Kindly explain the term spread crossing or crossing the spread. I know that it is connected with stock terminology, but I can't find a definition.

Figure 4 reveals that, broadly speaking, we have learned momentum-based strategies: for instance, for each of the four features that contain directional information (Price, Smart Price, Trade Sign, Bid-Ask Volume Imbalance, and Signed Transaction Volume), higher values of the feature (which all indicate either rising execution prices, rising midpoints, or buying pressure in the form of spread-crossing) are accompanied by greater frequency of buying in the learned policies.

From the paper "Machine Learning for Market Microstructure and High Frequency Trading" by Michael Kearns and Yuriy Nevmyvaka.

  • This is one of those "jargon specific to a narrow field" questions that have been discussed on meta, and I haven't yet been swayed one way or the other if it is on topic for this site. That said, there are both Personal Finance and Economist SE sites where you may get more attention for this question.
    – cobaltduck
    Nov 16, 2015 at 18:43
  • @cobaltduck why didn't you add the jargon tag? There are 102 questions linked to that tag.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 17, 2015 at 8:24
  • @Mari-LouA: It looks like jargon and terminology tags are synonyms. I typed jargon, then SE changed it to terminology.
    – cobaltduck
    Nov 17, 2015 at 13:07
  • @cobaltduck that would explain it. Good to know.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 17, 2015 at 13:08
  • @cobaltduck Also quant.stackexchange.com
    – Chloe
    Mar 11, 2018 at 18:08

1 Answer 1


In various financial markets, an instrument has two listed prices -- the bid, the current amount that someone is willing to pay to buy the instrument from someone wishing to sell it, and the ask, the current amount that someone is willing to accept to sell the instrument to someone wishing to buy it. For obvious reasons, the bid is less than the ask. The difference between the bid and the ask is called the spread.

A trader crosses the spread when he offers to buy at the ask, i.e., he offers to pay the sellers' price, which is above what other buyers are willing to pay. The trick is that the trader does this on only one exchange, say Chicago. This pushes up the price on the other exchanges, which will recognize that someone is offering more than the instrument is nominally worth. If the trader is fast enough, he can sell a lot of the shares of the instrument in New York at the higher prices before anyone realizes that he engineered the higher price.

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