Latency Arbitrage, Market Fragmentation, and Efficiency: A Two-Market Model
We study the effect of latency arbitrage on allocative efficiency and liquidity in fragmented financial markets. We propose a simple model of latency arbitrage in which a single security is traded on two exchanges, with aggregate information available to regular traders only after some delay. An infinitely fast arbitrageur profits from market fragmentation by reaping the surplus when the two markets diverge due to this latency in cross-market communication. We develop a discrete-event simulation system to capture this processing and information transfer delay, and using an agent-based approach, we simulate the interactions between high-frequency and zero-intelligence trading agents at the millisecond level. We then evaluate allocative efficiency and market liquidity arising from the simulated order streams, and we find that market fragmentation and the presence of a latency arbitrageur reduces total surplus and negatively impacts liquidity. By replacing continuous-time markets with periodic call markets, we eliminate latency arbitrage opportunities and achieve further efficiency gains through the aggregation of orders over short time periods.