What is High-Frequency Trading?

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  • 08 Oct 2023
What is High-Frequency Trading?

HFT full form is High-frequency trading. In HFT, trades are executed at high speeds and a large number of transactions are executed in a short time frame. In HFT, special computers are used to execute trades quickly. Due to its complexity, it is usually used by large institutional investors like hedge funds and investment banks.

In HFT, complex algorithms analyse individual stocks to spot emerging trends in milliseconds. If the analysis finds a trigger, hundreds of buy orders will be sent out in seconds.

Algorithmic Trading involves using pre-programmed trading instructions to execute trading orders quickly on the financial market. Traders and investors use trading software to feed instructions based on time, volume, and price. As soon as the set instructions trigger on the market, the trading software executes the investor's orders.

The main purpose of algorithmic trading is to execute a large number of high-volume trades that would otherwise be impossible for humans to execute. This trading is commonly used by mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance companies, banks, etc. Algorithmic trading allows investors to make more trades in less time without being affected by human emotions.

It is fairly simple to understand how HFT works. The more trades you do, the higher your profits. For someone engaged in HFT, even a fluctuation of Rs 1 or 2 makes the trade profitable. A quantitative model determines all portfolio allocation decisions. Owners feed models specific information, and their success depends on their ability to process huge amounts of data, which is impossible for human investors. High-frequency traders compete by executing the most trades in the shortest amount of time. Those who succeed in achieving that objective make the most money. Moreover, to trade confidently on the financial market, you need to understand what is trading account and how it works.

The following are some HFT strategies:

Market Making It's a company or investor who buys and sells shares at a publicly quoted price. By using predetermined HFT strategies to place limit orders to sell or buy, many high-frequency trading firms used market making as an effective strategy. These firms do this to earn the bid-ask spread and make money.

Quote Stuffing It involves buying and selling a lot of orders fast to create confusion in the market. Due to this confusion, the trading volume rises, giving high-frequency traders profitable trading opportunities that they use to start multiple trades.

Tick Trading In tick trading, powerful computers watch the flow of quotes and the market information embedded in the market data. In tick trading, you're looking for when HFT traders are starting to place huge orders.

Statistical Arbitrage It's a way to identify price differences between securities on different exchanges or markets. Statistical arbitrage is used in liquid markets like bonds, equities, currencies, futures, etc. A HFT strategy can also include traditional arbitrage strategies like interest rate parity.

HFT has the following advantages:

Quick Profits By executing a lot of trades, high-frequency traders can make quick profits. Even if there are small price fluctuations, investors can make hefty profits using HFT strategies through the bid-ask spreads.

Increased Opportunities High-frequency trading involves powerful computers and software that can scan and analyse multiple markets simultaneously. As a result, investors can find arbitrage opportunities and profit by buying on one exchange and quickly selling on the other.

Enhances Liquidity HFT enhances liquidity in the market. By increasing competition and trade volume, HFT results in a decline in bid-ask spreads, resulting in more efficient prices. Additionally, as liquidity increases, the market becomes more transparent and flexible, making it less risky for other investors.

Human Error Is Reduced Due to the absence of human interference, HFT is always more effective than traditional trading. When trading, humans are prone to making mistakes or entering or exiting at the wrong time. Moreover, humans are not capable of executing such a high volume of orders at such a rapid pace. In addition, before you decide to open trading account, explore various trading accounts in order to find the best trading account.

HFT trading has a few downsides. Here are they:

**Lack Of Regulation ** Since high-frequency trading involves complex algorithms and software, it is difficult to monitor and regulate. Scholars and finance professionals disagree about HFT, making it a controversial topic.

Replacement In general, HFT is criticised because it has replaced many brokers and dealers with software and algorithms. At most times, a person's intellect is required to make profits when investing, which is why it is considered to be a bad process. Also, a comprehensive trading strategy cannot be based solely on data and information.

One-Sided Profits High-frequency trading is not possible for retail investors due to their lack of infrastructure. Due to this, only large companies with the required infrastructure can profit using the strategy, and retail investors lose out. Hence, the liquidity that arises is called 'Ghost liquidity'.


The high-frequency trading (HFT) process involves executing trades at high speeds and completing a large number of transactions quickly. A special computer is used to execute trades quickly in HFT. Because of its complexity, it's usually used by institutional investors like hedge funds and banks. Using complex algorithms, high-frequency traders spot emerging trends in milliseconds. To navigate the complexity of trading, you can get assistance from Kotak Securities, a reputable firm known for its expertise and valuable guidance.

FAQs on High-Frequency Trading

Trading high-frequency can sometimes only be profitable by fractions of returns, which is enough to make gains throughout the day but can also result in significant losses.

Yes, HFT trading is completely allowed, but it is highly regulated. To do HFT as a retail investor, you need permission from SEBI.

Investors, hedge funds, and large investment banks use high-frequency trading to execute automated trading strategies.

It is possible for high-frequency traders to conduct trades within 64 millionths of a second. Computers process orders and send them to other machines in roughly this timeframe. Using automated systems, they can scan markets for information and respond faster than any human could.

Moving average (MA), Exponential moving average (EMA), Stochastic oscillator, and Moving average convergence divergence (MACD) are the best indicators for high-frequency trading.

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