listed Derivatives teams up with Morgan Lewis in Chicago for Cyber Attacks: Not If – But When at 6:00 pm on October 17 in Morgan Lewis’s conference facility at 77 W. Wacker Drive. Gain insight into cybersecurity best practices from a panel of experts from CME Group, Wintrust and Morgan Lewis. Please contact bernice.kyereme@morganlewis.com to register or for more information. ~Thom Thompson

Isn’t commission free trading an invitation for firms to act in their own interests instead of those of their clients? I mean, they have already given the client “free” trading. There must be a trade-off for that. Is this the making of the next great enforcement campaign by the regulators?~JJL

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) index futures are making progress. Nasdaq’s OMXS30 ESG index futures topped 1 million contracts traded since its October 1, 2018 launch with 28,000 contracts of open interest. CME Group will launch E-mini S&P ESG Index Futures on November 18. And Eurex, which launched STOXX Europe ESG Index Futures on February 18, topped 362,000 contracts in its first six months.~JK


HSBC Trader Turned Activist Spurns City for Climate Activists Extinction Rebellion
Jeremy Hodges and Madis Kabash – Bloomberg
Former derivatives trader volunteers for climate protests; Activists have blocked key London roads to protest the climate
A former trader at HSBC Holdings Plc and Lloyds Banking Group Plc, used to seeing millions of dollars flash across his screen in an instant, is working with climate activists to help marshal donations to support two weeks of protests in London.

***** Those wacky derivatives traders.~JJL


How my iPhone landed me with a £476 fine and made me a criminal; When my phone died I couldn’t prove that I had bought a bus ticket with Apple Pay
Jemima Kelly – FT
The digital payments revolution was meant to make things better for the consumer. No more banknotes falling out of your back pocket; no more waiting days on end for cheques to clear; no more missing your train because the tourist at the front of the queue doesn’t know how to use the ticket machine.

**** Regardless of how you pay you can still get a paper receipt. Just saying. ~JB



Wednesday’s Top Three
Our top read story of the day was S&PGlobal’s Massive trading database project should be ‘killed,’ SEC’s Peirce says, about the data debacle for the consolidated audit trail. Second was The Wall Street Journal’s No Deal: Why Buying the London Stock Exchange Is Hard to Do. Since 2000, OM, Deutsche Boerse, Nasdaq, Macquarie Bank and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing have all tried to merge with or acquire the LSE – and failed. Third was Marketplace’s The fight over the NYSE new antennas, about NYSE’s move to offer faster trading than those antennas from its member firms.


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Lead Stories

U.S. online brokers still profiting from ‘dumb money’
John McCrank – Reuters
People who trade stocks online cheered last week when several large retail brokers slashed stock-trading commissions to zero, a move made possible, in part, by a controversial source of broker revenue that has drawn regulatory scrutiny.

Brokers Profit From You Even If They Don’t Charge for Trading; Schwab’s move to zero could pay off in the long run.
Anna Massa – Bloomberg
From sharing pictures to sending email to streaming videos, we’re all used to the idea that many of the things we do online are free. We also know that none of those things are really free—Facebook Inc., Google, and other internet companies have plenty of ways to make money off of us once we sign up. Now another industry has adopted this business model: online stockbrokers.

The Master of Robots Left AQR. Now He’s Coming for Wall Street
Justina Lee – Bloomberg
Lopez de Prado pitches machine learning via independent outfit; AI pioneer delivers uncomfortable truths to active managers
The man dubbed the world’s top quant has a message for Wall Street firms lavishing millions on machine-learning programs: Most of you are doing it wrong.

Federal Reserve drops toughening liquidity rules on foreign banks; Deutsche expected to benefit most from change in US regulator’s stance
Kiran Stacey and Laura Noonan – FT
US banking regulators have dropped a proposal to subject local branches of foreign banks to tough new liquidity rules, in a move which will benefit the troubled Deutsche Bank more than any other.

From financial crisis to inequality — how economists got it wrong; Three new books dissect how capitalism is changing and our failure to spot the danger signs
Edward Luce – FT
Five years before the financial meltdown of 2008, Robert Lucas famously declared that “the central problem of depression-prevention has been solved?.?.?.?and has in fact been solved for many decades”.

