Market Making and Liquidity for cryptocurrencies and other digital assets and topics

A Job in Market Making – a Brief Guide

Independent initiatives that analyze crypto exchanges liquidity and quality

Volume is flawed metric of crypto exchanges liquidity. Because of wash trading practices of many crypto exchanges as well as token issuers, using trading volume as a basis of comparison is misleading. Many exchanges have problems attracting professional market makers and are trying to make shortcuts on the way to attract retail investors. Moreover attracting professional investors requires investments in crypto exchanges system development with stable and performant APIs so they could connect their algorithmic trading systems.]

There are more and more independent initiatives that are taking a closer look at what constitutes a high quality crypto exchange. Three major ones are Blockchain Transparency Institute, CryptoCompare Benchmark and Cointelligence Report. I also take a quick look at the Bitwise report for SEC from March 2019.

 

 

Blockchain Transparency Institute

BTI concentrates on analyzing crypto exchanges data feeds to spot wash trading mechanisms and provide the real volume metric which is cleaned out of suspicious activities.

BTI identified 17 of the CoinMarketCap Top 25 crypto exchanges to be over 99% wash traded. This one number alone shows the magnitude of the problem, as well as how volume is a false measure.

According to BTI Report crypto exchanges which are faking their volumes use a variety of different tactics to try and swindle investors. These tactics include buying twitter followers and likes, filling up fake order books, mirror wash trading the largest exchanges with real volume, and trying to disguise their wash trading using various bot settings to not affect price. On many of these exchanges trading high volumes closing the spread would make the volume plummet as the trading bots had no room to wash trade with themselves. Welcome to the wild wild west of no regulation and surveillance.

BTI finds that “all crypto exchanges combined are currently reporting around $50 Billion in daily volume on CMC. After removing all the wash traded volume via our algorithms the accurate number is around $4-5 Billion. About 88-92% of daily trading volume is fabricated depending on the day. Bitcoin’s daily trading volume is about 92% fabricated, which is in line with the space as a whole when comparing our findings to top data sites reporting wash traded volumes.” 

And further “On our list of the top 40 largest exchanges with actual volume, Bitcoin’s volume is about 65% fabricated. Almost all of this fabricated volume comes from OKEx, Bibox, HitBTC, and Huobi. Of the top 25 tokens by market cap, Tron and Ethereum Classic are the highest wash traded tokens on our list at 85% fake volume each and coming in at #24 and #25 of the most wash traded tokens.”

Top 10 cryptocurrency exchanges according to real (not wash traded) volume by BTI

  1. Binance 
  2. Kucoin
  3. Liquid
  4. Huobi
  5. Coinbase
  6. OKEx
  7. Bitfinex
  8. Upbit
  9. Kraken
  10. Bitstamp

CryptoCompare

CryptoCompare’s Exchange Ranking methodology utilises a combination of 34 qualitative and quantitative metrics to assign a grade to over 100 active crypto exchanges. Metrics were categorised into several buckets ensuring that no one metric overly influences the overall exchange ranking. Each crypto exchange grade is derived from a broad due diligence check using qualitative data, followed by a market quality analysis that uses a combination of order book and transactional data.

Due diligence check comprises of 6 main categories that attempt to qualitatively rate each exchange on the basis of:

  • Geography
  • Legal and regulatory metrics
  • Calibre of investment
  • Team and company quality
  • Quality of data provision
  • Trade surveillance

Although at Empirica we believe in numbers, I like the qualitative approach, as it’s also possible to prove a correlation of metric like number of employees and business size of the exchange, therefore proving this way it’s quality. 

Another important factor is Market Quality. Crypto compare measures the market quality of each exchange using a combination of 5 metrics (derived from trade and order book data) that aim to measure the:

  • Cost to trade, 
  • Liquidity, 
  • Market stability, 
  • Behaviour towards sentiment
  • “Natural” trading behaviour

Exchanges were rated based on a combination of 9 of the most liquid BTC and ETH markets.

