Here’s the most likely scenario as to what happened here:
Somebody had a decent short position. Say they had about 65 shares (the volume bars indicate that this was likely a <- 100 share transaction, ie, <- $5 worth of commissions for Intrade, so mentioning commissions / greed as a motivator is pure ignorance). They wanted to put up a buy of 65 shares at say 5%, so that if the price ever dips that low, they can close their short position and wind up with a nice profit. And then, big mistake, they hit sell instead of buy. The market plummets. Mystery solved. It’-s called human error.
Don’-t Short Obama
Why political futures markets got the health care bill so wrong.
By Daniel Gross
Posted Monday, March 22, 2010, at 6:05 PM ET
It would be very difficult to tote up all the times pundits pronounced the health care bill dead, and the prospects for the Obama administration dire—especially after the election of Scott Brown in January. Intrade, the political futures market, which functions as a conventional-wisdom-processing machine, also got health care wrong. Check out this chart for the contract on health care reform being passed by June 2010. The contract is worth 100 if it is passed, zero if it is not. After Brown’-s election, it slumped to as low as 20. As recently as March 17, it was below 40. Even as late as Friday, it was trading in the mid-80s. These trading data show that “-investors”- in this market were skeptical of the Obama administration’-s ability to pass significant health care legislation, right up until the end.
Is there a larger lesson here? (Aside from the obvious one, which is political futures markets usually aren’-t very good at predicting what actually will happen in the future?) I think so. And it’-s this: Don’-t short Obama. In fact, that’-s been the lesson of Obama’-s entire career so far.
[Stock market stuff inserted here.]
On some level, it’-s tough to blame the Intrade crowd for getting Obama and health care wrong. The type of people who trade there, folks who think they’-re quite savvy about money, the market, and politics, are the same conventional wisdom hawkers who were so monumentally wrong before the financial crisis. If you’-ve tuned into CNBC or Fox Business Channel, or read the Wall Street Journal since January 2009, you would have been subject to a constant stream of money managers, pundits, talking heads, and policy wonks declaring that the U.S. economy is becoming a socialist hellhole that is hostile to business and investors. (If there were a way to short Fox Business Channel, I’-d do it in a hurry.)
The conventional wisdom market has not yet internalized the message that it’-s dangerous to your financial and professional health to short Obama. Judging by the debate in the House last night, by the talk on cable news shows this morning (full of talk about how this is going to kill Democrats in November), and by the chatter on the business networks this morning (full of talk about how the tax increases in the health care bill will destroy the markets and the economy), the shorts haven’-t learned anything.
I agree with Dan Gross that prediction markets are a “-conventional-wisdom-processing machine”-. Prediction markets incorporate expectations (informed by facts and expertise) just like the mass media do.
Prediction markets can’-t look into the far away future.
In the ObamaCare case, prediction markets have just been summarizing objectively, dynamically and quantitatively (day in, day out) what the political media were reporting about the health care reform, and about the prospect of its passing in Congress and of its signing by the President.
It would be easy for a scientist to verify that —-by comparing archived media articles with the historical InTrade prices.
ADDENDUM: To answer Hutch’-s question, the only trouble I saw in the history of this contract is the brief manipulation that happened on March 16, 2010.
UPDATE: Funny video:
Max says that the political prediction markets are “-routinely manipulated”- and we often see “-price rigging”-…-
…-it is a reasonably active market but atypically a lot of the trade is coming from the DC area when normally we might see trade coming from all the major urban areas.
ADDENDUM: For your information, in Great Britain, sporting insiders (such as athletes or jockeys) who trade on betting exchanges (such as BetFair) are actively monitored.
InTrade —- US.GOVT.HEALTHPLAN.DEC09
The four re-definitions that have (so far) been necessary during the 3-month life of the US.GOVT.HEALTHPLAN.DEC09 contracts have brought to my attention that Intrade, to the best of my knowledge, does nothing to notify members that contracts they own have been “-clarified”-. It may be coincidence that volume on this contract spiked upward on July 29, Septeber 5 &- 10, and October 9 following rule changes on July 28, September 4 &- 9 and October 9. I suspect, however, that some members were aware of the rule changes while others with open orders found out about them later. While avoiding such ambiguous contracts would be preferable, some system should be in place to ensure that the unexpected need to revise contract definitions does not provide certain members with an unintended advantage.
Among the possible changes that I feel would improve this situation are the following:
1) Post a notification in the “-News”- whenever existing contract definitions are changed.
2) Notify all members with current positions and/or orders in a given contract whenever rule changes are posted.
3) Halt trading for some period of time after each change to allow members equal opportunity to respond to these changes, rather than providing an advantage to anyone who might look back at the contract specs or read their email first, including anyone who might know to look for a change after requesting the clarification from Intrade.
4) Add an asterisk or other indicator beside the contract summary on the trading screen, so that members interested in that contract will know that the contract definition has been changed. Ideally, the date of this revision should be included.
5) Add whatever changes among the above are instituted to Rule 1.7.
Changes 1), 2) and 5) seem like common sense to me, but perhaps others will disagree. In any case, I look forward to other exchange members’- comments on all of these suggestions.
Well, six weeks have passed since Mr. Delaney’-s assurance that this issue would be addressed “-ASAP”-. Unless I have somehow missed being notified of the policy change , it seems clear that the status quo is fine by management.
All I can do to attempt to encourage Intrade to take seriously the ambiguities in certain contracts is:
1) liquidate all my positions in such contracts,
2) avoid trading any potentially ambiguous contracts,
3) attempt to warn other traders about contracts that may be potentially ambiguous.
In particular, I will certainly stay away from any contracts involving U.S. legislation.
I could instead try to anticipate specific improvements that would help minimize ambiguities. However, if Intrade management cannot be bothered to address this issue even in a broad way, I think that it would be counterproductive for me to apply the occasional Band-aid. Discouraging other traders from becoming entangled seems more productive.
[The Intrade event derivative traders] “-are getting more and more alienated by the actions and judgments of Intrade’-s management.”-
Is InTrade mis-managed? Many people are starting to think so, apparently. Still think that Chris Masse of Midas Oracle is too much critical of InTrade, my dear Chuck?