Mizuho Securities’ Spyridon Mentzas discusses the status of the Japanese exchange merger and offers thoughts on how well the two systems will merge and the benefits investors can expect.
Compatibility The merger of Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) and Osaka Securities Exchange (OSE) is not yet finalized, but it appears they will merge in the beginning of 2013, with the details yet to be specified. The first impression is that they have nearly identical trading rules with some minor differences, such as the OSE trading until 3:10, while the TSE closes at 3:00. When TSE decided to shorten the lunch time in November, the OSE did the same. When one of the exchanges (usually, the TSE) changes the rules, then the other moves in tandem: for example, changing the tick sizes. If the merger does go ahead, it is likely that they are going to use the TSE’s cash system, arrowhead, and OSE’ J-GATE for derivatives. They will use the old systems in parallel, which will achieve a reduction in cost because they will not have to maintain two systems.
Further Industry Consolidation The ECN’s in the US enjoyed technological superiority versus the classic exchanges, where NYSE’s latency was significantly slower than Arca’s. This would have been reason enough for TSE to consider buying a PTS, but with arrowhead’s current latency of less than 2 milliseconds (and another upgrade in the next few months to target less than a millisecond), simply buying a PTS would not give them a noticeable advantage because the TSE and OSE are on par with the PTSs. The reason why PTSs are increasing their market share is that, unlike in the UK and US, where Reg NMS and MiFID have required trading on the exchange with the best price, in Japan the PTSs draw volume through decimal points and smaller tick sizes than the incumbents.
For example, Mizuho Financial Group might trade on the TSE at 105 yen bid, 106 yen offer. That one yen spread is close to 100 basis points or almost one percent, whereas the PTS trades at 0.1 yen. This is a major incentive for investors to buy and sell on the PTSs with their smaller increments to reduce market impact and trading costs. From the beginning, the regulators have not been overly concerned with the PTSs deciding to trade in decimal places and have 0.1 yen ticks. It was always up to the PTSs to decide and the TSE could do the same. If anything, I think the new exchange would rather reduce their tick sizes, than merge again.
However, not all participants would be happy to see new tick sizes, for example, some of the proprietary houses or small firms that trade with retail, as altering their downstream systems to handle decimal places would be costly.
This will also create a fragmentation of liquidity in tick sizes. The bids and offers on the TSE are often thick, with something like 50 billion shares sitting on the bid side, so with 0.1 yen ticks, the average order size might move to 3 million or 1 million shares. Traders who want to buy a large lot will have to scroll up and down to find out how much they have to go up to absorb the available liquidity. I think for the traditional long-only traders, this might mean an increased scattering of liquidity. There is sufficient liquidity in the market at present; even for stocks trading at a low price – there are market makers trying to make 1% during the day. If smaller tick sizes are introduced, that liquidity will likely be scattered or disappear.