SEC Announces the Formation of Asset Management Advisory Committee
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the formation of its Asset Management Advisory Committee. The committee was formed to provide the Commission with diverse perspectives on asset management and related advice and recommendations. Topics the committee may address include trends and developments affecting investors and market participants, the effects of globalization, and changes in the role of technology and service providers. The committee is comprised of a group of outside experts, including individuals representing the views of retail and institutional investors, small and large funds, intermediaries, and other market participants.

Libor Refuses to Die
Mark Gilbert – Bloomberg
An advertisement showing in U.K. cinemas currently shows a boy hesitating to kiss a female zombie. “But I’m kinda hot,” she says, popping chewing gum into her mouth before they lock lips — and her arm drops off. The finance community has a similarly conflicted relationship with Libor, the reference interest rates for everything from mortgages to car loans to corporate debt. This makes it likely that the benchmarks will survive beyond their planned termination date.

Exchanges, OTC and Clearing

Trading in Nasdaq European ESG future reaches one million contracts; Nasdaq launched its future based on the OMXS30 ESG index in October last year.
Hayley McDowell – The Trade
Exchange operator Nasdaq has said trading in its European exchange-listed environmental, social and governance (ESG) index future has surpassed one million contracts.

Equity Derivatives: Introduction of Single Stock Futures and equity options
Eurex Circular 097/19 Equity Derivatives: Introduction of Single Stock Futures and equity options

Handling of Tick Sizes from October 31 onward
As previously announced, TSE have applied a separate set of narrower tick sizes to TOPIX100 constituents from January 14, 2014 onward (as prescribed in Rule 14, Paragraph 3, Item 1-b of the Business Regulations; hereinafter referred to as “narrow tick sizes”). The handling of the application from October 31 onward shall be as follows.

Tradeweb reports record trading volume on third-quarter volatility
Kate Duguid – Reuters
Fixed income trading platform Tradeweb Markets on Thursday reported record volumes in the third quarter as market volatility driven by the U.S.-China trade war and global rate cuts bolstered activity during the normally sluggish summer months.

SIX And Shenzhen Stock Exchange Sign A Memorandum Of Understanding
Today, SIX and Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to start an initiative with the aim of connecting the investors’ community and companies in both countries to allow for the establishment of capital formation possibilities on a larger scale.

Miami International Holdings Reports September 2019 Trading Results for MIAX Exchange Group
Miami International Holdings, Inc. (MIH) today reported the September 2019 trading activity for its three fully electronic options exchanges – MIAX®, MIAX PEARL® and MIAX Emerald™ (together, the MIAX Exchange Group™). The MIAX Exchange Group collectively executed over 35.9 million equity option contracts in September for a combined average daily volume (ADV) of 1,799,882 contracts, representing a total U.S. equity options market share of 9.98%.


When fintech goes (disastrously) wrong
Jemima Kelly
We at Alphaville have a reputation for being, let’s say, a bit wary when it comes to financial innovation. Some might call our particular brand of wariness Luddism, but we prefer to think of it as healthy scepticism (with a dash of FUD-peddling thrown in now and again for good measure).

FIS CEO Gary Norcross: We’d love to grow here; But executive declines to comment about Project Sharp at JAXUSA Partnership luncheon.
Mark Basch and Mike Mendenhall – Daily Record
Fidelity National Information Services Inc. solidified its position as a major global financial technology company two months ago with its $43 billion acquisition of Worldpay Inc.


B2C2 Launches a Bitcoin-Settled Gold Derivative; The product is only available to financial institutions.
Finance Magnates
Cryptocurrency liquidity provider B2C2 has launched a gold-backed derivative product which will be settled in Bitcoin.

SEC Rejects Bitwise’s Latest Bitcoin ETF Proposal
Nikhilesh De – Coindesk
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rejected the latest attempt at creating a bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF).

The IRS Just Issued Its First Cryptocurrency Tax Guidance in 5 Years
Anna Baydakova – Coindesk
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has published its first guidance in five years for calculating taxes owed on cryptocurrency holdings. Industry members have been eagerly awaiting the update since May 2019, when IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said the agency was working on providing fresh guidance. The agency’s 2014 guidance left many questions unanswered, and the crypto market has grown more complex in the years since.