It’s worth taking a closer look how CryptoCompare report approaches Spread and Liquidity metrics:

“Generally, those exchanges which offer incentives to provide liquidity through either low or negative maker fees will achieve the tightest spreads. Due to the spread being calculated using the best bid and offer, it is misleading to use it as a sole gauge of liquidity and therefore as the market cost to trade; it must be used in conjunction with a depth

measurement to find the likely transaction price for any given size of transaction.”

 

Good point. And liquidity:

“Market depth is the total volume of orders in the order book. It provides an idea of how much it is possible to trade on crypto exchange, and how much the price is likely to move if large amounts are traded. An exchange with greater average depth is likely to be more stable (i.e flash crashes are much less likely) and allows trading of greater amounts at better prices.

We consider the depth up to 1% either side of the mid price. 

Depth = E(depthUp+depthDown)/2

Where depthUp is the total volume that would be required to move the price by 1% upwards from the mid price, and

depthDown is the total volume that would be required to move the price by 1% downwards from the mid price.”

 

Top 10 crypto exchanges according CryptoCompare quality benchmark:

  1. Coinbase 
  2. Poloniex 
  3. Bitstamp 
  4. bitFlyer 
  5. Liquid
  6.  itBit 
  7. Kraken 
  8. Binance 
  9. Gemini 
  10. Bithumb 

 

Cointelligence Rating System

Cointelligence is the most qualitative rating of crypto exchanges from the above. The methodology of the team was to manaully open accounts on all analyzed crypto exchanges and check from the user perspective the core aspects of beeing an exchange customer. The aspects cover:

Usability – covers KYC process, the quality of exchange website, extent of features and how easy it is to get a human answer from support staff. 

Performance – functionalities and historical robustness of exchange matching engine, fees height, trading instruments like futures contracts and margin trading.

Team – analysis of the available information about management team behind the crypto exchange, especially business and technical experience of C-level staff, including person responsible for exchange’s security

Risk – information on past hacks, insurance status, account security layers but also regulatory status of cryptocurrency exchange. Based on the geographical location of the exchange headquarters and registration any potential run-ins with the local law or any sign of authorities involvement.

 

This way Contelligence analyzed 85 crypto exchanges, but only 15 is rated with good quality mark, lead by Liquid and Gemini. 

Top 10 cryptocurrency exchanges by Cointelligence by qualitative criteria 

  1. Liquid (Quoine)
  2. Gemini
  3. Binance
  4. Bitstamp
  5. Gibraltar Blockchain Exchange
  6. OKEx
  7. Bittrex
  8. itBit
  9. Kraken
  10. ABCC

Bitwise report for SEC

Bitwise analysis is based on detecting wash trading patterns in public marked data published by crypto exchanges. Out of 81 exchanges they have analyzed in March 2019 only 10 were identified as be free of wash trading practices. These exchanges are:

  1. Binance
  2. Bitfinex
  3. Kraken
  4. Bitstamp
  5. Coinbase
  6. bitFlyer
  7. Gemini
  8. itBit
  9. Bitrex
  10. Poloniex

Bitwise identified that only 4,5% (about $275M daily) of officially reported volume (eg by the public sources like coinmarketcap) is the actual volume. The rest is wash traded.

The Bitcoin market is more orderly and efficient than is commonly understood. The 10 exchanges trade as a uniform, highly connected market. They form a singular price. Average deviations from the aggregate price for the ten exchanges is well within the expected arbitrage band when you account for exchange-level fees (~30 basis points), volatility and hedging costs. Arbitrage is operating well. Sustained deviations (defined as deviations >1% that last more than 100 seconds) appear as single white lines on the graph below. The graph demonstrates that the ten exchanges trade at a single unified price.

So although the message about the amount of wash traded volume is alarming, the report shows that the real crypto market is quite concentrated, ordered, efficient and well performing. The rest is just noise.

