Aug

10

Of what predictive significance is the first Monday, or second Monday or third Monday or 4th Monday or fifth Monday of the week? Same for Tues, or Wed or Thurs or Friday. If there is any non-random behavior, are any profit opportunities related thereto?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I honestly think any hypothesis should originate with a reason for it. In this case: first Fridays are employment data. FOMC also has set schedule for certain Tue+Wed throughout the year. Other than that, you face random occurrences that vary with cycle stages. For example, the recent years adage of Bullish Tuesdays brew within a protracted Bullish phase. Of course, any week in the midst of Bull market would develop its up move from early in the week. But I vividly recall the adage of turn-around Tuesdays thru the 80's and 90's: the decades of more market struggles and volatility, the decades of real market interest rates.

Aug

8

I would posit that every time an equity market set a 10% correction, defined in some quantitative way, it was a good time to buy. Often the definition of a correction is very fuzzy depending on whether one uses intra day or closing prices, and much latitude is often taken to try to prove the point.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Yes: if you are a perpetual Bull, a 10% discount can't be worse than a lesser discount. But that was the question I posed yesterday: are there market junctions, where such discount may be justified, and more discount is likely coming?

My proposition: yes, such junctions are quite possible in the markets. Temporary factors (like sub-prime credit, or ZIRP, or QE) might have produced such overvaluation at market peaks that a one-third price correction (and not just a 10% correction) is required to bring prices more into line with economic realities. In the process of such "one-third correction", you may still get a quick bounce off of a 10% level or any level. Is such a bounce a "good play"? Your stats may well agree. Yet others will prefer to use your bounces as a shorting entry point to continue position themselves within a greater decline phase. Both may be profitable plays. During a decline phase, "Short and hold" will prove profitable. But quick bounce-ups will also prove profitable, because they will be sharp. You are already having an over-20 handle bounce on some Friday short-covering, an odd Putin tweet, all kinds of mumbo. Yes, there are ebbs and flows for both sides.

On the precise sampling of "10% declines": why buying into a twentieth "10% decline" is supposed to produce the same success as buying into a seventh "10% decline"? Given the progressively increased valuations (which might have not been supported by corresponding economic growth), such study makes no sense to me. I only hope someone proves me wrong, and I am anxious to find out exactly why my reasoning is worthless.

Jeff Watson writes: 

While the sky is falling among the retail class of trader, and they are getting quite bearish, the fact is that the S&P is only off 4.22% from it's all time close on 7/24. Hardly any reason to shout "Fire" in a movie theater. We're nowhere near correction time yet. And when it does come, there will be great opportunities for the nimble minded trader. I've been in a bear market in the grains for months and am quite enjoying it, but then again I'm one of those who learned the ropes in a decade long bear market.

Gary Phillips adds: 

It all depends on one's time-frame. As a leveraged trader, one makes short-term decisions/trades, manages the risk/ keeps draw-downs to manageable levels and occasionally turns short-term winning positions into longer ones. Since early 2013, the average spx one-year return has stayed above 5%. Today's low was at the ~4% level and at major technical support, i.e., the highs of the previous 3-month-long trading range, so a bounce back to 1950 should not be overruled. Nevertheless, p/c ratios, breadth, and volatility indices, remain on sell signals, leaving the market intermediate term bearish. Long term, everybody knows the " bubbly" situation, yet even the valuation bears see the market going to 2250, and as long as Japanese funds continue to diversify out of the yen, Chinese investors continue to park their money outside of China, Draghi's narrative is accepted, and interest rates don't rise dramatically. The final tipping point is probably years away.

Jeff Watson replies:

Everyone knows the "Bubbly Situation"? I guess I need to be more enlightened because I don't see that at all, or am unable to see the forest for the trees. Anyway, one has seen the effects of a market where "everybody knows." In those kind of cliche cases, everybody usually gets a hard kick to the gonads from the Mistress. Since the stocks as a whole haven't been going down as much as "everybody" thinks they should, I wonder who is on the other side of the trade, buying? After all, the Fed is working 24/7, 3 shifts a day creating money that the flexions get first crack at. That should be pretty bullish for stocks. But then again, I am the absolute worst stock picker on the planet and what do I know? 

Aug

7

It's beautiful to see the stolid Germans selling madly on a 10% decline from 10043 to 9060 based on the fact that there was an official "correction". What fool these mortals be.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

The straight line DAX decline for over a week may bear all appearances of being "overdone". However, it is my inclination to use the opportunity, and open a discussion: when is a stock market decline justified? This, obviously, begs consideration of fundamental factors, that usher a change. But also, technically: if at some point the chart-critical 9,000 level crumbles, what's there to prevent a 5/6/2010-style flash?

Jordan Low writes:

It is interesting how a correction in the US markets have become "7-10%", rather than 10%. Perhaps participants feel that other markets such as DAX or Russell 2k have dropped "enough" that the SPX will not reach 10%.

 

Aug

4

Thursday's decline of 40 points was within a few points of the largest declines we've had since 8/10/2011. It's only 2% depreciation following 200% appreciation. Sure, get me out, I've become way too rich compared to the income growth within the economy.

Steve Ellison writes: 

I have no idea if this was the key weight, or even if it was important at all, but I had noticed that the DAX last made a new high on June 20. It made a 20-day low on June 26. It made new 20-day lows on July 8, 10, 21, and 28 while the S&P 500 continued making new highs, with the last new high on July 24.

Allen Gillespie writes: 

Clearly the taper (smaller negative interest rates) have an increasingly large impact. we v - cf/i. The curve bends take and to the right as one approaches zero. Law of small numbers in the denominator. The no man's land of the zero and then the euphoria of the small positive followed by the small number effect again should be interesting.

 

May

26

 I'm reading one of the best training books I've ever read for training for endurance sports, which they define as almost any sport lasting more than two minutes. Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete House, Steve, Johnston, Scott. They draw on many studies from high level Olympic athletic training and physiology.

Technical physiological detail supports their theory. In a nutshell to train for endurance sport, duration as opposed to intensity is key. Building up an aerobic base where you can exert yourself without hard breathing is key to to building mitochondrial mass, capillaries and appropriate ST muscle fiber which builds endurance. High intensity is not a short cut, and can lead to a decrease in endurance and performance. Cross fit is an example of high intensity.

There is no shortcut. It takes long hours building a base for endurance. The effect builds over years.

Larry Williams writes: 

I would add to this discussion that endurance does not win races. The winners are the fastest runners, skater's bikers, etc.

When the marathon running aspect of my life began I was doing 100 miles a week, ran 50 milers and all that but could never qualify for The Great Marathon; Boston, as I had to post a 3:25 at a sanctioned race to qualify. I was then running 4 hour marathons, and while I could run all day that was not enough.

Once we began doing speed work on the advice of a Kenyan runner who, while running with I asked, "What do I have to do", was given the simple answer, "run faster".

So off to the track we went for speed work and that on— top of endurance— got us to 4 Bostons, one with Ralph V.

There is a difference between completing a race, triathalon, etc and wining. Winners are fasters and work very hard to gain speed.

Seems like this applies to the markets in some fashion but I'm too slow to put that all together.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

We're always taught that staying in the game is the key, because that's your prerequisite to catch the once-in-a-lifetime move. But then again, ascribed to palindrome: it's not whether you're right or wrong; it's how much you have on when you're really right! 

Larry Williams adds:

It's that delicate balance between spend and endurance– above average performance and staying in the game— in our game it seems. At times I have had speed in trading, competition, and like all in this list we have endured, but getting both at the same time still eludes me.

Buffet only has endurance.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I don't think Buffet only has endurance. He'd been given valuable chunks on silver platter.

Gary Rogan writes: 

 It seems like being given valuable chunks came after 1990, when he was already a billionaire. He made his first million in 1962, and a million was worth a little more back then. Perhaps someone has the goods, but it doesn't seem like he built up his fortune early on on anything but taking advantage of available opportunities. Early on the opportunities were not flexionic, but later on they got to be that way more and more. He will do or say anything to make a buck, but was he given or did he take what he saw?

As for only having endurance, it would appear based on his objective net worth that in acquiring wealth endurance matters more than speed, unlike marathons.

Rocky Humbert comments: 

Mr. Rogan makes a key point which should be underscored. The tortoise beats the hare in investing because of the law of compounding.

In a marathon, the objective incremental value of the runner's speed at mile #2 is the same as at mile #22. That is, the marathon result is a simple sum of the time used for each mile.

In a lifetime of investing, the incremental value is different at year #2 versus year #22 … because net worth is a geometric series due to compounding.

There are many subtle aspects to this — the effects of volatility on the compounding, and the effect of a bankruptcy in year #1 versus year #22, etc.

Lastly, to the extent that one believes that there is a random/luck/chance is a factor, the turtoise will do even better than the hare.

Ralph Vince writes: 

Good points Rocky (ever-prescient, except in matters matrimonial and matriarchal, in my humble opinion). In reading what you wrote though, the following question comes to mind (and I am unable to answer it, perhaps you or someone with a more sports-physiology knowledge can — my interest here in in the mathematical function pertaining to…).

There is not difference in benefit accruing to the marathoner by a given speed at mile 2 versus mile 22. However, is there a tradeoff a cost, involved between running wither of these faster that would indicate a particular strategy as being more preferable than another? I know individual marathoners may have a different take on this, I'm more concerned with the actual physiological function however.

anonymous writes:

Overall fitness requires strength, speed/agility, and flexibility.  The mental component is extremely important as it is the brain that gives the signals to the muscles to act.  If there is no deep reserve, or lack of strength, the brain senses this and pulls back autonomic functions.  Motivation however allows the brain to tap the reserves of strength and endurance in times of need.

Each individual has different training requirements.  Many a sport trainer or coach has found this out the hard way.  Each individual reacts to training in different ways at different times in the training regime. 

Training actual changes the body and brain functions.  Mitochondrial cellular mass actually increases, as does enzyme production and along with muscle mass and function. 

Recently I started logging my training efforts in a quantitative manner.  Very helpful.

Overtraining is a common problem.  A typical cure is to increase training, but it is counterproductive.  When you feel tired, cut back, or rest.  Your body is telling you something.
 

May

12

 A friend asked me what I thought about this article about momentum investing by Cliff Asness.

I read the current interview with Cliff in Forbes as I couldn't download the paper. He manages 100 billion. Can't make money that way other than buying stocks and holding. He likes value. All the studies show that growth beat value the previous 5 years. As for momentum, there are too many years like 2008 where the worst did 85 percentage points better than value. I doubt that Asness uses as is files for their work before 2000 or so, so everything before hand is worthless. He talks about Shiller respectfully who some think is a charlatan, bearish since 1996, that Professor Lo has often brought to bear. I don't believe p/b gives useful result because of the survival bias not taken into account in any of the studies. Asness seems a plodding, well intentioned personage who must talk his book as is appropriate. One wishes there was a way to short the results of his fund versus the market.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

Just want to check a revolutionary idea. We've passively observed many regulatory misdeeds for a number of years, without getting bearish. It was ok with me as valuations gradually changed over 1000, 1200, 1400, 1600, 1800. I'm getting somewhat quizzy, when I hear "Can't make money that way other than buying stocks and holding. He likes value." Reminds me of the very-very common thinking about "real property" prior to the eventual 2007 unravel. Most people (or families) back then have never made a single investment decision in their lives (other than buying one house long ago) - yet they were all paper millionaires and felt special about their investing prowess… I'm not saying market demise is imminent, I'm just saying "Can't make money that way other than buying stocks and holding. He likes value" should objectively be nauseating.

Apr

29

 I was talking to an old friend of mine yesterday. He was a floor broker for Lehman Bros in the bond pit (he once sold me 500 calendar spreads while standing next to me at a urinal in the men's room). When he first left the floor he attempted to trade electronically and within a relatively short period of time went through all of his money. He had to take a job with the CME working at their help desk, and was eventually promoted to associate director of the Globex control center working the third shift from 3 a.m. to 11 a.m., and is now a senior director at the CME.

He told me an interesting story about his experience trading after he left the CBOT. It was about another ex-denizen from the floor. This individual, however, had worked as a clerk for a mutual friend of ours, who had been a trader. My friend went on to tell me how the ex-clerk had been making $1,000- $1,500 screen trading, per-day, like clockwork — averaging $25,000 per month for quite a period of time.

However, after my friend went through all his capital and stopped trading, he lost touch with this ATM of an ex-clerk. But serendipitously, ran into him the other day when he hopped into a cab. However, the ex-clerk was not another passenger, but the driver. Of course, there are quite a few lessons to take away from this story- not the least of which are:

- markets change and if a trader doesn't adapt, he'll be driving a cab
- becoming a successful trader is not easy, even if you're experienced
- core competency in one endeavor, does not guarantee competency in another
- working for a living sucks
- always be prepared to trade
- markets aren't the only thing that reverts to the mean
- not every cab driver in Chicago is from Pakistan or the Middle East

- never turn down an edge, no matter where you are, or what you have in your hand
- always wash your hands after making a bathroom trade

- success is fleeting, losing is forever

Leo Jia writes: 

Thanks Gary, for the interesting post.

I found your title (or the last lesson on your list) quite intriguing: "success is fleeting, losing is forever". Seems apparent in a lot of cases. But why and how is that true? Especially when we consider your other lesson: "markets aren't the only thing that reverts to the mean".

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Isn't it true: even having made 5,000% on your money, once you lose only 100% - you got no money left. That is more like self-sabotage.

Leo Jia writes: 

Normally, if one wins/loses in percentage terms, one nearly never loses 100% - sure one may lose so much as to have not enough fund to continue trading.

Let's assume that he wins/loses 5% on each bet. To make 5000% in the fastest way, he needs 175 consecutive wins. From here, to lose all he has made and get back to his original amount (which is still enough for him to continue trading), he needs to go through 166 consecutive loses. If his wins/loses do not happen consecutively, which is normally the case, it might have taken him over thousands of trades on each way.

So in this process, even though losing takes fewer times than winning (166 vs. 175), winning and losing both take a long time. So the other lesson "markets aren't the only thing that reverts to the mean" could apply here: after losing some, one starts to win. I am not sure how one can conclude "success is fleeting, losing is forever".

In the worst god-given case where he has no edge at all and trades simply based on flips of a fair coin, he has equal chances of winning and losing.

The only case where "success is fleeting, losing is forever" is possible is when he always strives so hard to create a very large negative edge for himself.

J. Hughes comments:

 Interesting, but the distinction needs to be made, "he was a floorbroker", quite a different occupation than that of floor trader. It's easy to trade against an order deck.

Having done both job's, cabdriver, and trader, though for different reasons, I can state unequivocally, yes markets change and if traders don't adapt, they perish. But the bigger insights lie in how much cab driving is similar to trading. Both position risk capital upfront, the 3 G's, gates, gas and graft. Then there is risk control, it takes skill to size up an individual when one is traveling at 35 MPH and trying to cover the costs of the 3 G's. Then there is return on capital, I can say first hand, my return on capital as a cabbie, on a nightly basis, was far superior on a percentage basis and more consistent as a hack, than a trader. Although I am back to driving a computer once again, and there are times I wish I was back pushing a hack. Both positions are very much traders. It's a natural fit. The lesson is, "life is replete with vicissitudes."

Ed Stewart writes: 

The problem with making $ 1,000-2,000 a day is it is enough to provide a salve and decent quality of life that makes one feel like a professional, but this is not dentistry or a job at a federal regulator. IMHO the correct target is to get rich and become a real capitalist. How one does that, via trading, a service business, or a money manger (combining the two) does not matter so much as actually doing it by any means that is legal and ethical. Going for crumbs doesn't cut it.

Apr

25

Apparently the death throw is a peri mortal stage.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

"The opisthotonic posture tells us more about the circumstances surrounding death than about what happened after death."

This is the key, and that's why huge players have been known to run their own stops. The ensuing reversals are a sight to behold

anonymous writes: 

It would seem asian session euro fx product range extremes on euro open in particular….

Apr

9

 One has been wrestling with the question of whether there have been excessive numbers of migrations in markets, and whether they are predictable, and what consequences they have for other markets. The book Great Migrations by the National Geographic Society, which I visited in Washington recently has been very helpful in generating ideas for me in this regard. What do you think is relevant and useful here, and what is the purpose? One of the purposes of migrations and markets is movement. Yes, there must be movement to generate the friction and losses and excessive trading that provides the wherewithal to pay for the massive infrastructure and costs of keeping the system going. But why back and forth, if it exists above randomness, as it is instinctual and so necessary for survival in so many species.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

In the 80s-90s futures markets that I dabbled in, one peculiarity was a seeming pre-cursor of a big daily move in one commodity by another, oftentimes fundamentally non-correlated! The trading floor at 4 World Trade Center, depicted in D. Amiche's Orange Juice debacle "Trading Places", was shared by pits as varied as Coffee and Platinum. A number of prolific personages owned a Gold-colored Badge, allowing them to step into any and every pit and trade. It happened quite often that guided by noise-level alone, such local speculators would migrate to Sugar albeit for one day - while their decades-long specialty was Gold! That wasn't a surprising move by a trader; surprising was the next-day jump by that trader's own market! There was a lot of psychological, herd and greed factor involved; but also there was an interesting exchange-finance angle to this pattern, where even a collapse in one pit might provoke a melt-up in another. You see, all locals and their sponsoring firms were in a financial leverage melting pot. Thus, cross-margin liquidation might be a rule of one random big day. Winding down someone's Long stock-index position could also mean blowing him out of his Short Cotton position!

The reason I specified this took place in pre-electronic era is that exchange individual position limits were much looser then. Today such cross-margin liquidation would more likely ensue from over-the-counter derivative portfolio losses.

Ed Stewart writes: 

 1. Prior highs and lows and the edges or recent trading ranges are often feeding grounds.

2. Climate change is real (beyond simple cyclical patterns) so at times overshoots are required as the migrants must reset their bearings to balance their need for energy with what exists in the environment.

3. During a warming period the migrants must travel further north, during cooling period they find nourishment at a lower latitude.

4. Sometimes the migratory species gets confused and ends up at unusual locations, which can then become a ritual do to simple mimicry and the chance identification of a favorable stopping point.

5. Migratory movements are related to survival (feeding, reproducing, not freezing) not for their own sake as they are risky and require substantial resources.

Gary Rogan writes:

Some Northern European migratory warblers have dramatically adjusted their migration patterns from wintering in Africa to wintering in the UK (they breed in Germany and other Central European countries). This provides a great example of adjusting to every-changing cycles. It's interesting to consider the fate of many other warblers who tried to winter in various other places or too early in the UK vs. the tremendous benefit to the first pair that made it back from wintering in the UK alive. It's also interesting that once warblers started doing this 10-15 years ago, this has lead to what seems like a separate evolutionary path, where now the warblers that winter in Africa don't readily mix with their UK-wintering counterparts.

Apr

5

 Ukraine buys almost all its energy (natural gas) from Russia. Revenues from natural gas sales are a primary source of income for Russia.

Because of the recent disagreement between Ukraine and Russia, Russia is raising the price of natural gas it sells to Ukraine.

Ukraine is almost broke and can't afford the increase in the natural gas price because it would be forced into bankruptcy.

Obama(the USA) just announced the United States is giving Ukraine $1 billion to assist in paying for the higher priced natural gas it buys from Russia.

So, the United States is actually giving Russia $1 billion because the money is just passing through Ukraine.

The first question: Has Putin figured out a way to raise the price of his natural gas sales and make the U.S. pay for the increase?

Next question: Was he really in the KGB or was he a commodities trader?

If this analysis is accurate, Putin just got Obama(the USA) to pay him $1 billion by holding a press conference and trucking some troops across town from the Russian Navy base in Ukraine.

Who is the smartest guy in the room now?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

You are absolutely correct, Kim. I thought Obama was actually scoring a PR point on this one, not Putin.

Kinda like a chess gambit, where Obama sacrificed a bishop (1bn) to buy time and check-mate (16bn) Putin.

Mar

10

 Sir Harold Jeffreys recommends that the simplicity of a model be counted as the number of degree, the order, and the sum of the absolute values of the coefficients of the differential equation that models. He believes it is an immutable law of science that all great discoveries fall into a sum less than 7 or so . (See Ackermann [8 page pdf] for review and critique).

I wonder if the moves of markets can be modeled usefully in simple laws like this. The simplest solutions of an exact equation are

y dx + x dy = 0 which derives from xy = c and dx/x + dy/y = 0 which derives from ln ( xy) = c

Which markets move like that during a day or week and can useful predictions about the continuation of this relation for further parts of the period be made? Are there other simple models which work like

x (y)(y) = c or (x)(x)(y) = c

that are just a tad less simple that work as well.

On another note, a visit to the Drexel Museum of Natural History reveals the interesting fact that even though the lion is classified as the king of the jungle, old lions are often eaten by hyenas and leopards. One can see that playing out in the corn belt and those businesses that rely too heavily on yoga.

The beaver on the other hand, one learns often sends a seasoned emissary to help his colleagues build a new dam before returning home.

Gary Rogan writes: 

I'm having trouble thinking of any reasons why the markets should behave like simple laws of physics or simple differential equations. Conservation laws in physics are fundamentally based on the symmetries evidently present in our universe and also on the constancy of the amount of some quantity integrated over any surface enclosing it's source. Why would any of this be relevant to the decisions of millions of people and computers, all in the presence of a great deal of noise?

Anatoly Veltman adds: 

Yes, reflexivity theory is more appropriate. For instance, Ukraine is a negative — but only longer term. That's because trade wars, etc, cause stagflation, which is a long-developing process. US equity prices are more likely to suffer from credit contraction, and that's why China woes are way more significant. But US equity players will only begin catching up to this reality after China's drop gains speed.
 

Mar

4

 1. The SPU on March 3 showed a rise of 45 points relative to the DAX which was down 3.5% versus the SPU 0.75%. The ratio of DAX to SP fell from 5.20 to 5.09 in one day.

2. Eileen Power,  the libertine expert on medieval economic history who no woman or man could resist (she was engaged to the chief senichal of the last emperor of China) had a father who apparently used the same techniques as Drier to defraud his creditors. He pretended that he was borrowing money for his clients, and used their balance sheet to borrow, but he kept the money for himself. It is amazing how in frauds there's nothing new under the sun.


3.
Stoudemire is the only one that seems to know the source of the Knicks problem. Smith, of all people, the worst player in the NBA said the problem with the Knicks is they don't have heart. No one had the courage to contradict him, apparently because they all frequent the same clubs as him, except Stat who said "before making accusations, the accuser should look in the mirror".

 4. The move from Friday to Monday and Monday to Tuesday in all markets was an amazing example of a Lobagola. It usually takes at least a week or two for the elephants to migrate back the same way they started, but this time it only took a day. And as the wild liberal from the Beltway said in his most (perhaps only) intelligent pronouncement: When it goes one way big and catches you, and then it recovers, go with it. Hold on. This must be tested.

5. The great composers always have poignant thing to say about life that are applicable to our field. I like what Verdi said: "symphony is symphony, and opera is opera"; he wasn't talking about the proper separation between technical and fundamental analysis, but he should have been.

 6. I am re reading the book Our Mysterious Panics by Charles Collman, 1930. (see prev post ) He believes the cause of all the panics was excessive speculation and lack of liquidity. He asks relative to the 1907 panic, "Did Morgan deliberately engineer a stupendous financial panic, which was likely to paralyze business, ruin industry, throw his own interests into confusion and set the country back ten years at least, simply to buy at a low price, a stock valued at seventeen million dollars." He bought Tennessee Coal and Iron Company on the cheap at the height of the panic.

