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«Economic Impact Assessment EIA8 Foresight, Government Office for Science Minimum obligations of market makers Contents   1. Objective 2. Background ...»

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Minimum obligations of

market makers

Economic Impact Assessment EIA8

Foresight, Government Office for Science

Minimum obligations of market makers



1. Objective

2. Background

3. Risk assessment

4. Options

5. Cost, risks, and benefits

6. Future

7. Summary and recommendation



Minimum obligations of market makers

Minimum obligations of market makers

Daniel Weaver This review has been commissioned as part of the UK Government’s Foresight Project, The Future of Computer Trading in Financial Markets. The views expressed do not represent the policy of any Government or organisation.

Minimum obligations of market makers

1. Objective The business model of market makers is to buy securities from sellers and then to resell them at a higher price to buyers. Market makers can be officially recognized as such or operate in that capacity on a de-facto basis. The latter is the case for many high frequency trading firms.

Without minimum obligations market makers are free to enter and exit markets at will or set buy and sell prices at any level. The objective of this measure is to examine the efficacy of imposing minimum obligations on market makers. These obligations can take the form of maximum spread width, minimum quoted volume, location of the market makers spread width relative to the best bid and offer, minimum percentage of the day the market maker must quote, and minimum time in force for market maker quotes.

We will discuss these obligations in the context of equity markets and attempt to identify whether the minimum obligations should be applied universally or to a specific set of stocks.

The welfare implications of imposing these obligations will be examined for individual firms as well as society.

2. Background What is a market maker? She is not much different than a grocer except she buys and sells stocks instead of vegetables. Without grocers, consumers of vegetables would have to buy directly from farmers. What if the farmer isn’t selling when consumers are buying or vice versa?

If there are lots of consumers and farmers in an area then the timing problem is mitigated.

Otherwise a grocer can solve the timing problem by providing immediacy for both the farmer and consumer. Similar to a grocer a stock market maker buys stock from sellers by bidding for them and sells to buyer by offering to sell to them. As with vegetables, if there are lots of buyers and sellers of stocks then a market maker is not necessary.

Market makers have existed for as long as stocks have been continuously traded. The business model was simple – buy low then quickly sell high or vice versa. If a market maker stopped earning sufficient profits in one stock he would switch to another. If things became too volatile, the market maker walked away altogether and waited for things to return to normal.

In London, market makers (known as jobbers) can be traced back to the late 1700s. 1 Over time, exchanges began to assign affirmative obligations to market makers – most commonly requiring that they provide quotes of a certain magnitude and for a certain amount of time each day. Some exchanges, such as London and NASDAQ, developed as competing market maker (dealer) systems. Others, like the New York Stock Exchange, developed as a monopolist market maker (specialist) system. 2  See Attard (2000.)   Beginning in 1871, in a switch from call market to continuous market, the NYSE created the post system whereby brokers and market makers who wanted to trade a particular stock stood at a certain location. This was a multiple market maker system with brokers and market makers moving in and out of stocks. As the story goes one of the Minimum obligations of market makers Charitou and Panayides (2009) examine the method of liquidity provision in 30 stock markets in 29 countries. They find that only the Tokyo Stock Exchange relies completely on public order flow for liquidity. The remaining 29 markets rely on market makers to provide liquidity beyond that supplied by the public. They find that, at least in major markets, that these market makers have affirmative obligations. The most common affirmative obligation for market makers in these markets is a rule on maximum spread width.

2.1.Background – traditional market makers Can designating someone to provide liquidity and charging them with affirmative obligations improve social welfare? That is the question examined by Bessembinder, Hao and M. Lemmon (2006). The authors model a trading world composed of investors who trade either based on private information they have (informed traders) or for liquidity purposes (uninformed traders) as well as competing market makers without any affirmative obligations. To create benchmarks, the authors examine spreads and outcomes for varying sets of parameter values assuming that due to competition expected profits are zero. The resulting spread is termed the competitive spread – or the spread that would naturally arise in a market without a market maker with affirmative obligations. They then introduce a market maker with an affirmative obligation to either set a fixed or maximum spread. A fixed spread is one that is set as a percentage of the value of the stock. 3 A maximum spread allows the market maker to post a spread that is the maximum of either the fixed spread or the competitive spread. Since market makers, by assumption, earn no profits at the competitive spread, whenever the constrained spread is less than the competitive spread market markers suffer losses. Since no one would ever voluntarily lose money, the authors point out that the designated market maker will need a side payment to compensate for her losses.

Bessembinder, Hao and M. Lemmon (2006) argue that the cost of this side payment improves social welfare and therefore can be seen as a transfer by society. The authors explain further that the narrower spreads arising from a designated market maker with an affirmative obligation to set a maximum or fixed spread, will induce both uninformed and informed traders to trade more. This in turn leads to increased price efficiency and faster price discovery. It is also pointed in the paper that the narrowness of the spread cannot be less than the social welfare cost of trading. A number of papers have empirically examined the impact of a market maker with affirmative obligations on market quality. We will now turn to those papers to try and quantify any benefits.

