Information and the intermediary: Are market intermediaries informed traders in electronic markets?
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A significant but unresolved question in the current debate about the role of intermediaries in financial markets is whether intermediaries behave as passive traders or whether they actively seek and trade on information. We address this issue by explicitly comparing the informational advantages of intermediaries with those of other investors in the market. We find that intermediaries account for greater price discovery than other institutional and individual investors in spite of initiating fewer trades and volume. Furthermore, intermediary information does not arise from inappropriate handling of customer orders by intermediaries. We propose that our findings are consistent with noisy rational expectations models, where agents extract valuable information from past prices. Intermediaries bear little or no opportunity cost of monitoring market conditions, which gives them an advantage in making profitable price-contingent trades. Lower trading costs may also enable intermediaries to trade more effectively and frequently on their information.