23 March 2012 17:00

SEC launches high frequency trading probe

Bats Big

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating claims that some high frequency trading firms have used their close physical links to computerized stock exchanges to give them an unfair advantage over other investors.

The investigation is focused on the computer-driven trading platforms of exchanges, including BATS Global Markets, and will examine whether firms collude to limit competition or manipulate markets.

The SEC has sent letters to several high-frequency trading firms to request information about their trading activities, and their communications with exchanges.

However, the regulator is keen to stress that the probe is still in its early stages, and that there is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of exchanges or trading firms.

High-frequency trading firms rely on super-fast trade executions and short-term strategies to make lots of small profits from momentary price fluctuations.

This latest investigation is part of a larger probe into high-frequency trading that was instigated after the "flash crash" of May 2010, when stocks fell sharply and then rebounded within minutes, partly as a result of glitches in computerized trading systems.


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