An NYSE Scalper's Tale - A Trader's Diary

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Problem Ridden Day

Gross: +$166.96
Net: +$22.39
Loss From Top: $108.12
Trades: 102
Shares Traded: 118650

Stocks Traded Today (net profit/loss):
AT&T (T): +$172.41
Home Depot (HD): +$73.92
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD): +$21.64
Exxon Mobil (XOM): +$9.61
Texas Instruments (TXN): +$3.94
Pfizer (PFE): -$6.18
Ford (F): -$10.21
Hewlett Packard (HPQ): -$14.44
Walmart (WMT): -$17.43
Corning (GLW): -$84.49
Motorola (MOT): -$126.39

First of all, let me say that the following problems we had today were not the cause of my poor performance today (my poor performance was my doing!).

But nonetheless, it broke my concentration and tripped me up several times today.

When I got in this morning, the branch manager told everyone that we might have problems with ECNs on the Level II. And boy did we ever have problems with them! All day, we were getting "stickies" that just messed up our Level II windows and made it very difficult to see what was going on.

So what are "stickies"?

It's when ECN quotes show up on the Level II, but do not go away once they are filled. As a result, the Level II may show shares on an ECN, but it might not really be there.

The problem is that since prices on the Level II are sorted in descending order, these "stickies" stay at the top of the Level II window. Unfortunately we had "stickies" on Arca, Inet, and Brut!

What started happening was that all the "stickies" started collecting at the top of the Level II window and if prices really started moving, the real prices were moving further and further down on the Level II window! At one point, one of the stocks I was watching had it's real price at the bottom of the Level II window (when you'd expect to see the real prices at the top of the Level II window).

It made it difficult to really see where the prices were.

BUT WAIT, that's not all....

The trading platform we use crashed on me 3 times today - and one of the times it crashed, I was in a position! By the time I got the trading platform up and running again, I was looking at a $100 loser in my blotter. AGAIN - I'm not blaming the system (that'd would be too easy), it was just a bad trade to get into in the first place. I managed to minimize the damage and got out for a small loss.

BUT WAIT...that's not all!

I had to restart the charting software we use 4 times today because I'd be trading, but then I'd realize that my charts were not moving and that they were "stuck" - sometimes for as long as 30 minutes! I was making trading decisions based on charts that were old!

BUT WAIT....THERE'S STILL MORE!!!

The quote server froze on us several times today (I counted at least 5 times), usually when the Futures or the overall markets were ripping or tanking. I'd try to hit size or get out of a position when the quotes would freeze for maybe 10 to 15 seconds. Once the quotes started up again, the prices would have "jumped" and would often mess up your entry or exit.

Obviously all of these problems are somehow interrelated and I know the guys in the back office were working their tails off to get things stable.

But still - even with these problems, I should have traded less and I should have been smarter with my stock selections. When the overall markets were rallying up hard at around 10AM, I got long a stock that didn't move! I managed to get out of that position, but only with a small profit (when I could have gotten into something else for a much bigger gain).

But once that 10AM move was over, that was basically the day...the rest of the day we moved with such choppiness, I found it hard to find stocks to trade (that and I was constantly having to restart software, re-setup preferences, re-setup Level II windows, and re-setup charts again).

Because of the chaos of the day, I really didn't put on any real big positions and because it was hard to figure what the heck was going on on the Level II, I was in and out fast. Thus, there were no good trades nor any bad trades.

Let's hope the boys in the back room can get things running smoothly tomorrow!

Good Trades
None.

Bad Trades
None.

5 Comments:

  • J.C.

    My question is a little off the subject, but I do not know what a prop trader is, does, or how they are compensated? Could you explain? Also, how does someone become a prop trader?

    Thanks,
    Sicilian

    P.S. Thanks for your frank honesty, I'm learning a lot.

    By Blogger Sicilian, at September 26, 2006 7:22 p.m.  

  • JC : That was messy. Hope everything will get back to normal tomorrow. This is a very interesting post for those who are not working in a prop firm, like me.

    Quote frozen, server down etc, another type of risk traders need to take into account.

    Have a good rest, and let's fight tomorrow.

    Gav

    By Anonymous Gav, at September 26, 2006 9:58 p.m.  

  • Glad you came out ahead, after all that! When I used to trade with Level II, I'd get those stickies every now and then, and they used to really annoy me.

    By Anonymous Richard, at September 26, 2006 10:17 p.m.  

  • JC: Hey, I read your another blog Mandarin Immersion. seriouly, you are learning Mandarin? Wow...

    By Anonymous Gav, at September 26, 2006 11:59 p.m.  

  • Sicilian, Gav and Richard,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Sicilian,
    Send me an email and I can send you more details. My email address is: jc_at_trivita@rogers.com

    Richard,
    Yup - we get stickies from time to time - usually when something is down or they attempt to upgrade some software. I guess I just have to live with it.

    Gav,
    I hope you get some good insights as to what goes on at a prop firm (though I think my prop firm has more problems than most).

    As for Mandarin - yup I'm attempting to learn. When my wife and I have kids, we want them to learn Mandarin, so the last year or so, we've been making it a task to try to learn. I'm trying to learn how to read and I know about 50 characters right now. We also watch and listen to a lot of Mandarin movies and music. I'll probably update my Mandarin Immersion blog tonight (it'll be the first time in about two months since the last update!)

    By Blogger J.C., at September 27, 2006 5:42 p.m.  

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