 

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Algorithmic crypto trading: market specifics and strategy development

By Marek Koza, Product Owner of Empirica’s Algo Trading Platform

Among trading professionals, interest in cryptocurrency trading is steadily growing. At Empirica, we see it by an increasing number of requests from trading companies, commonly associated with traditional markets, seeking algorithmic solutions for cryptocurrency trading or developing trading software with us from scratch. However, new crypto markets suffer from old and well-known problems. In this article, I try to indicate the main differences between traditional and crypto markets and take a closer look at a few algorithmic strategies (known as trading bots on crypto markets) that are currently effective in the crypto space. Differences between crypto and traditional markets constitute an exciting and deep subject in itself, which is evolving quickly as
the pace of change in crypto is also quite fast. But here I only want to focus on algorithmic trading perspectives.

LEGISLATION

First, there is a lack of regulations in terms of algorithmic usage. Creating DMA algorithms on traditional markets requires a great deal of additional work to meet reporting and measure standards as well as limitations rules provided by regulators (e.g., EU MiFIDII or US RegAT). In most countries, crypto exchanges have yet to be covered by legal restrictions. Nevertheless, exchanges provide their own internal rules and technical limitations, which, in a significant way, restrict the possibility of algorithmic use, especially in the HFT field. This is crucial for market-making activities, which now require separate deals with trading venues.

DERIVATIVES

As for market-making, we should notice an almost non-existent derivatives market in the crypto world. Even if a few exchanges offer futures and options, they only apply to a few of the most popular cryptocurrencies. Combining it with highly limited margin trading possibilities and none of the index derivatives (contracts that reflect market pricing), we see that many hedging strategies are almost impossible to execute and may only exist as a form of spot arbitrage.

As for market-making, we should notice an almost non-existent derivatives market in the cryptoworld. Even if a few exchanges offer futures and options, they only apply to a few popular cryptocurrencies. Combining it with highly limited margin trading possibilities and none of the index derivatives (contracts that reflect market pricing), we see that many hedging strategies are almost impossible to execute and may only exist as a form of spot arbitrage.

DECENTRALIZATION

The above-mentioned facts are slightly compensated for by the biggest advantage of blockchain currencies – fast and direct transfers around the world without banks intermediation. With cryptoexchange APIs mostly allowing automation of withdrawal requests, it opens up new possibilities for algorithmic asset allocation by much smaller firms than the biggest investment banks. This is important due to two things. Firstly, there is still no one-stop market brokerage solution we know from traditional markets. Secondly, cryptocurrency trading is distributed among many exchanges around the world. It could therefore be tricky for liquidity seekers and heavy volume execution. It implies there is still much to do for execution algorithms, such as smart order routing.

CONNECTIVITY

A smart order routing strategy GUI

Another difference is direct market access for algorithmic trading. While on traditional markets, DMA is costly, cryptocurrency exchange systems provide open APIs for all their customers that may be used without upfront prerequisites. Although adopted protocols are usually easy to implement, they are often too simplistic. They do not usually offer advanced order types. Besides, the order life-cycle status following is cumbersome and trading protocols differ among exchanges since each one requires its own implementation logic. That makes a costly technical difference compared to traditional markets with common standards, including FIX protocol.

MARKET DATA

Fast, precise and up-to-date data are crucial from an algorithmic trading perspective. When a trader develops algorithms for cryptocurrencies, she should be aware of a few differences. APIs provided by crypto exchanges give easy access to time & sales or level II market data for everyone for free. Unfortunately, data protocols used in the crypto space are unreliable, and trading venue systems often introduce glitches and disconnections. Moreover, not every exchange supports automatic updates and an algorithm has to issue a request every time it needs to check on the state of a market, which is difficult to reconcile with algorithmic strategies.

The APIs of most exchanges allow downloading of historical time & sale data, which is important in the algorithmic developing process. However, historical level II data are not offered by exchanges. We should also notice that despite being immature, the systems of crypto trading venues are evolving and becoming more and more professional. This forces trading systems to follow and adapt to these changes, which adds big costs to systems’ maintenance. In the following sections I overview a few trading algorithms that are currently popular among crypto algo traders because of the differences between traditional and crypto markets listed above.

