Short and Sweet

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Gold in the age of high-speed electronic trading

graphic image of tower transferering high speed data represented by beam of light

“The best thing you can do is know how to have a balanced portfolio.”
Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates

In an article headlined Robots conquered stock markets/Now they’re coming for bonds and currencies, Bloomberg finance reporter Lananh Nguyen tells us: “In the most liquid equity markets, more than 90 percent of trades are executed electronically, according to estimates from Greenwich Associates. That compares with 79 percent in global foreign exchange, 44 percent in U.S. Treasuries and 26 percent in U.S. corporate bonds, with the most room for growth in the latter two markets, according to [Kevin] McPartland at Greenwich.” [Link] Just this year, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs requested counterparties forgive rogue, machine-driven trades that caused a $41 billion flash crash in a matter of seconds. Though concentrated in a single stock, such anomalous events serve as a cautionary tale on how a full-out, machine-driven panic might evolve on a larger scale.

Because gold does not rely on the performance of another party, it is detached from the matrix of interlocking counter-party risk and occupies a unique place on the financial balance sheet as an asset of last resort and the final arbiter of value.  That is why nation-states and central banks hold large amounts of it on their own balance sheets and why funds and institutions are more and more moving to it as an offset against other trading strategies. Investors have always viewed gold as a reliable hedge against inflation and deflation. In the years to come, they might very well come to know it as an effective hedge against computer-generated financial mayhem as well.


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