7. Stocks are opening at a new all time high today, March 3, after a big decline the previous day. It's never happened before. You have to give the market mistress credit for always coming up with something new. As usual the unusual is a good motto for the market. Time and again, one tries to encap the most similar events to a given days moves looking back 10 years or so, and finds nothing similar.

8. The biggest mistake that new speculators make when trying to look at things like trade station plus, lim, or the things that they "borrowed" from me is to make things too complex, and to forget about the problem of multiple comparisons. When you cut a sample 2 or 3 times, you need a probability of 1/1000 at least to come up with something inconsistent with normal 5% randomness. The next biggest mistake is when keeping it simple is to assume that the simple relations will repeat. Thus, between Scylla and Charybdis.

 9. The predictive relations between bonds and stock in the short term is exactly the opposite in 2013 and 2014 from what it was in 2012.

10. The fawning coverage of the benevolent grandmother at the Fed was guaranteed to happen. After all, no chair of a Fed ever has been more devoted to the idea that has the world in its grip than her. I like the comment that "she is perhaps the most qualified chair of the Fed in history". People in my family took her course in International trade at Harvard, and have confirmed her fine sense of humour of which there are 1.4 million references thereto on Google.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

August 1991's failed Russian coup comes to mind as a proper example of two-day Lobagola in stocks, bonds, USDDEM, and oil.

Mar

4

One notes that if stocks were down as much as DAX today (March 3rd), they'd be down another 45 big points SPU.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

But of course on the day when the Russian Index shed 11% and Russian currency traded a record low, the DAX reflects liability and the S&P is nearly a safe haven lol.
 

Feb

25

 The all seeing eye would note that stocks and gold closed at all time and 1 year highs, and bonds are within a point of a 6 month high.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Janet effect?

Feb

10

Compliments on the nice Long last week. There is a good chance the market will stabilize for a couple of weeks, and even end up rallying. But this will be the final Long stint for maybe years to come. Technically, the reason it should work is because this was first drop from the Highs. You always make money buying first correction. And then you always make money Shorting next rally. That's just how it is, technically speaking. As far as why US stocks will (ever) drop: the time will finally come to address and digest the years of impropriety: all policy, all politics, all debt, all moral hazard, all geopolitical posturing. If nature is cyclical, then why not a catharsis.

Those Long-term (240 years) charts published overnight certainly illustrate that stocks are in the worst position of all spaces. Treasuries don't look good either, but not necessarily this year. Crude looks potentially veeery bad. So does Gold, but not quite to halve its value. Commodities are to correct even less. The USD chart appears to have tremendous upward potential; my speculation: that's where the surprise is.

Feb

6

 In the short term trading world is it better to diversify and trade many things or specialize and trade just a few. I am in the later camp, as it takes all my usable mind capacity to manage just one or two positions concurrently.

Others prefer to trade many instruments saying it increases opportunity and reduces risk by diversifying. However in futures trading, and short-term in particular, there is no Markowitz "free lunch" that comes from diversification which applies only to stocks. By trading more instruments it does perhaps give you something to do when other markets are slow. This however could also be viewed as a negative, and maybe it is better to not be in the markets at times. It makes sense to me to trade based on opportunity. Yet, in practical trading-life these opportunities are so difficult to find, it takes being a specialist to uncover them.

In angling, I am a bit of a hybrid. I specialize in flyfishing, but I will go after anything with gills and scales and recently added the beloved carp to my list. In economics, comparative value tell us to specialize and has been the source behind much advancement. Ben Green traded just horses and the occasional mule. Bacon just bet on the ponies. Specializing served them both well.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

The main advantage of algo trading is the ability of your portfolio to simultaneously participate in all futures you've pre-programmed. Certainly that's an impossible task for a manual trader

Kim Zussman comments: 

Duncan isn't trading index futures lunching with Markowitz? (Albeit less so than before the period of widespread indexification).

Feb

5

It's been long said that "the real trend" is not the direction of the price change, as much it is the duration of direction.

Thus, it is said that in the downtrend (current?), the rallies would be sharp but short-lived. It's no wonder that we had so far 3 rallies that didn't last over 24 hours

Feb

5

"(BN) Goldman to Fidelity Call for Calm After Global Stock Wipeout"

"That's why we think we are in a classic correction". One could write a sonnet about that one.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

One thing bothers me somewhat deeply: even before current correction started two weeks ago, the Shanghai index was trading around 2000, which was some one-third off of its record two-plus years ago. Mind you, we're talking about the world's second most powerful economy in the world here. The one America counts the most to support its Treasury Bond Market!

So was that perfectly fine for US stocks to become dearer by an equal one-third in the same time period?? And the moment we deflated 5 percent off the record, was that perfectly fine to rely on one hundred statistical reasons to be an immediate buyer? I wish I had b@lls of brass, too. But I am just a little more cautious.
 

Feb

3

 1. When mentioning HFT in any discussion, people will mean different things. Chiefly, because thousands out there claimed at one point to be engaged in HFT. My neighbor introduced his collegiate athletics son the half-miler. And then there is David Radisha…There is great deal of "champion" checker mention on our list (of course the 8×8 board, 12×12 piece, no jumping back and no flying kings). This is truly "tic-tac-toe" compared to international checkers (10×10 board, 20×20 piece, jump backwards, flying kings). Believe Wiswell and Moiseev the checker kings? Do yourself a favor and google my friend Ton Sijbrands, a study subject in human memory. Most people can't even sit in front of one 10×10 board with 20×20 pieces on it, and see the whole board at once; Sijbrands sat in the room with no boards for 28 hours, completing 28 defeatless games (92% total score due to a couple of draws against all opponents with boards) blindfolded!! Each of those 28 simultaneous 50+ move games involved strategies with quintillion possible variations. Brutally honest: Wiswell the checker player might as well be challenging Kobe to a one-on-one.

2. Now: HFT, brokers and the Exchanges. The Exchanges set up rules for order priority, halts, etc. In addition, rights are reserved (for example: to arbitrarily, selectively cancel trades). Plus there may be hacking issues we'll never even get to hear. A few member entities are allowed collocated spots…Brokers are allowed to route in their way…To judge whether laws or rules get broken, one would have to be as sophisticated as the perpetrator, or at least have access equal to the Exchanges'. By definition, there can be no such overseer. There were a few whistle blowers in re: to perverted priority - but really, who with the level of access to proof will ever blow whistle?

3. Which brings me toward encrypted currency protocols. I'm just thinking that two hundred enthusiastic (read: known to work without sleep) phd's within one firm are not there to just be paid 8-figures and research nothing. And not to single out any one firm - there are in fact a number of ubersophisticated entities… In case of bitcoin currency - the whisper has at least some components legislated out sooner than later. (First DOJ arrests, although at core drug-related, are likely watershed nonetheless). Exchanges require licensing, etc… But but but, the protocol concept is something beyond just the currency. Eventually, I understand, the concept will be embraced and implemented for currency and more. Now, I'd love speculation as to how the process might be going at the oval and at the committees, and of course within secretive branches with untold resources. All powers must be summoning qualified advice on the protocol matter. How do they do it, and how will the legislature evolve? Also, how does international officialdom deal or co-operate on projects involving world web?

Jan

29

Canada, from Jim Sogi

January 29, 2014 | 1 Comment

 I am just back from a ski mountaineering trip in the back country deep in the Canadian Rockies. Canada is a huge country, rich in natural resources, with only 30 million people. The people are relaxed and with a lot less anxiety and tension than Americans. They lack the expertise and manufacturing base to extract much value from the raw resources.

It is a beautiful country. Things are inexpensive, especially since the recent devaluation of the loonie to US .90. There are many new immigrants to Canada from China, India and other commonwealth countries. They have a liberal immigration policy that allows commonwealth members to work there when they are young. I sense great potential in the North.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Jim, isn't the potential resting squarely on natural resource prices?

The problem I always had with Canada's potential was economies of scale. This population one-tenth of the US's but spread out over huge territories still needs to be managed efficiently. I'm afraid the government's burden per capita just crowds out too much.

Peter St. Andre writes: 

Here is a visualization of population density.

Shane James writes:

There is a 4 day train trip you can take from Winnipeg to Churchill (which may still be the Northern most point you can live). You can go dog sledding there, meet the remarkable Innuit people and pretend for a short time that you are Ranulph Fiennes or Amundsen.

But it's cold. Ha!

Jan

27

Do we have any predictions of the path of S&P in the next 5 days… based on the past 16 years, looking at the most similar moves over the last two days, I see Monday up. But perhaps a terrible decline along the road.

Alan Millhone writes: 

Dear Chair,

Is the failure of Obama care and concerns on its bailout making folks jittery ?

Sincerely,

Alan

Ralph Vince writes: 

I don't know if it is something that conscious, Alan, but surely, whether one alludes to it as success or failure, there IS some economic impact to higher premiums, to the socialization of anything. In this instance, the bigger question, is given that there must be some diminishment in economic activity as a result of this "law," (and if that were not the case, it would be fully implemented at present rather than piecemeal) my concern is what kind of a multiplier effect is there on this across other sectors of the economy.

This, coupled with 10 billion/month less in pumping, and there is a drag out there that was not there 120 days ago. The extent of that drag remains to be seen.

Alan Millhone writes: 

I feel the drag will turn into a good dragging.

The 10B was a poor band aid to cover a deepening economic wound.

I see a big increase of street people walking thru my town. I see increased numbers of people using the Cash lands in my town. I see more U hauls on the road

My local banker CEO says last year he had more charge offs since he has been there. He also says delinquent payments are up considerably.

A local bank is closings its three local locations and basically all employees lost their jobs. Huntington Bank bought the bank.

I have rental property and renters overall having a rough time.

My gut tells me bad times ahead.

Ralph Vince writes:

My GDP models have me expecting the next leg down to be considerably worse than 2008. This is very disturbing to me.I won't delve into obamacare yet.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Funny you should say that, Ralph. I haven't taken a position in many years; but it's crazy how charting can work within some minds. When she started coming off the 2009 bottom, I had a conversation with a friend in front of a live but very long-term chart. Looking at it, I explained that penetrating the 2002 bottom by substantial amount, the SP chart has sustained significant damage. At the time, I could confidently state that the 666 low will one day brake. Alas, I added, the chart is imminently Bullish — so I will not be assuming a Short any time soon. Next question was: "How Bullish is it?" And I had to shake my head: "Possibly, new record first…" Well (I was deservingly told), you're no help Anatoly.

For full disclosure: I have since changed my mind about breaking the 666. The sole reason for my change of heart is my belief that by the time that were to come around, the measuring unit (the USD) will not have nearly the purchasing power of 2009. So in real terms, I'm holding to my speculation; but not in nominal terms. To complicate things, the lower we may go right now, the less Bearish I will become. I really prefer to be Bearish at records - and it's harder for me to believe the top is in place when the move down is already in progress. Kinda opposite to Chair's weekend topic…But when Rocky was forced and announced his market call earlier in January — I was forced into seconding him instantly. Partly because we all knew that profit takers will not act out before January, for tax reasons.

David Lillienfeld writes:

I came across some notes I made last year about an interview with Leon Cooperman. Cooperman was commenting about having taken a large position either in student loan bonds. When he was asked about the increase in student debt, the problems graduates are having finding jobs, the lack of much increase in wages, and so on, all of which suggest a coming default, Cooperman just smiled and commented that the bonds were likely to paid off at par by the US government should they default and that he looked at them as being low risk at worst. Last time I looked, student debt was north of 1 trillion, and I think it may be up at 1.3 trillion by now. I don't hear many talking about student debt as the underbelly of the economy these days, but it seems to me that there's a storm brewing there. How long would it take for a default on the first tranche or two of those loans to spook investors?

Nov

28

 Sometimes the market in the day and fray is like certain beautiful Russian women that my friends tell me often populate the high voltage bars frequented by people like Welch and Koslovsky when they weren't captured by trophy wives or prison. Not down enough to give you a buy signal, but not up enough to give a nice profit.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

One should never forget about the HFT profits against the "every single order that's placed by a non-HFT". It doesn't seem like much per lot, but it is an assured death by a million cuts. Not that every random HFT can afford the collocation, the wares and wires, the special relationship with the exchanges, the research and the execution, the HR, the PR, the legal costs et al. But that's where your speculative dollars are going, like a black hole - and nothing is actually produced in this glorified battle of penny-stealing…

I do get the feeling that more and more liquidity is required to keep this machinery going, and that the monetary authorities will keep providing it - the ultimate hazard of debasing notwithstanding. But because the system is irreparably compromised, and everyone knows that deep down, the teams of profit takers are standing by - just waiting out for the fiscal year roll a sliver further, into 2014, to postpone their gain tax liability…

Nov

26

 The Knicks remind me of Brooklyn College when my father played. All the teams would pay Brooklyn a fortune to come out to Notre Dame or Michigan or Cal to kill the Jews. The fans loved it and took out all there frustrations from the depression by seeing Brooklyn get killed 90-3, or 87-0 et al. Artie had his nose broken 17 times during these games and the home fans loved it.                                      

The Knicks are losing 46 to 22 to Portland and the fans love to see the Knicks killed the way they loved to see Brooklyn killed. Portland "toying with the Knicks" like the cat the mouse. Many injuries to people like Stat or some such that the fans love. Often the 3 or 4 options people on far out puts would toy with a certain party the same way.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

On toying: imagine if the flash-crash of May 6, 2010 were happening in the midst of a bona-fide US bear market. And this will surely play out one day, once the U.S. is in fact in a bear market. If the market briefly disappeared first time around, what will prevent it from disappearing for longer next time? Government's orchestrated pledges — telegraphed to a few first. So who will be truly saved by that?

Nov

25

 One thing I notice in unsophisticated investor-traders such as myself is that the positions one takes are usually supported by an unspoken prediction: "I will know when it is a good time to sell this and I will be able to do so."

Gary Rogan writes: 

The beauty of really long-term investing is that you don't have to have this unspoken prediction.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

And to add to Mr. Rogan's "beauty", you take full advantage of the most marvelous aspect of arithmetic, the power of compounding. And furthermore, you reduce to a minimum the vig from flexionic and top feeder activity.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Can't dispute all of the beauty. The problem is that only a narrow group is willing to commit: those who set aside slow money. Most suffer from the "hot money" bug: how to make money work its hardest. Willing for the money to die trying.

Gary Rogan writes: 

Very poetically put. It also illustrates the following point: in any kind of investing or trading the problems and solutions come in two flavors, namely those of competence and those of psychology. Even in long-term investing you still have to decide what to buy and when to buy it, so it's not immune from either category.

S. Humbert writes: 

Buy and Hold (for the medium term) is not, in my view, enough to earn a living from. Please let me explain before you fry my IP address.

In the past 30 odd years alone, even the unleveraged long only holder of US stocks has had many barren years (and multi year) periods when he lost or didn't make.

In my usual, inelegant fashion, what I am saying is that if you trade for a living — for yourself (i.e. at the sharp end of the game) then buy and hold alone doesn't cut it. (Unless you start in 1982 or 2009 or some other retrospectively chosen low). This does not dilute the effectiveness of the strategy, I'm just saying an individual's perspective and starting point dictate what weight one should give to the passive, low vigorish strategies.

Frankly, a low single digit return with a very poor Sharpe Ratio over the lady two decades LESS retail friction, well… I certainly couldn't have lived off that taking into account my extremely modest circumstances when I started my speculative business in 1990. Anyway — it's at all time highs now right!

Ralph Vince writes: 

Worse–you're still going to touch that money. You're going to take a morsel, or add a morsel, you can't sit there and forget about it.

Now you're on the curve.

Now, if you are 100% invested, you are completely doomed, and it isn't a matter of if.

Nov

22

Noted today on Bloomberg: 'Fractal analysis of similarities to 1929 is available to "analysts".'

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Bloomberg's red line of 1929 is showing much steeper exponential rise "coming". Coincidentally, when RobinHood (more exactly, Peter Borish) began following the 1929 analogue in the early 1987, they decided to go Long first and capitalize on the blow-off that "was coming" first.

In my view, the main issue with all this is not what many think. Those who think this is ALL mumbo are not entirely correct. Chart developments do serve to illustrate participant psychology, which may well indicate over-doing the upside and thus setting up the downside. So that solitary aspect is indeed pro-analogue. My anti-analogue argument is NOT that human psychology has dramatically changed over past century - it has not. The issue I see in 2013-2014, which was not a factor in 1987, is that today's market is not driven as much by human psychology as it is by machine psychology!

Nov

4

 The advice of Art Bisguier comes to mind when considering the Australian's post on turning off the lights. "Schtalll," he always said. "Sit on your hands and write your move down before you move the piece." I always say if you waited a day or two or hour or two on every trade, or definitely to the end of the day on every trade, you'd do much better. We live in a web of deception.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

With due respect to everyone quoted, I'm not sure. Just like in board games there is time limit, so in any market contract, there is window of opportunity to cease a favorable price. Have recent tests shown that reversals occur between sessions, as opposed to intra-session?

I agree that was the case in yesteryear, because participants who over-leveraged during the day had to liquidate on the close, amplifying the riot. But these days, the pre-set electronic limits prevent such intra-day indiscretion. So it's just as likely to hit major pinnacle or nadir any time in the session.

Craig Mee writes: 

 Wouldn't it make sense to take all the bright lights, and colored up and down arrows, and green and red charts off your screens and replace them with blacks and greys. The flickering of the table creates undue excitement in one's mind and drives one to "play" when they probably should sit. 

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Funny, I was just reading something along the same lines but related to gambling. Best not to confuse the exciting red cherries and the appearance of green as being indicative of possible success.

"How Slot Machines Trick Your Brains":

"A reel on a virtual slot machine may seem to be cycling between 22 positions, but the machine powering it could have 64. This means you're seeing those cherries moving by way more than the odds that they will stop. Schull cites a study by Kevin Harrigan, an expert in algorithms, which says that if this type of machine were to pay off according to what people are seeing, players would win 297 percent of the time."

Oct

28

 We have all experience or witnessed the thing called beginner's luck in sports, games or other competitions. I will make a hypothesis that this is not luck at all, but a non-random effect. It may be like the home field advantage, which was never fully explained until recently. In beginner's luck what the player lacks in experience he more than makes up for in other attributes allowing him to compete better. It could be a higher performance mental state. Lacking experience the player also lacks other things like fear, disappointment and loss. Free of these, he is willing to take on more risk. He is not anchored to one belief system or set of rule. Rather he is quite flexible and adaptable to new conditions as they present themselves. Beginners see the world as children again, albeit all too briefly, and may find simple opportunities that a more experienced player would overlook. In a competition, an opponent could underestimate a beginner giving him an advantage and allowing him to play with less pressure to win. It would do well for a more experience players to understand what is behind beginner's luck and to find ways to either adopt or counter it.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

I experienced it first hand in spring of 1987. I've decided to make my first major trade by that time, because I spent several months eyeballing all available charts and was struck by an unmistakable basing pattern in Silver. I surveyed dozens of veteran Silver traders around COMEX - and none of them would get excited at that particular junction. They all got burned, some less and some totally, in the course of the preceding 6 years worth of price action in Silver - and that seemed to convince them that Silver can never again master a sustainable rally.

Well, as my beginner's luck would have it: I started accumulating as much as I could over 30 consecutive trading days from 50k of initial margin money, and by April 27 I already owned hundreds of lots, worth over a million! But on that one day - easy come easy go - Silver rolled back from $11.25 to $7.50, leaving me with barely positive equity and a single lot for memory keep-sake! So, admittedly, the old wolves did end up skinning me: during that one unprecedented futures session, which flipped all futures months from limit-up to limit-down lock - only they knew how to execute in the Spot month of un-traditional April futures and front run (via switches) all outside would-be sellers, none of whom got to sell anything that day! And by next day the April contract was not just spot delivery - it didn't even exist!! That one trading session proved too arcane for any amateur futures trader, and the Exchange insiders fully capitalized. Just like in their good ole times of the famed January 1980! 

Oct

23

 When confronted with new ideas, the Dailyspec acts like a collective doppelganger; a looming reminder to suspend judgement until empirical proof is provided. It forces one to rethink all that had previously been taken for granted, with inference supplanted by intellectual caution, and reification replaced by consilience. Even one's successes are called to task to insure they are reproducible and not a victim of post hoc fallacy.

These predispositions to incredulity may not sit well with the secular world nor one's mate; they are often misconstrued as pretentious or disputatious, but in the context of the list, polemic comments are neither deemed arbitrary nor argumentative, and a degree of doubt is always welcomed.

So, what's the schtik about candlesticks, and single-day signals, and other simple linear relationships? It's true that a lot of extremes have reversal days; so, the probability is a reversal will occur with an attendant price extreme. but, it does not tell you the probability of having an extreme and a sustained change in market trend-given that you have a reversal day.

These approaches are intoxicating to the contrarian, but in a momentum, algo, and QE driven market, they only serve as a rationale to prematurely exit a successful trend following trade.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

One reversal bar (or candle) has proven to work better on Weekly than Daily charts. This is a very important note, as old technical analysis books glorified Daily reversal bars, "outside reversal". All of them implied Daily - and this just doesn't work in modern markets. But Weekly reversals do.

Someone will be expected to produce test results. Test results depend greatly on input, and on coding particular signal conditions. I'm afraid the test results we may hear on the list will not be based on proper signal conditions. I'm not aware of any one-dimensional signal that performs in today's markets, but unfortunately we'll likely hear back precisely that: a one-dimensional weekly bar reversal signal.
 

Oct

22

 Confirmation of a trade signal can be helpful to avoid drawdowns. Many small gains,and several large losses tend to be a pattern when using normal expectations in a non normal market. It's the 5+ sigma moves that cause big losses when working in a 2-3 sigma model.

Nison in Candlestick charting methods describes Japanese rice traders waiting for confirmation of a trade signal as the next day shows the reversal or continuation of the signal. This avoids the falling knife syndrome. Larry Williams wrote about confirmation of patterns either as completion of the pattern or as confirmation. The later entry is not as good a earlier entry, but avoids the multiple sigma losses, which may be worth it overall. It would be a worthy exercise to examine and test this. Recent doji reversal signal with narrow range off 1650 after long decline and multiday drop was confirmed the next day is an example of the candlestick idea of confirmation.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

On Candlesticks: weekly Candles have vastly more meaning. Daily are now meaningless due to seamless Sun thru Fri action. Intraday are totally ridiculous because they vary with arbitrary choice of 5 or 10 or 15 or 30 or 60min period.

Confirmation is a tough dilemma, which may border on trend-following vs. contrarian dilemma.

Gary Rogan writes: 

"Dilemma" isn't strong enough in this case: it's like saying that the market will go up tomorrow for sure unless it goes down. At least Larry Williams developed incorporating multiple time frames into the calculation, but by itself confirmation seems like it can't possibly be meaningful considering the ever-changing cycles: a trend that can be "confirmed" in a statistically significant way using the same methodology over the years seems as likely as a unicorn.

Oct

21

 It begins with a new uncertainty, we're going to attack Syria, we're going to default on our debt, a Middle East fight, in conjunction a 1 1/2 % decline or more in stocks or bonds then fighting between the conservatives and the liberals a call by Buffett and Krugman for government intervention and more service revenues. A resolution with a big stock market rise to new 20 day highs an end with blame being put on those who wish lower service revenues and reduced intervention and unanimous agreement that we should never strive for reduced intervention again, and tea party types must go back to caves. How would you improve this or possibly profit from it?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

But of course crisis starts on the way up. It's been said that no market has ever topped because someone sold massively short at the high. Any decline from the high is merely profit taking, not new shorting. So the beginning of crisis is such overvaluation that's liable to cause aggressive profit taking.

