After years of emulating the flashy United States stock markets, countries around the globe are now using America as a model for what they don’t want to look like.
Industry leaders and regulators in several countries including Canada, Australia and Germany have adopted or proposed a wide range of limits on high-speed trading and other technological developments that have come to define United States markets.
The flurry of international activity is particularly striking because regulators have been slow to act in the United States, where trading firms and investors have been hardest hit by a series of market disruptions, including the flash crash of 2010 and the runaway trading in August by Knight Capital that cost it $440 million in just hours. While the Securities and Exchange Commission is hosting a round table on the topic on Tuesday, the agency has not proposed any major new rules this year.
In contrast, the German government on Wednesday advanced legislation that would, among other things, force high-speed trading firms to register with the government and limit their ability to rapidly place and cancel orders, one of the central strategies used by the firms to take advantage of small changes in the price of stocks. A few hours later, a European Union committee agreed on similar but broader rules that would apply to the entire Continent if they win approval from the union’s governing bodies.
In Australia, the top securities regulator recently stated its intention of bringing computer-driven trading firms under stricter supervision and forcing them to conduct stress testing, to protect the country’s markets “against the type of disruption we have seen recently in other markets.”
The broadest and fastest reforms have come out of Canada, where this spring regulators began increasing the fees charged to firms that flood the market with orders. The research and trading firm ITG found that the change had already made trading more efficient by reducing the crush of data burdening the market’s computer systems.
Now Canadian trading desks are preparing for rules that will come into effect on Oct. 15 and curtail the growth of the sophisticated trading venues known as dark pools that have proliferated in the United States. While the regulation has been hotly debated, many Canadian bankers and investors have said they don’t want to go any further down the road that has taken the United States from having one major exchange a decade ago to having 13 official exchanges and dozens of dark pools today.
“We don’t want to look like the U.S., but we have to do it better than we are now,” said Greg Mills, the head of stock trading at the nation’s largest bank, Royal Bank of Canada.