Altcoins: Ahead of Libra, XRP cryptocurrency gains toehold in commerce
Tom Wilson – Reuters
Facebook’s Libra may be grabbing all the headlines at the moment, yet a major cryptocurrency already exists that’s gained a toehold in mainstream commerce. XRP, the third-biggest cryptocurrency by market value, seeks to succeed where bitcoin and other digital currencies have largely failed: in powering fast and low-cost transactions. In a rare example of a cryptocurrency finding a practical use beyond speculative trading, it has gained a certain amount of traction, with some large financial firms using XRP for international payments.

Facebook CEO to Testify at House Panel About Libra
Bowdeya Tweh and Peter Rudegeair – The Wall Street Journal
Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is slated to return to Capitol Hill this month to testify before a House panel about the company’s foray into cryptocurrency, just weeks after facing a chilly reception from lawmakers about his vision for internet regulation. The House Financial Services Committee said Wednesday that Mr. Zuckerberg will be the sole witness at an Oct. 23 hearing that examines Facebook’s impact on the financial services and housing sectors.

Russian Central Bank Chief: ‘No Obvious Need’ for National Cryptocurrency
Daniel Palmer – Coindesk
Russia’s central bank sees no strong reason to launch a national cryptocurrency that would override the potential risks, according to its head. As reported by Tass on Thursday, Elvira Nabiullina, chairwoman of the Bank of Russia, said her institution had been investigating the possibility of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) and the need the launch the new technology “is not obvious for us.”

Bitmain Announces Two New ASIC Cryptocurrency Mining Rigs
Adrian Zmudzinski – Cointelegraph
Leading Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) producer Bitmain announced two new series 17 Bitcoin (BTC) mining machines in a blog post published on Oct. 9. Bitmain co-founder Jihan Wu announced the S17+ and T17+ mining machines at the World Digital Mining Summit (WDMS) in Frankfurt. Bitmain claims that the new ASICs feature improvements to power efficiency and hashrate.

Bitwise’s bitcoin ETF, the last hope, has been denied
Frank Chaparro – The Block Crypto
Sorry, bitcoin ETF hopefuls. The final application for an exchange-traded fund tied to the cryptocurrency has been denied by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a document on the agency’s website. Bitwise’s Bitcoin ETF Trust would have tracked the spot price for bitcoin had it been approved. It was originally filed with the agency on Jan. 28, and in March the commission granted a longer period to consider the new product. The denial of the fund follows the rejection of VanEck’s similar bitcoin ETF last month.

IRS’s New Cryptocurrency Rules Create ‘Messy’ Problems for Industry
Jeff John Roberts – Fortune
S&P Index data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions. | EU Data Subject Requests

CME expects big demand for its upcoming bitcoin options from Asian traders and miners
Yogita Khatri – The Block Crypto
Derivatives exchange giant CME Group expects its upcoming bitcoin options to be popular with Asian cryptocurrency traders and miners. The exchange is hopeful that the options contracts will be as popular as bitcoin futures, which drive most demand (over 50% of trading volume) from Asian and European traders, Tim McCourt, global head of equity index and alternative investment products at CME, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) in an interview published Thursday.

Samsung Working With Ripple Partner, Finablr, on International Payments
Richard Meyer – Coindesk
Samsung Pay now has an international remittance feature, utilizing a platform owned by Finablr, a London-listed Ripple partner. Branded as Money Transfer, the service is currently available only in the United States – with the exception of Oklahoma – and will be rolled out to other countries next year.


Trump is hastening America’s decline; The president is only part of the reason why US power is waning
Edward Luce – FT
Forget for a moment the manner in which Donald Trump has sold out the Kurds during an admiring late-night call with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s strongman; his US troop withdrawal, which caught White House advisers by surprise: the bombastic tweets that followed. All these were vintage Mr Trump. But we should not let the noise obscure the signal. America has been trying to extricate itself from the Middle East for years. Mr Trump is only following in the footsteps of Barack Obama.

Elizabeth Warren Vows to Remake Capitalism. Businesses Are Bracing; The Democratic Party’s favored presidential candidate has proposed sweeping changes to how business operates; many executives expect she would tack center
Greg Ip – WSJ
For the past generation, Democratic presidential candidates have mostly talked of redistributing the rewards of American capitalism while leaving its basic structure intact.

