Powerful computers, some housed right next to the machines that drive marketplaces like the New York Stock Exchange, enable high frequency traders to transmit millions of orders at lightning speed and, their detractors contend, reap billions at everyone else’s expense… High-frequency specialists clearly have an edge over typical traders, let alone ordinary investors… Powerful algorithms — “algos,” in industry parlance — execute millions of orders a second and scan dozens of public and private marketplaces simultaneously. They can spot trends before other investors can blink, changing orders and strategies within milliseconds… These systems are so fast they can outsmart or outrun other investors, humans and computers alike. (Duhigg, “Stock Traders Find Speed Pays, in Milliseconds,” NYT, 23 Jul 2009)Unfortunately, the methods of high frequency trading are neither available nor assessable to the average investor. My advice to most investors is to invest in public companies only with funds that you can afford to lose. My recommended investment strategy of choice for serious investors is to target companies in which you are an active owner, partner, or director in order to ensure you have full access to the fundamental information you need to monitor your investments wisely (which incidentally is the same strategy apparently used by Warren Buffet, George Soros, and Carl Icahn).
Institutional investors and other major players dominate modern day investing with sophisticated methods and technologies that the average investor cannot hope to match. Unless regulators can find a way to level the playing field, small investors should beware of the markets.