Anand and Weaver (2006) examine the 1987 adoption of Designated Primary Market Makers (DPMs), on the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s (CBOE) competing market maker system.

The CBOE’s DPMs are similar in privileges and obligations to specialists in that DPMs had exclusive knowledge of the limit order book. Saar (2001) predicts that a specialist system will participants broke his leg and being immobile sat at a particular post so that he could earn at least something. Other participants starting giving him limit orders with prices away from the current market price. They offered to share their commission with him in return for freeing them up to trade elsewhere. The limit orders left with him became known as his "book" and he became the first specialist.  For example designated liquidity providers on the Stockholm Stock Exchange are required to set spreads that at most 4% of the asking price of the stock. See Anand, Tanggaard, and Weaver (2010) for a discussion of the contracts in Sweden and Skjeltorp and Ødegaard (2011) for those in Norway. 

Minimum obligations of market makers

have lower spreads because the specialist’s knowledge of the limit order book reduces uncertainty about investor demand. Anand and Weaver find results consistent with the predictions of Saar. In particular they find statistically significant decreases in quoted, current, and effective spreads following the trading system change. They estimate that investors save more than $200 million annually.

Also of interest to this paper is that fact that during the period of Anand and Weaver’s study, the options markets were fragmented with multiple markets trading the same options.

Therefore, benefits of DPMs accrued in a fragmented market structure similar to equity markets today.

While Anand and Weaver (2006) examine the imposition of a market maker with affirmative obligations on a competing market maker system, Nimalendran and Petrella (2003) compare the voluntary imposition of a market maker with affirmative obligations on a public order driven system on the Italian Stock Exchange. Consistent with Anand and Weaver they find that spreads narrow and depth increases following the listed firm’s election of a market maker with affirmative obligations. In a related paper, Menkveld and Wang (2011) find that the introduction of a market maker with affirmative obligations for small firm stocks traded on EuronextAmsterdam increases the probability that trades will be completed quickly.

Anand, Tanggaard, Weaver (2009) examine the unique method of compensating market makers on the Stockholm Stock Exchange (SSE). During the period of their study (2003– 2004), listed firms on the SSE could choose a Designated Liquidity Provider to set a maximum spread less than or equal to an exchange established maximum. The listed firm then pays the Designated Liquidity Provider a negotiated specified payment based on a fixed monthly component (average about SEK16,000) and a variable trade based component (average about SEK9,000) up to a monthly maximum payment which averages about SEK23,000. The listing company may also provide the Designated Liquidity Provider with shares of company stock to create an inventory. The authors go on to examine the determinants of the choice by the listing firm to contract for liquidity. They find that firms with low volumes, wide spreads, and higher information asymmetry are more likely to contract for liquidity provision. However, firms with very wide spreads do not contract for liquidity provision, perhaps due to the higher cost Designated Liquidity Providers would charge. The authors find that the cost of the affirmative obligation is directly related to the expected spread improvement but was mitigated by existing financial relationships. Finally, they also find that listed firms are more likely to contract with Designated Liquidity Providers around equity offers. This suggests that Designated Liquidity Providers view the financial gain from the relationship to be greater than that implied by the terms of the contract.

The fact that firms with very wide spreads refrain from contracting for liquidity suggests that firms perform an explicit or implicit cost/benefit analysis in determining the feasibility of contracting for liquidity provision. Anand, Tanggaard, and Weaver (2009) address the benefits of contracting for liquidity provision by estimating the change in the value of firms after the beginning of liquidity provision. They find that the average firm increases in value by SEK12.36 million. The authors find a statistically significant improvement in market quality for firms contracting for liquidity provision. In particular it is found that percentage quoted spreads reduce by more than half, that the contracted liquidity attracts more trading volume, and (consistent with the predictions of Bessembinder, Hao, and Lemmon (2009) price discovery improves.

Minimum obligations of market makers Anand, Tanggaard, and Weaver (2009) also examine how liquidity providers provide liquidity.

They find that the liquidity providers trade passively against incoming marketable orders and that this action increases as the spread widens beyond the contracted maximum. 4 A recent paper by Skjeltorp and Ødegaard (2011) examines the institution of DPMs on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Their findings are similar to those of Anand, Tanggaard, Weaver (2009). They report an average annual cost of contracting with a DMM as NOK300,000. Interestingly they suggest that “given the public goods nature of liquidity, our results indicate that it may be desirable to subsidize liquidity provision in equity markets.” Recall that Anand, Tanggaard, and Weaver (2009) found that firms with very wide spreads do not contract for liquidity provision, perhaps due to the high cost. Subsidizing such firms to make liquidity provision more attractive is one option open to regulators.

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