Money managers and institutional asset owners are concerned that the volumes of equity market data being collected by exchanges could be used to find information on institutional trade strategies and volume, leading to front-running or other problematic behaviors.
The concern was highlighted in December when Nasdaq Inc. withdrew an application to the Securities and Exchange Commission to introduce Intellicator, a market data product that would "distill options data into calculations and indicators" and "reverse-engineer factor calculations to obtain transaction-specific information not otherwise available on the exchange's data feeds," according to Nasdaq's filing.
The Securities and Financial Markets Association, which represents brokers, banks and money management firms, and buy-side participants, said in comments on the Nasdaq proposal to the SEC that such reverse engineering would provide those who purchased Intellicator with trading information, including details on block trading behavior, that could be used in market manipulation.
Nasdaq in a Dec. 22 letter to the SEC denied those claims but said it would refile an application to the SEC on Intellicator once it can "further educate market participants and potential customers about the functions and capabilities … and to consult with interested firms about any concerns they may have, as well as possible modifications to the product."
Representatives at Nasdaq, New York Stock Exchange and Cboe Holdings Inc.'s Bats equity trading unit, all of whom sell market data, would not comment for this story. The Intellicator controversy has highlighted the concern among institutional investors that, as exchanges increase the kinds of market data sold to traders to increase overall revenue, those products could display trading information that large investors are trying to hide or already have obtained internally.