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How Renaissance Technologies Dealt With The Flash Crash

James Simons may be the founding father of high-frequency trading.

With so many still blaming the flash crash on high frequency trading, it's worth asking what Simons was doing when the crash happened.

Simons told CNBC's Lisa Lee spoke that his firm, Renaissance Technologies, canceled some orders during the "flash crash" and stepped away from trading temporarily.

James Simons
Photo by: Gert-Martin Greuel
James Simons

"We did the obvious thing, we canceled some orders because there was there moments of tumult. So you don't necessarily run in..." said Simons. "We stepped away for one round of trades, but we came back."

So what does this say about whether high frequency trading caused the Flash Crash? It bolsters the evidence that many high frequency traders stopped trading when prices became unstable. Since high frequency traders are important liquidity providers, this withdrawal most likely amplified the effect of unbalanced buy and sell orders. Which is to say: high frequency traders might not have caused the crash but the market's dependence on the liquidity they provide, made the crash more extreme.

Simons, whose hedge fund manages over $15 billion, also commented on how he thinks equities, housing and the economy will fare.

"I thought the market was resilient and maybe it won't go much lower. I think housing prices will go much lower, from whatever I can tell," Simons said. "I think consumer spending is going to come back at a very slow rate because the nation's balance sheet has been decimated, because they don't feel as wealthy, because they're not as wealthy."

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