Twenty-first century trading is conducted across continents at speeds incomprehensible to humans. Banks and high-frequency traders often brag about executing orders in milliseconds — or thousandths of a second. Just eight of those milliseconds is the time it takes for a trader to send an order or quote the 1,280km between New York and Chicago. Compare that with the average time it takes a human finger to click a mouse: a leisurely 150,000 microseconds (there are a thousand microseconds in a millisecond), and the difference becomes bewildering. But an infinitesimal advantage can mean the difference between getting the trade, or missing out — a little-known fact that became extremely well-known after the publication of Michael Lewis’s best-selling 2014 book, Flash Boys, about the world of high-frequency traders. For regulators, policing this world has become increasingly difficult. Now, sweeping European legislation will tighten the rules around high-speed trading. The changes are lea...

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