Koch family’s local outpost is Exhibit A in their case against Trump tariffs; Electronic components maker Molex followed customers to China. Now the connection is becoming costly.
Claire Bushey – Crain’s Chicago Business
The billionaire Koch family has poured cash into ads warning the public that President Donald Trump’s trade war costs Americans money. They should know. Chinese tariffs are squeezing Molex, their Lisle-based electronic component manufacturer.

Trump puts election-year politics at center of impeachment case
Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels – The Hill
President Trump is leaning into a defense strategy marked by 2020 politics as he seeks to beat back a growing push by Democrats on impeachment. The president has grasped at a number of political arguments to dismiss the legitimacy of the impeachment inquiry, attacking the lawmakers leading the effort, decrying the process as a “coup” and accusing the anonymous whistleblower that helped spark the investigation of working with partisan aims.


SEC Launches Investigation of Practices in Retirement Plans for Teachers, Government Employees; Regulator looks to determine ‘if violations of the federal securities laws have occurred’
Anne Tergesen and Gretchen Morgenson – WSJ
The Securities and Exchange Commission has sent letters to companies that administer retirement plans for teachers and other government workers, opening a probe of practices in a market that consumer advocates contend is subject to abuse.

EU Looks to Tweak Method for Compiling Dirty-Money Blacklist; New proposed methodology follows concerns about transparency in the previous process for designating high-risk countries
Kristin Broughton – WSJ
The European Union is working on a new approach for flagging countries with weak anti-money-laundering laws after the bloc’s previous attempt to create a blacklist failed earlier this year.

‘Other people’s money’ and changing global markets
Keynote address by ASIC Chair, James Shipton, at the Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA) Annual Conference, ‘Developing Asia’s Capital Markets’, Tokyo, Japan, 10 October 2019

Two pre-insolvency advisers plead guilty to money laundering
Mr Stephen O’Neill of Port Melbourne, Victoria and Mr John Narramore, of Main Beach Queensland have both pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court to one charge for dealing in the proceeds of crime.

Beenleigh adviser banned for seven years
ASIC has banned Beenleigh-based Ian Victor Haisman from providing financial services for a period of seven years. This follows an ASIC surveillance, which found that Mr Haisman failed to act in the best interests of his clients.

CFTC to Hold an Open Commission Meeting on October 16
U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Heath P. Tarbert today announced the CFTC will hold an open meeting on Wednesday, October 16 at 10:00 a.m. at its headquarters in Washington, DC to consider the following:

Investing and Trading

Bank of England Unveils New £20 Note With Turner’s Image
Lucy Meakin and Yuko Takeo – Bloomberg
Polymer banknote will be put in circulation in February 2020; Will feature J.M.W. Turner’s painting The Fighting Temeraire
The Bank of England unveiled the new design of its 20-pound ($24) banknote honoring painter J.M.W. Turner.

Aramco’s Long-Delayed Mega-IPO Is Finally Set to Hit the Market; The Saudis are hoping to take a slice of the company public at a valuation of $2 trillion, but investors may find that price too high.
Will Kennedy – Bloomberg
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had only just started his rise to global notoriety when he stunned the global business community in early 2016 by promising to sell shares in the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., the state oil producer. Now, after several false starts, the initial public offering of Saudi Arabia’s crown jewel—Aramco, which pumps 10% of the global crude oil supply from abundant fields under the kingdom’s desert—is finally going ahead.

The downside of negative interest rates; Investors and consumers can be spooked by unconventional monetary policy
Gillian Tett – FT
Earlier this month, I asked a former luminary of US monetary policy if he thought interest rates in America might ever tumble into negative territory by design (as a deliberate Federal Reserve policy move rather than the result of a market swing).

FTSE Russell must learn that language matters on sustainability; Index provider’s decision to scrap ‘renewable energy’ label is regressive
Emma Howard Boyd – FT
Last month, Greta Thunberg said to the UN: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

How to deal with a billion-dollar credit portfolio trade; Following the launch of the first portfolio trading protocol in credit from Tradeweb earlier this year, Hayley McDowell breaks down how these complex transactions are executed and examines the rise of portfolio trading in credit markets.
Hayley McDowell – The Trade
Let’s say a deal lands on a buy-side trader’s desk. It’s a billion-dollar, market-moving, large notional trade in aggregate consisting of a high number of bonds in various sizes, some illiquid and difficult to price. Where do you start?


