Anomalous price impact and the critical nature of liquidity in financial markets
We propose a dynamical theory of market liquidity that predicts that the average supply/demand profile is V-shaped and vanishes around the current price. This result is generic, and only relies on mild assumptions about the order flow and on the fact that prices are (to a first approximation) diffusive. This naturally accounts for two striking stylised facts: first, large metaorders have to be fragmented in order to be digested by the liquidity funnel, leading to long-memory in the sign of the order flow. Second, the anomalously small local liquidity induces a breakdown of linear response and a diverging impact of small orders, explaining the 'square-root' impact law, for which we provide additional empirical support. Finally, we test our arguments quantitatively using a numerical model of order flow based on the same minimal ingredients.