SMART ORDER ROUTING

Liquidity is, and probably will remain, one of the biggest challenges for cryptocurrency trading. Trading on bitcoin and Ethereum, and all other altcoins with smaller market capitalization, is split among over 200 different exchanges. Executing a larger volume of assets often requires seeking liquidity in more than one trading venue. To achieve that, cryptocurrency traders may apply smart order routing strategies. These follow limit order books for the same instrument from different exchanges and aggregate them internally. When an investment decision is made, the strategy splits the order among exchanges that offer the best prices for the instrument. A well-designed strategy will also manage partially filled orders left in the order book in case some volume disappears before the order has arrived at the market. This strategy could be combined with other execution strategies such as TWAP or VWAP.

Empirica algorithmic trading platform front-end app (TradePad) for crypto-markets.

ARBITRAGE

The days when simple cross-exchange arbitrage was profitable with manual execution are over. Nowadays, price differences among exchanges for the most actively trading crypto assets are much smaller than a year ago and transactional and transfer costs (especially for fiat) still remain at a high level. Trading professionals are now focused on using more sophisticated arbitrage algorithms such as maker-taker or triangular arbitrage. The former works by quoting a buy order on one exchange, based on VWAP, for a particular amount of volume from another exchange (the same instrument) decreased by expected fees and return. A strategy is actively moving quoted order and if the passive gets executed, it sends a closing order to the other exchange. As the arbitrage is looking for bid-bid and ask-ask difference and maker fees are often lower, this type of arbitrage strategy is more cost-effective.

Triangular arbitrage may be executed on a single exchange because it looks for differences among three currency pairs that are connected to each other. To illustrate, let us use this strategy with BTCUSD, ETHUSD, and ETHBTC pairs. This strategy keeps following order books of these three instruments. The goal is to find the inefficient quoting and execute trades on three instruments simultaneously. To understand this process, we should notice that the ratio between BTCUSD and ETHBTC should reflect the ETHUSD market rate. Contrary to some FX crosses, all cryptocurrency pairs are priced independently. This creates numerous possibilities for using triangular arbitrage in the crypto space.

MARKET MAKING

Market making should be considered more as a type of business than as just a strategy. The main task of a market maker is to provide liquidity to markets by maintaining bid and ask orders to allow other market participants to trade any time they need. Since narrow spreads and adequate prices are among the biggest
factors of the exchange’s attractiveness, market making services are in high demand. On the one hand, crypto exchanges have special offers for liquidity providers, but on the other hand, they require from new coins issuers a market maker before they start listing an altcoin.

These agreements are usually one source of market maker income. Another one is a spread – a difference between a buy and a sell price provided to the other traders. The activity of a market maker is related to some risks. One of them is inventory imbalance – if a market maker buys much more than sells or sells much more than buys, she stays with an open long or short position and takes portfolio risk, especially in volatile crypto markets. This situation may happen in markets with a strong bias or when market maker is quoting wrong or delayed prices, which arbitrageurs will immediately exploit. To avoid such situations, market makers apply algorithmic solutions such as different types of fair price calculations, trade-outs, hedging, trend, and order-flow predictions, etc. Technology and math used in market making algorithms are exciting subjects for future articles.

Read more about how we execute market making strategies for crypto exchanges

SUMMARY

Fast-developing crypto markets are attracting many participants, including more and more trading professionals from traditional markets. However, the crypto space has its own specificity, such as high decentralization, maturing technology, and market structure. Compared to other markets, these differences make some strategies more useful and profitable than others. Arbitrage – even simple cross-exchange is still very popular. Market making services are in high demand. Midsized and large orders involve execution algorithms like smart order routing. To embrace the fast-changing crypto environment, one needs algorithmic trading systems with an open architecture that evolves alongside the market.

