High frequency traders' next target: the speed of light

by Andy Serwer, managing editor


(Fortune) -- Observations, questions, and commentary on today's business news headlines:

  • Here's a big question: Does the euro really make sense? When a country gets in trouble, one tactic its leaders have traditionally used is to devalue the currency, a la Argentina. But what if you can't do that because you are in the euro? Makes life tough for the Greeks ...
  • Interesting story in the New York Times by Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story about Goldman (GS, Fortune 500) conflicts. Sure, we have always known that one part of an investment bank -- say, asset management -- might be short or long the stock of a company that another part of the institution - say, investment banking -- was doing business with. But what if the asset management guys (or proprietary trading desk) were shorting the stock because of the securities that the bank was selling the company?? Kinda takes it to another level, right?
  • A big cheese on Wall Street was telling me recently that one high-frequency trader had been complaining about the laws of physics. Huh? Turns out that the limit to how fast you can trade is the speed of light. Right? "If only we could trade faster," the trader ruminated. Hmmm. Wonder what Mother Nature thinks about that. Never mind Stephen Hawking.
  • Had breakfast the other day over at Tina Brown's, where Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus was speaking. He has a new book, Building Social Business, about how it is possible to have a business that makes no profit but does good. Okay ... maybe. Then he talked about the potential to have a stock market that had no profits. Ummmm, I don't think so. Spoke with Muhammad afterward, along with Robert De Niro, who seemed to be a big fan.
  • A former Treasury Secretary asked me at a social event recently, What's the unemployment rate in Britain?" I must say, I didn't know. Answer: 8%. That would be less than us.
  • Can you please explain to me the push-back on financial regulation? Helll-oooooo. Oh, I know! Our capital markets need to be as unfettered as possible so that we can compete with Iceland. And which voters are against financial reform? Come on! Even Lloyd Blankfein says we need to get this done.
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