ASIC report shines a light on sharemarket's dark pools

The corporate regulator has suggested sweeping changes to the largely unregulated corner of the sharemarket where trades occur away from the public exchange.

The corporate regulator has suggested sweeping changes to the largely unregulated corner of the sharemarket where trades occur away from the public exchange.

But high-speed traders will be largely free to keep operating the way they have been, with few signs markets are being manipulated.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Monday released its report on the impact of high-frequency trading and dark pools on local financial markets.

It comes after two taskforces were set up in June 2012 to investigate concerns that high-speed traders and dark liquidity were impairing market integrity.

ASIC found that fears about high-frequency traders in Australia appeared to be largely exaggerated.

"There is a belief by some that high-frequency trading is manipulative in a legal sense, or at least predatory in nature, and there is a perception that high-frequency traders uniformly have less regard for market integrity," the report states. "That perception is not supported by our study."

Australian Securities Exchange chief executive Elmer Funke Kupper welcomed ASIC's direction, especially proposals for greater transparency and better client information, and the examination of a minimum-size threshold trigger for dark orders.

"When it comes to tick sizes, we understand that there is judgment involved between promoting lit markets and making sure that HFT doesn't become a serious issue in Australia. Given that the current settings are working well, ASX believes a cautious approach should be adopted to any further change," he said.

"ASX agrees that we're seeing too many small orders today and that this needs to be better controlled. However, imposing minimum resting times is not an efficient or cost-effective way to control this issue."

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