What is the Optimal Trading Frequency in Financial Markets?

This paper studies the impact of increasing trading frequency in financial markets on allocative efficiency. We build and solve a dynamic model of sequential double auctions in which traders trade strategically with demand schedules. Trading needs are generated by time-varying private information about the asset value and private values for owning the asset, as well as quadratic inventory costs. We characterize a linear equilibrium with stationary strategies and its efficiency properties in closed form. Infrequent trading (few double auctions per unit of time) leads to higher volumes of beneficial trades in each double auction, but frequent trading allows more immediate asset reallocation after new information arrives. Under stated conditions, the trading frequency that maximizes allocative efficiency coincides with the information arrival frequency for scheduled information releases, but can far exceed the information arrival frequency if new information arrives stochastically. A simple calibration of the model suggests that a moderate market slowdown to the level of seconds or minutes per double auction can improve allocative efficiency for assets with relatively narrow investor participation and relatively infrequent news, such as small- and micro-cap stocks.

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