Gary Rogan writes: 

The way to predict the quick resolution of the next crisis is to figure out who is in control of the mechanics. While there was some ambiguity in this one, John Boehner played a truly masterful role in its handling and supposedly (although not by all accounts) received a standing ovation and no blame in the end by most of his tea party opponents, a deliberately induced case of the Stockholm syndrome. Next time he initiates a crisis (and there will be two opportunities early in the new year) bet on a timely resolution, and this time probably a couple of days before the deadline, as in this last one he was almost by his own admission compelled to give his tea party "friends"/antagonists as much rope as was needed to supposedly hang themselves and this will likely not be the case in the future.

Kim Zussman writes: 

Doesn't seem that ambiguous.

When the Organizer and his operatives said to worry the market worried. When the conscientious objectors gave up it went up.

We were re-elected and you will go quietly.

Oct

4

 A Pair of Pants in checkers occurs when the opponent's king is between your two checkers on the adjacent row above and below

0

X

0

The market often puts you in a pair of pants. Say you have a good position and you're long, and you're willing to buy a few points below, but you'll take your profit if it goes up a few points. Like today. But the market refuses to go down or up to let you win.

What other plays from checkers or chess resonate in the market? And can we learn something from them.

The pair of pants reminds me of the CTA who's down much for the year. He doesn't want to show a really good return for the month because his investors will get out. But he can't show a bad return either or else, the attorneys and vultures and clearing firm will be after him. 

Anatoly Veltman adds: 

It seems Chair totally forgot about the flying king of non-British checkers variety. The pattern played out perfectly courtesy of the latest FOMC surprise: the market flew exponentially to a record, driven by the news of the day — only to fly out the other end on logical wave of value-oriented profit-taking. In checkers, that combination is often used to END THE GAME.

Alan Millhone writes: 

Hello Anatoly,

Checkers is like the Market — you can study both forever and yet never figure out or master either. Either may master you.

Regards,

Alan

Aug

19

 It used to be that employment was a direct function of output /price. What is this mumbo and desire of the Fed to get inflation over 2% a year. Low prices are good. On a recent visit to Japan, the prices there were much lower than the US because there had been no inflation there in 10 years. That made us want to purchase things.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Interesting to note that in centralized economies the cause and effect are different. When I went to Russia with lectures in 1995, they couldn't comprehend that bad economy does NOT bring forth inflation. In their past, bad economy would bring official price hikes, as government deficit spending would immediately levy all goods and services.

Aug

19

 There have been 5 occasions when stocks fell by more than 200 Dow points in a day and bonds the same time fell by more than 1/2 a big point 3 of them occurred in last two months including last Thursday. This has many market implications including the changing the guard of the relation between bonds and stocks, and the importance of liquidity preference.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

Agree 100% with Vic's astute observation and hypothesis. Mr. Market is seemingly at the point in the economic cycle when good news is bad news for financial assets. What's difficult to believe is that in the current cycle, this inflection point is occurring with lackluster GDP growth (i.e. substantial output gap in domestic and global economies) and high unemployment. These facts help explain why the 2 year Treasury is not backing up.

One surmises therefore that Mr. Market is trying to find an equilibrium yield in the long end of the curve with no prospect of further aggressive manipulative Fed interventions. Since the current easing cycle began (and before the Fed started buying long-dated securities), the extreme of the 2/10 spread has been +288 bp. We are currently at +248 — which gives a price anchored sense of magnitudes to where we may be headed. If the curve steepens another 40bp, that will coincidentally also put the 10 year TIP at about +100 real yield — all of which is sensible, consistent and not a panic overshoot. This will also put the 10 Year Treasury at about 3.2%ish.

I'm not making any predictions about the effects of this on stock prices. Except that I would expect stocks to get into some potentially serious problems should the 2/10 spread quickly widen past 300bp as that will represent a new regime (as Vic says, "changing of the guard"). There are too many other variables to be more precise. Including the relationship between nominal yields, yield ratios, etc. I will note that bank CD rates have not been increasing with market interest rates. This can be interpreted numerous ways but it's an important fact for investors.

Gary Rogan writes:

Perhaps this is as simple as the market is taking seriously Ben's statements that he will keep the short end of the rates low, but is determined to use any good news, fake or real to taper/stop the QE. There is just going to be less money for any kind of financial assets so that any rates not controlled directly by the traditional Fed manipulations so that their prices all have to go down, stock, bonds, and everything. The market must believe that the Fed sees real danger in continuing QE and it thus must come to an end almost for sure. This has puzzled me for a while since I can't see how any kind of housing recovery can be sustained with higher mortgage rates nor how the US treasury can afford the higher rates, because I expect the deficits to start increasing again. But Ben's term is coming to an end and he probably wants to leave on a certain not that only he can judge to be the most optimal for his post-Fed future. In a couple of years it could be deluge as far as Ben is concerned but not in a couple of months. Perhaps he just doesn't want the QE in place when he leaves.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

This is an unusual Ponzi, in the most important respect: that there is no official to call it. Alas, where market is bound to err, the market will focus on public sector Ponzi alone. The more important is the derivatives Ponzi, and that's what is liable to cause 90% market contraction off of whatever pinnacle.

Happened twice already in new millenium: with .com stocks, and then with bank stocks. Yet, most participants' philosophy is that it can't happen. Or has no right to happen? What right is there to take a billion-dollar underlying, re-hypothicate it without an end in sight, and pass it for a trillion-dollar book? Mr. Market is bipolar; trying to fit it onto historical precedent will work, for most of the trading days — but not for the most important trading days.

Jeff Sasmor writes: 

It's also possible that this is a trial balloon and that there will be feedback from the market reaction into what the fed does.

If interest rates rise and choke off the housing market wouldn't they act to reverse that?

"Plans within plans," as the Guild Navigator said.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

Anatoly is of course correct that markets go further and trends persist longer than reasonably sane people expect. The most recent examples of this are the Platinum/Gold spread; the WTI/Brent oil spread; and the 2008/2009 period. But his conclusions about "most important trading DAYS" are not only disproved by the duration of these episodes, they are also suspect in the context of investment and wealth accumulation — as the power of compounding requires time.

There remains no evidence that ANYONE can consistency anticipate or profit from the "most important" trading days. Those "important" days pale in the fullness of time as we see over and over and over again. Furthermore, he can (as I do) lament the Fed's mechinations. But they in no way resemble a Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme requires new money to pay off old money, and can persist in perpetuity so long as there is sufficient new money to pay off old money. So long as the Fed has a printing press and the ability/willingness to expand its balance sheet AND THE US DOLLAR IS STABLE, the status quo can and will persist. Social Security (as a standalone entity) is a better example of a societal Ponzi scheme.

Further to the "status quo," among the things that I find most remarkable about the past few years is the relative stability of the major currency markets. Sure there have been some violent moves. But the Dollar, Yen and Euro are all within a couple of percent of where they were exactly 20 years ago! . Even the Chinese Yuan was trading at about the same price twenty years ago. (They devalued it to about 8 in 1994, and then gradually moved it back towards 6ish.) Lastly, does anyone remember Bill Ackman's breathless announcement from a couple of years ago that he had a massive call position on the Hong Kong dollar … and that they were going to be forced to imminently re-value their currency. With his problems in JCPenny, Herbal Life etc, he should consider unplugging his Bloomberg and read "All Quiet on the Western (sic) Front."

Gary Rogan adds:

I expect that they can't live with the effect of the rising 10 yr and mortgage rates even as they stand today. My initial supposition when Ben first started the tapering talk was that he wanted to puncture the stock bubble, but can't afford to puncture the bond bubble. He seems to have punctured both. The genie is out of the bottle and with all the loose talk emanating from the various Fed associates it will now take a pretty dramatic action to reverse what looks like a looming crash for most asset classes.

Jul

19

 Jack Barnaby, the best rackets coach, never learned how to string rackets. He wanted to be a coach and mentor for the boys and not a stringer. My friend Larry Abrams decided not to let others buy his time but to do something he loves every day and became an investor. I don't know how tanki works or other computer games so I can't discuss it with Aubrey when he calls each day to talk about tanki. So I can talk to him about other important things. Life is short. Do what you love. Try to realize the things that you're best suited to do. How does this apply to markets? Don't take flyers in things that you don't know about. Study up on the field that you're involved in. Don't listen to experts?

Vince Fulco writes: 

One excellent lesson I learned from the Chair after too much time on the sellside was shut off the media message almost entirely. In most instances, they highlight/profile those who are available and especially with a sharp witted sound bite. Neither of which makes for successful speculation.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

So true. Specialization, niche, is what scores big. Anyone achieving monopoly/oligopoly is real — just try to hold on to it!

On a parallel subject, the greatest coups in marketing history were by leaders who cultivated a whole new consumer culture. Ford, Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Dimon…who else comes to mind?

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

A minor quibble about Anatoly's earlier comment about people who forged a whole new consumer culture. Ford and Hitler are not people who belong on the list. Ford created a new industrial culture but his "consumers" were as nostalgically retrograde as Dearborn Village. The customers for the Model-T were "country" people who used them as substitutes for mules and horses; the Model T was as mechanically simple as the small motor equipment that was already in use (cream separators, for example) so the farmers themselves could work on them. The car's greatest virtue were its high axles and body; it could navigate the mud of back roads in a way that other cars could not. The automobile consumer culture - automatic starter, changing body styles, pneumatic tires and brakes, dealerships and credit sales - were all invented by people other than Ford. But for Edsel, who managed to persuade his father to adopt some of these innovations, Ford might have failed even before the Depression (by 1940 it was bankrupt but was saved by WW II's war orders, rationing and tax laws which gave the family 6 years' relief from competition). As for Hitler the consumer culture of the Third Reich was even more backward-looking. The most successful industrial country in history was to become an empire of small-holding farmers - like the dairymen of the Bavarian alps. Women were not supposed to work (the most amazing single fact of WW II is that the Germans, unlike the British and Americans and, most of all, the Russians, never had any women doing any war work at all).

Jun

24

Isn't it likely that anything like the current level of prices will cause a slowdown in the economy and soon we will be hearing that the tapering is not imminent?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I assume energy prices are meant. Maybe food, too? Any other, "input" prices?

And my second question: ok, suppose "we will be hearing that the tapering is not imminent". Will it necessarily sustain record equity prices? What about cyclical fluctuations? What about economic realities? Will stocks always necessarily go up (from ANY level) due to Fed "hopes" alone? What about fiscal issues around the world? What about geo-political strains? What about currency wars? What about old fashion profit-taking, correction…

Again, the chart looks eerily like 1987 - when a drop of historic proportions proved to be a mere correction

I think the most dangerous for the market situation will arise precisely as described by the Chair: that participants will be given more Fed "hopium"; and we'll get a lot more of them in for the wrong reason and at the wrong levels.

Ralph Vince writes: 

Vic,

Don't you think that depends on the pace of events though here, doesn't it?

Conceivably, things can fall off very, very rapidly given the political backdrop right now and the history of anemic real GDP growth leading as a reliable prelude to recession (and the fact that YoY real GDP has seen successively lower troughs since 1980, the stage is certainly set for a rapid descent). And if the jawboning (which is likely priced in already) doesn't provide the support it is thought to?

A commenter adds: 

A Fed official has already bandied this idea in the media. On Friday Bullard said that the pace and duration of QE will respond to market conditions.

Gary Rogan writes: 

The costs of the rising rates are already hitting the mortgage refinancing market severely and may soon derail the housing recovery. The cost to the Treasury of higher interest payments and the lack of the profit rebates from the Fed would be enormous, while simultaneously increasing outlays for unemployment and food stamps if the Fed causes a recession. The recovery is tepid and not self-sustaining. Also getting to 6.5% unemployment is a long way off.

It seems likely that the Fed saw a stock bubble building and decided to puncture it. When the first downtrend after the initial attempt started to reverse itself, Ben jawboned some more. He probably has a target level in mind, but he can't afford to to let the rates rise too much so it's a balancing act. What may be best from his perspective is a stock market crash followed by a quick rhetoric reversal from him and perhaps even more QE to lower the rates. He needs to have stocks and bonds to move in the opposite direction by any means necessary.

Scott Brooks writes: 

IMHO, there is no amount of stimulus that ward off the coming demographic shift that is occurring in America as well as most of the rest of the developed world.

In America, the final wave (the 3rd wave) of the baby boomers have exceeded their peak spending years and are refocusing their money. Generation X is not yet ready (nor do they have the numbers) to replace the spending of the baby boomers.

Spending is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) driver of our economy. Spending peaks at about age 47/48.

If one were to look at an immigration adjusted birth index, one would clearly see that the baby boom peaked in 1961 then leveled out (with an ever so slight increase increase) thru early 1964 and then off precipitously after that. Add 48 to 1964 and you get 2012.

Spending will decrease for the boomers. The big index companies that sell to the boomers will see their profits further erode. The secular bear that started in 2000 will continue on for several more years.

It will be a traders market with several bear market rallies and opportunities to make money on the short side. I predict higher than normal volatility.

Old "buy and hold" dinosaurs like myself will have to adjust our portfolios and be more nimble. It will be a great opportunity for the day traders and option/future traders of this list to make profits (that is if you profit off volatility). Smaller more diversified positions, low leverage (you don't want to get burned by big moves in volatility), and hedging will be the hallmarks of the day. The long only crowd may experience more pain they are accustomed too, unless the volatility increases the premiums enough on OTM puts that it makes them worthwhile to sell without getting burned on the downside.

Although the potential exists, I don't see big moves down (like 1987)….I see more of a slow bleed like we saw in 00/01/02.

The combination of statist entitlements based on unrealistic assumptions are going to put excessive pressure on governments to deliver on their promises. The same pressure is going to be put on private pensions, many of which are currently underfunded.

This won't last forever, though. Things will get better. Watch demographic tables for those countries which see their demographic start to move positively and buy there when demographics make their positive move. Don't look at typical "index stock" type companies though. When demographic changes take place and the younger generation starts to move into power, they will innovate. Look at smaller companies for profits.

Of course, I've been wrong many times before so it may be best disregard everything I've said.

Ed Stewart asks: 

Scott, where do productivity increases fit into this type pf analysis? After all, isn't this what boosts living standards over the long run? Rather than think in money terms, what about the creation of real goods and services that improve lives.

If it is just "spending" that is needed, they could just poof cash into everyone's bank account in the same way that today they "poof" cash into the QE programs.

Scott Brooks replies:

Ed, it's more than just spending that drives any economy. Innovations that improve productivity do play a role.

As to real goods and services and improving lives…..I am very excited about that. Difficult times are often the fertilizer needed to cause innovation. As one generation (the baby boomers) moves off into the sunset of their lives, the next generation (GenX) moves into power and gets to apply their new ideas and innovations.

Each generation builds on the work of the last….and even comes up with brand new ideas along the way.

We saw it happen from 1968 - 82, 1929 - 48 (with a hiccup due to the war), and I could go back even further. Generation shifts occur and we are in one now.

Carder Dimitroff writes:

Your argument makes sense. Unfortunately, this is not how the system has been working. Worse, those advocating for the good 'ol days do not realize they are asking for more government guarantees, a la Solyndra.

Utilities love these guarantees. Given the choice of free markets or government controls, utilities pick government controls every time.

Look at the southeastern states. They had several opportunities to create a free market, called "Grid South." They rejected that idea, preferring instead to remain centrally planned by comrades in state utility commissions.

Almost two decades ago, liberal states began implementing free-market systems for New England to Virginia and all points in between. Soon after, California jumped in. Late to the game was the Midwest. Even later was Texas. Of course, utilities operating in these states were not pleased when their generating assets exit the state's rate base.

It gets better. For decades, gas and electric utilities operated a "cost-plus" enterprise. From time to time, utilities would visit their regulators, present their [prudently acquired] costs, seek an adjusted rate to recover those costs and then asked for a modest margin.

It's like milking your neighbor's cow.

Jun

24

It is interesting to note that there have been 92 days over the last 15 years, that's six a year, that bonds and stocks have both been down 1/2 on a daily basis. But three of them have occurred in the last month. The red colors on our DailySpec graph illustrate this in part. Looking at the concurrent of down 1% and 2% days, we've had 3 years without such events but 3 of them in last month. We are entering a different world where the old regularities much be reconsidered.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Of course you remember that going into October 1987, it was the pervasive downdrift in bonds which eventually got the better of stocks. The other element was the currency wars, which Jim Baker didn't handle appropriately.

I speculate that should the bond market of today continue its route, then stocks will follow in much more blistering fashion than Mr. Rogan predicts.

Gary Rogan writes: 

I don't think I predicted that stocks will not go down substantially. In fact, my point was that Ben really wants them to. My other point was that he wants bonds to go up. However if neither he nor any of his colleagues at the Fed say anything of substance, I see absolutely no reason for both of them not to go down together, perhaps in a spectacular fashion. I'm not capable of making any kind of time-based predictions, but they are both overvalued on any kind of substantive basis and what has been keeping them both up is liquidity from the Fed. Now if Ben and company keep making disparate noises, some about tapering and some about doing the opposite, while keeping QE to infinity that would be such a mess that I wouldn't even attempt to predict how that will turn out. Ben clearly wants the redirect all the liquidity into bonds, but whether the bond vigilantes will let him do that is anybody's guess.

May

28

Aversion to losses or aversion to risk? Which of the two is addressed by willingness and ability to close out losing trades?

Well, without invoking mathematics where it is not necessary, it is common and logical to place on the table that when a losing trade is closed one has the willingness and aversion to the risk of the persistence of loss becoming into a bigger one and one does not have aversion to the present level of loss in being accepted.

Now on the other hand, unwillingness to stop out a losing trade is indeed loss aversion.

The computations that show that having utilized some sort of mechanical rules for stopping out adverse incursions actually increased the probability of meeting with adverse incursions is totally flawed abuse of statistics.

Several arguments:

1) Historical data analysis does not undertake the "uncertainty at a given moment to decide upon" into account and is definitely incorporating hindsight 20:20 vision mind-set.

2) Any measurements of uncertainty and thus risk are never definite, since measurement of uncertainty too will be having an uncertainty of its own. So a trader in the middle of a losing trade has to decide that the level of uncertainty in his method, mind or cognition regarding the calculation of the "value of uncertainty" in his trade has become too high for him to handle. That's where humility, the currency that prevents others from profiting more from your mistake, can come into play and allow the willingness to hit the stop.

3) However, when either with or without the illusions of statistical computations of stop losses increasing the probability of meeting with more losing trades, one fails to control the human weakness of loss aversion, to somehow and anyhow turn that loss into a profit, one is becoming totally risk-insensitive. From skill, the turf changes to the power of prayer. The game begins to change from action to hope. Inconsistency of thoughts thus turns one into a trader who is continuing to hold on to risk without a mental apparatus to assess it or react to it. As the loss continues to grow not only the lack of willingness to take it hurts, the ability to accept the increasingly bigger loss also dwindles rapidly.

I am ready to be thrown before any firing squads of mathematical minds and ideas on this list if they can with or without numbers help me learn how come this list celebrates and cherishes a human value of humility and yet indulges in an idea that staying on in a trade that has incurred a level of loss greater than anticipated when the trade was opened are mutually consistent.

I would close my submission for now with one thought:

When loss aversion creeps in it makes a decision system (mind) risk-insensitive and with no respect for risk, returns are impossible. Yet, if a mind continues to be risk-averse it does not have loss-insensitivity and in humility such a mind closes out risk that has turned out to be less than comprehensible.

Phil McDonnell responds: 

Since I am the well known culprit I shall give Mr. Kedia a reply. If the probability of a decline art the end of a period of time equal to your stop is p then the probability of losing the stop amount with a stop loss strategy is 2 * p. It is simply a derived relationship. It is what it is.

It is not a misuse of statistics but rather a description of how a stop loss exit strategy will change the distribution of returns. Larry Connors studied over 200,000 trades from a winning system and compared the results with and without stops. He found the use of stops increased the probability of loss and reduced the expected gain.

In my opinion the best way to trade is to reduce position size so that no one loss hurts your account too badly. That means many small positions to me.
 

Larry Williams adds:

Ahhh here I go off on a rant; please excuse a tired old mans bitterness at system vendors who claim stops hurt performance.

Yes, they are correct in that the statistics of your system will look better if one) you don't use a stop and two) your use a market with a perpetual upward bias like the stock indexes have been, usually.

They are absolutely totally incorrect in terms of living the life of a trader. So what if I am long in a position that eventually shows a profit but because I did not have a stop loss that one trade moved against be 20,000 or $30,000 and it took a year or so to get out of? Yeah, the numbers look good (high accuracy) with no stops but it's one hell of a lifestyle.

High accuracy is a false God.

Consistency and never being in a place where you can get killed is more critical. Perhaps Mr. Connors has never sat through the reality of a large loss, especially in a large position. I have; I would rather battle the devil at midnight on a new moon with both hands tied behind my back.

It's one thing to have a system with "good numbers" it is quite another thing to be a trader and have to deal with reality.

It only takes one bullet in the chamber to kill you when playing Russian roulette. As near as I can tell trading without any stops, in any way whatsoever, is just the American version of this form of spinning the wheel.

Play the game as you wish but please heed the warnings of an old man.

Leo Jia adds: 

I have been studying the use of stops. Due to loss aversion I guess, I would like to use narrow stops. But among the various strategies I have yet found one working well with narrow stops. Good stops have to be relatively wide in my cases, but having no stops or stops that are too wide clearly hurts results (my trades are time limited). So a good choice for me is to size the position according to the stop size.

Sushil Kedia writes: 

If you reduce position size can it be argued that a position of Size N reduces to N-n implies that you took a stop loss on n lots out of N you held. Then too, it validates the fact that you do take stops.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Larry covered main bases (different markets, different position sizes, different lifestyles) pretty well. I just want to be sure that reader doesn't end up with wrong impression. I think the best conclusion is "it depends".

And because my act follows Larry's (who is certainly biased in favor of stops), let me try this. If you enter based on value (which is certainly against trend), then there is no justification available for a stop. Unless you argue that this stop proves you were an idiot on the entry. But if you are an idiot on value entries, then why play value…

Anton Johnson writes: 

 The problem with using Conners' simulation as evidence that placing a trade stop-loss reduces returns is that he tested a winning system that likely had never experienced any 5-sigma negative excursions prior to the test date. And of course there are no guarantees that his strategy, or any unbounded trading strategy, will perpetually avoid massive drawdowns.

When implementing a strategic trade, a good compromise between profit maximization and loss mitigation can be achieved by balancing trade size along with a stop-loss, which when placed at a level that only an extreme event will trigger, will likely contain losses to a predetermined range, and also prevent getting stopped-out of a potential winner. If one is disciplined, maintaining a mental stop-loss level is preferable to an order pre-placed in the book, and available for all the bots to scan.

Larry Williams adds: 

But speaking of stops, I go back to my litany, my preaching the essential reason for never putting stops on an exchange server, or even your brokers server. Putting stops on servers means that your stop becomes part of the market. And not in a positive sort of way either. Pick a price, hit the button, and take the hit. Discipline is key here.

Ed Stewart writes: 

A trader needs a decision process for managing the expectation or expected value of the trade as well as the equity position. The problems occur when these two things are in conflict.

The thing with stops is that at times it makes no sense to get out of a trade when the expected value is still good. What is the difference between exiting at a small stop-loss point 4X in a row vs. one loss of that same size? Well, if at each "stop out" point the expected value was favorable, it makes no sense, one is just locking in losses. At times the best "next trade" is simply staying in the current trade.

However, I see Larry's point and it is a good one. Yet, the example of letting a loss get huge or holding an underwater position for a year is to me something of a false alternative. No exit strategy but hoping for a profit at some point is not a reasonable alternative.

What maters, I think, is the expected value of the trade at each moment, and balancing that against equity and a margin or error to ensure, "staying in the game".

Given this I always trade with mental stops, if not on individual positions, on total account equity. Having that "self-preservation" discipline is useful.

Jeff Watson writes: 

I learned very early on in the pit on how to go for the stops, and that weaned me off of stops completely (except in my head).

May

15

 The bonds are down about 6 points in the last two weeks. Worse yet, those who bought at the auction a week ago, actually have a loss. There's a famous incident where a great cricketeer was up by 1 run, and then on the last pitch, he rolled the pitch to the batter instead of hurling it. The epithet "it's not cricket" is appropriate to the temporary loss that the flexions and colleagues at the bank have. One would imagine that the upside down man is persona non grata. But more important, who was the player that did the dastardly deed. One believes it was in the mid 70s the last time that the bonds discommoded the colleagues, but what was the team and the player?  

Can you top that? What is the most disgusting incident in the history of (the market) relative to Trevor Chappell rolling the ball you can recall in the market? Was it the mingling of funds without retribution by the Governor? Or the flash crash before the French Inside trading before Leeson announced? To me it was being blindsided by a high bid for bonds that I took from Michael Lewis's firm right before the flow of funds man announced his bullishness. What's yours? 

Update: A kind correspondent says it was Ian Chappell. Worse yet it was a game among the colonies, New Zealand vs. Australia. One can only analogize it to the IMF not being paid back first on account of a bad debt or a country in the EC defaulting on its debt. "It's not cricket". The rain in Brussels might preclude taking the mistress out for a fish dinner.  

Craig Mee writes: 

Victor,

Ian would gasp at being associated with this (as well as most of the nation)… his equally talented brother Greg Captaino instructed the third brother Trevor to do the dastardly underarm deed to "prevent New Zealand scoring the sux they needed to tie"

wiki the "underarm bowling incident of 1981".

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I'm afraid to say: buying a single lot of SP futures near October 16th, 1987 close. On that triple witching Friday, which followed the relentless two-week decline, the floor rumor had it that one Palindrome had accumulated an outsized long position (the whisper number I heard was over 10,000 lots). I traded Gold and Silver, which closed an hour and half before the SP. Feeling lucky from my metal profits, I decided to take my first plunge into stocks. I thought to myself: if a trading legend is compelled to accumulate that much into this close, then this must be an exceptional value. Still, the novelty of buying stocks and the discomfort of taking a Long position period, made me limit my experiment to a single lot.

Well, as history books will tell you — Black Monday's opening gap down was the largest in all of the preceding stock index futures history! And wouldn't you know it: a very rare opening signal developed by an exclusive research group of like-minded younger traders stared huge in my face that morning. The signal had three conditions, and that's why it would occur so rarely:

1. If a market dropped big into the close AND

2. If the sentiment survey diverged (I.e. went up) AND

3. If a market subsequently gapped down big against such bottom-picker sentiment

Then you must SHORT that gap-down opening!!!What made my one-lot Long the worst position I've ever taken in my trading career was that instead of executing this rare Shorting signal of mine on that Monday morning - I had to digest my damning stupidity of following somebody else's silly Long of Friday. Another younger trader, who was not burdened by any silly Long, did execute the Shorting signal and doubled his Short position once the SP opened down around 260.00 and proceeded to plunge lower. Lo'n' behold, that day ended up printing 190.00; and the younger trader has become the Robin Hood that the community admires today…

anonymous writes: 

I worked for the 'Robin Hood' you mention in your comment below for 3 years.

Although quantitative types such as I believe that he is an example of survivor bias I must say this — I have never witnessed such ferocity, focus and ability to cut losses with alacrity as I saw him demonstrate time after time. (In all fairness I was not fortunate enough to work alongside the Chair at NCZ back in the day….)

A genuine trading talent.

Anatoly Veltman replies: 

Yes, and therein another lesson: that the "survivor bias" is not entirely random. Were you part of that Liberty Plaza office that sported the sign: "Maximize size, minimize risk!"

That particular trade carried the trademark of the genius: nimble lightly to Short a potential bubble over 330.00; adding substantial Short that melted the 300.00 phantom support a month later; and finally doubling up below the 260.00 where the black hole of no bids guaranteed the break of 200.00 before the bell could save the day!

May

5

Has anyone noticed the rally in the 10 year Bund? I thought that it perhaps had finished, but that's not the case. The yields just keep dropping.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

David, if you missed that story: major Central Banks vouched they'll never raise rates again. So you can't be short any core sovereign bond today.

My take, however, is that following 32-year-long advance in US bond prices — it's just as important to be ready for the reversal day. Once you think we are getting a reversal day, just imagine how many years you'll be following this position down!

Jeff Watson writes: 

What if bonds don't reverse for a long time? That could happen you know….Logic does not always work. How long are you willing to wait, 10 years? The Fed has stacked the deck and the new deck is a 6 deck blackjack shoe, marked cards. and the deck is very rich, a counter's delight, and there is a run of AK,A10,AQ, all paying the new, reduced odds of 6:5 for blackjack that many games are offering. Unfortunately, when they reshuffle, we get the 2's and 6's while the dealer shows an ace, and the key element to keep the sagacious away is the dealer gets to go last after we all bust out. How do you beat that game? People tend to over think things, and assume that because A=B and B=C, then A=C. We know that the best trading opportunities sometimes lie when A does not equal C for whatever reason. Sometimes I tell people that intellectualize too much to take a page from Charles Bukowski, who in an alcohol fueled rant said "Don't try," but I changed that to "Don't think." I'd like to know how much money has been lost by "Thinking."

Anatoly Veltman adds: 

First there is a Long trade, but I'll let someone else formulate it. I'm really no good in playing the momentum of a 32y old trend. Then, there will be a short trade.

One way to formulate the future Short trade: what's better a. to enter Short at some relatively high point OR b. to enter when the future down-trend "is" in earnest.

I'm reminded of Gold nearing $1900 in 2011, with Rocky (who's been Long since probably $1000 lower) proclaiming: what's the use out-thinking the trend just because she may be "overbought". There are no signs of a bubble, just stay the course. When the top is finally confirmed and the down-trend develops, you'll have years of riding a Short…

So in case of Gold, Rocky finally declared in 2012 that "something has changed in Gold" as it was rapidly correcting toward $1525 for the second time - and he didn't want to be Long of it any more. In 2013, Rocky was anticipating the break of $1600, and announced his now Short bias.

Back to Bonds: there are way more signs of a bubble!! So lets see if Rocky will pick a., b. or a future way of Shorting I haven't thought of.

a commenter adds: 

There are those self promoters who picked the real estate bubble (Shiller et al), the guys who predicted 2008 etc. What you don't hear is their predictions that went south as that would diminish the brand of the promoters. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. And really, how does one really know, and how does one predict with certainty there is a bubble? And if it really is a bubble, who cares as long as you can sell at a high price on the way down. Isn't commentary regarding the morals of whatever kind government action a waste of time? The government does whatever, you go with the flow and relax. Fighting headwinds, fighting the Fed, wasting time on worrying about why things happen, making decisions on emotion and false logic…..these little things are what make the account balance bleed, and drive one insane.

May

2

 Novices can be the scariest opponents a solid poker player can face, especially in a one on one situation. Novices make bad bets all the time, bets no rational player would ever make. Bets like drawing to an inside straight, which gives him a miserable 4 outs, but happens. Since you are playing an irrational player, someone who might have more "gamble," and less knowledge, you need to change your game. If he is really loose, a good player will play tight and vice versa.

In poker, not all weak players are novices. Some are lifetime degenerates that are like ATM machines. I think novices can be extra dangerous because of the belief that beginners can do very well (some would call it luck). I drew a pat queen high straight flush on my very first commodity trade (soybeans) almost 40 years ago as a 16 year old kid, and things like this happen. Most of the poker games I used to play in were full of very tough players, opposing forces, so to speak. I've traded against some pretty solid players in the pit. In both poker and trading, one needs to play around, and not against the tough player, and go after the weak (which is not necessarily the novice). Does the least irrational player come out ahead in the long run? In poker or trading, that is worthy of further study. Then again, I have found on many occasions, the most rational thing to do is act irrational, or at least make your opponents think you are acting irrationally. In any case, the key lesson is to play a very strong defense at all times and keep one's guard up.

David Lillienfeld writes: 

The same thing is true in chess. When something moves out of a rational context, it is challenging indeed. When I played tournament chess (a lifetime USCF member) a while back, I used to go for the upset prize–it meant winning one game instead of the best of 5, and the prize was not quite that for the tournament overall, but it also involved less work. My opponent usually had a much higher rating than I did, and often didn't pay much attention to the board because, obviously, I wasn't close to his measure and he could focus on other things during our match. Sometimes, in the early middle game, I used to start using inane sequences of moves that would absorb lots of my opponent's time (we played on a clock) as he tried to figure out what I was doing. This would absorb a lot of his time. I would then sacrifice a piece or two, which made no sense, but it again absorbed time on his end figuring out what the madman he was playing against had in mind. About half the time, his clock would expire and I would win what was basically a lost position. It's not the best strategy for trying to win a tournament, but for the upset prize, it worked a lot of the time.

Anatoly Veltman comments: 

You may laugh, but at the level of Soviet and International grandmasters, directly the opposite was sometimes practiced by a few leading players who were best of the best in lightning chess (blitz). If they didn't like what they had on the board, they would purposely allow their clock to run down to only like 50 seconds remaining. What they gambled on was that the opponent, who already had a very good game on the board, might instead focus on their clock…

Apr

29

 The annual CTA Expo took place at the CME Group in NY. It was a day full of presentations. The industry's line, of course, is that the stock market has become a joke. At best, stock trading and investing have been commoditized. There was a lot of outright self-promotion by the energy and metal interests, and much less so by the bond and currency funds.

It sounded quite symbolic to my ear, as this is what I am thinking going into next trading week. The earlier April's riot in precious metals was just the opening salvo. Similar to oil market, metals alternate strong down and up weeks of late. But I see the overall bias decidedly contractionary. And this is just the financial industry's prelude to going all into the US Dollar. The Euro-currency is the largest, most liquid market - and it will be the last to go. The metal market is much narrower, and it had to be vacated first. The energy markets are wider, and will submit only grudgingly. Finally, the Euro-currency is a Titanic that appears un-sinkable - until it hits the iceberg, and only so many life boats will be available.

It was very refreshing to hear how many funds (even pension funds) have become tactical players in European Periphery sovereign debt. Heck, if you manage to only hold (that kind of long-maturity paper) overnight — then you benefit from its relatively high yield, on day-to-day basis! In fact, so many money funds have devoted themselves to this tactical idea, that current yields and coupons no longer objectively reflect the high default risk. On day-to-day basis, risk premiums have became partially arbitraged away. The longer term (a lot of them institutional, but less agile) investors are thus subjected to complacency reflection. They do not receive adequate premium for risk, which, if anything, has only become greater in distorted market.

There was another interesting thought that came forth: world's strongest Central Banks have one by one announced that they will never raise rates again! So you can't be short any core bond in the foreseeable future. The lifetime's easiest trade has been announced, which is the only trade that one will ever need to perform: you continue to stay Long bonds until the very day that you instantly reverse to Short. That's it, lights out.

Apr

22

 This is a very interesting documentary about gold: "The Secret World of Gold". It just aired on CBC. The premise is that central banks have leased out gold, bullion banks have sold it multiple times over, and there is a big gap in physical gold that is supposed to be in vaults vs the claims that counterparties/customers have on it. But before that there is some really interesting historical stuff about gold at the front end. This was a really good watch.

So if the bullion banks and western central banks have this big shortfall of gold and it is starting to come to light, my theory is that what is going on right now in the gold market is a bear raid to get the prices of gold and silver down as far as possible so the mega-short bullion guys can buy in as much physical that they can (at lower prices) to avoid getting caught in the short-squeeze that has to be the outcome of this.

A couple of points that seem to be adding up.

1. Germany asked for its gold back and was told - 7 years. They were not allowed to see the gold that was supposedly there, supposedly for security reasons.

2. Texas wants its gold back from New York! They don't trust fed government sanctioned counter-parties in their own country!

3. J.P. Morgan was successfully sued (settled) for storage charges on physical gold that was supposed to be in their vaults, but was not.

4. ABN-Amro recently settled gold claims in cash at prevailing market prices. Investors came to get their gold - turns out there was none.

5. China and Russia probably smell what's coming and have been buying large quantities of gold, and encouraging their citizens to do so - setting up the short squeeze?

6. Forcing Cyprus to sell its gold? So who's buying it?

7. What's behind Utah, Arizona and other states legislating gold as legal tender?

If this is what is happening, best way to play it is in physical bullion, certificates in bullion trusts that actually hold the physical gold like Sprott, and gold/silver miners I would think (even if its in the ground, they still have gold). Not sure about futures and options, ETFs that use futures as underlying, nor precious metal ETFs that don't publish the serial numbers of their inventory.

Even if banks settle in cash, it will validate/underscore the shortage of the physical product. And if a manipulation comes to light, people will realize there was nothing wrong with gold as such, and will scramble to buy it back themselves for the reason they had it in the first place - insurance. There may also have to be more government assistance if the squeeze turns out really badly for the bullion banks, exacerbating the money-printing.

Anyway its an interesting scenario. Could be a good trading opportunity, I think the move could be explosive depending on how the news comes out - days of limit-up stuff in the futures markets (unless the banks and government call "uncle"). For disclosure purposes - I'm in a battered long precious metals trade right now, holding what I still have (I took partial stops) and starting to slowly rebuild the position.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

Outside Canada, the documentary can be watched here.

I think it's been known for a while that:

1. There is no upside limit for the price of gold in fiat currencies

2. That government confiscation is unavoidable, to limit item 1

Thus, the balance of the two is likely to be found within the historical $255-$1921 range…

Remember the logic for $250-500 oil calls, as $147 was being approached? All scenarios are always based on unrealistic "all else staying the same". Well, it never does. So it was on approach of $150/barrel, that Vitol got the news that it was "not a hedger" and thus is deemed in violation of NYMEX position limits, i.e. must liquidate…So what news will be new on gold's new wave up? That private ownership of it, outside jewelery and numesmatics is prohibited. First to liquidate will be funds, then individuals desiring to stay out of jail. In George's words, the move could be explosive depending on how the news comes out – days of limit-down stuff in the futures markets…

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

When gold was "confiscated" in 1932 holders were paid for their specie in F.R. bank notes at the Constitutional "price" - $20.67. People had to turn in bullion, coin and the outstanding gold certificates - the U. S. Treasury notes that had remained outstanding after 1912. When 2 years later the value for international exchanges was raised to $35 an ounce, the "profits" went to the U.S. Treasury which also took title to all gold and gold certificates held by the Fed. It is hard to see what the Fed/Treasury would gain from a repeat performance. They are no longer obligated to settle foreign exchanges in anything but the currency of their own digital creation.

Let me try to understand what is being suggested about the current state of the world regarding gold, prices and credit: (1) the amount of physical bullion actually available in the world is far, far less than advertised, (2) to preserve their legal tender oligopolies the central banks are not only lying about how much gold they have on hand but actively short-selling against their reserves, and (3) when interest rates rise in the U.S., social chaos will result and the government will impose Martial Law.

The premise seems to be that the U.S. and Europe have unsustainable government debts, and an inflation is inevitable. To avoid this, the Fed/Treasury/IMF/ECB and other institutional villains are doing everything they can to destroy speculators betting that the currency prices of gold will go up.

I don't get it. All of the past examples of government default that the Roganistas point to occurred during periods when foreign exchange markets cleared in gold. No country, not Britain, not the United States even in their days of greatest authority, could settle its foreign debts in its own fiat currency. When Roosevelt issued his Executive Order making the ownership of gold (and govenment promises to pay gold) treasonous, the worry was that the U.S. would literally run out of gold because our European trading partners' currencies were no longer fixed by a specie weight and measure. When, 2 years later, the U.S. devalued by 40%, it was to create a "stabilization reserve" that would keep the country from running out of gold. Even after WW II, with the rest of the world in ruins, the U.S. still had an explicit obligation to redeem its foreign exchange deficits in specie valued at $35 an ounce.

Our present world only began when President Nixon and Treasury Secretary Connolly adopted the Henry Ford approach to currencies - the U.S. trade partners would have their accounts settled in any colors they wanted as long as they were green and black ink on rag paper. Since that time, prices for the same scarce objects - fine art and Bel Air real estate, for example - have literally soared. But what has driven them is not an explosion of legal tender - what was quaintly described by Friedman as "the money supply" - but an explosion of private and public borrowing. When credit has become "tight", prices have fallen; once banks and other lenders, including the government itself, have been able to write checks once again, prices have resumed their increases. It is hardly surprising that gold - itself a scarce object - that has shared that increase in price. What is surprising is that we are somehow supposed to learn the "lessons" of those times in history when foreign exchange was measured in gold ounces and apply them to a period when current annual borrowings, including rollovers of existing debt exceed the sum of all borrowing by the species from its origin until gold's full legalization in the U.S. in 1975.

Apr

17

 Okay, the 142 bank pres and public relations people have the minutes already to be released to public in 10 minutes. Bonds are up and stocks are down. Germany is getting killed. Which way will the release to the non-flexions affect bonds stocks and gold. I've been buying gold whenever it drops as I believe that the bank deposit confiscation has to be bullish for gold as are the trend followers short.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Rocky is patient at $1390, getting ready to pull trigger on test of $1320.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

Rocky a lot more astute than me perhaps because he has a bit of the idea that has the world in its grip in him from his days at the 'Bank' and his love of trend following. One passed their headquarters near the scene of the crime yesterday evening and it was replete with canine k9 4 footed operatives.

anonymous writes: 

One can imagine the scene:

Fed: Honey, I would love to be with you but we have to lay low a few days after the press got pictures of us together.

Banker responds: If that is the case, you and the D. C. boys have fun by yourselves. Give me the checkbook and I will go home to L.A. to shop. Call me when you decide you need the markets to go up again.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

For the record: I am flat gold. If Cyprus (or any other country) could cure their ills simply by selling gold, there would be no ills. My recollection is that the Korean housewives were selling their gold wedding bands to support the Won … during the 1997 financial crisis over there. Korean bonds were yielding 15% at the time. And I bought a few as an investment. That worked out ok. I am not buying the bonds of Cyprus, Greece or those other places. The wealth of a nation is in its land, its laws, and its work ethic. Everything else is a speculation.

Gary Rogan writes: 

"The wealth of a nation is in its land, its laws, and its work ethic."

Brilliant! I would add "respect for its just laws" to the list. May those who want to reward millions of those who broke the laws of this country by giving them the very object of their law-breaking and by making them a part of this nation give this some thought.

George Parkanyi writes: 

This is not scientific, but my feeling on gold is that given government interventions (manipulation is such a strong word) in markets these days, they can't exactly let that turn into a complete rout either. Fear is fear. Gold was supposed to be the haven of last resort. If people see that collapsing then there is the sense that there's nowhere to hide. The panic could transfer to other markets. It's not behaving as it "should" under the circumstances, which further calls into question in people's minds what the hell IS going on? And what is this action discounting - massive deflation? Governments sure want that idea to spread. This is one of the reasons I'm still holding fast to the core position - though I've taken stop-outs on portions. Not large enough portions to avoid a big hit. But it is what it is. The gold stocks are really getting creamed as well. Solid producers trading like penny stocks. Unless deflation IS ultimately our lot, I'm smelling blood in the streets (some of which is mine) and screaming bargains.

I think the odds are good for a sharp reversal rally. If things go really bad in other markets, that's where they'll be looking to cash out rather really pounded down precious metals. And gold is an international commodity - still highly valued in many cultures. This crowded-trade unwinding behaviour I think could reverse very quickly, very soon.

A commenter adds: 

Was the fall in Gold the result of some bigger thing that I am unaware of, and did someone smell a canary that has been dead for a few months and was the first to find out triggering the selling?

David Lilienfeld writes: 

Let's take a look at what's known:

1. Europe was weak going into 2013, but the dimensions of that weakness are becoming evident. The collapse of auto sales in the EU, the episode with the Cypriot banks (which I still don't understand why the Cypriot government didn't say, "Fine, Germany, we're leaving the euro, we have all these euros in our banks, our new exchange rate is X, and now you have a big mess on your hands, much as we do on ours; don't like that? Fund us!), the coming episode with Slovenia, followed by Spain, Italy (if it can figure out who is the government) and France. Then there's the farce previously known as DC. There's the leader of North Korea trying to demonstrate that there is testosterone flowing throughout his veins. The dimensions of many of these has become evident recently. The degree to which China is slowing down and the degree to which the US housing "recovery" might slow down have also started to clarify recently. I won't get into the potential for a repeat of a SARS-like outbreak in East Asia.

I don't think the canary's been dead for a few months as much as it had a massive stroke, followed by resuscitation from cardiac arrest a few times (OK, OK, it was many times), and it's now brain dead and being maintained by artificial life support, ie, it's dead but it doesn't know it. Or the canary's been dead for much longer than a few months.

There's a lot of bad stuff that's gone on the last few months, and the extent to which the market in the US is near its all-time highs is a wonderful gauge of nothing so much as the power of denial. How there could be as much complacency as there's been (a topic of recent interest on this list) is something I don't understand.

Craig Mee writes:

If you haven't noticed, the first stop for gold was the width of the consolidation. I bring you information on laying of track to take into account expansion and contraction. We must work out what size volatility or influences allows for temperature rises and falls.

EXPANSION AND CONTRACTION.


1611. In laying track, provision must be made for expansion and contraction of the rails, due to changes of temperature. As the temperature rises the rail lengthens, and unless sufficient space is left between the ends of the rails to allow for the expansion, the ends of the rails abut one against another with such force as to cause the rails to kink or buckle, marring the appearance of the track and rendering it unsafe for trains, especially those running at high speeds. If, on the other hand, too much space is left between the rails, the contraction or shortening of the rails due to severe cold may do equally great harm by shearing off the bolts from the splice bars, leaving the joints loose and unprotected. The coefficient of expansion, i.e., the amount of the change in the length of an iron bar due to an increase or decrease of 1 degree F. is taken at .00000686 per degree per unit of length. 

Apr

4

Back in the pre crisis era (before negative real rates) hardly a day went by when the carry trade wasn't mentioned in some form or another. If the carry boys are still around they must be enjoying the BOJ policy. For example, AUD up 17% versus yen plus a 3% rate kicker, without leverage. It is roughly the same for NZD. I was told they never hedge the currency risk and put on at maximum leverage so returns could be many multiples higher, but I may be misinformed on that part.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Of course, a funny BOJ announcement comes out right after your query– which may pretty soon invert the carry trade! Yen may soon become the highest yielding G-7 currency.

Apr

4

We have had numerous discussions on this venue regarding stop losses. Part of the surprise from those discussions is that using a stop loss will double your odds of having a loss in the amount of the stop loss.

However the same is true for a profit target. Using a profit target will double your probability of having a gain equal to the target gain. The reason for both phenomena is that in a random walk half of all such trades will get reversed after hitting the target or the stop. The fancy name for this is the Reflection Principle.

Larry Williams writes: 

In a random walk, half of all stops/targets get hit, so if that is not true in several trading systems, does it suggest the market is not random?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Electronic markets are far from random. Your broker's HFT frontruns your orders, and non-broker largest HFTs parallel run your orders. Thus your limit (profit-taking?) order is played against by unabling, and your stop-loss order is played against by triggering. Random? Not to your account.

Ralph Vince asks: 

But can non-random ticks, sampled on a bigger time frame, degenerate into randomness?

Anatoly Veltman replies: 

In the sense that all those orders, magnified by HFT mechanism, will carry markets somewhere - sure. The other question is: OK, so 70% of executed trades resulted in robbing the outsider spec - but the HFTs and the brokers have not fully benefited by your loss, because of their high overhead (the arms race, et al). So ok, the wall street salaries, the IT salaries get financed out of your pocket. Then the only way to keep you in the game is to inflate your remaining funds…So the mechanism will continue on…but to what end, if the economy is not picking up? So the result may well be non-random: all prices will go up.

Gary Rogan writes: 

Clearly the natural drift and/or inflation-driven accelerated drift will result in an upward bias that will make a random walk impossible. In addition, if there is an HFT-induced tendency to hit stops and not hit limit orders (by the way are there any objective statistics that prove that?) the question becomes: would an independent observer looking at the data tick by tick, but who is not himself placing limit/stop orders be able to tell that the statistical nature of the tick distribution has changed?

Jeff Rollert says: 

No, HFT is attacking your behavioral biases. Not the academic ones ones. Your bids show your hands.

These are modeled after high yield bond trading patterns.

How would you trade if the book was open and public? That is the point. Trading systems are rational, and your systems are easy prey…seriously, inject the random. To borrow a sports analogy, you can't bore a machine into an error.

Apr

3

 Many bearish things about gold lately. That it doesn't go up with no inflation, that we're in recession. That the dollar is going up. That there is great overhand of stocks. I am reminded of a question that I always ask when we hear rumblings that we are going into recession and someone suggests that it is bearish for stocks. I always ask, "what does that have to do with the likely outcome of the stock market? Will the drift be lower or higher?" Oh, I haven't tested that is the unspoken answer. Same for gold. I have not been averse to considering speculative buying of it on all the dips and one is not averse to upholding the spirit of Gavekal idea that it is good to consider things of that nature when caught in Africa by natives, or in large deposits by flexions. One notes a 20 day minimum and is not averse to considering expectations thereafter even before Dr. Zussman runs it on small tab.

Kim Zussman writes:

Using ETF "GLD" daily closes (12/04-present), new instances of 20 day lows were defined as the first 20 day minimum in 20 days. For these new 20 day lows, the return for the next 5 day interval was positive but N.S.:

One-Sample T: next 5D

Test of mu = 0 vs not = 0

Variable   N   Mean    StDev   SE Mean          95% CI            T      P
next 5D   32  0.0012  0.0317  0.0056  (-0.0102, 0.0126)  0.22  0.828

However 7 of the last 10 instances of new 20D lows have been followed by 5 day periods which were down: 

Date next 5D

02/11/13 -0.027

12/04/12 0.007

10/15/12 -0.005

06/28/12 0.018

05/08/12 -0.040

02/29/12 -0.004

11/21/11 0.021

09/22/11 -0.067

06/24/11 -0.009

01/07/11 -0.007

07/01/10 0.011

03/24/10 0.025

01/27/10 0.020

12/11/09 -0.003

06/22/09 0.017

03/10/09 0.022

01/12/09 0.047

10/16/08 -0.109

07/30/08 -0.032

03/20/08 0.022

08/16/07 0.010

05/10/07 -0.014

03/02/07 0.008

12/15/06 0.011

08/17/06 0.012

06/01/06 -0.026

02/13/06 0.026

12/20/05 0.050

10/20/05 0.026

08/30/05 0.031

07/06/05 0.002

03/22/05 -0.001 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Fantastic work, as always. Now, I will ask a few skeptical questions:

1. So you test a historical period which saw the price move from $400 to $1600. Wouldn't you expect bullish historical results of a purchase made just about any random day?

2. So we're having a market in 2013, bouncing around on any piece of planted news from Cyprus, from EU, from Putin, from Japan, from Fed, from WH, from investment banks, from fund characters (the ilk of the upside-down), etc. How will one adjust one's timing of statistically catching the falling knife - given that the timing of such leaks (releases) has significantly changed from the test years?

3. Also, the market mechanism has changed in those 8 years, on two fronts:

-the increased weight of ETFs vs. bullion/futures
-the increased prolifiration of HFT exploratory orders

My gist: it's good to have a study, but there are plenty of caveats that call for increased amount of discretion.

In fact, here is my idea: I've observed this to work at an increasing rate  since the transfer of investment capital from public into the coffers of the banks and funds has been initiated by the Central authority.

So Gold drops too quickly from $1600 to $1563, which rightfully piqued the Chair's interest in the wee hours. So this is what investment banks, playing with unending public capital, do (for a 24-hour play): they buy momentary cheap Gold and sell Oil against it (got to get the quantity mix right). Oil could not be considered cheap following last week's straight rise. Works plenty of times. And when it doesn't (really, once in a blue moon), a short term spread position becomes a longer term hedge, then the books may get cooked, then a rogue trader is disclosed, etc. who knows…But a good statistical trade to be sure. I like it.

Jason Ruspini adds:

If it seems like HFT is degrading certain strategies over time, there might be testable differences between different futures exchanges that support different order types. For example CME supports stop-limits without any additional software, but Eurex and TSE do not. ICE natively supports ice-berging, most don't. HKFE and SFE only support limit orders natively. Does the performance of benchmark momentum or reversion systems on equity contracts differ between these exchanges (without applying slippage assumptions)? They aren't apples-to-apples of course but if HFT has polluted the microstructure for certain strategies, it seems like something should show-up here, even if many participants have ways to create the other order types.

CQG Order Types Supported by Exchange

Ralph Vince writes: 

Interesting points Jason. Timely too, I believe.

When market meltdowns occur, the technologie du jour is the scapegoat. In 1929, it was margin accounts. In 1987, program trading. Tomorrow, HFT.

Not that HFT caused the meltdown, but the fact that they stepped aside and enormous air pockets formed in the faveolate theatre of perceived liquidity.

Mar

29

 One queries whether Passover, Yom Kipper, or Rasha Shauna is bearish for stocks and will say a prayer of atonement and share a torte if it turns out not so.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

You mean Sell Rosha Shana Buy Yomkippur did out-perform Buy&Hold?

Ralph Vince queries: 

But what about Passover? What about the full moon and a shorting a (very) quiet market?

Jeff Watson writes: 

Back in the pit days, during a quiet market, locals would start selling the market down to where it would trade and order flow would start coming in.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Can this be a way of creating "real world" demand?

Jeff Watson adds: 

Sure, the grain companies use this same concept in the reverse to bid up the front month to get farmers to kick out some of their stored grain into the market. Right now look at may corn/wheat spread. It is treacherous and the big grain companies are slugging it out with that spread. I'm avoiding it like the plague, just like I avoided that gold/platinum inversion 1.5 years ago that went out to $150. Too rich for my blood. Very rarely does corn trade premium to wheat. Vic even asked me about doing the trade when corn was 2 cents premium to wheat(where wheat usually commands a 50% premium to corn). I told him I wouldn't touch that trade with a 10 foot pole. In my case, fundamentals and gut instinct kept me from stepping on that land mine. It's been fighting for a week, and I just prefer to be long a little May wheat and have some other months and exchanges spread. I hate risk, and also hate gambling unless I'm the house.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

The gold-platinum, of course, was entirely different as no Gold is ever consumed. It went out to at least $225 (we should ask Rocky if he knows the high tick, and how long the price was available). To my recollection, the spread double-topped in unusually brisk manner, i.e. the record prints didn't last more than overnight.

Richard Owen adds: 

What is it about spread trades that make them so treacherous? Gold/plat, corn/wheat, the Volkswagen stub, etc.

Is it because the mis-pricing is so "obvious" that people get greedy? Because it's a matched trade, they allow too much for a positive hedging effect? And because they want to trade the spread, they focus too much on maintaining the relative basis, rather than using risk-management appropriate to a gapping short, even if it screws up the net position?

Rocky Humbert writes: 

IMHO the reason the spread trades are dangerous can be attributed to several phenomena:

1) Price Anchoring and false assumption bias. People believe that just because the spread between X and Y has been bounded previously means that this is a law. In the case of stocks, in the fullness of time, it's a good bet that every stock must eventually either merge, get taken over, divest or go backrupt. Otherwise, one stock would take over the world. This means that if you are long GM and short Ford (because it always traded within X bucks), you will eventually blowup. And because GM/F is a mean reversion trade, it has the typical person adding as it goes against you. Can you trade around it and get out at a profit? Sure. But that is intellectually dishonest versus the original motivation. I suspect trading around the position is, in reality, what most profitable spread traders do. They don't put it on, add to it and wait for total reversion. In the case of commodities, there are short-term supply and delivery issues, so even if you are conceptually right, if the convergence doesn't occur before the contract expires, you will incur a permanent loss since the mis pricing doesn't exist in the next contract. That's the case with C / Wheat right now. Corn is at a premium to Wheat in May. But at a discount in all of the other months. So you need to get the price and the timing right. Or you will lose money.

2) Difference versus percentage. I find that people look at the spread as X minus Y. They often ignore X / Y. As prices rise and decline sharply, the ratio becomes more important. But it's not how most people's minds work. For example, a 2 cent mispricing when corn is at 250 is quite different from a 2 cent mispricing when corn is at 736. Oops make that 695 (limit down)

3) False Volatility Assumptions. Assume the price of X0 and the price of Y™ and you are trading X versus Y. And assume that the spread moves up and down $1. People mistakenly think in terms of $1 on 100 … and that's not a big move. In reality, you are trading the spread of $1 and so when it moves to $2 , that's a 100% change — no different from Apple going from $444 to $888 . Don't laugh. I can't tell you how many people fall into this intellectual trap.

4) Butterfly traders. Before interest rates were pegged, I used to chuckle at the 2/5/10 butterfly traders in the bond market — who would do the trade in MASSIVE size. And they'd talk about how the 2 was cheap to the 5. Or the 5 was cheap to the 10. Deconstructing the butterfly trade revealed that (almost all of the time) the P&L of this popular duration neutral curve trade moved with the direction of the 5 year. So it really was a bet on the 5 year rising and falling. And everything was dwarfed by that.

When I was worked with Kovner, he always hated spreads. He would say that it's hard enough to get one trade right. Why add to the aggravation and try to get two or three trades right?

Feb

18

 Call it a cascade or call it the conservation of energy, or call it signaling or money outflows—- But the decline of 60 bucks of gold in a week to below 1600 intra day sends the storm signals up. It could happen while one was long. I looked at the effect of gold down 60 bucks in a week as of a Friday. And it's happened 18 times in last 13 years. It seems to have no inordinate effects statisticlly– being bearish for the stocks and oil and bullish for the dollar and bonds and gold in the next few days and someewhat bullish for the stocks on a 2 week basis.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Ok, so you did derive those slight biases you mention. But how is "60 bucks", and exactly Fri-to-Fri supposed to be a determinant? 60 bucks 13 years ago would be 20% depreciation; while today it's less than 4%. A few mega-funds like Pimco, Bridgewater, Paulson were not in gold until a few years ago. China, Russia were not significant players until a few years ago. EU was not in liquidity crisis until a few years ago. Cash gold was not above Comex gold. The dollar/gold relationship has waffled between negative and positive corellation last few years. There were no QE-infinity until a few years ago, no ZIRP. What if the entire this week's slide was due to China market holiday? There are just too many cross-currents for this kind of 13-year statistical sampling. Unless significantly fine-tuned, the conclusions will inevitably be of little use.

Jan

30

There is a zero sum part to trading where what one flexion makes, another high frequency or day trader or poor gambler ruined or lack of margined or viged player uses. The win win aspect is that if you hold for a reas period as almost everyone in market is forced to do, you get the drift of 10000 fold a century, except if you lived in the Iron and played a game with kings moving backwards.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

Ok, I'll say it. Drift prevails over a century. And I had no problem with drift as recently as 4 years ago, when the only true drifter I know, a prince of certain oil, was adding to his C holdings by bidding pennies.

I'm having a problem with over-relying on drift now; because now, four years later, you can only bid pennies for C if you add $42 in front of it. All the while the real economic indicators, as Chair pointed out just today, have not and will not improve much any time soon. Now tell me: why assume that there will be much of a drift effect in the near five, or maybe the near ten years? Do you expect policy improvements, or pray for a budget spiral miracle, or Europe culture unity miracle, or what other miracle?

Jeff Watson writes:

Back in 1932, the DJIA made a new all time low that wiped out 36 years of gain. Likewise, the market didn't totally recover from 1969's highs until 1982, and the market has done a 15 bagger since then. I'll stick with the drift, which is a steady wind. 

Rocky Humbert writes:

There seem to be two sorts of smart-sounding stock market pundits: (1) those who get bearish because prices have risen. (2) those who get bearish because prices have fallen. I am neither smart nor a pundit but my views of the 3-5 year upside from here (small) and current positions (long inexpensive s&p calls) are known to all.

In the face of the current seemingly relentless rise (which has used up a year's drift in 3 weeks)… I confess that I am looking at my new, over 50% combined tax rate, and positing that higher marginal rates disincentive not only my risk-taking, but also my selling (as the taxes discourage my speculative urge to sell now and buy stuff back at hopefully lower prices.)

With this in mind, an academic study might consider whether changes in capital gains tax rates result in more serial correlation (i.e. trending — as I look around three times) SHORTLY AFTER the higher taxes are imposed. And the effect diminishes over time as people become accustomed to the new regime. Obviously I would guess the answer is yes.

Kim Zussman writes:

 Increasing tax regime could be bullish:

1. additional vig against frequent trading (as if there weren't enough already) > 1a. "drift" of holding period toward longer timeframe
2. disincentive to sell = incentive to hold and/or buy (including insiders)
3. restructuring away from dividends toward stock buy-backs

Rocky Humbert writes:

Dr Z may be onto something. Does this mean if Obama raises capital gains taxes to 99%, the stock market will triple over night? 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

1. I have no problem with counting to include the last few years
2. I have a problem with counting to include anything pre-2007, let alone pre-2001, and even more so pre-1987.

The reason I have a problem with it: historical price analysis, no matter which way analysis is performed, relies on the notion that participants have not largely changed, and that "their" psychology has not changed. This is not the case - if one goes too far back - because financial market mechanism and participant make-up has changed ever increasingly over the past decade.

One of the victims of methamorphosis was "trend-following". I believe that most previosly successful trend-following rules have died in application to regulated electronically executed markets, because most clients are now automatically prevented from over-leveraging. Thus, "surprise follows trend" rule, for example, lost potency. Nowadays, you get preponderance of surprise "against trend". That's a very significant switcharoo, which has put most of famed trendfollowers of yester-year out of biz.

Also, Palindrome was not much off, predicting the other day hedge fund outflows due to old as age "2&20 fee structure". This structure just can't survive the years of ZER environment. Huge chunk of very cerebral participation has been replaced by bank punk punters, gambling public's money for bonuses.

Gary Rogan writes:

The drift seems to be a long-range phenomenon that has existed in different stock markets for a very long time. It is therefore difficult to make predictions of its demise based on any specific factors. One thing is clear: calamities like revolutions end the existence of the market and obviously the drift. Benito Mussolini was very good for the Italian stock market for a long time, and even way into the war it kept up with inflation, but eventually it succumbed to the realities of war (in real, not nominal terms). Granted, Mussolini initially had much better economic policies than Obama, but who would really expect that faschism could coexist with a great stock market? The question still remains: will there be a total wipeout? Short of that the drift is likely to continue.

Il Duce wasn't chosen completely at random, and the question was (just a little bit) tongue-in-cheek.

I could easily make the contention, and a great case, that fascism co-exists with a great stock market right here in the USA.

Ralph Vince writes:

I think we make a huge mistake when we assume that policy affects long term stock prices. Sure, you might have seen events, like a lot of stocks seeing big ex-dates last year, before big tax theft years — but the long term upward drift is a function of evolution. Like our progress has always been — starts and fits.

Sometimes the fits have lasted 950 years! But it always comes around. I like to get up in the morning, put my shoes on, by a few shares of some random something or other. If it goes against me, buy a little more. When it comes around to satisfy my Pythagorean criterion, out she goes.

As I've gotten older, I like to do it with wasting assets, long options.

It makes it more sporting.

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

I wish that we all could agree that prices only count if you can use the money . Zimbabwe's stock market does not have prices for anyone who wants use the money except in Zimbadwe. The Italian stock market was not quite that bad but close enough to make its "performance" entirely fictional from the point of view of anyone wanting to do what people now take for granted - use their dollars to buy/sell "foreign" stocks, close the trades and then take home their winnings - in dollars. That was not possible in Italy after 1922 or in Germany after 1932, for that matter.

As for Mussolini's economic policies, they were far more destructive than the President and Congress' inability to stop writing checks that the Treasury has not collected the money for. In his Battle for the Lira (1926), Mussolini decided that the currency would be fixed at 90 to the pound, even though the price in the foreign exchange market was 55% of that figure. The result was to create an instant bankruptcy for all exporters and those few remaining financial institutions that dealt in international trade. As a result Italy got a head start on the rest of the world; its Depression began in the fall of 1926. But Quota 90 did create a windfall for the Italian industrialists who were Mussolini's supporters; their costs on their imported raw materials were immediately halved. Like the German industrialists after Hitler took power, they saw their order books boom with all the government spending for guns and butter. And look how well that all turned out.

Baldi writes:

Ralph, you write: "As I've gotten older, I like to do it with wasting assets, long options."

Older? You wrote about doing just that in 1992:

"Finally, you must consider this next axiom. If you play a game with unlimited liability, you will go broke with a probability that approaches certainty as the length of the game approaches infinity. Not a very pleasant prospect. The situation can be better understood by saying that if you can only die by being struck by lightning, eventually you will die by being struck by lightning. Simple. If you trade a vehicle with unlimited liability (such as futures), you will eventually experience a loss of such magnitude as to lose everything you have. […]

"There are three possible courses of action you can take. One is to trade only vehicles where the liability is limited (such as long options.) The second is not to trade for an infinitely long period of time. Most traders will die before they see the cataclysmic loss manifest itself (or before they get hit by lightning.) The probability of an enormous winning trade exists, too, and one of the nice things about winning in trading is that you don't have to have the gigantic winning trade. Many smaller wins will suffice. Therefore, if you aren't going to trade in limited liability vehicles and you aren't going to die, make up your mind that you are going to quit trading unlimited liability vehicles altogether if and when your account equity reaches some pre-specified goal. If and when you achieve that goal, get out and don't' ever come back."

Jan

28

 It is nice to hear some bullish sentiment recently and I will jump aboard. Here are 10 reason the market will go up from here in 2013.

1. Incentives do matter. The stock market is a reflections of humanity trying to better their lives via work, production and profit. That won't change and will drive the market up.

2. Despite government figures there is inflation in what people actually spend money on, food, energy, healthcare, education. Stocks, similar to hard assets, rise when there is inflation.

3. Fed dollar policy if for a weak dollar. Since stocks are priced in dollars this will help stocks to rise.

4. Scarcity matters. You cannot have guns and butter, stocks and bonds. You have and to pick and the yields are not even close. They favor stocks by a margin of 5-6%.

5. Bear markets come and go and but are not predictable. On the other side there is a welcome documented upward drift for stocks.

6. Big Al's research shows buy and hold beats every other market timing strategy except waiting for a 50% decline which happens only once or twice in a person's lifetime or maybe not at all.

7. After a real estate/financial crisis is a good time to buy, like after 1990-1 recession, S&L crisis, 1907 crisis to name a few.

8. Politicians come and go and markets rise in liberal and conservative times. The markets does not favor political parties but stability is bullish. The current divided government is stable enough for the market to rally.

9. The market weeds out the least productive. The best idea rise and the worst go bankrupt. Owning a stock index is a proxy for the very best ideas put into action, adjusted every year to get rid of the worst ones.

10. There is no upward bound on stocks. There will always be more work to do no matter how productive we become. This will be reflected in rising capital, equity and stock prices.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

Well, I'll take exception to a few of the ten:

1. Stocks is the last thing (just ahead of bonds) that should be rising with inflation
2. Counting on success of Fed's dollar weakening, just pick your cross of choice - not US stock index
3. I'll be gladly corrected, but isn't index's survivorship bias only important in bear market?

My chief contention is this: the country, as well as other top industrialized nations, have been engaged in anti free-market policies. We haven't seen real benefit (should we have?), and we haven't seen the society's degradation yet (in full swing). If we do, I don't think current multiples will prevail. I'm not calling for the entire S&P to wipe out - but I can see market pricing of, say, 10 or lower P/E; you tell me why is that impossible?
 

Gary Rogan writes:

There seems to be contradictory evidence about how well stocks serve as inflation hedges. There does seem to be a lot of evidence that they are significantly ahead of bonds, so "just" probably doesn't do them justice. As an explanation, but not as a prediction, the ability of stocks to function as inflation hedges depends on the ability of the underlying companies to pass price increases. It seems that when inflation suddenly accelerates, stocks don't do as well as when there is a stable rate.

There is some evidence that you need to go beyond broad market indexing if you want to use stocks as inflation hedges because not all companies are generically suited to pass price increases in the same way. I have said a long time ago, just when the current political environment first appeared on the scene that I expected large consumer non-durables to be the best hedges for the variety of ills associated with that environment. I fully expect them to continue even if inflation goes up.

The anti-free market policies will likely affect growth rates in a variety of sectors in the future, and likely have in the past. This should favor low-growth, high-certainty companies over the traditional growth superstars. Should things like fracking and 3D printing and whatever other factors compensate for the anti-free market policies, this "likely" will become the wrong guess. It is certainly true that certain large tech companies have allied themselves very deeply with the regime and are therefore likely to be able to exert some influence.

Very little will protect against collapse, inflation-driven or simply debt-driven. Gold is there, but look what has happened to many who had the gold during various once-in-a-lifetime calamities. Stocks may not be a bad choice short of total colla
 

Jan

25

 The ease with which Lance was able to maintain his hoax, and the difficulty that others had in breaking it, and the penalties they had to bear, and the great emoluments that were made from it by Lance and his crew should be generalized. What other hoaxes and conspiracies are there in the world? What is the dead weight and direct cost? I have been the victim of several such frauds and conspiracies but was smart enough in the last ones not to take legal action as I knew that my legal and opportunity costs would be many times greater than the possible recovery. I believe several on the list have also been so victimized. How prevalent is it? And how can they be defeated and fought against?

Anatoly Veltman writes:

Not a direct answer by any means, but the first time I heard Carl Lewis respond to a question on how good Ben Johnson was (question was posed way before Ben Johnson got publicly "discovered") — I was quite stunned by Carl's stern reaction. It was like you asked him if he could outrun a Martian in his prime. One might either conclude sour grapes from hints like that, or suspect that there is no smoke without fire. In any case, maybe one of the best ideas is to ask a competitor?

The question raised here, by the way, may be the most important question of the couple of decades. Every single one of you places your livelihood on the line daily in the system which is totally rigged against you in the worst way.

Jim Lackey writes:

I'll guess the opportunity cost of the lengthy background, due diligence to N^th, and flat out distrust of people, most of whom are benevolent and kind, would be something like the a 1,000,000% drift stocks give us per century. I'll flat out call it that being a skeptical, safe person is costly.

If it is too good to be true, it is, and we are not idiots. We all have some street smarts here. A well oiled con? I'll fall for it every time and I usually get the joke. To hell with them. To catch a thief one must be one or a good officer of the law.

David Hillman writes:

Some of the answers we know.

1] always get it in writing, 2] pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered, 3] know thyself and resist your weaknesses, 4] invest in what you KNOW, 5] there's some business we just don't write, 6] most of us will make more money investing one's self than in someone else, 7] in the Shakespearian spirit…."neither a borrower or lender be", gifts are OK, but don't expect a return, 8] give at the office, 9] don't invest what you aren't willing to lose, 10] don't buy meat off the back of a truck, and 11] never buy anything with "Magic" in the name.

I have almost always found it best to be the "initiator" of an investment, an idea, etc. than to be "initiated upon". Also, when one is in the mud, it's usually better to hint at legal action, then settle rather than sue (The con often has the same legal and opportunity cost as you, at least the same amount of risk of losing and possibly more dire consequences.)

Even if one is optimistic and has faith in humanity, something I share with Lack and the chair, one of the best ways to avoid cons, scams, etc. is just to say "No, thank you" and go on about one's business. Except, of course, when the high school girls soccer team shows up at your door step in short uniform shorts and t-shirts, smiles all around, selling $1 candy bars to raise money. You say, "Sorry, ladies, I don't eat candy, but here…..", then you give them $20 and go on about your business.

Jim Lackey replies: 

David,

First never let little ones have a coke out of kitchen or touch your computer. One of mine must have spilled soda in my key board.

Next I must differentiate a scam from a good con. A scam, as in Fla scams or any mumbo we see on buy it now sites, well, burn me once and the 2nd time I am a fool and we get that joke.

A well oiled Con, do not even try. Do not worry about it. These are men of genius and spend their lives dedicated to stealing. Cops are so silly. It takes the after the fact to catch most cons. Only a genius officer of the law with 100 years experience will catch these guys in the act.

If you ever read or see some of the cons these men come up with… yeah, I guess it's easy to see after the fact, yet I am amazed at the work, the genius the art and science, James Bond movie types.

They seem to prey on our weakness of love and benevolence. Give that up and ………….. well just don't.

I can see why a Mr or others are concerned. We try to warm family for their future. I guess that is what lawyers and trusts are for, to protect the pot.

Trying to prevent the next con is to me like attempting to predict the next tech innovation. We all saw the music deal and the Ipod, but we dissed or didn't get the Iphone's change of the world and laughed at a zillion Ipads later. Now my friends are trying to buy aapl on a pullback at 500. Umm it was 15 or 30 or 50 many baggers ago. Move along.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Jim, yours is very good advice on relationships. My grandpa taught me exactly that. But when it comes to today's electronic financial markets, there are a number of caveats. And since you brought up drift again, let me try this: what if today's world heads have no interest in perpetuating the traditional drift? What if we're moving toward a reset, after which today's investors will not regain purchasing power in a generation or so? What statistics can you rely on, if the US has not conducted ZERP in many preceding decades? Nor has it ever experienced the current rate of deficit growth.

Gary Rogan writes: 

To know about a large financial conspiracy for sure you either have to be present during its planning or see overwhelming and pervasive accounting irregularities. How can one ever be confident that some group has conspired for some wide-spread reset? Whose evidence can you trust? If any particular highly-placed person is saying "yes" or "no", or if someone is writing that it should be clear based on this or that, how can you be sure that any of this is a result of a conspiracy and not otherwise-originated processes or actions? 

Anatoly Veltman clarifies: 

 I'm not saying there is conspiracy already in place as defined. There are certainly unusual goings-on:

1. The Fed has never entered the long-term market to this extent before.
2. The banks have never had access to zero-cost funds for this long before.
3. The employment data has never been groomed in particular fashion for this long before.
4. The US deficit has never been in this shape before.
5. The European experiment has not been really tested yet.

There will come a point, when only unprecedented last-moment multi-national "co-operation" will save the humanity. Figure out in which way, and you are golden.

Richard Owen adds: 

I was recently thinking about just this topic and was considering penning something along the lines of "Conspiracy and the Scientific Method" — even if just to try and settle what I think.

My sequence of thoughts about the helicrash in London had made me think of the essays by actuaries about 9/11. How your correct statistical assumption for 9/11 upon first impact was a terror event. One of Goldman prop's guys in London protected his book with Eurodollar to good profit.

Like all complex topics, it is complex. On the one hand, conspiracy or, more often, functionally equivalent structures, are very important in business. On the other hand, I think for the most part "there is no they".

To precis one thought: I think Lance is a good case study: it wasn't an 'illuminati conspiracy': he was widely known to be doping in the right circles. A public charade was maintained by many parties involved. The message was packaged and diluted appropriately for the media. That sort of "widening circles" structure is what differentiates it from the nutty "illuminati" type conspiracy concept.

For a very interesting case study, see Richard Heckmann and China Water. If Heckmann can be taken for a fraud, after huge ground work to avoid so being, so can all of us lesser mortals.

Gary Rogan comments: 

To quote Victor, "Market is pricing in inflation of 1 or 2% a year for the next 10 or 30 years. Yet every repub and every free market person predicts a catastrophic rise in inflation and interest rates. Who knows better?"

I can't agree that all will end well, but my theory of the market is that it doesn't really price what it has no idea about, so they just haven't figured it out. Under such circumstances, for anyone in particular, other than the guys planning it (paging Dr. Palindrome) plus some Free Masons and the Illuminati, it seems like figuring out how and if the unprecedented last-moment multi-national "co-operation" will save the humanity is too computationally intensive.

Jim Lackey writes:

Perhaps Mr. Stefan can overrule me as to when, but one doubts there was ever a time when the elite class wanted to perpetuate anything but the certainty of their own. Unless the rules in the USA go above and beynd the restictions of the EU, China and all, I can't see how anything but good can come out of our future. Less good or not as good as ones past or beliefs is relative. Yet I grew up in the 80s and saw the worst of it all for the good working men. Now we see the recession and depression of finance and perhaps the medical. Let's get the joke no way can the govie medical and finance command such a slice of the economy. It will be shared fairly by free market forces in new buisiness and growth. Construction is back and even oil refineries are being expanded again and never ending job at BP in Whiting IN.

I'll note the huge growth and investment now In Tulsa OK out to Nashville and building plants and things right here in US of A as even the advantage of current energy costs is enough to over come the rise in tax or any other threat. If you do not believe it, the Nordic EU venture boys are in deep buying all they can in Tulsa and kids are running Hass Machines out of their garage as start ups. The innovation is not in Silicon valley and instagram or new social…it's building real for the fracking that may or may not go global.

Tommy Ryan shot me an email back and once I figure out how deep this fracking can go global we shall have better answers to your questions. The DC boys are so far behind the kids. They are busy trying to regulate the white show firms that are already old line banks. From what I can tell, the kids already left for Singapore or some island to trade. I'll never leave the US, but if my kids were not in grade school I'd be Larry's neighbor.

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

There is only one reason to be optimistic about the future of the United States. It is that the country keeps redefining who the 'elites" are. It infuriated Henry Adams that a man with only a technical education could become the 19th century's most popular President. What was even worse was that a jumped up railroad lawyer's son could become the voice of all that Republican hard money. The Zinnistas, who never bother to do any counting, love the idea of the ruling class because that crude parody of Darwin's theory is as wonderfully tautological as the notion that a species' fitness determines its survival. The present Mandarin rule by believers in the pump theory of money spending is truly awful, but it hardly qualifies as a uniquely disastrous deficit ZIRP episode. One can argue that the country's entire history from the 1830s through the Civil War was comparably awful. We are not taught to see it that way because the extravagance, waste and fraud occurred not at the Federal level but among the states, not on Wall Street but among the country banks and state treasuries; but the country's government and official lenders were just as skint as they are now. All of this is now safely forgotten because of the explosion of wealth creation that occurred even in the defeated South in the last third of the 19th century; but no one visiting the U.S. in 1840 or 1850 or 1860 was writing home to tell everyone how marvelous it was. Dicken's sour descriptions were accurate, and Tocqueville's rosy forecasts were already an anachronism by the time they were published. No one was predicting that the Democrats' spoils system would do anything but continue. Yet within 2 decades the dollar had become an international currency and the marvels on display at Philadelphia were putting the Crystal Palace show to shame. We shall simply have to wait and see; the only certainty is that the Times (assuming they can get Mr. Slim to give them the money to survive) will be against whatever the future brings.

Gary Rogan adds:

 This is an interesting case of a hoax that refused to die even when exposed, it's illustrative of how no amount of denial will destroy a hoax that is sufficiently implanted prior to the denial.

The Indian rope trick is stage magic said to have been performed in and around India during the 19th century. Sometimes described as "the world’s greatest illusion", it reputedly involved a magician, a length of rope, and one or more boy assistants.

The trick, considered by western magicians as a hoax, was perpetrated in 1890 by John Elbert Wilkie of the Chicago Tribune newspaper. There are no known references to the trick predating 1890, and later stage magic performances of the trick were inspired by Wilkie's account.

 

Jan

25

 The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America 's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, 'the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

~ Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006

Gary Rogan comments: 

Here's a picture from today to go with that quote. Not the first one of its type either, these creatures know BS and where to find it.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

Howard Hughes had a unique way of handling this problem:

"Kistler also relates touching tales that depict Hughes's shrewdness and an underlying humanity. For the fly-catching incident, Kistler had brought a frozen fly from home in order to pretend he had "captured" it so as to placate Hughes. Hughes chuckled and looked at the fly. Then he said, "That's a nice fly. But next time, let's make it a REAL one, OK?" Another time, Hughes was at Lockheed in Atlanta. He took one of their planes up to do some touch-and-go practice landings in it. A man on the ground was watching the show and then said, "That must be Howard Hughes up there. No one else can handle a plane so beautifully." The man turned out to be Lockheed's chief test pilot. Hughes of course had once been a world-class pioneer aviator in the 30s."

Can also be viewed here.
 

Jan

21

 I've watched a fair bit of the Aussie tennis open in week one, and it is amazing to watch the amount of drop shots that are getting played, with the net effect of approximately 30 played and 3 winning points against player 27 in the matches I've watched. Not good odds, some may say.

Is it that players are tired? And going for the easy out, or some 3 dimensional hiccup in the brain, which makes them think that it's a percentage play, with the opponent right down the far end of the court, even if it is rebound ace. Do they just want to mix up their game, knowing they will lose this point but provide unsurety in their opponent for the following points? Or is the RIO trade alive and well, i.e they just can't help themselves to go for the "get out of jail free" shot.

I'm not sure… I wish I knew the answer.

It seems unforced errors is possibly the most major stat to take interest in, along with 1st serve percentage. Winning, doesn't mean a great deal, if one has the same unforced errors, and in this day and age one needs a 70%+ 1st serve in, to give them some space.

If one doesn't following their trading plan suitably and manage risk appropriately, then winning a slam becomes a distant thought.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

The same thing about the drop shot being non-percentage could be said about the lob. Both become even more non-percentage as the game wears on. It's almost as bad as trying to take a few ticks out of them near the close of a market. The mouse with one hole is quickly taken. The one thing that could be said is that the weak players don't have coaches who count. And the hard surface makes drop shots even less effective than usual. But of course, it does tire the opponent out, and set him up for when you need a point. And of course it is like the penguins jumping into the whale first in social learning, as the one shot that you hit with non-percentage makes the vast majority of your " colleagues" , the subsequent shots, that much more effective.

Jim Lackey writes: 

 One that knows nothing about racquets, sees something similar in dirt bikes. We take the extreme inside line in a tight corner vs. the outside berm rim shot, it's much faster. It's about the line or exit of the corner. If you dive bomb on the inside you can cut off the exit of your opponent. This forces him to either take an inside line or a tighter line on the outside, thus slowing him down.

The wear out your opponent is a funny thing. Everyone that does count knows every single move and limit of the other riders… If towards the end of a race I know a guy gets "arm pump", which is literally your forearms swell up and it's hard to hand on the bikes, we use or force those boys to inside. One needs to stand on the brakes very hard to take the inside line. When you have arm pump it's very difficult to let go of throttle and put a couple fingers on the front brake to slam on. I'll put it another way… like tennis looks, it seems much easier to stand back in one box and hit it as hard as you can when you're exhausted vs. running around and using your touch. Same with MX. It's so much easier to stand on the gas and take the outside and go as fast as you can vs modulate.

I am doing BMX now here, it's a short 400 meter spring and to pedal. It's similar but a different training sport, but the counting goes on. I made a comment off the cuff to a 14 year old expert about changing a gear ratio 0.1-T or we use decimal gearing since it's single speed bikes. IT pinch ratio you can have the same gear ratio in a chart book. IE 41-18 X 24" circumference tire. At the big races towards end of day I would lose power. So I'd go down to a 40.9-t custom gear. It's still a 41T sprocket but the circumference of the gear is small, so it's a lower ration shorter roll out IE I crank revolution 2.277 vs. a 2.72222. t changes it just a tick and its enough to help.

Our friend, an MIT grad and racer, picked up on our questions to why the same gears felt a tick different on other bikes and he'd always say, "it's not same ratio," it's tire diameter or pinch in gear brands. So he invented a new business. Guys ask me if it works and I burst out laughing. I been doing that for 30 years. (Yet dad didn't have CNC machine so we have to mess with combinations IE got from 41-18 to 36-16 but we measured and charted ever, single combination on every race every track every time.)

Bottom line for MX, BMX, or any other sport. I never ran a 4.5 40' and can't run under a 22 minute 5k so I was always stuck in the middle and never a great athlete. The only reason I ever won a national event racing was counting, everything. Yet in baseball or the A pro level of all racing… "everyone does that".

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Drop shots are akin to those who try to "provide liquidity" against an Elliott Wave impulse (offering against the third wave, or early on against the fifth).

Jeff Watson writes: 

 Just exactly what is an Elliott wave???? Has anyone ever seen one, or do they only exist in hindsight?
 

Jan

14

 One concept common in turf handicapping is the speed rating. It's not so much whether the horse wins the race, but what its fastest time was for a given quarter or some such. One wonders what the ideal predictive speed ratings for markets are. If we come up with the answers, we may be able to contribute to the ecology of the system and possibly prevent our losses from being as great as the public.

Gary Rogan asks: 

At first glance, I'm wondering is the history of speed ratings for any markets likely to be as predictive of the future as it is at the track?

Russ Sears writes: 

When someone is starting training for distance running, it is important to understand the maximum heart rate. Then training is geared around this number. The pace you should run to achieve different objectives is a range of percentage of this number. For example a speed workout, you might want to hit 90-95% of this rate. For a recovery run, maybe 60%. As you learn the pace to achieve these objectives you can stop measuring your heart rate and then go off feel.

However, as you get fitter, it becomes more about the recovery time to a base rate. The time it takes for your heart to get close to pre-workout rate will get shorter as your fitness increases. Then as this get shorter, you can increase the pace or shorten the recovery time between faster intervals.

It would be interesting to carry this over to individual stocks with volatility analogous to heart rate. Shocks such as earning numbers analogous to workouts. I hypothesis "fit" companies are ready to take more risk and have higher expected earnings. Whereas those whose long vols are increasing may be more likely to fall apart if they take more risk.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I think that Chair is often faced with an exit problem. Statistics prompt justifiable entry– but then one is prone to take profit too quick, or not be sure what to do about a loser, which only looks statistically better and better the more it's losing.

Therein lies the huge difference between binary outcome in most sports/games, and the investment field. I recall one Palindrome saying: "it's not whether you've picked a loser or a winner; it's more important how much you have ON when you're having a real winner".

An avid observer of track and field legends since watching my first Mexico Olympics live on Soviet TV in 1968 (the black power pedestal protest contributed to airing of that broadcast!), I always attempted to grade medal performance against the world records. I can name dozens of great Olympians, who peaked out during certain Games (sometimes 4 years apart, and even 8 years apart!) — and never held a world record in their event; and vise versa…phenomenal record holders, who've failed to taste Olympic success. But most of them did achieve both — which, again, makes statistical sense.

Alston Mabry adds:

A core "speed rating" question is around the effect of news events such as earnings surprises. The nature of earnings surprises has changed over time, as companies have learned to manage earnings more precisely: "Rich Bernstein Explains Why Missing Earnings Estimates These Days Is Such A Disaster". And then there is an assumption that market efficiency means any true surprise will be reflected in the market within minutes. But is this true?

Jan

13

 The public has no right to lose as much as they do. It's the system not the public. Antoni losing 6 in a row at LA as he tries to get the Lakers to play speed ball with 100 year old players. The public following a system of buying the crosses in the moving averages or seasonality in the market as they get front run or trying to take out 1/2 a point in stocks in an hour when the high frequency boys are ahead of them in a hundred ways and can afford to lose infinite amounts with their interest free loans from the partners in high places.

Luck is a big factor in results. The skill stays constant (except for the other team keying in on it) but the results are random. The Knicks were guaranteed to lose 10 in a row after Smith, one of the worst eyes in the league won 2 games with non-percentage threes and became their go to man. After a run of success in performance, do expect the subsequent performance not only to revert back to the mean but to go below as the other team plays harder. After a streak of wins in a row, a team is likely to start losing. The Knicks won their first 10 home games, and then lost 3 in a row as they got over confident and got off to down 25 points in the first half in a few games because they weren't hungry enough. After 6 up days in a row in spu's the expectation is for -0.5% the next day.

A team that relies on one player to make it for all is likely to lose. Melo made 30 points 5 or 6 games in a row and the Knicks were able to pull off some lucky wins as a consequence. But as Deng said, "Melo's one of the toughest scorers in the NBA. The shots that he makes are the shots that you want the other team to take but those are shots he makes … Carmelo is the ultimate scorer" the coach Thibodeau said. Note how they encourage the opposing team to continue in their guaranteed to losing ways. The market always leaves enough on the table for the public to lose more, and encourages them to keep in the game until the huge killing day when it gets them all out like the day before Christmas in stocks when it's ready to turn.

It's not the trades its the system. Antoni making his team lose wherever he goes as he tries to force the system on his players and smiles complacently on the sidelines as if it's his players fault rather than his. The market player trying to take out a 1/2 point in 30 minutes because they have to go to work or take care of the business or kid, with a real vig of some 50%.

A one horse team is likely to lose as Kobe and Anthony show. If all markets are going down and one or two are going up, trouble is in the air. Slow and steady wins the race. The thunder make all their recruits become part of the community and memorial before they play. No night life but respect for everyone is their key. They got rid of the bearded high falutin player who wanted too much money for their low media community and have the best record now. The market that goes up with a little volatility is a better reward to risk than the highly volatile high profile one.

Okay. Considering I don't know anything about basketball as my uncle Howie likes to remind me (" you said it "), what should I have said or what biggies have I missed. In my defense the same things are true in racket sports which I do know about and how loathsome it is to see the three worst sports in the game now held in such veneration. Time heals all wounds and in 10 years, I can be expected to receive many "legendary" awards in my field (albeit I was never a bad sport I think).

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

There was a lot in there. But I'm wondering about just one thing: "getting them all out" Xmas…And the reason I'm wondering is that the current actions are "getting them all in"; while the well-forgotten idea was to be getting out on approach to records, once all of the election props go used up. So there goes public again…

"Uncle" Howie Eisenberg writes in: 

Your analogies to the market may be right-on but once again you demonstrate your proclivity for creation of "facts" to support your premises. J.R. Smith's career and 2012/2013 3-point percentage are .368 and .346, respectively. Using the latter, his expected value on a 3-point attempt is .346 X 3 = 1.04 which is equivalent to better than 50% shooting from 2-point range (expected value = 1), a very good percentage. Thus having Smith shoot 3-pointers is not a bad gambit. Of course it would be a lot better for Novak, # 4 in the league in 3 -point percentage to be shooting more of those 3s.

There have been many winning teams that relied on 1 player for the bulk of their offense, e.g., Minneapolis Lakers: Mikan, Phila Warriors:Chamberlain, UCLA: Alcindor. Of course it's best when there are several major options. In the NBA these days, winners usually have 2 superstars. The Lakers have 3, plus Pau Gasol, the acquisition of whom led to the Lakers getting to 3 NBA finals in a row, winning 2. That leads to your point about D'Antoni.

I readily acknowledge that whether it's because of players not getting back for fast breaks off failed 3s as you quoted Felton, or other inadequacies of his coaching, there is no "D" in Antoni despite the correct spelling of his name. You are absolutely correct in noting that D'Antoni is insistent on his teams playing his style no matter what the particular makeup of the team is. Yes, the current Lakers don't fit with the type of running game he espouses. Not only does he not maximize the potential production of each player's talents like Gasol's greatness in the post and superior passing ability, but he insists on using novices with limited ability like Darius Morris because he's fast and leaving 14 year veteran, Jameson, who has a career average of 18+ points a game on the bench. Jim Buss should have listened to your warning when he bypassed the greatest coach or manager who ever lived to save a mere 16 million dollars over 2 years. D'Antoni is the greatest disaster to befall LA since the Northridge earthquake and may even rival LA falling into the sea in Superman I. Christopher Reeves is no longer here to save us and although Jeanie Buss just received a ring from Phil Jackson, unfortunately the Lakers cannot expect a similar gift resultant from Phil's genius. He may be marrying Jim Buss's sister but Jackson is now forever estranged from the Lakers because of Buss's stupidity. Woe is us!

Jan

7

A yield of 3.1 % on the 30 year gov bonds corresponds to what kind of mortgage rate? And what kind of impact on housing?

Michael Cohn writes: 

I am not near terminals, but I would guess that the 30 year rate is set by the marketing department over the appropriate tsy, but every mortgage analysis I see that includes the TBA product uses 2-10 year swaps and treasuries to hedge the production. The option adjusted simulations give mtg durations way far below the stated maturity. Of course this duration extends as rates generally rise–the dreaded Negative convexity….

Victor Niederhoffer adds:

If the 10 year rate is 2% and the 30 year rate is 3.1%, then the average 10 year rate starting in 10 years must be (93 - 20) /20 = 3.6%. Looks like a bust in housing somewhere the far side of the world of 10 years.

Anatoly Veltman comments:

I'm wondering whether this can even be arbitraged away. It's always surprising to me how commodity deliveries are NOT, despite very obvious math, only a month or two, or a year forward.

I'm floored by the chair's ability (or eagerness) to predict any economic development 10 years hence. We've been on unprecedented path ever since ZIRP ensued. Both the political and economic moves should be viewed as completely unpredictable, if not random, that far out.

Richard Owen comments:

Is the perpetual commodities gap down to commercials being a 600lb gorilla? Particularly sovereign-backed commercials? They will smash open a small arb by being price insensitive, thus making the basis too painful to hold as it widens? Or rather, the basis is too uninteresting to hold if you do it in a size that will leave you safe upon arrival of gorillas?

Is the Chair's maths based on a risk-neutral expectation? ie., the current superlong end of the curve is a good estimate of the future long end of the curve? Which often does not work out that way? [I was trying to figure the formula you are using at the end - which one is it?]

Some of the back and forth over past days has had me thinking about science vs. mumbo. Science matters. But if at least one has a grounding in science, does that justify occasional "mumbo"? ie., We can allow the Chair his gut?

Kasparov knew his science cold: his brilliance was knowing when that grounding told him something in his gut, out of his range of proof, and to act upon it: Quoth Gary:

"Oh it [intuiton] does exist! It's the most valuable quality of a human being in my view. […] You have to learn how to trust your intuition. My view is we severely undermine the importance of intuition, because intuition involves taking too much risk. Whether we like it or not we live in a risk averse culture and intuitive decisions very often cannot be explained in the terms that should be required by corporate culture or by other family members. By adding this core of intuition to the decision making process, we can dramatically improve the results."

Or does Taleb apply, and we should all get back into bed, beneath the covers, as anything more impressive achieved during the day is luck?

 

Jan

3

 1. All stock timing systems suffer from their inability to get back long after selling.

2. It is impossible to overcome the positive drift of 10% a year with timing systems.

3. Investing in an index fund enables one to capture the drift without being forced out by emotional reasons and news.

4. The moves in just two days, e.g from 1384 to 1458 in two days can be very violent and account for the major portion of profits in a year.

5. The big 27 point decline on 12 24 provided a cathartic unleashing of all weak longs from the market.

6. Any flexions or strong longs who were able to take the opposite side of that trade, i.e. by buying at 1384 would have been well situated especially if their customers were forced to liquidate due to margin or they knew of margin liquidations.

7. There were thousands of articles talking about the big market decline that was inevitable if we fell off the fiscal cliff but hardly a one that talked about the market rise that would occur if we didn't fall off it.

8. The stock market vigilantes forced the politicians to agree on a deal, and at the highest levels that was given as a reason for the necessity of agreeing on a deal.

9. The fixed income market moved to near a 1 year low as the stock market moved to a 1 year high

10. The Mississippi bubble wherein the French Government bought in all its outstanding debt before those of bent posture used their back to allow buying of stocks at the peak seems more analogous to the present situation then the scholarly Chair's studies of what happened during the Depression. What other biggies did I miss.

11. The time to buy stocks is when fear is at the greatest. 

12. The best thing for the investor to read is Dimson, Marsh and Staunton's The Triumph of the Optimists and Fisher and Lorie on returns from buying stocks with different holding periods. But don't be put off by the relatively pessimistic conclusions of the former paper as that is de rigeur for the zeitgeist of Europe.

13. The big up moves both absolute and relative in all other stock markets like Japan and Germany well before the US carried ours along by gravitational force and were predictive. 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

The Chair's summary is correct indeed and is greatly appreciated. I rush to add that it was the preceding decline of an even greater magnitude than 70 points, that caused the 70 points to be regained in the last two sessions. After all said and done, the stock values will remain roughly the same - as if there was no event on the Hill. And that may qualify as a pointer number 12.

One contention I have is that all of this is not really related to drift. I happen to be edgy not to over-hype the drift as stocks approach record levels. I will not say that any record will stand an eternity; however, I was thinking more positively about the drift, when market was carving out its 2008 and 2009 lows, and C was briefly a penny stock.
 

Jan

3

 Recent conversations with a close friend have had me thinking about "The Basics". How, and to what extent, does an understanding and focus on the basics of a particular subject contribute to the building of a strong foundation from which to expand outward in a stable and progressive manner? While they may never be mastered, an understanding of what the basics are seems to apply to a myriad areas of life. The foundation in the basics in various areas of life's pursuits would seem to provide the base from which to advance. Conversely, lacking such a core likely limits movement forward relative to one might be able to go.

In sport we might learn the basics on the very first day of study. In traditional Japanese karate the student often begins with the making of a fist and the punch. The simple mechanics are improved upon and practiced in every training session from white belt to 10th dan black belt. In fencing experts say that basic footwork is 65% of the game. In mountaineering one is told of the importance of keeping one foot moving after the other and not stopping too often to rest.

In nature the basics of survival and expansion can be seen in both plants and animals. Sequoia Giganteum, the giant sequoia, manages to live several thousand year through thick bark that protects against fires and pests amongst other factors.

In relationships the basics of simple greetings and compliments by name and eye contact seem to go far.

In games like chess the building of a solid foundation and harmony amongst pieces goes a lot further than memorizing openings.

In civilizations there are often core values that act as a bulwark against more nefarious forces. The founding fathers of the United States had some ideas on this topic. What might be learned about current events and political forces globally and those of say Rome and the British Empire?

In the daily routine the art of breathing properly, stretching, posture, exercise, hygiene, and diet.

In trading the basics might include first the art of survival. Important on the list would also be the daily routine, the size and number of winners versus losers, the ability to evolve with markets yet maintain core principles without style drift amongst many others.

In Japan there is a saying " Ichi Nichi Issho" or "One Day One Lifetime". At the core one might view this as a starting point in the basic building blocks and unfolding of one's life.

Many books could be written about all this topic and this is meant to be only a short list and some thoughts. What other areas and basics might be considered in various endeavors? Who can we look to as examples of success built upon the mastery of the basics? What books or learning tools might be applied and studied?

Anatoly Veltman writes:

There will be a lot covered in this topic, but I'll touch on Technical Analysis. Specifically, on what's commonly referred to as "a basing pattern". In 2012, this pattern played out to its best in USD/JPY. The cross has languished in 76-78 yen area just long enough to lull everyone. The technical foundation for a blistering rally thus had been built. Technical Analysts refer to this set-up as "things that stay horizontal the longest — go vertical the fastest"

Jim Sogi comments:

The myth is the "basics" are easy. The 10th Dan karate master still studies the basic punch because there is so much depth to it, the timing, the placement, the purpose. Musashi Miyamoto after a lifetime of study of the sword still pondered the basic sword cut and the purpose of it. Basic diet sounds simple, but eating and cooking properly with nice taste and presentation everyday is very very hard. Breathing sounds easy and everyone does it, but to breath with the right mindset can be the key to nirvana. Talking sounds easy and everyone does it, but to say the right things…well you get my point. Real mastery of the basics, especially at the highest levels, is difficult.

Nov

18

There should be a statistic average absolute close to close move divided by high -low and another statistic average absolute open to close move divided by high - low.

Iit would tell how well the strong have done about scaring out the weak during the day only to have them eating crow and wishing they had done nothing during the day, i.e. the importance of sanguinity and gravitas in market play.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

PIVOT has been widely used for decades = (H+L+C)/3

The most popular use of it is: if the next session is trading above, then PIVOT is a support area. Conversely, if next session is trading below, then PIVOT is resistance area.

PIVOT's strength took considerable leaking with onset of 24-hour sessions, as opposed to prehistoric DAY-ONLY sessions. The reason: of course, every price traded on volume IS more meaningful than every price traded on a few lots.

Over the decades, at least two distinctive intraday set-ups where also developed, for cases of overcoming PIVOT early in the session, and for cases of overcoming PIVOT late in the session.

Also, I found Weekly, Monthly and even Yearly pivots to be useful.

In any case, despite the ease of coding the conditions for algorithmic PIVOT trades, I found that best uses of PIVOT were by layering a second indicator into the mix, and sometimes even a third. I never had the resources to code that myself — but I'm pretty sure it has been accomplished by now; including by a number of shops that I had tutored.

Gary Rogan writes: 

Not knowing any of this stuff myself, I'm curious how something this simple can work when you have quantum physicists programming ever more sophisticated algorithms and I'm sure some of which are of the learning and self-changing variety. Even the simplest control theory is orders of magnitude more complicated than this and so are rudimentary digital filters. Without giving this more than ten seconds of thinking, if I were to code up something like this I would at least do a continuously adjusting filter that would backtest the coefficients for each of the three components to something other than one while still adding up to three, variable time windows for back testing resulting in multiple variable windows rather than some fixed monthly, weekly, yearly periods, and variable coefficients for however many windows I would wind up with.

Nov

11

 As noted previously by a spec, and confirmed in today's WSJ, trendfollower John Henry is leaving the money management business — having had his assets dwindle from 2+ Billion to well under $100 million.

JWH will be ensured a footnote in financial history if only for his purchase of the Red Sox. As to his money management, his latest disclosure document is here. Interested specs might want to download it for posterity — so the facts and track record will never be in dispute…and before he shuts his website down (which will presumably happen forthwith.)

There's a lot of grist for statisticians in his track record — including the fact that he has no visible, continuous track record from his launch in 1982 to his retirement this year. The closest thing to a track record is his financial & metals portfolio which launched in 1984 and which closed in 2011. And even here, the results have an asterisk (reminiscent of certain baseball hall of fame members' asterisks). Henry claims a 252% return in 1987, but the asterisk reads, "The timing of additions and withdrawals materially inflated the 1987 rate of return. The three accounts that were open for the entire year of 1987 achieved rates of return of 138%, 163% and 259%.

Anyway, for this fund, he claims a 27 year compounded rate of return of 19.8%. And if you eliminate the home run in 1987, I reckon his lifetime record is around 14% — which isn't too shabby. His worst years in this fund were 2009 at -17%, 2005 at -17%, 1999 at -19%. So his average 19.8% compounded return over a lifetime matched his maximum drawdowns — and that's pretty darn good in my book — certainly hall of fame material for a 27 year run.

Unfortunately, his other funds have not performed anywhere close to this fund. He shuttered a bunch of funds that were disasters (and doesn't report those results) ; and his other open funds have returns nowhere close to this fund (and much higher volatility.) So a skeptic could rightly attribute the aforementioned 27 year return to a combination of luck and survivor bias. I am agnostic. It is what it is.

More interesting to me is the fact that from 1985 to about 1996, his returns really were consistently excellent. You can see them on page 43 of the pdf. Then something happened. And so the point of this entire post is for people to consider the question: WHAT HAPPENED AFTER 1997? Did the world change? Did he change? Did he have too much capital?

I have some theories, but before I weigh in with my theories, I'll allow others to chew on this… There's many meals to be found in correctly answering this question.

Richard Owen writes:

A component seems to have been the purchase of a groin guard: Beginning in August 1992, the position size in relation to account equity in this program was reduced approximately 50%.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Some great points, because I believe trend-following died exactly when the leverage left the regulated exchange trading, which went all electronic; and moved to exclusively OTC derivative biz, which is more flexionic. An easy example, a rule that used to work well in futures of the open outcry era: surprise (i.e. big intraday price change) follows trend. Don't try to fade a market that's been gradually and continually trending, as you are likely stepping in RIGHT IN FRONT OF FORCED LIQUIDATIONS. But since electronic execution prevented over-leveraged position-taking, this rule muted up: nowadays, it may well be a profitable strategy to fade prolonged trend - as more surprises began to SUDDENLY correct overdone trends

anonymous writes:

Hard to tell without analyzing the cash flows, but I propose JWH followed the time honored tradition making great returns on a small assets base then poor returns on a much larger asset base.  The compounded annual rate of return may look very good, but in absolute dollars making a large contribution of investor funds to the market infrastructure.  Paulson is carrying on the tradition more recently.  On the performance degradation I sense from interviews I have read he developed his trading ideas in the 70s and did not modify much since then.

Oct

3

 My submission for article of the day: "Why is the Euro so Perky? "

The article presents a medium term bearish view of the Euro. The view that the Euro is relatively strong because of the 200 days moving average seems ridiculous. Moreover, the ECB as a lender of last resort has been brought on only recently, while the Euro crisis is a long process started back in back 2009. The idea of a weaker Euro because of structural issues that cannot be solved by a divided group of leaders and nations can be shared, however, this has been a European problem (actually THE European problem) for centuries.

The Euro resiliency is a temporary phenomenon. Right, there are several outstanding reasons for the Euro to be near parity vs the USD. None of them has been sufficient, however, over the past 3/4 years to weaken significantly the Euro. If you compare prices between Europe and the US prices are at least 20% lower in the US. One example: the Ipod Touch 32 Gb cost 329 Euro vs 299$ in the US.

The Fed's "quantitative easing" program has provided underpinning for the Euro. The push of the Fed in the direction of a weak dollar is very strong and has so far outweighed the structural Euro weakness. In relative terms, it has to seen how quickly the 2 trends evolve respectively in Europe and in the US. If the US "system" is more resilient and the crisis in Europe accelerates because from the sovereign financial level it spreads heavily at the social and political level then we'll see the parity of the EURUSD. In this context, the unemployment rate in the Eurozone and especially in the southern nations is an important indicator. It is steadily increasing and it emphasizes the risk of a deterioration of the social structure should this trend continue longer.

David Lilienfeld writes:

Based on what I saw and heard in Barcelona in August, I think the matter has now gone out the ECB's domain. Granted it's a very small sample, but as I've noted before, many Barcelonians have become disillusioned with the EU and with their country in particular. That will, at some point, manifest in spending patterns and capital flight–and I doubt that that thinking will change soon. The European leaders "successfully" kicked the can down the road, but with the result of raising both the cost and the pain of the inevitable crisis resolution. Hence, the issue is no longer whether the Fed's efforts with regard to the dollar are stronger than the impact of the EU's structural problems. Those structural problems, in part because they've been unattended to for so long, will ultimately lead to the euro depreciating relative to the dollar. What the Fed is doing is at best temporary, ie, tactical. The problems with the euro, however, are strategic.

Bottom line: I agree with your concern, and at this point, I'm not sure I see how even the exit of Spain and Greece would help matters much. France is now stagnating. That doesn't bode well for crisis resolution anytime soon.

Paolo Pezzutti replies: 

David, actually this is not temporary…

John Floyd writes in: 

The key, I believe, is to recognize the Euro is a political animal. The politics are now unraveling from both the top (core countries) and bottom (peripheral countries). Bad economics have led to bad politics and the circle is becoming self-reinforcing. The U.S. dollar, rightly or wrongly, remains the world's reserve currency at the moment. There are approximately $200 trillion in derivative contracts denominated in Euros. The size of the decline in European growth, the politics, and the market product entanglement is making the Euro's ultimate price more difficult than ever to forecast as it may be 1.0 or .80, or lower. The expected returns of the thesis that the Euro goes lower in value however are increasing rapidly as the vortex of the deciding forces gather momentum and power. 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

That was interesting reading, until you got to "forecast, may be". How to interpret what follows?

John Floyd responds:

My point was not to be interesting but to outline what I think are the key drivers of the Euro and the potential feedback mechanisms through trade and financial channels globally.

As to how to interpret what follows that is up to you. As a guide I would think outside the box and remember some combination of the following: the Tequila Crisis, the ERM crisis, why "hedged GKO's" were not really hedged, the Malaysian Ringgit fixing, how a butterfly flapping its wings in Iceland had a major global impact, etc.

Jeff Rollert writes:

I like to think of it as the behavior of the passengers in a plane, which just lost altitude suddenly.

They suddenly realize the only ones in control are in the cockpit, yet are unable to see where they're going (just where they are and a little of where they've been).

John's point is very good. History is not a (literal) guide but how investors react to the unexpected is useful.

I'm finding many pieces of evidence of avoidance behavior, including an overweight of whatever was last read.

The model may be a reversal from highly regulated markets to highly unregulated ones.

I've been going to ethnic markets for insight recently, as the calmest investors I observe are immigrants, for insight on their interaction.
 

Sep

23

Let's examine the limit order in more detail. There are essentially three scenarios that can occur when you place a limit order. One - you are brilliant. You caught the bottom, nicked the top and got in at an excellent price and can now manage a trade with great risk/reward profile. Two, you were right on the overall direction of the instrument but because you tried to be cute with price you missed your entry and now watch wistfully as prices move away from you while you remain empty handed. Three - you got your fill and now you wish you hadn't as price continues in the opposite direction of your bet.

So in summary in two out of three cases you have a negative outcome. Now if you happen to be a superb market timer that may not matter, but if you are just an average Joe (and we all are) then your chances of execution are basically 33% on each scenario which means your chance of winning is only 33%. That's why limit orders are a sucker's bet. They play to our desire for a bargain, but in the end they cost much more than we think.

Steve Ellison writes: 

"… your chance of winning is only 33%. That's why limit orders are a sucker's bet."

Here is a quick test of that proposition.

Imagine that traders A, B, and C each make at most one round trip trade in the S&P 500 futures every week. Trader C is a permabull, so every Sunday afternoon when Globex opens, he immediately buys the contract. He sells at the close on Friday.

Trader B wants to only "trade in the direction of the price flow", so he only buys the contract if it goes up 5 points from the Sunday open. Then he sells at the close on Friday.

Trader A fancies himself a tough negotiator and places a limit order 5 points below the Sunday open. He is last in line, so his order is only filled if the price drops to 5.25 points below the Sunday open. If filled, he also sells at the close on Friday.

Here is how each trader would have fared in the last 64 weeks.

Trader A, the user of limit orders, would have had 59 of 64 orders filled. He would have been "too cute" 5 times and missed out on big gains. 7 of his fills would have suffered from adverse selection as the market continued down, and trader B stayed out of the market. Trader A's net profit on his 59 trades was 223 points. 37 of the 59 trades were profitable.

Hence the 2 out of 3 things that can go wrong with limit orders occurred less than 20% of the time empirically. Trader A won far more than 33% of the time. Even after detrending the data to correct for the upward drift during the period, trader A's limit orders were profitable 34 of 59 times (58%).

Trader B would have avoided all the adverse selection weeks in which the market did nothing but go down. However, his net profit on his 57 trades would have been only 53 points.

Trader C, the always-in trader, would have traded all 64 weeks and had a net profit of 172 points.

In this test, the user of limit orders did better than the follower of price flow.

Sample data:

Week          Net profit
Ending   Trader A  Trader B Trader C
 7/8/2011    12.4     2.4      7.4
7/15/2011   -18.6      –    -23.6
7/22/2011    32.1    22.1     27.1
7/29/2011   -36.7   -46.7    -41.7
 8/5/2011  -100.4  -110.4   -105.4
8/12/2011    12.1     2.1      7.1
8/19/2011   -50.4   -60.4    -55.4
8/26/2011    59.4    49.4     54.4
 9/2/2011    -1.7   -11.7     -6.7
 9/9/2011    -2.6   -12.6     -7.6
9/16/2011    79.7    69.7     74.7
9/23/2011   -65.2   -75.2    -70.2
9/30/2011     9.2    -0.8      4.2
10/7/2011    35.9    25.9     30.9
10/14/2011     —    56.2     61.2
10/21/2011   22.0    12.0     17.0

Sep

21

 Having internalized some basic aspects of wave counts, such as alternation of corrective waves within a motive wave, coming back to the counts produced by Advanced GET is a strange experience, as the software-generated counts seem quite wrong.

Have others, as I now have, given up using software to mark the key wave points? Of course one would still use a software grid to mark Fibonacci retracements.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Actually, Advanced Get by Tom Joseph was very good when first introduced in late 80's-early 90's. Trick was that one should have also attended Tom's weekend workshop (mostly held near an airport in Ohio), to be tipped on the whole essence: type 1 and type 2 trades, wave 4 index and oscilator. Without figuring out when Wave 4's odds diminish to unacceptable — there is no reliable Elliott Wave trading. And Fib retracements are great — but ONLY if EW type 1 or type 2 trade has first been isolated. I taught Tom's methods for about 15 years. Not sure if any of my students succeeded in black-boxing the entire methodology.

Tim Melvin writes:

Did someone really say fibonacci on the spec list? This could get interesting if it is anything like the old days…

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Well, that's the whole point. Loving to say Fib doesn't test well– when the wrong application was tested to begin with.

Phil McDonnell writes: 

To be sure one must test something according to the right way of doing things. However that is exactly the problem with wave counts and the like. The rules are so arcane and convoluted even so called experts disagree on them.

If you get 5 different Elliot exerts in a room you will get 5 different wave counts at the same time. It is a bit like the game of Fizzbin. The rules keep changing and are unnecessarily complex. 

Leo Jia writes: 

I think one probably should take this argument as a not-bad news for Elliot theory or any theory that gives non-consenting results. It means that it likely has some statistical truth in it that is worth one's effort in seeking. Don't we agree that a market theory delivering definitive results does not exist or, if exists, ought to be thrown out?

Steve Ellison writes: 

Trying to stay in line with our raison d'etre, I have been coding a method for retrospectively identifying highs and lows of multiple levels of significance.

My approach is to go bottom up, starting with an idea I got from one of the Senator's books. A local high is a bar whose close is higher than the closes of both the previous bar and the following bar. A local low is a bar whose close is lower than the closes of both the previous bar and the following bar (a sequence of 2 or more bars with equal closes count as one bar for this purpose).

After identifying the local highs and lows, I move up a level. A 2nd level high is one that is higher than both the preceding local high and the following local high. A 2nd level high cannot be recognized until one bar after the lower local high that follows the 2nd level high. I record the time at which the 2nd level high could have been recognized.

I follow similar rules to identify 3rd level, 4th level, etc., highs and lows and the times at which they could have been recognized in retrospect.

I haven't finished yet, but this method should give me a platform for testing hypotheses about "primary trends", etc.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

Tom Joseph's contribution to E.W. trading, in my view, was much greater than Prechter's or RN.Elliott's. Tom basically said with his excellent refined Type 1 trade: don't ever place any bid, unless:

1) you've already observed a valid impulse (with extended third wave)
2) a correction is currently in progress, approaching 38% of preceding rally
3) you're filtering this correction with oscilator return to 0, and fourth-wave index still sufficient for fifth wave
4) fifth wave projection extends to at least 2:1 profit/loss ratio, incl. all possible slippage.

I say: if all these conditions are not met (and this may not occur every day) - never place a bid at 38% retracement. If all these conditions are not met, you'll have to bid only at near-100% retracement. What does this principle have to do with popular E.W. or popular Fibonacci methods. Nothing!!
 

Laurence Glazier writes: 

Sure, things are complicated and one would not wish to poke a stick into a hornets nest, but … some things are complicated.

It took hundreds of years to elicit the laws of harmony from the canon of classical music (many to this day deny their existence). Put five composers in a room and have them harmonise a tune (the non-believers might refuse to!), and they will do it five different ways, but they will all have added to the map of knowledge.

Even knowing those laws, one could not reasonably predict how a piece of music would continue if Pause were pressed (unless it were minimalist) - but one might anticipate it would return to the tonic key, and that the free fantasia would not be over-long, and so on.

Those laws are difficult, unprovable, and without material substance but are the result of empirical observation.

Gibbons Burke writes: 

CTA E.W. Dreiss used, in the 1990s, a very similar way to count waves in the market using what he called the Fractal Wave Algorithm (FWA), and he traded futures breakouts from FWA-n magnitude highs and lows. Did quite well, but like all trend followers, it is a bumpy ride.

He also came up with the Choppiness Index, which sums the true ranges in the last n periods, and takes that as a ratio of the n-day range.
 

Jason Ruspini writes: 

This is the natural approach that I took as well. Ignoring the "correct" 1-5 definitions, I just looked for a run of higher such double-X highs and higher double-X lows identifiable with the necessary lag, with attention to what happens when you eventually get a lower major high/low, breaking the "wave" run count, which can keep going after 5. What I found wasn't very interesting, in-line with my previous comment. I'm still unclear if anyone is actually trading a tested (complicated) system or just applying versions of rules with discretion. If it is a tested system, why is it better than a simple long-term momentum system?

George Parkanyi writes:

I like to keep it simple. Many years ago, I read something written by Larry that said, when the commercials are generally substantially more net long or short than specs - that tends to stop trends and turn markets the other way. He admitted it was a rough rule of thumb - that it may take a while to turn the tanker - but I pay attention and time after time I've got to say it works. So right now two markets that fit that profile are coffee and to a little lesser extent sugar. (Oh yeah, VIX as well) I've been long both for a couple of weeks with modest starting positions, and just had a nibble at VIX. I don't know when the trends will turn and I may have to take a stop or two, but I like the chances for a good position-trade in these two markets - and VIX as a bet on a short-term post-Fed hang-over. I checked back to when coffee started this particular big decline - and it was within two weeks of when commercials were selling the crap out of it and their net-short positions had peaked. Gold and a number of other commodities did the same thing at the beginning of this rally that began in May - except that the commercials were the only buyers at the time. It may be a dumb-as-dirt perspective on my part, and will likely set off Anatoly - but its one thing that has stuck with me from reading a number of Larry's books.

Aug

24

 Considering the astonishingly large number of experts and hobbyists we have on astronomy here, may I appeal to you to educate me and possibly some others… One of my favorite proverbs, one that I made up is "the round number is never a penumbra". It always gets broken like today (albeit many other numbras one could say the same thing about)… but … but assuming it is true with appropriate sliding, is the astronomical reference correct? Or if not, how should it be modified? Thank you.

Anatoly Veltman questions: 

Why astronomy, and only astronomy?

Aug

22

 Any opinions on Sears Stock SHLD?

Barrons had a positive article on it last week but the shorts keep shorting it.

Down 2 Yesterday.

Somehow I find it difficult not to be in Ed Lampert's corner.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Maybe this is off-topic re: stock purchase, but I'll throw in an Alan-esque: in advance of seasonal clothing change-overs this year, they marked down 85-90%, even off fashionable labels.

Jeff Watson opines: 

A common mistake retailers do is to mark things down, give up gross profit, all in the order of increasing the sales numbers. Giving up gross is a bad, bad thing. In retail, if something is not sold at full price, it is considered to be shrink. Shrink is very bad in the retail game. I went to Sears this week and bought 3 pairs of Levis, for $16 each and 3 pairs of nice Dockers for $19 each. I saw Sears selling name brand surf trunks that I know cost them $16 wholesale, selling for $4.99. Sears is giving clothes away. I wish their sales would extend to the Craftsman line, their electronics, or their appliance line, which was only 25% off the big ticket items.

An anonymous contributor adds:

A common mistake is to think that Eddie is about retail, Eddie is about cashflow liquidation and control stock. Is Berkshire about Textiles? He has now also filed on the Gap and Avon. Sears was always about the owned commercial real estate and durable goods, but the internet and housing bust crimped it. He also has filed on Autozone and Autonation (Sears automotive?).

his MO has been to buy 50% of the float of a stock that he could LBO completely, but then to drive cashflow into stock repurchases while cutting CapEx. My personal opinion is he is planning to eventually put all these pieces together.

The technical issue then becomes the expiration of his 5 year lock-up for investors that Goldman raised the money for, therefore I would not be surprised by a large 4th quarter in the stock.

His stocks trade more like a corner or pool operated stock. The reality is they are no longer public stocks they just happen to trade on an exchange–stocks like this used to be called footballs and to understand the trading one must understand the personality.
 

Aug

8

 Talk about putting statistics on the table. New York once had 25% of the Fortune 500 headquarters in the city. Now it has 3. They've lost countless jobs and become totally dependent on the financial industry, a total risky bet bound to lose because they chased all the big corporations out with their high service rates and union rates. Steve Kagan, the chief economist for the Pataki administration authored those studies, and has followed it up. What a tragedy. Please …. check your premises.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I've noticed even trading firms moving to FL. One of new factors: trading is performed by servers co-located at the exchanges; there is no longer any need to keep traders and researchers near the exchanges.

Leo Jia writes: 

Since the mid 90s, people have been imagining the impacts of high-speed networks on business and people's lives. It was argued that some day it wouldn't matter if one was located in New York or the remote Vermont (or the remote China in my own case). That day seemed to have mostly come to pass. For trading, particularly. People may argue that for high speed trading, one (or at least his servers) has to be located at the exchange. But even that is no longer a good choice. As the following article explains, "the most advantageous position to be in, if you're trying to wring a profit from tiny discrepancies in price between two distant trading centers, is at an intermediate point between them" - not at the exchanges.

Aug

1

 The market if touched would seem to be an exact replica of the spider's attacking when the thread is tripped. The brokers have a variant of that called a "ghost order" that is not on the books anywhere but is triggered whenever a bid or offer hits the price electronically that maintains the privacy of the spider's plan.

Gibbons Burke writes: 

In the days of the dinosaur, when physical pit trading reigned supreme, the would-be spiders with resting M.I.T. orders could be gauged by the size of the deck of order tickets held in big-fish client's brokers hands. The hunting raids mounted by locals called "gunning for the stops" often caused the would-be predators to become prey.

This game is now being played by the new locals (co-locals?) - the HFT bots at the speed of light.

Speaking of the speed of light, and a different order of M.I.T., some smart fellows there have created a camera which is so fast (a trillion frames per second) it can take a movie of a packet of photons - a laser light bullet a millimeter in length - traveling through a soft drink bottle:

Here is a nice TED talk from Ramesh Raskar on "imaging at a trillion frames per second".

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

One believes that a buy market if touched order rests below the current price. And a sell market if touched order rests above the current price but the spirit of taking advantage of the weak is the same.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Furthermore, MIT orders, buy stops, sell stops, GTC orders, etc if held at the exchange or their servers become part of the market and are served to the inside players as delectable morsels to snack on.

William Weaver writes: 

Even orders that are held on a broker server can be seen by others within that brokerage… I was exploring Bberg the other day and found a function that allowed me to see what other orders rested within the firm. I've been keeping orders personal server, or CPU side for a while, but after that discovery I've become even more paranoid (not that I am a big enough player to get attention, but sometimes it seems like it is statistically improbable for prices to all but reach my take profit only to reverse and get almost to negative where I exit flat).

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Just to remind us, today's slippage on filled orders is only one tick, or even half-tick. It is the slippage on unabled limit orders that's a real killer. In the previous discussion of how HST effects long-term investors, who are "forced" to wait in queue for execution…yes, the sheer volume of short-term predatory activity, which occupies certain time on exchange server, and could go awry - could spill into a more illogical (random) near-term direction. Long-term is a series of short-terms to a degree - and all this short-term activity may be adding to randomness. This is liable to confuse the heck out of longer-term thinker and leave him entirely outside of the trade: we hear more and more how this or that traditional indicator has become a victim of fake-outs. 

Jul

26

 Very European that Draghi would make some vague heroic comments to save the Euro sending the market up 20 points, mid-day on Thursday. Most on the continent take off Friday and the August vacation soon approaches so the timing in retrospect seems obvious.

Paolo Pezzutti writes:

Quite impressive how markets are reacting to Draghi's remarks. Assuming that it is hard to believe that effective actions will follow his statements. I wonder if this another opportunity to short the Euro. Unless actually they are counting more on the US printing presses getting ready…..

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

One absolutely should have a long-term EUR shorting program. The European experiment was flawed at its core. The result will be eventual technical breach of the currently defended 6-7 year low. It happens to coincide with the same price area, from where the just-introduced EUR slid non-stop in 1999-2000, until it landed near 83.00. This time, the matching of the initial 1.6->1.2 leg will again target 1.2->.8 straight slide. Being involved in the world's most liquid trade is a must for every spec!
 

Jul

20

 1. It is remarkable to note that for the S&P futures, there has been a complete symmetry in the number of big up and big down opens over the last 6 years. Using 1/2 % as the cut off, one finds that 340 have been big downs, and 345 have been big ups.          

Breaking it down by day of week, one finds that there is no day where the number of big ups diverges by more than 5 from the the number of big downs. Even more remarkable is that no day diverges from any other day by more than 15 in the total number of big ups or big downs. For example, on  Monday, there are 64 big downs, and 65 big ups. But of Friday, 70 big ups and 74 big downs.          

It used to be article of faith from efficient market types that news was generated randomly in time, like the number of horse kicks (v. Bortkiewicz 1898 ), i.e. a poisson process and that Mondays should have more bigs than the other days.

                 Big ups followed by big downs                                                

Mon 65 big ups, 64 big downs                                                     

Tue 69          73                                                              

Wed 68          61                                                            

Thur  73         68                                                            

Fri 70          74                                                                      

Even someone as prone to finding regularities in randomness as the signer, can't find any departures from randomness here. 

2. The concept of a bear market, i.e. a decline of 10% or 20% as an indicator of further bearishness is a hallmark of the charlatan. I think one recently saw millions of headlines to that effect of a bear market in commodities  (right before the 50% rise) but there has been a remarkable decline in Nikkei relative to the S&P, similar to other remarkable divergences notes in these humble speculums. [Note: Nikkei now 8670 vs 10185 on March 27, i.e. down about 15% vs S&P down only 3%].

3. There are many ephemeral things that move the market. One tends to shrug the shoulders and haul out some Shakespeare or Aesop on these occasions. "What fools these mortals be"  or "the ant and the grasshopper who played music for the day". But whether they are ephemeral or not in the market, they can have a lasting effect, and there is signaling to consider also.                                

To me, the  most ephemeral things in the market are the reaction to alcoa earnings, and the Philadelphia fed, and the various manufacturing surveys. All of these are random numbers based on a small sample representing 1/1000 th of the economy for one month even if they were not subject to so many sampling and seasonal errors.                                

Of course, 99% of the announcements are like this. However, they can have lasting effects as the meaningless monthly employment numbers show even though ofter an increase or decrease in the raw employment number of 900,000 or more can be converted to a 50,000 gain or loss through random and self interested adjustments.    

One is reminded of times I've tried to make a statement at a lecture before asking a question and in the middle a hundred agrarians from the audience shout out at me in disgust "what's your question".                      

In any case, what are the most ephemeral announcements and worthless things that move the market in your ken? And which ephemeral things tend to be reversed the most?                        

Okay. Are then any ephemera that have lasting effects?

Anatoly Veltman writes:

I can think of one that's puzzling: a Nikkei jump over night can create a follow the leader impression, which will trigger a wave of optimistic equity rises around the world. Is it ever considered that an oftentime .5% over night gain in the Nikkei is, in fact, unchanged in the neutral currency terms (by virtue of simply the Yen devalued .5% vis-a-vis the currency denominator of any other equity market)?

Jul

15

 It is interesting to note that Friday the 6th of July, the SP closed at 1351.80. And Friday the 13th July SP closed at 1351.70 . Similar proximities occurred on 2/10/2012 and 2/03/2012 at 1327.30. Headlines in the media such as Bloomberg state: "US stocks gain for week, erasing losses".

I am drawn to look at such things as rank correlations and inversions in such books as Kendall on rank correlations to study this with a view to reducing the ability of the market mistress to relieve one of funds.

Chris Tucker asks: 

Is the options market in ES, SP, SPY and component stocks large enough to pin the S&P?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Alas, it should be treated solely as market trivia, of no predictive value. I wouldn't worry about newswire's interpretation; I'd be more worried about optimized coding interpretations. How should researcher classify daily or weekly delta? E.g, is change of mere .10-.90 on SP500 trading 1350.00 = no change, or should some percentage threshold classify as a change rather than unchanged? Percent change makes more sense for longer-term (years) of studies. The levels near 666 should normalize different delta than levels near 1576. I guess that levels of interest rates might also have impact — but we've been relieved of this variable issue for a couple of years hind and hence by the true Libor fixers.

Victor Niederhoffer comments: 

One is often involved in things too trivial or microscopic. Indeed that is what was said to me 50 years ago when I started counting eighths in individual stocks in my undergraduate thesis–a count that set off a field that one is told has not been entirely fruitless. Thanks for the firm guidance.

Anatoly Veltman replies: 

It's interesting that 25 years ago I was taught that the less observed the security is — the better the technicals! In that regard, one-eighth 50 years ago might have been more predictive than .90 delta in e-mini today. We're in the age of battle of the black boxes, the most successful of whom manage to relieve us of funds the moment we start over-relying on a particular minor indicator.

Jul

13

 Perhaps someone can explain this one for me:

Facebook is valued at an astronomical amount. Its revenue base is, basically advertising. But FB is sustained, use-wise, by kids and young adults ( <30 ), who at one time had a fair bit of purchasing power and/or influenced significantly what a typical family bought.

Today, however, that demographic group doesn't have that kind of purchasing power. So what's the appeal for advertisers in supporting FB? Is there any data to suggest that ad buys on FB have a higher ROI than other media venues?

If not, is FB just a lousy investment, or a good one because these things are temporary?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Also, consider the theory of reflexivity in the case of FB, of self-perpetuation. I notice that my 11 y.o. daughter has gained self-confidence (and self-absorption) via FB-ing.

Those kids flaunt their "social edge" over the older purse-holders, and pull on purse-strings with ever-increasing zeal.

Like Henry Ford said, "I'll pay my workers enough to buy my cars", FB is fostering its own consumer channel.

Gary Rogan writes: 

The hope with large end-user software companies has always been that they (a) create dominance in their particular specialty (b) use this dominance to figure out as yet unpredictable way to monetize way beyond their current valuation (c) use this dominance and their speed of execution to stay ahead of adverse end-user trends. If often hasn't worked out this way, but of course when it does you get outsized returns.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

For the most recent quarter FB generated roughly $.5B in EBITDA - the same result that my favorite submarine with screendoor investment - AMAT - produced. FB did it with 1/4th the number of employees and 40% of the revenue. Does that justify a valuation 5 times what the market now pays for Applied Materials? Yes - if the belief continues that network effects will predominate in social media as they have in paid search. The world will need the production of foundries - both steel and silicon - but it will only pay a premium for businesses that promise that their profit margins will increase on marginal sales because there is no used/distressed inventory out there to compete with the "new" products. The answer will be No only if the world of corporations and teenagers decides that Google+ is a better way to sell their virtual images to the world. (Note to file: since those of us here at Chaos Manor now buy and own stocks as if they were cars and houses - i.e. once we find one we like well enough to buy, it is usually a decade and more before we even think about selling, these comments are only for people - all 3 of you - still willing to attend early morning mass at the church of Buy and Hold.)

Peter Tep adds: 

Above all else, Facebook is just a huge time sink and besides being a networking tool, is another place for people to gloat and boast or climb the social hierarchy — meant in a non negative way. With so many kids using it and literally connected to it 24-7, it's probably going to be a good investment if Facebook finds more ways to market to it's users on an even more emotional level. Has anyone seen the series posted on Ritzholtz blog about this?

I guess it is a great investment because it keeps people emotionally connected, like a great movie is playing out in front of them and they are part of it. If Facebook refines its marketing strategies even more using its users' data, then I guess the sky's the limit.

Jack Tierney writes: 

David asks some important questions regarding FB and its value. I agree that the current price is astronomical, but have very little knowledge of the operation — I am not a member and, barring any unforeseen developments, will not join. I have followed FB for sometime and have not joined because of the incredible amount of information they can gather regarding your personal history, preferences, and affiliations.

That very knowledge, though, explains why this could be a very rewarding investment. Back when I was still employed I did some work with the "research and marketing" groups. One of the first puzzling discoveries I made while going over some data was that, although our newspaper regularly received a huge amount of national food advertising, the relatively small markets covered by the Miami Herald and the Milwaukee Journal, received more.

It was explained to me that both cities were unique in that they were split almost evenly demographically. The wealthy, well-to-do, and upper middle class occupied one half of town, those not that well off, the other. This gave General Mills, Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, etc. ideal platforms from which to launch new products, different packaging, innovative couponing programs, size and container preferences (12 oz. cans vs. 16 oz. bottles).

These two cities gave marketers some valuable insight into buyer preferences…yet it was no where near good enough. The Holy Grail, what each individual preferred, was not only impossible to discover, but impractical to reach. That may now be achievable with FB.

While many who are members argue that they reveal very little about their preferences, few are aware of how much their "friends", directly or indirectly, reveal about them. The most memorable story sent to me regarded an English woman who had been "on the dole" for a couple of years, receiving whatever that country's monthly stipend is for an unmarried, unemployed woman with two children. Someone from Inland Revenue (apparently the equivalent to our IRS) decided to check up on her. Rather than checking her page, he started with the pages of some of her friends.

He happened to come across one that featured a several month old picture of the woman in question, relaxing on a beach in some exotic, expensive European resort — with her new husband. Her friend also happened to mention how fortunate she had been to have an employer who let her take a month long paid vacation.

Well, the outcome was not a pretty one. But the story illustrates that if a "friend" should just happens to mention you're a pizza lover, expect to get an uncommonly large number of pizza promotions - from Pizza Parlors in your very own neighborhood. (How did they know???)

If FB plays this right, they could pull in billions. Marketing has always been about reaching the maximum number of potential buyers for the least cost. From what I've read about FB, this is within their reach. If they follow through, or allowed to follow through, their reach is incredible and I would consider buying.

J.T Holley writes:

I'm 41. I choose to "like" The Jefferson Theater so that I could see the feeds/updates of concerts that were being booked. I got notice that they were having a Southern Rock Band "Blackberry Smoke" play on July 25th. They also said that if you "liked" the announcement then you would be put into a drawing for free tickets. I won. I have two free tickets and allowed them (they asked) if they could say that I won.

GM and all others that don't understand the power of FB are foolish. It reminds me of A. Miller's "Death of a Salesman" and Charley's wise words:

"The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you're a salesman, and you don't know that." Charley

and he best double negative ever to be used in writing when Charley addresses Willy (foreshadowing).

"Nobody's worth nothin' dead." Charley

Google became the yellow pages.

FB is becomin' greater than the yellow pages.

It's a tectonic shift that many aren't willin' to accept or grasp. I'm nobody and humble and I get it.

Dylan Distasio writes: 

While I think your example is a good one of what Facebook COULD monetize, they are far behind Google on most advertising metrics and have a very low click through rate on the ads they do allow. It's understandable, Google is in the business of ads and has been at it for longer. Zuckerberg seems hesitant to admit or embrace the fact that FB is also in the business of advertising.

And the fact that Google is a yellow pages should not be scoffed at. It is a large part of why their ads in search work and demand higher prices. They are for things people are looking for and highly targeted.

I think with the amount of personal data Facebook has, they have great potential to monetize ads. The big question is whether they are interested, and if so, will they be able to execute.

The current issue of MIT Technology Review has a great article on a team at FB that is looking at the bigger picture in sociological terms of what they can do with the data. While their explicit goal is not focused on monetizing the data, some interesting techniques for doing so may come out of it indirectly.

Facebook has to be careful about how far they go in using people's data in the interest of monetizing it, and has to build a more sophisticated toolbox of ad types and techniques if they want to compete with Google. While they have certainly reached what appears to be critical mass as a social network, people can be fickle with their allegiances, and are happy to jump ship to something else when they get bored or feel slighted. FB will be forced to walk the same tightrope Google does if they want to seriously compete with them.

It should be an interesting couple of years watching this unfold. That said, I think based on the current view of things, FB is tremendously overvalued unless they are willing to start heavily exploiting the data in their possession. I'm not sure Zuckerberg is willing to, and he controls the company with 51% of voting shares. He's now a billionaire and can run his own agenda for quite awhile at the shareholders expense. As an example, I would question his acquistion of Instagram for $1 billion dollars but I guess time will tell. It will help them in the mobile space where FB is currently very weak, but we'll see if it was worth a billion to buy a company with no revenue.

Jul

12

The infinite creativity of the market mistress, (who must be very good on the romantic front) gives us and me, a 1% down open after an unchanged day, vis a vis close and yest open to close, to help relieve the weak from their funds in a summer month.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I listened carefully to everyone at the annual FX WEEK conference Tuesday at NY Hilton. The complacency toward the EUR currency trading levels was stunning: some called 1.22 bottom and rally to 1.32. I was profoundly baffled. Yes, there may be opportunistic pops here and there - but that currency is conceptually doomed. I wonder if equity holders will ever want to take this doomdom into some consideration

Jun

18

 One notes that all the baseball swings end at the opposite shoulder and usually with the opposite hand holding the bat. That's similar to the way the good one handed backhands are hit and one of the 10 lessons I learned about improving my weak backhand.

One thinks of the palindrome. He fired his kids in the summer of 2008 so he could bear the market down. He took on the Bank of England when he thought that the pound was too high. He often swings for the fences. Even his vulgar former partner liked to go for the fences when he had a profit for the year. The most intelligent thing I've ever read about the former soft commodity trader now a philanthropic fund of funds is that he likes when he's had a loss to ride it all the way up for a profit. There must be something to taking a full follow through to the opposite side that can be quantified in markets between and within.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

The "rubber-band trade" logic went as follows:

1. When I first decided to buy, of course, I was rite, as I'm no fool
2. Mr. Market — as it always should — treated me harshly at first, as I'm often in too early
3. But that's where the key event took place: Market saw my back to the wall, barely holding on and unable to add — but Market was so desperate to buy RIGHT HERE, that it couldn't even wait a tiny bit (for me to throw in the towel and give itself an even better price). Now, that really proves my original idea.
4. Market keeps chasing her up, well past my original entry. That's my chance to turn the tables on Market: now I will front-run them, with little risk to be bullied myself

Jun

17

 Rocky asked this question once a year or so ago about the outlook for the Euro after one of the many EU/peripheral events, and I thought it was a good one. So how might we measure and estimate, and what are people’s expectations for moves on Sunday-Monday following the Greek elections?
I am of the opinion in the medium term the elections don’t even matter. But, that is a different topic and exclusive of any short term opportunities.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

A quick note on S&P: I think current risk is enormous (due to recent complacency).

Paolo Pezzutti writes: 

I think that we have to be aware that if Germany accepts the eurobond concept, Europeans will buy a lot of time although will only delay to pay the bill. That may have a significant impact on eurusd and equities. Not sure how likely is that, but as the situation worsens pressure on Germany increases. Especially after that in France, an important player, it prevailed the idea that socialists can improve things by increasing public spending.

John Netto writes: 

Long gold / short silver. I've been working this position for most of this week and it is telling us about some of the macro variables at play. This ratio is currently shy of 57 and can ascend to 60 given all of the global macro variables at play. Silver has been trading very heavy and under most circumstances I put together, the long gold short silver one helps me take on the sort of risk-adjusted exposure I like…

GL in the markets…
 

Jun

12

 Anatoly shared this interesting article with me: "Jack Schwager explains why trading is more difficult now".

My thoughts:

So Uncle Ben's innovative efforts and the endless bailout/disappoint cycles, currently centered in Europe, have nothing to do with making the situation more unpredictable by a non-flexionic observer?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Hmmm, was trading actually "easier" a few decades ago? I don't think so. I think returns may have been, on average, a few hundred basis points higher. I think that is what he (Schwager) is referring to).

So too were rates a few hundred basis points higher though. In short, I think the difference is, (ceteris paribus) attributable to differences in rates, not that trading on things that move are moving in ways that elude us any more than they always have.

Reasonable size orders are played against by HFT algorithms. That's exactly how they take billions in profits out of the zero-sum every quarter

Ralph Vince adds:

If I have an order in for BA to sell, say, at 70.10 limit, what do I care if it's done by one big tuna or a school of piranha? I'm not following you I think on the last point.
 

Anatoly Veltman responds: 

All depends on the size you're trying to execute. If small, your fill will be random. But a reasonable size limit order at 70.10 will only get filled, if algos figured out that there will be no chance to sell at 70.10 immediately thereafter — according to what they automatically sniff in order books. Thus you are only allowed to buy a loser. If your 70.10 is currently a good buy — you'll never execute, which is the highest level of slippage.

Ralph Vince writes:

Anatoly, doesn't that argument though say that there are no other sellers around at 7010? Would there be the same number of sellers at 7010 as if there were no HFT? (I'm not trying to taunt you here, I'm trying to see if this really MAY be a problem to me that I am oblivious to.)

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

You're implying "fair" market as you used to get via direct execution. But there is no direct execution now, as HFT's are co-located. Thus the execution of your limit order (that seems fast to your eye) is in fact a slow-mo replay of the actual market that experienced multiple biases in the meantime. I'm not sure why you should be "oblivious to the problem", if a handful of HFT entities report consistent billions of profits every single quarter. These ARE modern commissions. 

Paolo Pezzutti comments: 

Trading is as difficult as it was I guess. Each time has its challenges though. In the past you had less access to real time data, software, information, but higher commissions. Today you have more sophisticated players and technology (hft), which can provide an expensive edge to some. There always be an edge and niche for everyone in some market, some product, some time frame. And it is everchanging. So if you are fast and adaptive you can find new ways to make money and abandon old and exhausted patterns. This is the beauty.

keep looking »

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