3Commas – A technical review

As we know, over the past several years, we have witnessed a real computer revolution. We have practically all available solutions replacing us with computers. These are already such advanced technologies that are already able to make a decision for us, and what’s more, they do it faster and more efficiently than man. It is particularly visible in trading, where several years ago all decisions were made by man. Now Traders are equipped in computer programs who are able to do all the work. However, the market is flooding with information on how many new programmes have been hiring by financial institutions recently. But what about us with retail traders? How should we deal with this situation? It remains for us either programming learning or uses trading bots (free/paid) from the Internet. There are really many of them when you looking for information on the web. That’s why I decided to check 3Commas in this short article. One of many users and additionally paid TradingBots. Let’s have a look at one of them – 3Commas. They were started in 2014, there are over 120,000 users currently being served with transaction volume in the tune of $60 million being handled every day, supported 23 exchanges- data from 3Commas website. You can trade on all exchanges from one single interface from 3commas’ window. Up to date, they support Bittrex, Bitfinex, Binance, KuCoin and Poloniex, Bitstamp, HitBTC, Cex, GDAX, OKEX, Huobi, YOBIT.

How well do 3commas trading bots work?

On the website, we can read that: “3commas is a cryptocurrency trading bot that provides a wide range of tools and services for users to choose from. It performs real-time market analysis using powerful algorithms for getting you the best trades possible”. Sounds interesting? Is this the right place to find a solution for retail traders? 3Commas offer a few types of trading bots: Simple, Composite, Short, Composite short. You can choose which one you want it depends on your individual approach to the market. At the moment available is almost 90 trading bots. Does quantity mean quality?       

Browsing information about bots, I wonder why the best strategies work only 30 days. How to trust this kind of bots with short history (just 30 days history)? How do I find out how it behaves with high market volatility? I don’t know. I couldn’t find this kind of information on the 3Commas website. For institutional investors or professional retail investors, this kind of question is fundamental. If you invest money you should know how much you can earn at what possibility of loss. That’s why it’s better for your wallet, to wait for a strategy with a long history to know what to expect.

Can I make a profit on real market with 3Commas?

Let’s see, how 3commas trading bots work. As a retail trader, I would like to try one of these 90 strategies. I choose for my example one “Simple Long Strategy” and I opened Paper Account. Pairs: USD_BTC, USDT_LINK, USD_LTC. Target profit 5%. On 3Commas website we can read the short description: “Simple Long Strategy gives you the possibility to make price increases”- information from 3Commas website. It looks simple to buy a lower price and sell higher price. The bot opens new deal according to one of the conditions that are available for selection during the creation. After that, it immediately puts a coin for sale. If the price rises and the order gets filled, the profit goal is achieved. In case of a price fall, the bot places safety orders below the purchase price every X%. Every filled safety order is averaging the buy price, and it makes possible to move the TakeProfit target lower and close the deal without losing profits in the first price bounce. 

My strategy has been worked for 14 days. Completed 15 orders and give me $0.16 profit ($10.000 balance). Strategy performance results and statistics below.  

3comma trading list

3comma statistics technical review

3 comma trading view technical review

Whether the profit is big or small I leave the answer to you. The rate of return is positive (+0,16$), therefore we should be satisfied (really  ?). My “New Bot” did not lose money. Of course, everything was happening on the real market but money was virtual. You should also know that is possible to change strategies parameters at any time and can adapt it to your current needs but I did not do that because left my 100% decisions to the bot. 

The main purpose of trading bots is to automate things which are either too complex, time-consuming, or difficult for users to carry out manually. Good trading bots can save a trader time and money by collecting data faster, placing orders faster and calculating next moves faster. In my case, I just set the parameters and Trading Bot did the rest but is it enough to tell that the strategy is good? Please rate it yourself.  Meanwhile on the market situation looks very interesting for my example (charts below). The market moved up, how I expected. As you can see from the charts below I could earn more money in this period of time. 

3comma trading review

3comma tradingview

You also need to know that 3Commas is not for free. They have four subscription plans: Junior from €0 (your total balance across all accounts is $750 and no bots), Starter €24 (without limits for trading, no bots), Advanced €41 (Simple bots), Pro €84 (Simple, Composite Bots). The interesting thing is that you don’t know how much you can earn but you immediately know how much you have to pay!! Profits are potential but costs are fixed.

