“In a quiet room overlooking Madison Avenue, seven miles uptown from the New York Stock Exchange, a dozen people are focused intently on banks of computer screens, where programs trade about a 10th of all the US stocks exchanged in a given day.
“For this select group of high-frequency traders, part of the 133-person staff at Virtu Financial, using lightning-fast computer systems to trade US equities is just a start. The company now wants to make high-speed trading the norm in new asset classes such as bonds, currencies and derivatives.
“If Virtu and a handful of its rivals manage to disrupt these new asset classes the way they shook up the stock market, it could spell the end of the long dominance enjoyed by global banks in areas such as bond and foreign exchange trading.
“Electronic trading has grown steadily over the past 25 years, but high-frequency trading has boomed since the turn of the century as technology costs and communication networks improve. It has also been associated with hair-raising glitches – most notably the unexplained Flash Crash of 2010 – that some believe has hurt confidence and driven small investors from the US equity market.”
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