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How to end high frequency trading: Make fast traders pay for each bid or order, says Leigh Drogen

Daily Ticker

Is the stock market rigged in favor of those who exploit computerized, fast trading? Is it leaving the average investor behind? Michael Lewis, author of the new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, thinks so. And the CFTC and New York Attorney General are investigating high-frequency trading, which now accounts for about half U.S. stock trades on any given day.

Former hedge fund manager Leigh Drogen, CEO of Estimize, a financial research firm, tells The Daily Ticker that while it isn't fair to call the market rigged, he's no fan of high frequency trading. "They're extracting a tax every single time you have to trade. That's not rigged. That's just unfair."

Related: The market is rigged: Here's how not to be a victim

High frequency trading (HFT) is complicated but essentially uses trading strategies, based on algorithms, that are conducted by computers which hold positions for seconds or fractions of a second. Problems arise, says Drogen, when these trades "flash the market with a bid, then remove it instantaneously." The bids that follow will naturally be higher, thus the "tax," he refers to.

"Fake orders happen all the time," says David Nelson, chief strategist at Belpointe. "There's something going on. I don't think we really understand all the ins and outs." But Nelson says the individual investor may actually be better off with HFT because trading costs have declined.

Related: Stocks are "radically" overvalued: Henry Blodget

Both Drogen and Nelson contend that it's not as if there was never any front-running by the market makers who dominated trading before HFT.

"In one fashion or another this will always happen but you have to eradicate it every time it comes around," says Drogen. He suggests that fast traders pay for the bid or the order, not the execution. If that were to happen, he says, "this will end overnight [and] destroy the high frequency guys."

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