R.J. O’Brien Announces Expanded Commitment to AutoHedge Agri-Tech Offering, Rebranded as Hrvyst, for Commercial Agriculture Industry
Chicago-based R.J. O’Brien & Associates (RJO), the oldest and largest independent futures brokerage and clearing firm in the United States, announced today that the firm has expanded its commitment to its agri-tech offering for the commercial grain industry, originally known as AutoHedge and now rebranded as Hrvyst. Spearheading the strategic initiative full time will be long-time RJO executive Kirk Bonniwell, who had been in charge of the Commercial Grains and OTC Markets divisions.

Pimco lawyer files gender and race discrimination suit; Complaint alleges attorney was passed over for promotion after pregnancy
Jennifer Ablan – FT
A Pimco lawyer has filed a gender and racial discrimination lawsuit against the $1.8tn asset manager, alleging she was passed over for promotions and denied career opportunities after becoming pregnant.

Boaz Weinstein’s Hedge Fund Battle with Neuberger Berman Gets More Heated; Saba Capital traded barbs with Neuberger Berman after it failed to push through most of its propositions in potentially high-stakes fight
Rachael Levy – WSJ
Boaz Weinstein’s hedge fund Saba Capital Management LP faced a setback in its wrangle with Neuberger Berman Group LLC for more power over its investment in one of Neuberger’s funds.

Mizuho hires fixed income traders from BAML, Deutsche Bank, HSBC & Barclays; Traders from HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Jefferies and Credit Agricole and NatWest Markets have joined Mizuho throughout September and October.
Hayley McDowell – The Trade
Mizuho International has bolstered its fixed income trading team with seven new hires from HSBC, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and other major institutions.


Swiss Get Creative to Dodge ‘Big Pain’ of Negative Rates
Catherine Bosley – Bloomberg
Canton delayed reclaiming tax revenue to avoid cash on hand; Growing demand for storing cash to avoid bank charges
In the Swiss canton of Zug, officials are going to extremes to avoid getting penalized by the world’s lowest interest rate.

Turkey Wealth Fund Plans Debut Bond After Seeking Credit Rating
Ercan Ersoy and Kerim Karakaya – Bloomberg
Issuance is said to be planned for the first half of next year; Fund will begin process by completing financial statements
Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund plans to tap international bond markets next year once the quality of its debt has been assessed by global ratings companies, according to three people with knowledge of the plan.

Japan’s Foreign-Investor Screening Risks Undoing Years of Reform; National-security proposals would frustrate a surprising proportion of overseas investors
Mike Bird – WSJ
The Japanese government’s proposals to tighten screening of foreign investors may keep the country a little safer—at the cost of undoing several years of hard work in improving the investment climate.

JPMorgan targets Asia’s growing wealth with Singapore trust company
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM.N) has set up a trust company in Singapore, its first in Asia, to cater for a growing cadre of ultra-wealthy individuals in the region.

MSCI embraces China’s newly-launched STAR tech stocks
MSCI (MSCI.N) plans to include stocks listed on China’s newly-launched, Nasdaq-style STAR market in its indexes from next month, as international investors seek opportunities in the world’s second largest economy.


Brexit’s mortal threat to the EU’s single market; Boris Johnson’s proposal is said to threaten the single market with weak customs checks and shaky anti-fraud ideas
Mehreen Khan and Sam Fleming – FT
Does Boris Johnson really understand why his alternative Brexit proposal is seen as an existential threat to the EU’s single market? Brussels negotiators think not — and fear time is running out for the penny to drop.

Brexit: Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar hold further talks
BBC News
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar are holding further talks to discuss the UK’s Brexit proposals. Downing Street said the meeting would allow “detailed discussions” on the process of securing a deal. Mr Johnson has said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about a deal. But on Wednesday EU leaders accused the UK of putting forward untested ideas, adding that progress towards a new deal had been limited.

What might Johnson do when MPs gather for Brexit showdown?
Kate Proctor – The Guardian
Boris Johnson has planned an emergency Saturday sitting of parliament on 19 October to allow MPs to decide the next step forward after a European council meeting that starts two days earlier. Here are some of the options he could pursue.

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