SEC preps public Web site for HFT data and research

SEC preps public Web site for HFT data and research

The Securities and Exchange Commission is launching a public Web site packed with reams of the kind of data, research and analysis used by HFT traders in a bid to "transform the debate on market structure".

In a speech, SEC chair Mary Jo White revealed that the site will go live as early as next week, bringing a better empirical understating of the equity markets to a public debate that has too often in the past leant on anecdote.

The site will provide access to data and related observations drawn from Midas, the market information and data analysis system that the SEC began using in January after buying it from HFT outfit Tradeworx.

Every day Midas collects one billion records from the consolidated tapes and proprietary fees of exchanges, time-stamped to the microsecond. Until now, only sophisticated market participants have typically had access to this kind of information, says White.

The new site will let users investigate metrics and trends based on aggregate analyses of tens of billions of Midas records over the last year, with results available in charts and graphs.

Says White: "Gathering, disseminating, and analysing data, testing assumptions about our complex, dispersed marketplace, and ensuring the integrity of market technology are the fundamental steps that are needed to address today's market structure concerns in a responsible manner."

In a wide-ranging speech, the SEC chief also tackled the spate of technology-related problems to have hit the market over the last 18 months. While IT has improved efficiency, cut trading costs and improved access to capital in recent years, its ever-greater complexity also creates risk, with systems failing or operating in unintended ways, she argues.

In March the SEC approved new rules - Regulation SCI - governing IT policies and procedures at 'key market participants', in an effort to better insulate the markets from vulnerabilities posed by systems technology issues.

However, in her speech, White says that August's meltdown at Nasdaq OMX shows that "we cannot wait for, nor rely solely on, this proposed regulation to address especially single points of failure where a disruption can have an impact across the entire national market system".

White met with exchange bosses in the wake of the Nasdaq OMX issue and told them to develop steps to improve technology resilience in areas involving critical market infrastructures. The exchanges are due to offer up action plans in "short order".

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