How safe is 3Commas?

3Commas don’t go into too many details regarding the security protocols that they choose to employ, however, it’s worth remembering that you don’t actually hold any funds on the platform and your trading bots are not able to make withdrawals from your linked accounts.

Similar to other trading bot platforms, your trading bots connect with your exchange accounts via API and then proceed to carry out automated trades on your linked exchanges. While this process takes place, users aren’t required to make any cash/crypto transfers to external accounts and simply need to provide their API keys which are generated by their exchanges.

These keys provide the trading bots with restricted access to user accounts strictly to conduct trades and do not grant the bots with any withdrawal rights. This also means that if your account becomes compromised, and some hackers were able to gain control of your trading activity, they still wouldn’t be able to directly access your exchange accounts in order to make withdrawals. However, the standard personal security rules of crypto still apply, as they could still have a detrimental effect on the funds held in your exchange accounts. Hackers have been known to obtain API access to exchange accounts, and commander the bots to purchase high quantities of low-value coins that the hackers have already previously purchased. After artificially inflating both the demand and price of said coins, the hackers then sell off their personal holdings for a profit, leaving the compromised account owners holding funds in the low-value coins.

3Commas has made a positive impression. It is also worth mentioning about Key Features:

  1. Technology – Automated trading takes place via API integration with cryptocurrency exchanges and the bot works around the clock with any device and users can access their trading dashboard on desktop and laptop computers. The team have also developed mobile apps for both Android and iOS
  2. Tools – The platform provides a good range of trading tools and in addition to the automated bots and performance analytics, users are able to create, analyze and back-test crypto portfolios and monitor the best performing portfolios created by other users. In addition, users can engage in social trading and follow and copy the actions of other successful traders.
  3. Functionality- 3Commas utilises a web-based platform, and features an easy to use and intuitive user interface that includes a wide range of functions and detailed analytics. Users can make use of short, simple, composite, and composite short bots, and set stop loss and take profit targets, as well as customise their own trading strategies.

Strong points of 3 Commas Bot Platform

  1. Emotionless, fact-based trades make sure that decisions taken are taken entirely based on the ideal conditions with little room for doubt, instinct, and human error. This reduces the intensity of the decision-making process and helps to take logical and high-profit decisions.
  2. Good exchange connections.
  3. The Smart Trading option that makes use of ‘trailing take profit’ keeps the user away from a loss when trading. Since it is designed to stay in the loop and adapt itself to the market, it is an intelligent solution to make as much as possible with a trade.
  4. Easy to set up for beginners, making sure that newcomers can navigate the 3Commas bot and make trades without any hassles.
  5. A well-laid-out dashboard and visualization of data allow the users to keep track of everything that is happening while boosting their appeal and ease of use.
  6. The free access offers a great trial so that users can make full use of the platform.
  7. A large number of exchange offers a wide array of information centres, making sure that your decision is well thought out with multiple inputs.
  8. The fact that users can refer and copy portfolios of successful traders.

Weak points of 3 Commas Bot Platform

  1. Security protocols are not explained with great clarity, raising concerns about whether the trades are truly secure. Users can, of course, enable the 2-factor verification for additional security, but the fact that not much is said about it leaves room for concern.
  2. The plans change regularly and might prove to be a bit confusing to say the least with 3Comms’ paid plans, commission plans, and a mix of both.
  3. The balance has to be filled up for commission, which may be a hindrance for many users.

Using trading bots for trading makes life easier. It can save traders a lot of time but will give it earn real money? Popular trading bots available to individual investors (regardless of whether paid or free) have one basic problem, namely the speed of response to changing market conditions, as well as the speed of placing and sending orders. This is not their strength. You will not find any information about latency, what is the maximum number of orders that can be sent  per second. Using low latancy software will give you advantage on the market over retail bot users. Therefore, institutional investors have an edge on the market.

But retail bots are good place to start education on how automation on the markets can work. 

Read reviews on follwing bot platforms: