Aug

4

 I was waxing nostalgic when I was reminded of one of Vic's favorite precepts…

Not that it was anyone's business, and not that anyone really cared, but after the trading day was over, one was often asked matter-of-factly, "so how'd you do today?" even back-in-the day (on the floor of all places) traders doled out socially accepted responses to this very probing question. These responses were realistically based on a hierarchical assessment of one's intra-day p&l.

Ranging from bad to worse, were the losing days…

- they got me
- got killed
- at least I got my health

Ranging from good to better, were the winning days

- not a bad day
- got 'em
- had a nice week today

A gentleman never kisses and tells; and a trader does not provide full disclosure about his performance; the trader should instead exhibit humility. For those on the right, humility may be seen as political correctness by a different name, while those on the left may see this as a way of stifling free expression. However, like a poker player without a tell, one should never be able to discern if a trader had a good day or a bad one. A trader shouldn't whine, or proffer excuses on bad days; and there should be neither bragging, nor hubris tendered on the good ones. Trading makes strange bedfellows. Individuals from disparate backgrounds with varying opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds are brought together by their passion for trading. But, what should also unite them is a shared belief that humility is not only there to protect them, but is a kind of moral compass that should always remain a virtue.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

People would never guess so after the close, if I just made some easy six figures. I never-ever thought of the reality of that cash (for me, the winner). People would hear me going off at "that silly market", which just did so unprofessionally today.

Reminds me of one Robin Hood's trading idea to never cover if the market let his contrarian position recover back to break-even. His logic was that if "they" were covering themselves so aggressively as to even forget "to force me out first"–then my initial premise must have been reeeeally good, and is bound to go a long way!

Jim Sogi adds: 

My second cousin is a pitcher for the Dodgers. He and every other baseball player has daily, game by game, lifetime, yearly statistics kept and prominently displayed whenever his name appears. Why don't professional traders have this type of info if they are running a public fund or ETF? I think it would be good.
 

Aug

4

 "Why the U.S. Is the Next Greece: Doug Casey on America's Economic Problems"

anonymous writes: 

Doug has been singing this same song since the 1970s.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

His most recent book  "The Education of a Speculator". One could learn a lot from Doug about strategic self improving trades, as well as the bon life in Uruguay. 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Title is oddly familiar. I wanted to thank Vic again for including me into Four Seasons dinner with Doug guest of honor in March 1993. Doug the world traveler hardly remembered me from Toronto roundtable of 1986.

Also comes to memory another member of that roundtable Ian McCavity who founded Central Fund (closed end gold fund), which caused me to invest in Gold and Silver there, for the first time, because it was offered at discount to book value. I notice the same to be the case with GTU currently: at a historically large discount to NAV! Hedged against GLD, one can be betting the discount will narrow once gold sentiment improves (hey, August is here how!). A free Call option on gold for the price of your cost of funds?

(GTU/GLD narrowed as an activist waged a proxy battle to liquidate the trust at NAV, but they lost and the spread widened.)

Jul

30

Check out this amazing video: "The Operating Room of the Future - InSightec - Dr. Kobi Vortman"

The most amazing breakthrough in medicine possibly in the entire history of medicine? This can directly affect our lives: this technology is available now. The healing of humankind in the planet is this time emerging from Israel.

Jul

24

 I was recently referred to the David Stockman's blog, and after reading a few articles was nearly wetting my pants in fear. The fear brought to mind an occasion, a dark, dark memory, of a time I almost blew up my account(s), shorting SP futures just as my son was a few months from being born, one of the darkest periods of my life. And while I had some numbers I was going on, the over leveraging and stubbornness that set in was based subconsciously on the rantings of people like Stockman.

I came to the conclusion that libertarianism, or listening to libertarians is one of the most dangerous investment afflictions around, I disavowed any belief that this perspective that could help me make money, and it seems I have been cured for 6 years. I'm still sympathetic to the position philosophically, but have learned to ignore the market based rantings that I had ignorantly begun to factor into my world view.

I've not done any significantly leveraged short trades since that time. If the crash comes I'm happy to miss the "upside" of that event, play the swings, and hopefully position for the next upside with surplus in high return on invested capital stocks, hopefully be positioned to short some premium, but as for rooting for the crash, "chickens come home to roost" and all that, count me out. I could care less about the opinions, even if on a 100 year time horizon (perhaps) they will be proven true.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

Mr. Stockman came to the junta and called for Dow 10,000 a year ago, and said to hide your money in mattress as banks are not safe also. I felt compelled to counter his views with data based on interest rate versus return on capital, and a buy and hold return of 40,000 fold a century. It occurred to me that my approach is somewhat Malthusian. Earnings grow by a compounded rate based on the return on capital. This trumps algebraic opportunity costs and interest rates.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Of course what can't be historically tested is next year's stocks profitability following a 35-year fixed income rally. That means that no history is helpful to one's S&P positioning today.

Gary Rogan adds: 

Why does this situation have to be viewed in terms of the trend that led here as opposed to the set of numbers that exist today regardless of the path to the present?

Jul

22

I have briefly conversed with two of of the more experienced traders on this site in recent days.

Our chat has surrounded price spreads between exotic real assets and the current valuation thereof.

Arguably, when dealing with the relativities between somewhat exotic 'real' things like Tin versus Aluminium (and yes Americans that IS how it is spelt!) that a purely quantitative or systematic approach is not sufficient. It is this reason (in addition to the the triggers below) that explain why I would never sell Silver/buy Tin as a spread trade. Conversely I have no problem being long stocks/ short bonds or other financial assets (for example).

History is replete with examples of great traders brought low by these types of trades real asset spread trades.

Almost regardless of how compelling the spread level appears, it is usually only those who grow, mine, harvest or ship the commodities concerned that make money. Likely, this is due to a combination of a genuine understanding of the flow and low to zero leverage.

It is possible to do these trades and, more importantly, exit them with a reasonable proportion of the maximum available profit. However, as has been imparted to me, any size big enough that the players notice is bound to attract penalty rates on exit.

There are similarities to trading Emerging Market currencies in some ways. For example:

You must secure your funding.

One must understand substitutability in case your short cannot be covered.

In the off chance that you out manoeuvre the real players, be prepared to graciously hand them 10-30% of your profit to replay their magnanimity in allowing you to escape their world with a slight overplus.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

A counter-query: isn't it more desirable for "wrong crowd" markets to carry you to profit, making exit easy? Why take on Commercials?

You rightfully point out that Entry at times may appear a no-brainer, but in a narrow specialized market you're likely one of the last to notice
 

Jul

13

This article at Trader Planet says commercials are record net long and in the past such has resulted into large up moves.

Without invoking the testing or testability of such a thought process yet, I seek the Senator and other CoT experts on the site to help define in the least ambiguous way how to filter out the True Commercials, The True Speculators and the True Small Traders.

Is the COT data so straightforward to leave a free lunch on the table for the whole world?

I also wish to twist this one thread in evaluating why would this tool of thought also not suffer from the ever changing cycles?

Also indulging in the more routine task and the more mundane task of imagining the future: once the pent up emotions of a Greece that was greasy for last five years having been released, with equities everywhere in the world been ho-hum for a good time, with an iPhone in the pocket of every college kid in India, is the world complacent enough here for a regime change? Oh, yes with peak oil ideas being forgotten completely, the world has also been quite happy in imagining 45 for the Nymex Light crude is also not going to hold, oil will be free some day very soon.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

The article is (surprisingly) erudite: commercials are mean-reversion, while small specs are trend followers. This always explains increased commercial Long after decline, and diminished small spec Long. Not really predictive, except if you believe in mean reversion anyway…

The only COT-specific signals are in fact trend-following, and occur rarely: divergence. Divergence is one situation only: when commercials have NOT countered the move. Recent move was down, and if commercials have NOT increased Long, then it would be a rare signal "to sell!". But, of course, no signal right now. If Gold embarks on long rally, and commercials will NOT sell into it - there will be "buy!" signal.

All other COT interpretations are coincidental or superficial. Commercials should not be followed because "they know better"; but following them is safer because "they don't care", i.e. will not be force-liquidated! (It did happen to them twice in 35 years: during Hunt silver corner in 1980, and during Ashanti failed financing in 1999).

Jul

10

Given that a swing has covered a territory of x, and a turning point has been reached, what is the ideal point vis a vis return and risk to exit on the way back. And how should the turning point be defined, hopefully with less retrospection and naivete than the professor's with the 200 year trend following system. By the way, how did their trend following work when big money could actually follow it? I believe a run of of length 8 x when x is an unbroken 5 move might have a very positive expectation after a swing in the opposite direction of 2.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Trend following has worked for them well– once all moving averages are sloped down (which I don't currently have proper charting to verify, but I can well visualize and speculate that it HAS BEEN the case indeed, on daily charts of both SP and CRUDE as of early last week), they are not allowed to position Long at any point.

I imagine they covered the first few spikes down, but now they'd intend to hold on to Shorts at least to pinch 2000 if not to pinch 1900, depending on the precipitous nature of the move. Of course, SP is trading sharply up this Thursday session, but they may are likely anticipating to reach their near objectives by early next week…

Of note also is the fact that (following the May's record print) SP started to punctuate double-top sets of resistance prices. First set occurred in May and June, and we just got another set this week. Once down-phase is indeed on a roll, it's my personal observation that such price resistance sets develop numerous times through the entire cycle. This was very much the case during the entire 2008 roll (from 1500s all the way thru below 1000s).

Jul

6

 By the way, I believe it might be a subject of speculation whether  Mr. Simons and his colleagues have found anomalies that they can still exploit as they might be much too big, and there is much too much competition from other humble anomaly seekers.  Yes, as Mr. Harry Browne would say, as described by  the true believer below, their pantheon of geniuses soars on a much higher level of cognition than myself or any of my colleagues or hundreds of followers - but then again superior intelligence isn't everything. And aside from the profitability of market making, as first enumerated by MFM Osborne, it might be difficult to capture anomalies on a systematic basis that the competitors in St. Louis and other small venues might have missed, no matter their profundity.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Does this also answer the query as to WHY would Virtu decide to go public?

A true believer writes: 

If there is anything whatsoever to the legion of gambling analogies to markets, market ecology and human endeavor then most of the chips will end up in very few hands.

The Medallion Fund represents the very apogee of human brilliance so applied to financial markets.

What is more likely, that there is something rotten in Denmark? Or that the combined work of pure genius including:

James Simons

Elwyn Berlekamp

Robert Frey

Henry Laufer

Sean Pattison

James Ax

The whole 'European Contingent' - I will not list those names here.

Plus a host of mere 'worker ants' cleaning data, programming testing machines and keeping the lights on.

Might just have come up with the single best group of high capacity strategies ever known.

We should all celebrate this achievement. It represents everything this list is about, surely?

Trying to pick holes in something like this is the equivalent of the Barron's columnist bearing bearish for 30 years on U.S. stocks.

My belief and optimism is based on facts, not some idol worship groupie phenomenon.

anonymous writes:

Is one allowed to agree with both the True Believer and the Chair? What Simons and the others did was pure genius–they used mathematics to identify the consistent anomalies that occur when people buy and sell securities. Those of us who lack their pure brains and mathematical chops marvel at what they have accomplished and have done our best to create a glacially slow mimicry using employment data and their correlation to the business cycle. (They are playing Scarlatti the way Michelangeli did; I am playing chopsticks hitting one key a month.)

But, as Vic notes, the question is whether or not there remain any arbitrage opportunities left now that those anomalies have been examined in such detail for decades by the far greater number of smart people who have come after the folks at Medallion.

Bill Rafter adds: 

Like others, I agree with both the Chair and Shane. The question then is "how much juice is left in the fruit?" As Stefan says, he gets one a month.

I would posit that it is a question of time frame. Certainly the HFT opportunities are gone for us simple folk, and maybe much of the day trading. But there are still anomalies if we are willing to accept less certainty and leave our bets on the table a little longer. After all, realize the prop shops do not want their worker bees to have an overnight position. Which means those of us willing to have such a position will have an automatic edge. As an example, compare the Open to Close returns to the Close to Open returns of certain derivatives. There's an edge, less than it used to be, but still there, and the edge favors the overnight holders.

Also, we simple folk cannot expect to outperform by trading only SPY (or perhaps its overleveraged sisters), the most competitive and liquid of assets. The greatest returns have always been in the least liquid of assets. 

Shane James replies: 

I see no disagreement with the Chair on this thread. As with the Chair, myself, Medallion, DE Shaw, Citadel and all such people interested in trading from all walks of life - we shall continue to look at new angles, different ways of splicing the available information amongst much else. Medallion too will do this. The outcome? Only the shadow knows.

On this next point, the Chair, myself and anyone with half a clue will be in violent agreement - it is always best to be the bookie . The RenTech entity, at the last count when the info was still public, collected 8% management fee and 45% performance fee (I may be off by just a little here).

To use a collection of letters used by my children to describe this: OMG.

It's good the be the king. 

Jim Sogi writes: 

Much of what they have done is computer science not just math. It also has to do with understanding and moving or changing and understanding and exploiting regulations at the exchanges. In a competitive environment, there will always be an edge available somewhere. They change and move, but there is always opportunity in change, the change in others, the rate of change, the unforeseen effects of changes. I think there is opportunity for the slow and small as well. Computers are stuck with their algos. They leave tracks, patterns, singly and as a group. The markets are complex, and no person or computer knows exactly how it works, though they may find opportunities in complexity. There are always effects of effects of effects, unknown to the actor. Waves spread out from every action.

Jun

25

 "James Simons Interview- Numberphile"

He changed his profession because of the St. Louis distributor.

Charles Pennington explains:

A helpful colleague alerted me that the business about the "St. Louis distributor" starts around minute 44:00. Short story is that Simons found himself the owner of a computer company of some sort in St. Louis, then was faced with having to have meetings with the "distributor from St. Louis", which he finds distasteful.

Stefan Martinek writes: 

Some interesting parts:

28:30: "Trend is an anomaly in data"

29:30: "There are no elaborate equations, some sophisticated math in the area of the last part – how to min. volatility of the whole"

It would be great to see a track record and run it against some benchmarks.

Paul Marino writes: 

Thanks for the video, Rocky.

Is it bullish or bearish that he wasn't chain smoking cigarettes throughout? Has he quit? I find it fascinating how people smoke when it doesn't compute with their life like doctors, firefighters, billionaires. 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

It seemed half-way through Jim pulled something out of front pocket, and then (I speculate) came an editorial cut. Is your query due to personal experience? I, for one, wouldn't ask that on this site, although I was awestruck with the same thing in this clip.

I had the good fortune to sit on Jim's right shoulder during a five-hour (you immediately know it was ethnic Russian household) lunch. I was so uncomfortable because I haven't had one puff in 30 years so I asked, "Jim, I thought American males didn't smoke?" Jim didn't take more than two seconds to repartee: "you know, you're right on the whole, but the lower classes still do". Later he was less apologetic: "I just enjoy cigarettes too much to stop". I'm a little dumbfounded in this clip Jim credited his dad with bankrolling his investment debut. Can someone pinpoint the minute Jim commented on Madoff? I missed the sound bite.

Paul Marino writes: 

I had heard that he was a chain smoker for decades, still smoked as of last summer.

Not trying to demoralize him, I smoked for years myself, it is a tough habit to break, but in New York you're surprised by the type of smoker as I had mentioned earlier plus the city's war on tobacco, sugar, etc. At $13 a pack I guess you need to be a billionaire or doctor to afford to smoke these days here. 

anonymous writes: 

You could always tell when Simons was at a math department tea by the smell of cigarette smoke. No Smoking allowed in university buildings, but who is going to tell that to the guy who built the place?

Jun

19

A rumour that is interesting

.

You’ve Been Warned: Central Bankers Turning Less Market-Friendly
" by Simon Kennedy

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I think the point to ponder is WHO planted this rumor on the eve of the fact. And the fact indeed was and is: what actual hike can be contemplated while faced with the emergency of keeping Monetary Union? Absurd. So, again: everything is done to prop the impression that hikes are imminently contemplated, while they are not even possible. Which loops back to the suspicion that articles are planted

anonymous writes: 

This is not a new thought for central banking and other authorities, pre Bernanke’s speech that in part caused the taper tantrum, and the Fed to back off, this was a hot topic within said circles and in part instigated his speech.

May

29

The thesis of this article is that with the increased volume you have an algo driven "pump up" during the last minutes of the day.

According to the data I have that is not the case.

Since 1 Jan 2012 closing the trade at 1600 you can see the results below:

Buy at 1520 49% up 0 pts t -42

           1530 48% up -0.1 pts t -120

           1540 46% up -0.2 pts t -270

           1550 45% up -0.1 pts t -208

There might be other edges around the close. This is due to the index funds managing their positions and day-traders closing their trades. In some case this might create inefficiencies that a small speculator can exploit to make a decent living. Good for those who can find them. But for sure it is not what zerohedge brags about from time to time. 

May

25

 It is regrettable to see Goldman forecasting $45 oil along with concomitant declines in all other commodities. And one wonders what the agenda is for such absurd forecasts and whether it is possible to make money by systematically coppering such self serving things.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Not sure what they are seeing in other markets, but the supply side of oil remains hard to abruptly turn– thus their reasonable projection. Subdued energy price is also a politically correct position, so not much near term headwind there. But eventually, yes: absurdly low oil was always resolved via war initiative by a foreign power.

May

19

 One hypothesizes that prices act to maximize their chances of survival and their volume of activity.

The moves and the announcement during the day and fray are controlled by the prices to create the most successful survival mechanisms.

The Selfish Gene

In bonds did not believe it could reproduce at 15300 at a 3.1 % 30 year rate, and thus demanded that a robot from Euorope would say that they would create liquidity this summer by expanding qe. 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Also, a huge market trace of insider announcement distribution "on need to know basis". Both Stocks and USD ended strongly the day before (a pairing that would be hard to explain, otherwise).

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

In bonds did not believe it could reproduce at 15300 at a 3.1 % 30 year rate, and thus demanded that a robot from Europe would say that they would create liquidity this summer by expanding qe.

May

11

Over at Business Insider, they carried this graph. It looks pretty scary. I don't think it's possible to sustain current prices in the face of declining inflows, but maybe I'm misinterpreting it.

Larry Williams writes: 

Look at the chart! This has happened many times before where the blue line guys got out and the rodeo went on higher. It's not the first rodeo they missed. Who're you going to believe, the chart or a cub reporter?

Steve Ellison adds:

I don't have the data to test this rigorously, but my hypothesis is that "net inflows to mutual funds" is a contrary indicator if it is an indicator at all.

anonymous writes: 

All the studies such as the ones carried out by DALBAR suggest that returns weighted by investor money flows are always worse than time-weighted returns.

There is a movement of people who think that this "behavior gap" can be closed with education or sound advice for all. I find it more likely that it is a necessary feature of markets for the reasons described by Bacon. Some can do better but nothing can work for everyone at once.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

One would have thought that this post came from Mr. Conrad rather than you, who has been exposed to the drift.

Bud Conrad responds: 

Mr. Niederhoffer mentions my name as suggesting I might be bringing negative opinions about the future for the stock market, but I have been relatively quite on this list in that nature in recent years. My base for stock market valuation comes from the view of comparing the potential return from the stock market earnings to that of long term government bonds. For several years and continuing to today, the returns from stocks as measured by dividing earnings by the price (E/P ratio) have far exceeded the returns from fixed income, so I have been a bull on stocks, despite the many worrisome commentaries about the general economy. The Chair and others will recognize this general approach as sometimes called the "Fed Model" for stocks. My summary comment is that "The stock market is the best game in town", sort of like the comment on the dollar compared to other currencies as "The best horse in the glue factory".

I have been bullish stocks for the first half of 2015, but with caution that there are other forces like the Fed raising rates, a slowing GDP for the general economy, a disastrous collapse in the oil and gas fracking that will cost lenders huge sums, and continuing trade and government deficits that make me be more concerned that the outlook for 2016 is possible for a down turn. I'm interested in extending that watch for a turn in stock market optimism as others find quality analysis.

As to the specifics of the flows in the chart from BofA ML, I notice that the 2013 down turn in flows didn't hurt this bull market, so the indicator may not be capturing some of the drivers, like possibly foreigners that are even less enamored with their domestic prospects, who may be finding dollar denominated assets much safer than say those in the declining Euro. As a related note in my local area: Palo Alto is supposedly 20% owned by foreigners, mostly from China. Real estate prices are booming in Silicon Valley, and there is plenty of inflation in asset prices here.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

This was an interesting point, reminding me of a disaster of a trade I had in 2005. Copper, for the first time in history, eclipsed its decades-long resistance of Fibonacci $1.6180 level at the COMEX. It was clearly driven by developing China demand, and I wouldn't stay in its way. I had good luck picking up Longs at the other Fibonacci end around 61.8 cents just six years prior…

But as the 2005 rally progressed beyond the $1.6180 breakout and all the way to the un-phathomable $2.000/lb round - I could hold myself off no longer. My Shorting reason was that throughout the 2005 rally, COMEX Open Interest figures have declined(!) dramatically. Classical technical analysis states that a commodity's prolonged upside run, when accompanied by progressively declining Open Interest - must be Shorted!! The reasoning is very compelling: in zero-sum game, such event can only mean one thing - that the pricing is extremely over-bought, while progressively more-and-more Shorts have already covered!! Thus, as a new Short, you're getting the greatest downside potential in history, while the risk of potential blow-off to the upside is now severely constrained. Well, I'm still a huge believer in this indicator, except…

…2005 happened to be the first year of an unprecedented GEOGRAPHIC shift in Copper inventory. Away from the COMEX in US, and in favor of the LME in London as well as a brand new physical and derivative market born in China and vicinity. While the COMEX Open Interest was going through temporary decline, the pick-up overseas was enough to feed the demand and put further increasing stress on supply. Thank goodness for my catastrophic COMEX stop-loss above $2.0025 - that trend roared unabated straight to the next Fibonacci extension of $3.62!

anonymous writes: 

Some people are going to believe what they want to believe, hear what they want to hear, and avoid information that contradicts what they already think or believe. These are the people who find comfort with a group-think mentality. On the other hand, there are those who love to fade the market, for the sake of being contrarian. These people cannot resist doing the opposite of popular opinion and possess a mindset toward reactive devaluation. This forum strives to operate on a level where useful information is transferred from one reader to another; often times from the extremely knowledgeable (victor, rocky et al) to the less-so (myself included). We all strive to reach independent conclusions based on a reasoned process. We ignore popular opinion, and do not take anything at face value. We keep open minds, organize and filter our ideas to determine what is relevant, yet allow conflicting ideas to generate new conclusions.

In an effort to promote and perpetuate this practice, I still find myself sanguine about the prospects for the market. Real short-term rates are still negative. The fed maybe tightening, but the yield curve is steepening. GDP has averaged 2.25% per year since 2009, and yes, real GDP growth in q1 was weaker than expected; but that may only serve to be a down-tick and not the beginning of a nascent trend, as as was the case last year. Growth is there, but it has been stultified by the Obama administration's policies. If we were to see tax rates and regulatory burdens rolled back with a new administration, we could see a renewal of corporate investment and risk-taking and an acceleration in productivity and growth, and a much higher market yet.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Many are overthinking this stock market and are missing out on the move. Trying to fit events into one's belief system can be very costly in the long run. Sometimes, like in surfing, you just gotta catch the wave because it's a groundswell, and the waves are stacked up like corduroy all the way to the horizon. Plenty of opportunities here.

May

7

Chart of the Day- 30 Year Mortgage Rate

I, for one, do not share publisher's spin that this implies something down-trending at this junction. I view this chart better representing the fact that rates are way below historical norm. This is not to say how imminent the reversal is; but to say that once reversed, the rates have way more room to the upside than any remaining downside.

Jeff Sasmor writes: 

Two things:

1. that chart doesn't go back far enough for me. This one goes back to 1900

Assuming that that chart is roughly correct, one can see that for most of the last century mortgage rates were generally between 5 & 6 percent. Once out of that range it didn't return for about 30 years (except for a short blip).

2. Rates returning >= 5% will induce great hue and cry from many directions. I am not asserting that such a thing is armageddon-ish, but many will. It will be interesting to see if the Fed has the will to hold back from trying to influence the economy some more at that point.

Rocky's Ghost writes: 

Firstly, I would point out that the bond market (as it drops like a stone) is behaving like a bull market right now. Huh? How can that be? Yes, kids — bull markets are characterized by persistent grinding price gains and vicious pukoramas declines. Think about that statement very carefully before you disagree. Bear markets, in contrast, are characterized by grinding and persistent price declines and vicious price rallies. Again, think about that statement very carefully before you disagree.

But let us assume that Anatoly is correct as a thought exercise. Let us then note that the current bull market has lasted for 35 years. If you want to start setting secular (as opposed to cyclical and trading shorts), what's the hurry? I submit that one needs at least a few months to validate the secular bear market thesis. That thesis requires a lasting change in inflation expectations that break out of the 2-ish% range or a change in the perception of growth/capacity or a change in labor union/gov't policies or a change in the perception of sovereign risk/real rates or a war that changes the balance of investment/spending or deficit financing that exhausts savings or any other number of things that don't happen in a fortnight. Can they happen? Sure. Have they happened? Not yet. Heck, the Fed hasn't even tightened yet. A knock-down drag out cyclical bear market will the fed to be behind the curve on growth and inflation. Growth is still anemic. PCE inflation is still below the desired target.

All that has happened so far is that a bunch of people were on the same side of a multi month trend (bonds, dollar, crude oil, european QE) and those people are all exiting at the same time and moving prices to an equilibrium. This move is about positions. It's not about fundamentals. Yet. 35 years is 12,775 days. The high tick in the TLT was on 1/30/15. So we are about 125 days off the all time high.

Bottom line 1: DON'T SUFFER FROM THE RECENCY BIAS. Bottom line 2: TRADE IN THE TIME FRAME THAT MATTERS TO YOU.

P.S. Look at what has happened over the past few years when the 10-15 day moving average crosses below the 100ish day moving average in the TLT. People pay 2&20 for that nugget of advice. Hah.

anonymous writes: 

or perhaps the bear began in july 2012, when the 10-yr yield fell to 1.4% and cpi hit a low of -2.1%.

anonymous writes: 

You say this move is about positions.

From the cheap seats, this seems like the null hypothesis, for sure. Certainly, everybody didn't suddenly decide there's going to be a huge ramp-up in inflation. Or a default in bonds. More likely that many players are leveraged in the same direction(s), and recently enough have decided to "take profits", that others have decided to follow.

May

7

 As one gasps for breath the following thought springs forth, motivated by:

A: the recent co-movement in Bonds , the dollar and stocks

B: the LoBagola completed (just about) in Bund futures a little while back this AM.

When related but different markets are experiencing a relatively high/unusual degree of co-movement, might the relative duration taken to 'LoBagola'/ reverse in each market be predictive?

As usual, I am trying to write words while there are only numbers, functions and classes in my head. So, put another way, might not the relative speed of reversal back to an initial market price be predictive for some future time period during periods of extended and robust co-movement?

Good day ahead all.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

well, on what happened last couple of weeks.

As Bunds neared 0.05%, a handful of prominent entities took a position. They telegraphed the fallen king, who joined in. The risk was not nearly as high as it usually runs in the markets, and thus the speculation could be inordinately large of size…

The contrary trade gained speed as it continued to be helped both verbally and pyramidicly. In the process, the EUR began to look more and more attractive correspondingly.

Eventually, the high velocity moves in both rates and currency disrupted the equities peaceful drift. So you got the moment of all three moving in the same painful direction.

Vince Fulco writes: 

Sounds poetic looking in the rearview mirror.

Apr

27

 The more accommodating to other drivers I am, the easier it is to get through traffic and avoid potential crashes. Meaning, in those 100 brief moments of interaction between drivers that occur on any city drive, even in a city like Chicago that lacks any notion of community spirit, more than 50% will attempt to return the favor if you yield first are courteous. So you get a positive expected value, perhaps do to the psychological pull of the reciprocity principle.

I am wondering if there is application to this in our trades. One thing I like to do is start with passive orders that are pre-placed, then if/once those fill and the other guy has had his way, I "take my turn" and go active. And it seems many times there is a line of cars that follow along behind me taking their turn as if they were waiting for me to make a move. That observation would need to be tested, as it is based only on my ad-hoc observations. Perhaps this reciprocity or "taking turns" analogy can be extended to broader market action in some way.

anonymous writes: 

A substantial personage in whose employ I was for a few years used something like this,

Using T note futures as an example, he would offer, say, 2000 lots at say 19/32, 'allowing' the market to buy from him (letting them have their way). Once filled he sold 10000-15000 at the market–overwhelming them–taking his turn, as it were!

Ha!

Ed Stewart writes:

That is exactly what I am referring too, only my experience is not at that size or in that market. My (ad-hoc) observation is it is a useful tactic precisely when it seems most foolish by "normal" logic that does not take into account how it alters other trader behavior (similar to the driver analogy)–creating a shift in tone or sentiment for the rest of ones "drive home". 

Anatoly Veltman writes:

Ed, not sure if anyone finds ANY link to markets further in time of this discussion - but I have a comment re: your initial premise.

I've driven over a quarter million miles, mostly 30-foot vehicles, without an accident. I happen to be a holiday driver (i.e. not driving daily where I live in NY, and not having owned a single car since my distant student years). Unfortunately for myself, I'm yet to own GPS or even use one for the first time - this btw may tie into FB raw that list just went thru. I never opened a FB account to date, either. I think we venerable listers may be too lazy to adopt the basic society's milestones - and no wonder the latest 24y.o. billionaire is way ahead..

What I did found on my dozens drives coast-to-coast and the hundred drives of the entire length of the I-95 was appalling to me, but apparently a norm to what you're participating in daily. Passing thru any urban thru-fare, I see cars obediently lined up for minutes (and possibly adding up to hours), invariably leaving the right lane completely empty and entirely legal to drive on (this is the regular lane on the left of the prohibited shoulder lane). If I once did NOT make use of that legal right lane, giving me substantial edge in traffic, I'd quit long-distance driving summarily. But as it is, it gives me tremendous pleasure to skip hundreds of area regulars in minutes, and leave their daily congestion in rear-view mirror

Mar

26

 One comes back from a trip to Japan with yet another mumbo concept to inspire fear. This one is that 26 days have gone by without the market showing 2 rises in a row. Indeed the last time the S&P 500 went up 2 days in a row was 2 17 when it moved 2076 on 2 12 to 2086 on 2 13 to 2088 on 2 17. This supposedly is bearish showing that the market can't put a sustained rise together. The song "Let's Misbehave" comes to mind. But does it ever occur to anyone to test it? That's what we're here for. "Er, have you tested that" is the motto of some parts of the spec list. Indeed there have been 6 occasions since 2007 when the market went 25 or more days without two consecutive rises. And indeed 5 of 6 of them were up an average of 2%, three days later.

Much more important, the stock bond ratio at 2053 to 164. or 12.45 is at a big, 28 day minimum and what are the alternatives to stocks, for investors, centrals, and pension. Same holds true for Japan and I predicted a new high there 3 to 5 years from now.

One notes the advanced computer technology in all of Japan and one was particularly pleased to buy two tickets on the bullet train to Kobe. And there were 50 sets of 3 seats on the car. The computer left only one vacancy and it was next to us two Gaijin . It was good to see that the computer is programmed to espouse Japanese values. And good to be back.

Just for fun a music video: Let's misbehave .

Anatoly Veltman replies:

The video trumps the test, by far. I thoroughly enjoyed the flick; but the test idea - not nearly as much. The moment I saw 2086 to 2088, I immediately thought to myself: this can't be serious. I've always questioned the idea of day's + or -, which at the same time didn't differentiate between a substantial and a randomly minuscule. So test results and expectations would differ if some day's delta was -2.00 as opposed to +2.00 with the subject value of 2,086.00? Something tells me the idea should be refined before a test. Great to have u back.

Mar

9

Perhaps it would not be remiss to express some thoughts I had over night.

1. Friday was perhaps the greatest loss in wealth ever.

2. Extraordinarily rare since the 90s for both stocks and bonds down 200. Actually only once since 1999. That in 2009.

3. Useful idiots attribute it to revision in expectations of fed increases.

4. But actually the rise had nothing to do with that but had to do with discounted value of returns on capital and lowering of inflation targets.

5. Amazing that good news can cause so much havoc.

6. But the market is the market. It will do what it wants.

7. But of course the stock market vigilantes, and now the bond market vigilantes will make it do the rite thing, especially before election.

8. Ephemeral things can cause great consternation.

9. The threat is worse than the execution.

10. They got me big yesterday. I actually make a nice little profit in SPU by getting out at 10 am.

11. However, I lost big in bonds, very big.

12. One will have to be more careful as the markets rise to new highs again. 

Jeff Rollert writes: 

It felt more like a systematic deleveraging. A balance sheet shrinkage, on both sides.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I think there is an important element missing from all these statistics. A drop such as Friday's is felt big by an SP futures long, because the SP futures long is very leveraged, while his currency exposure (hedge) is straight cash, unleveraged.

On the other hand, the real one day depreciation is miniscule for a holder of US stocks - as USD gained so much on the day. Compare a holder of US stocks Friday with an EU or UK person who held no stocks but their cash in the bank - and that person lost plenty, without being Long of US stocks.

Hernan Avella comments:

Anatoly, the reason why it was indeed very big is because you did not have the buffer of buying bonds, golds or oil. Furthermore, the 50-50 theoretical portfolio lost big on Friday on top of a bad streak of 5 down days out of the last 7, and now it's slightly down on the year.Now, when one accounts for stock market appreciation over the five year period as strictly "fundamental", "value of returns on capital", etc etc - one yet skips over a harder to quantify element of market truth: that Central Banks, with their long-standing zero interest policy, have left little alternatives for world wide investors but to pour cash into stocks the past five years. Some of that cash hasn't gone all in based on fundamental projections, it's just gone in. Like in "market will do what it wants". Enter one of the current day hot factors: EU is in dis-array. There is a lot of European capital that isn't investing based on long term returns on equity these days…They are paralyzed in fear of what next shoe will drop. So corrections such as Friday's are inevitable

Mar

2

 There are a google of factors affecting this company, all seemingly electroaffinitive to the observer from the grandstand, leading to the question of whether companies hit hard by currency depreciation versus the dollar are good buys. Talk about bad luck. This company hurt by currency depreciation to the us and currency appreciation to Europe. How often has that happened to you in your trading and life.

"SodaStream Maker Thwarted by Currency Troubles"

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I find this a prevailing factor 2015 in the Orlando Resort market. Strengthening US currency worldwide is a double whammy: first the resorts see reduced foreign tourist flow. Room Occupancy figures languish, and shrinking top line eventually feeds into a deficit bottom line. How long can a resort in an over-built market like Orlando operate at a loss? So the seller will become progressively more distressed as we move from 2015 seasons into 2016. I see a brief period looming when properties will be given away. Chinese or other foreign investors will be priced out of US bidding by their own depreciating currencies. The Chinese were purchasers of over 25% of all hotels sold in Australia this year - and that's thanks to AUD devaluation by 20%. Similar devaluation is on the way in EUR, CAD and most other open to foreign investment regions…So bargains of our generation may well be abound in US resort property market, and that's something worth heed and preparation for a speculator these days

Feb

27

 Orlando has always been warm and exciting each of the dozens of times my family has visited. A few Bearish observations of this Mid Winter Break, nonetheless.

Firstly, we're seeing another ticket hike for Disney parks. In tune with price inelastic never-subsiding demand for passes, park hikes actually hit the 100-million plus annual visitors hard. Hotel occupancy may well suffer from it. I see widespread bleeding permeating within the hotel industry, and I have actually started preliminary negotiations on behalf of private investors to take over the ownership of an area resort. My speculation is that the theme as such is timeless, and that it should prominently figure on every bargain hunter's list.

Another curious observation is that a prominent RV rental operator Moturis (of Germany) has folded its US operation as of 2015. Truly, things appear gloomiest right before the bottom is reached. I'm sure that if Moturis had the vision to foresee the sharp Oil and Gasoline price collapse into 2015, they would've not proceeded with their folding plans. But the $3-4 gas of the last few years did eventually break their backs.

Another temporary casualty is SeaWorld. Plagued by a variety of short term troubles, from Shamu accident to the dolphin rights demonstrators outside, they got taken over by Blackstone Group and promptly halved the price of non-resident Annual Passes! Incredible bonanza, which in my estimation will not last more than a year. Get them while you can!

Also (I forgot to add): strengthening US currency has been acting to price out potential foreign buyers. Chinese investors are concentrating on bargains flashing mainly by devalued AUD, and possibly EUR and CAD as well

Feb

4

 1. The January barometer has become a Judas goat for the weak to be slaughtered having failed big when down the last 3 times, in 2009, 2010, and 2014 with average subsequent rises in double digits each time (after holding in 2008) but failing in 2005 and 2003.


2.
The stock markets swoon in last few hours on Friday, Jan 30 was 10th worst in last 15 years.

3. Some constructal numbers of the week: gold below 1300, SPU below 2000, and wheat below 5.00, and vix above 20.

4. The best book on science I have read is Michael Munowitz Principles of Chemistry. Some other great books I am reading is Paco Underhill Why We Buy (does for buying what we should do for the market in terms of scientific analysis), Russ Roberts How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life (applies the theory of moral sentiments to how to live happily in current days), Paul Moskowitz and Jon Wertheim Scorecasting (applies sabermetrics and counting to our favorite sports shibboleths), Michael Begon, Townsend, and Harper Ecology 4th edition (the best selling standard ecology book these days) and William Esterly The Tyranny of Experts (how planning leads to poverty compared to the invisible hand), Chris Lewit The Secrets of Spanish Tennis (gives some great footwork drills the Spanish use to rise to top), Lamar Underhood The Duck Hunter's Book (the most beautiful writing about fauna I have ever read and reread that makes you long for the beauty and poetry of bygone pastimes) Uri Gneezy and John List The Why Axis (uses pseudo experiments in real life and contrived anthropogical settings to attempt to prove liberal shibboleths like why genetics and incentives don't matter), David Hand The Improbability Principle (why miracles are likely by chance). That's enough.

5. The service rate paid by the world's most sanctimonious billionaire has risen from 2.5% to 9.5% on quarterly ebit this last reported quarter.

6. The ratio of stocks to bonds is at a 1 year low.

7. Gold is playing footsie with 1300 and SPU with 2000

8. Crude broke a string of 15 consecutive weekly declines with a 7.5% rise this week finally showing that futures moves to telescope reductions in supply the way Heyne elegantly shows they do.

9. The pythagorean theory of baseball runs scored for and against is a statistical due to random numbers, completely consistent with chance and has nothing to do with any recurring tendencies or baseball tendencies.

10. When my kids and relations start calling me worrying about how far the stock market is likely to fall, it's bullish. Conversely when they all start apps, it's time to wonder whether that goose has been plucked.

anonymous writes:

As to point 1.

I posit that all 'indicators', techniques and strategies in the public domain are worse than useless as presented. Within this I include everything preprogrammed into trading software like Bloomberg or Tradestation, the 'January effect', every indicator written about in Futures magazine etc… There are a few public strategies that some firms have made money from but the volatility is enormous and no note is made of survivor bias of others who used the strategy. There are then the preprogrammed techniques available that can be very useful but only as part of a bigger trading process. These last are probably less pernicious than claptrap like the RSI.

It belittles us all to discuss these things.

Consider it this way– everything that makes its way into a magazine or gets programmed into trading software is detritus from the core of truly predictive strategies.

If there is anything to be gained from this it is that you have to do your own homework. 

Larry Williams writes: 

With all due respect you are way off base on this issue; you mean to say OBV is useless, that seasonals have no value that volatility breakouts are worthless, that Bollinger bands are junk and select price patterns have no value? COT is just a joke, that watching spreads and premiums is the same as an Ouija board? Delivery intentions tell us nothing and advancing stocks, volume and Open Interest reflect nothing?

There are lots of great tools in public domain, just as there are good saws and hammers but it takes a good carpenter to make them work.

Anatoly Veltman writes:

Paragraph 1 falls apart on many levels: so what that "it" failed in 2009 and 2010 at price levels triple and double the 2015 level? So what that "it" failed in 2014 - then via principle of alternating years, "it" better work in 2015! But most of all: in day and age of still ZIRP manipulation, what historical market stats? The 2009-2010 were onset of QE, and 2015 is sunset!

Ed Stewart writes:

Taking into account changing cycles, I tend to disagree. I think there is quite a bit of stuff in the public domain that is very worthwhile.

For starters, a careful reading of Victor's book revealed many more specific ideas than it seemed on a casual reading, which I'm sure many/most here know. I have actually made more than decent money with a few ideas (gasp!) I found in the first market wizards book. Larry's book is a bit of a brain dump (which I always like, no offense there), but once again I found some good ideas in it.

I made (for me, not relative to a big fund manager) very significant profits in 2012-2013 using concepts that I first learned about (If I recall) on Falkenstien's blog, and for a time I tried to get a fund started to trade that market. My thought is that sometimes the market is rich for a particular approach do to a counterparty paying a massive premium, consequently sometimes these things go on even when everyone doubts them (which is why they might keep working).

I think the key to public domain stuff is that if one gets the concept behind a good rule-set there might be 1000 other rules related, waiting to be discovered that might be more attuned to the current cycle of market behavior.

Another is in combining ideas. For example in my way of seeing things there are environments were "naive" strategies are very effective - it is a matter of if u can catagolize that environment and then if there is some persistence to it in the next period (My finding is that there often is), though never perfect.

One last thing I learned is (perhaps contradicting the above) Don't ever write anything and assume that no one will reverse engineer and map out every qualitative thing you write. I had a trading blog that admittedly was mostly goofy stuff i wrote to draw free traffic from google, but also some pretty good core ideas I have made good hay with. Then one week I got emails from two different guys (one a big algo firm, the other an execution algo guy at MS) basically saying, "hey, I mapped out these ideas ideas, they really work - thanks!". The next week I took the blog down. So my conclusion is while some good stuff is in the public domain, don't put anything of value in the public domain yourself, even in vague terms not intended to attract a sophisticated audience. 

Stefan Martinek writes:

From whatever I tested, +90% does not hold or does not improve the base case. Few areas are fine despite being in public domain. They can be further developed. It also helps to start PC at least 250-350 times per year, and make tests before forming opinions. There are so many people with beliefs but when you ask them "show me the codes", there is nothing to show. Sometimes an argument goes that you can take anything and make it working, making the dog fly; I agree but I do not think it is a good use of time.

Jan

29

 1. The key bellweather these days is the Dax.

2. The reason The Knicks won 3 in a row was that they got rid of Smith. He was the rotten egg that ruined the barrel. After losing 16 in a row they won 3 in a row. The market went down 5 in a row then up 4 in a row. The market learns from sports team.

3. Every situation in baseball and basketball including whether a fielder should have made a put out is captured on video and quantified these days. The book Mathletics by Wayne Winston uses regression analysis to find the value of each player and each play in the major American games. A better technique would be montecarlo simulation. Often Winston makes the part whole fallacy of fitting many variables to an outcome and then reporting an improvement from a naïve strategy. The pythagorean theorem gives good results in baseball, and basketball, and it could do the same in market. Use the ration amount gained in rises /divided by amount lost on losses to predict the % of wins. But there is the part whole fallacy in it. Naturally given the distribution of gains and losses, if you know how many points gained and losses there were, it's going to give you a great estimate by simulation of the games won, that will do much better than the squares of James et al.

4. I've given up on dealing with the big low priced broker as they now add a risk fee to the regular commissions, but it seems like a great stock to buy, as they leave no contingency unopened in order to make a profit at the expense of their clientele. Good bye to any thought of option trading also as I recently had a position with $1,000 of premium with a few days to expiration where the required margin was close to 1 big. The thought too smart by half comes to mind.

5. The main reason that stocks go up more than bonds and the explanation for the dimsonian 70,000 fold a century multiple you make is the power of compounding on a base of the return of capital. It has nothing to do with dividends. However, the differential between earnings price ratio and 10 year rates continues to rise, and that is extraordinarily bullish for stocks for much the same reason as above.

6. Reading Roman history, one sees the wisdom of Nock's idea that the only thing worth studying in history is the Roman and Greek history because everything happened there that will happen again. The prelude to the Crusades is particularly relevant today.

7. The Nasdaq refused to go down with every other equity down on Friday.

8. Gold is now playing footsie with the round of 1300 the same way it did with 1200 last year. But of course everyone was bearish last year so it went up a fast 100 bucks in 2015 proving the old adage that the things that go down the most in 1 year go up the most the next year. However, I stopped trading gold except in small quantities because one can only predict a day or so, and you can't get in or out of a position with poise when your numbers tell you to do so.

9. The Asian markets amazingly go down even more on each meaningless survey than the US or European markets. Of what significance is it that the growth rate in China forecast is lower by 0.1 % from time to time from 7.6% to 7.5 %.

10. One should never forget that once the Fed changes a qualitative rate, the average run in the same direction is 10 or 12 further changes, i.e. a run of 10 in the same direction.

11. I can never read a text on chemistry or physics without getting a million ideas as to how their foundations and findings and experiments provide vast insights into our field.

12. How much does supply have to go down in the oil industry for oil to start moving up again.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

On 10. The upcoming FED rate hikes: yes, historically, it has been observed that once official hikes or cuts got rolling, they wouldn't stop for that many counts to come. And of course, it is VERY advisable to position yourself in advance for another re-run of the scenario. Curiously, that's exactly where the profit will be made: on an anticipatory position. Because once the first hike occurs, I'm not at all sure that history will play an infallible guide this time around. Why? Because what we've had in the current cycle with ZIRP was unprecedented, and thus this time may be different: after a hike or two and a market upheaval, the FED may reverse back to manipulation.

Jan

18

 "Three Card Monte Scam Artists Return to Midtown"

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) in a way played a good game of 3 Card Monty the past few years with market participants. The winning card was where the rate was going to be. On September 6, 2011 the SNB set a peg for the EuroSwiss rate at 1.2 when prevailing market rates where approximately 1.1, a depreciation of the Swiss Franc of about 9%. Between September 6, 2011 and January 15, 2015 the EuroSwiss rate traded between 1.20 and 1.2650, a roughly 5% range. On January 15, 2015 the SNB removed the 1.2 floor and at the extreme the EuroSwiss market rate went close to .8500, a move of about 30%. Who played the game? Who controlled the cards? Who were the shills? I could not help but recall my own adventures in 3 Card Monty and loss of a $50 bill as a student playing Holden Caulfield in Times Square circa 1983.

What trading lessons might there be in the move by the SNB and subsequent moves in markets? How can these lessons be embodied to provide a future playbook of offensive and defensive plans? Following some delirium from trading the markets the past few days some clarity came to mind on some runs the past day or two. First, some empathy to all have may lost in the market this past week. One close friend of many years described the feeling just 30 minutes after the SNB decision by saying " I feel like I just got my leg blown off, I can barely think straight".

10 rules, lessons, and examples I have found effective and illustrative.

1. Find and trade markets where your edge is the greatest.
2. Avoid markets were the probability of rule changes and lack of transparency is present.
3. Think of and imagine market scenarios others fail to.
4. Fundamental macroeconomic forces will ultimately prevail.
5. Trading time frames and profit objectives though must coincide with what the market is giving you at any one time.
6. Quantify risk with a multidimensional perspective, not just by one or two measures such as VAR or a price stop.
7. Learn from history. Jay Gould and his attempts to corner the gold markets in the late 1860's. The Russian default of 1917 and 1998. The European Rate Mechanism break up. The Tequila crisis of 1994. The Asian financial crisis.
8. Be deadly serious, as Gichin Funakoshi said "You must be deadly serious in training". If you have a position make it a meaningful size and monitor it carefully. I recall many comments from fellow traders the past few years saying something like "I am long EuroSwiss just to have some on but not really watching it."
9. Define and use a trading methodology that incorporates a process and framework that works for you. Inclusive in this should be a daily routine that includes diet, exercise, family time, etc.
10. Seek out catalysts for CHANGE in markets. Where are the forces, in a Newtonian like law of motion, building up the greatest to cause a CHANGE and movement in markets?

What further elaborations and examples might there be?

Stefan Martinek writes: 

I was thinking about it recently. Great list. I would only add: (a) Be prepared that liquidity in any market can disappear regardless of historical data or experience; (b) Mind counterparty risk.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Excellent lessons from John. The dilemma here is of common variety, though. Similar to an individual smaller stock: you're either an insider, or a mark. In case of the SNB last few years: you were either in bed with the devil, or you were exposed to a chance of a -100000% annualized loss on any given random day
 

Jan

12

 On December 20, 2011, at 9:38am, Jeffrey Buckalew, a successful investment banker and pilot, departed Teterboro, NJ bound for Atlanta in his Socata TBM 700 turboprop along with his wife, their two children, a business associate and the family dog. By 10:05, they were all dead.

The NTSB declared the probable cause(s) of the accident to be:

The airplane's encounter with unforecasted severe icing conditions that were characterized by high ice accretion rates and the pilot's failure to use his command authority to depart the icing conditions in an expeditious manner, which resulted in a loss of airplane control.

Happily, I wasn't working that morning, but I worked that sector for 25 years and the controller who was working the aircraft when it went down is a friend of mine.

The accident highlights a couple of issues that are highly relevant to trading. First, the threat of complacency which can lead to a failure to recognize that a dangerous situation is developing, and second, the need to take action to correct the situation immediately. We must be vigilant and nimble.

This excellent video by AOPA's Air Safety Institute gives a thorough discussion of the accident and its causes. I was particularly keen on the last two minutes or so (transcribed below) and it's insights. In the first paragraph, replace the word aircraft with "systems" and aviation and flying with "trading" and you can see what I mean.

Sometimes experience harms more than it helps. Rather than making us more vigilant, it can lead to a sort of comfortable complacency, not only about the dangers we face, but about our own capabilities and those of our aircraft. Complacency is arguably aviation's most common vice, and one of the hard truths about flying is that it's sometimes punished with extraordinary severity.

The pilot of N731CA was in the clouds for a total of approximately five minutes. Roughly two minutes passed between his first indication to ATC that icing was a problem and the beginning of the final plunge.

It takes time for the human mind to spin up when suddenly confronted with a problem. It takes time to recognize that things have changed and process the idea that an extraordinary response is called for. All during that time, part of the mind is fighting against the new reality, arguing "stay the course".

Two minutes isn't much time, but it's enough time. Enough time to make a decision, declare an emergency and reverse the climb. Or, just push the nose over and worry about ATC later.

Or at least, that's what we'd like to think. The truth of the matter, which is that two minutes really isn't much time for someone who is surprised, conflicted and almost certainly frightened, is decidedly less comforting.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

Yes, there is an adage that biggest losses come immediately following biggest gains. It's also possible that big gains may follow big gains. My explanation is that what brought the initial big gains was the increase in volatility.

Gary Rogan writes: 

So if either big losses or big gains follow big gains what is one supposed to do after big gains?

Stefan Martinek adds: 

Theoretically, we should de-leverage and adjust for volatility (I assume our initial position was volatility normalized). Practically, doing nothing and ignore some vol. spike usually does not hurt as much as believed especially for long vol. strategies. Exit/adjustment is therefore different if strategy does well in storms or if it is killed by storms. Some trading storms are good.

Nov

21

 "Dear, why are you getting up, you've told me a million times that you can't make money over night. Do your patterns show anything?"

"I have a hunch today. The centrals are all going to follow Japan and bull things up. There's much potential energy out there. I have a little position in China."

"How many times have you told me that you won't trade Asia again after what they did to you in (she looks around 3 times), Thailand."

3 hours pass. China lowers its rates. The European, US, and Asian markets have one of the 3 or 4 biggest rises ever.                                          

"Honey, they're way up."

"But they were at a high yesterday. You're not short are you?"                     

"No, this time is different, they gave us a break for once."               

"In that case you should take some chips off the table and send it to me for a rainy day."

"I knew you'd say that Susan. It's going to be a very happy black Friday and Christmas out there. The wealth effect et al".                                

"From the gleeful tone in your voice, I know that you better call it a day today and take a cold shower. Santa's going to have some black coals for your stocking unless you send that wire to  me".

Anatoly Veltman comments: 

Should the announcement be viewed as a very temporary factor? Or is it a policy turn?

Jim Sogi writes: 

Seems a lot of the action has been happening at night. Not sure if its the Asians, or the Europeans or both pushing things around when things are thin and sleepy. Then the day session comes around and its like molasses sets in or the freeze slowing everything down. I remember some studies Brent and others did a while back that showed most of the market gains came from the overnight session. c-o vs o-c. Recently it seems like there are more violent moves, which are reversed during the day. 

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I have one guess to venture. See, preponderance of participation during Asia and Europe is of good old directional nature: only those who are willing to stick their neck out place orders through out those hours. Alas, during the U.S. hours participation is dominated by U.S.-domiciled penny-pinching algos, who remain market-flat.

David Lillienfeld asks: 

Naive thought: Could folks in China be using the Shanghai-HK link to buy shares there and then try to sell the corresponding ADRs in the US or Europe?

Nov

19

 You have to admire the diplomacy, sagacity, and self interest of the Saudis. All that's missing is that they're trying to increase their profits to "save the environment and prevent climate change".

Saudi Arabia Will Support Stability in Oil Markets: Crown Prince

By Wael Mahdi Nov. 15 (Bloomberg)

– Saudi Arabia will continue its balanced policy and positive role to support stability in international petroleum markets, Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud says at G-20 Summit in Brisbane, according to state-run Saudi Press Agency.

* Says Saudi Arabia will take into consideration the interests of producing and consuming nations
* Saudi Arabia invested in spare capacity to support stability in global energy markets therefore supporting global economy growth
* NOTE: Oil-Price Rout Seen Deepening by IEA as Pressure on OPEC Mounts
* NOTE: Saudis Reject Talk of OPEC Market Share War as Crude Tumbles
* NOTE: OPEC Diplomacy Picks Up From Iraq to Libya Amid Oil Plunge

Anatoly Veltman comments: 

Anyone privy to a study of how each oil-producing nation has or has not invested in spare capacity in the years of $100 windfall prices? Why windfall? Well, yes, if the world operated decades at $ 20-30, then of course recent decade of $ 70-140 should have been viewed a windfall. I wonder if similar study has been done on gold producers, who until 2000 managed to stay in business at $ 300-400 but then reduced/abandoned their hedging programs as price jumped over $ 500 and all the way to $ 1,900…Silver producers who lived on $ 4-5.50, but didn't all duly appreciate the windfall of $ 18-49…Copper producers, who lived most of their lives below $ 1.00, but then treated $ 3-4 as a new normal. 

Nov

19

 Tom Wiswell wrote all his proverbs so that they'd be true in board games, life, and markets. Since the board games are models and teachers about life in many respects, he didn't have to stretch too far, to make the life and markets part work. Here's one:

"If I hadn't gone there", "if I hadn't made that capture," "if I hadn't sacrificed a piece". If it were not for the "ifs", we'd all be champions."

Okay. Here's mine. "If she hadn't spoken at the conference", "If I had woke up 1 hour later", "If my limit had been filled", "if the announcement had come one day earlier", "if it hadn't had the weak close the previous day", "if the auction results had been announced in the morning", "if the margin call had not come", "if my friend hadn't been bearish also", "if the earnings report had been issued before the close", "if the public were not so stupid to think that these ephemeral numbers like consumer confidence and philly fed, had deep significance", "if the Fed governor had spoken up just one hour earlier", "if they only realized that the tapering is deflationary", "if the planes had landed just two hours earlier"… I would be a wealthy maann.

What would you add to that one?

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

A revolutionary thought crossed my mind. We entered the new millennium knowing two investments that couldn't go wrong: stocks and real estate. So the Central authorities created conditions for real estate to go wrong by 2007. More recently, the Central authorities had made stocks the only game in town, and made government borrowing so desperately desirable that citizens pay for the privilege of financing the activity. May there be something "unexpected" in the wings for centuries long history of investing?

Nov

19

 How many times does one read about this market or the other entering a "bear market". And how many unfortunates liquidate without impunity based on the terrible words hastening themselves to their underplus.

Anatoly Veltman comments: 

This sure is true about selling into profound weakness, like a straight drop of 10% or 20% or 30% or whatever %. But selling into a straight three-fold five-year rise may be justified. Every price will be seen twice (?). 

Kora Reddy comments: 

Every price will be seen twice (?) -> ain't it applicable only for upside prices in S&P 500 Index, not for the downside prices and/or Japan…

For example, since 1980, on closing basis, the S&P 500 index had hit 599 All Time High's (ATH) out of 8798 trading days. Of those 599 ATHs, 25 ATH closes (including the three readings in this month) were never revisited. The previous ATH breakout, so far, and that was never seen again was on 17th Oct 2013 $SPX close of 1733.15 below the ATH closings that were never seen again… 

Date             SPX    Future Lowest Close
7-Nov-14    2031.92    2038.25
6-Nov-14    2031.21    2031.92
5-Nov-14    2023.57    2031.21
17-Oct-13    1733.15    1741.89
29-Jan-96    624.22    626.65
15-Nov-95    593.96    596.85
12-Sep-95    576.51    576.72
11-Sep-95    573.91    576.51
8-Sep-95    572.68    573.91
7-Sep-95    570.29    572.68
6-Sep-95    570.17    570.29
5-Sep-95    569.17    570.17
16-Jun-95    539.83    542.43
15-Jun-95    537.12    539.83
14-Jun-95    536.47    537.12
13-Jun-95    536.05    536.47
2-May-95    514.86    519.19
27-Apr-95    513.55    514.26
13-Mar-95    490.05    491.88
10-Mar-95    489.57    490.05
24-Nov-92    427.59    429.05
13-Feb-86    217.4    219.76
7-Feb-86    214.56    215.92
22-Jan-85    175.48    176.53
21-Jan-85    175.23    175.48

Bold were just some big rounds. Apart from that, nothing special about them.

Nov

9

 The reason the NY sports teams perform so much worse than their inflated salaries would predict is that they suffer from the diffuse and variegated nature of culture in NY, so that other things besides sports can take center stage, the way sports do in smaller cities. All the best soccer teams tend to come from midsized industrial cities where the only activities that holds everyone together is the sports team. And players come there knowing they will be lionized. On another front, the big cities demand high visible stars as an offset to all the other things they can idolize. And the owners have to give the fans what they want by hiring stars in their 30s, in the declining years of their ability, to give the fans a rise, and that decimates their bottom line and ability to field good teams. It's related to a line of studies now being bruited in the academic literature that shows that the size of the chairman's signature in the annual report is inversely related to performance.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I wonder if the gold market reflected that phenomenon last week. First came the news of record Bank of Russia purchases in September that catapulted them into the world fifth size of ownership among the sovereign Central Banks. The gold market promptly plunged to a new four year low on the news. Then on Friday, their Chair said they might sell some gold to defend the rouble–and the gold market erupted higher to score its best rally of the year.

Oct

6

 The book Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto, the best book on nature I have read, is a 1 1/2 year chronicle about the connection of a naturalist and artist who lived as a turkey, the most human of birds. It teaches you about the life of humans, the relation between romance and affection, the beauty and artistry of nature, the connections between all things including animals and humans, and how to be part of and leader of a group. One comes away from it with a reverence for the turkeys and Joe Hutto, and many ideas for how to trade the markets better, and live a better life.

Hutto imprinted himself on two dozen wild turkey eggs when they hatched, a thing he has done with foxes, deer, monkeys, waterfowls and many others. He lived and foraged, dreamed about, and protected the turkeys each day, until they grew into independent adults. There's mutual love between them memorialized in such passages as "I have never kept better company or known more fulfilling companionship. Our communications although somewhat abstract is completely satisfying and out interests are identical: plants, insects, reptiles, birds, mammals. We are driven by the same engine, and in spite of our divergent morphology, and intellectual approach, I find that our similarities are greater than our differences." Hutto mixes scientific knowledge and studies about animal behavior with the documentary so that one gets an education about ethology, ecology, psychology, and geology seamlessly and painlessly from a reading.

The Turkeys, spend most of their time on the ground walking on two feet, communicating and sensing like humans, and grow to be close in size to our size. They contain within them the instincts developed from 20 million years of evolution, and all it takes is a trigger from their daily life for them to know exactly the right thing to do. They are totally exuberant and enthusiastic and teach us to enjoy the present moments with gusto. As Hutto says: "They are more alert, sensitive and aware, they are vastly more conscious than I. In many ways, they are more intelligent… Every day I see that the most important activity of the turkey is the acquisition and assimilation of knowledge. They are curious to a fault, they want a working knowledge of every aspect of their surroundings, and their memory is impeccable."

 Hutto himself is an admirable person. He is a can do person who loves nothing more than building things, eating a grasshopper along with the turkeys, painting a scene about nature, and picking up a dozen rattle snakes with a garden hoe and transporting them to a new home. I particularly admire his ability to withstand the thousands of insect bites from gnats and Florida black bugs, the constant wetness from perspiration that cause him all sorts of pain and soreness that arise in the day and fray with the turkeys. Yes, this life was difficult, but he notes it was easy compared to his previous imprinting study of water fowl where he lived with them for 6 months, submerged half way in tide pools, with alligators stalking him and his charges 8 hours a day. Without further ado, but recommending the book and accompanying PBS documentary wholeheartedly, I turn to the 15 or 20 things I took away from it that should help us with our trading.

1. Seriousness

The turkeys are the favorite prey of many animals, and parasites, and have to be very careful from birth that they don't die. As a consequence, they are very serious about learning at all times, and never allow anything out of the ordinary to escape them. While they are exuberant and enthusiastic, they don't have time for frivolity. Like the turkeys, the market person is always prey to disaster, and must not be distracted during the fray.

 2. Sense of Place

The turkeys like certain places and will speed up to get to them, and once they get there just relax and admire the beauty and majesty of it. They especially enjoy ponds and edges. The market person has certain landscapes that they should look forward to, and should expedite their passage to them, and take full advantage of their beauty and profits potential.

3. Interconnections

The turkeys often join flocks of other species, including jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, cardinals, wrens, gnat-catchers. The birds are attracted to the movements of other birds. On occasion, the market person must know that all markets move together. The normal negative correlations don't work. The bid moves in one market carry over to the others. Try to find the mechanism that creates this, but also be alert that one big move can presage another.

4. Curiosity

Nothing escapes the turkey's attention. Nothing new can happen without them investigating it and assimilating it into their daily life. They won't move on until they understand it. They never forget once they have uncovered it. The market person must be alert to all new things, all unusual moves, all crazy events that cause big moves. For example, on Tuesday, the market dropped a 1/2 % in a minute on news that one man in Texas had contracted Ebola. It was meaningless for its impact on the total economy but the move itself was a preamble to one of the biggest drops the next day in market history.

 5. Edge areas

The turkeys loves to forage in areas that are between forests and farmlands, wetlands and drylands, pastures and creeks, pines and oaks. The edge lands are more interesting, provide a better variety of food, and provide more areas of escape. The edge of markets are great opportunities for us. The time between one market open and another open, the moves that occur during and after the fixings, and reopenings, the times that pit markets close and electronic markets open, the times between work and lunch, are all grist for an opportune study and alacritous attempt to profit.

6. Acquisition of Knowledge

The turkey's main business during the day is gaining knowledge. Any object that they haven't met must be assimilated. All new things must be examined by each turkey. The market person should have a wide canvass. He should study science, economic, psychology, politics, and turkeys. Whenever a new relation occurs, whenever a new crazy reason for a market move is on the cusp, the market person must pause to understand it.

7. Fossil Ancestry

The turkeys have 20 million years of evolution to teach them about all things that have ever been life threatening to them. They instinctively know which reptiles are dangerous, which insects are edible, which places they are safe. They rely on instincts leavened by knowledge of the current environment. The humans have fossil ancestries and instincts also. When you feel your color changing, your hair raising, your sense of fear arising, know that your tens of thousands of ancestors are sending you a warning, and pay attention to your instincts.

 8. Color

The turkeys will try to remove any clothing on Hutto that they don't like. Blues are their favorite color, and reds their most hated. Market persons should wear colors that are not distracting to their colleagues, and don't interfere with their quiet contemplation.

9. Skirmish Lines

The turkeys move in a line so that when one turkey harasses an insect but doesn't catch it, and the insect flies away, the turkeys behind it are able to catch it. They maintain that order all the time so that they are optimally formed for the flock to capture the maximum of prey. The humans who trade markets maintain a line of trades so that if the first one doesn't lead to the desired move, the trades right behind it perhaps on a scale down or scale up will do the trick. Similarly, the big market operators can't move the markets by themselves. They form a skirmish line with their colleagues by having meetings where they agree that the market should be down or up, and then go to the old stream media now the new social media to broadcast their views, and make sure that the personages in the line next to them can move the food in the desired direction.

 10. Sensory abilities. The birds can detect movement and smells and color to a discrimination level that is almost supernatural. They can spot a hawk at 2,000 feet above. They are always alert and never rest without the protection of cover and their leader. They can smell all their predators and prey and investigate all new things with their beaks. The market person must always keep his eyes and ears open and should never wear headphones or any other distraction.

11. Herding versus Following

The turkeys like to be together at all times. They have numerous calls to assemble. And when they can't see their brothers and sisters they are unhappy and nervous. They never wish to be alone. And yet, they know that Hutto is their mother and leader. They wish and know they should follow him, but he must never do anything that disperses or confuses them. Hutto's relation with the turkeys is similar to many trading mangers, and leaders on a trading floor that I have seen. He stands at the front and reports various ideas and opportunities, and trades that he is doing, and the herd of traders and salesmen follow him in a flock of related activity. Never forget that humans have the herd like tendency of birds in a flock, and as Galton points out the mentality of oxen who will never lead but follow a leader with blind ambition. Okay, that's a start.

Steve Ellison comments: 

In point 4 you write: "For example on Tuesday, the market dropped a 1/2 % in a minute on news that one man in Texas had contracted Ebola. It was meaningless for its impact on the total economy but the move itself was preamble to one of the biggest drops the next day in market history."

This is a very interesting example. I suspect the 10-point decline in the S&P 500 after the unemployment report on July 8, 2011 was in the same category. The S&P 500 fell another 130 points in the next month and did not regain its pre-July 8 level until late October. I generally think most news is discounted before it happens, so any market reaction to news is likely to be reversed. However, there may also be cases in which a reaction to news exposes an underlying supply/demand imbalance. Finnegan moves, such as the 2010 "flash crash" and quick recovery (only to have the S&P 500 drop back to the flash crash low 3 weeks later and continue down), may be in the same category.

Jim Sogi writes: 

Viciousness. I've heard turkeys can be vicious. I believe trading takes a bit of viciousness. The reality is you are taking money from someone. You may be ruining someone. It takes a certain attitude to do this. It's abstract as you are screened from the other side in anonymity behind the screen. But I've seen the reality of it. A trader needn't have a vicious or a terrifying mien. Take the Chair, for example: he seems mild mannered in person, but underneath there is a drive that makes him a good trader. Please don't take this wrong, I don't mean he's vicious. He's the most magnanimous man I've ever met.

Andrew Moe writes: 

I know HFT people who unquestionably take money from someone every millisecond. They are extremely intelligent, geniuses of sciences, seem to be kind; yet they're dedicated full-time to the most direct "taking money from someone" a fraction of an inch behind Bernie Madoff

The only reason they are able to do this is that they provide a necessary function for the market at the lowest possible cost. Perhaps one should take heed of the original brilliant post in this thread and examine the why and the where of how HFT fits into the market ecology. What do they eat? How do they hunt? What do their tracks look like (nanex will show you some pretty pictures)? Do they herd? What are their defenses? When are they weak? The turkeys undoubtedly know all this and more about anything that might be stalking them. Once you understand the predator, it is much easier to avoid being the prey.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

"You are taking money from someone" And do you say the same about someone who is perpetually long stocks?

It's interesting to hear your opinions on the subject. I'll tell you one thing for sure: I know HFT people who unquestionably take money from someone every millisecond. They are extremely intelligent, geniuses of sciences, seem to be kind; yet they're dedicated full-time to the most direct "taking money from someone" a fraction of an inch behind Bernie Madoff.

anonymous writes: 

My 2 cents

The investor's wealth ultimately comes from flows that derive from the real economy such as eventual dividends, buybacks, etc. I would include the return of leveraging equity which is financed by "real" economic activity. This is particularly true when the finance rate is in some way subsidized by state intervention, which is frequently the case.

Trading and speculating -if successful- takes advantage of the money flows of other traders and market participants. Many of these strategies (at least what I am familiar with) are based on the concept of "urgency." My finding is that ideas with persistence are in effect "giving the market what it wants" even if what it wants is mistaken if viewed from an X period(s) of time later perspective, which is where the profit is made.

In the real world there is much overlap, however I see these as two distinct sources of potential return.

If one believes (as I do) that the primary purpose of financial markets to price things (equity, debt, commodities, currencies), it makes sense that there is a competition to set prices and achieve equilibrium (which is never reached). If one does not want to participate in this contest they can hold for very long periods and seek to get the investor's return that derives from the "real" economy and leveraging equity.

My way of seeing HFT is that it occupies the space the floor used to have. They are consistent (the good ones) because they get massive scale and turnover beyond what an individual could achieve trading manually. This is why (once again, the good ones) are so consistent, it is a law of large numbers type effect.

I had the opportunity to invest in such a firm when it was just getting started and the principles were looking for backing. Upon reviewing their business model I felt I could not get a handle on the extreme blow-up risk do to potential operational error. It was outside of my competence level to assess accurately or prudently. I passed and still feel I made a good decision, even though with hindsight the guys were very successful and I would have made a large return. My point in mentioning it is that the great HFT return stream can hide things that are not obvious - particularly operational risk that often appears to be huge (…or at least I tell myself that rather than kick myself for passing). 

Andrew Moe writes: 

I'm glad the thread lives, and it will hopefully develop in a few directions. But one point I raised was very pointed: I was not implying HFT as a sector. I was questioning the moral aspect of a handful, who managed to place themselves into a no-risk pocket within the ecology. Their only risk is CAPEX committed and personal freedom, should lawmaker flip on them one day. But their conscious choice is to operate daily as nothing more than a tax on all participants.

When Mr. Sogi said "taking money from other human", he merely implied competing (and prevailing) within the risk-taking endeavor–not within 1:1000 day risk of loss.

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.

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