Dec

19

 It has been said by many biologists and vets that wild and domestic animals will appear to be healthy while they are really sick or terminally ill. It's a survival mechanism of the most basic order.

Reptiles often exhibit this type of behavior, within a 24 hour period going from relative calm to death spasms, then death. How many players in the markets put up fronts that all is well, while keeping their hand over a cut femoral artery because they are bleeding so badly.

Humans and animals use the same defense mechanism. Animals don't want to get eaten, and traders don't want the competition to know the weakness of their hands, so they act strong.

Dec

15

"It's easier to die when you have lived, than it is to die when you haven't. So I say to all of young people: go make memories, beautiful memories. When the time comes for you to go, you will not go alone."

-Dorian 'Doc' Paskowitz

Dec

2

 An all seeing eye could write a novel about what happened today. Some lessons seem to cry out. Buy on the announcement of the bad news. Gold lost the vote in the mountains, and oil lost the OPEC meeting amid talk of 40 buck oil. They both sent up 10% or so from low. The first day of the month is the most bullish day. Great. Too many people know it. Great time to sell when it don't open the right way. Bonds, nas, and dax finally went down after 12 or 13 of the last 15 up. Nothing goes up forever even stocks and bonds. Gold's price up 50 bucks from its overnight low has nothing to do with deflation. It's beautiful, useful, and a hedge against evil. When the battleship is leaking, that's the time to buy. Commodities all around at 5 year low. They're up 3 or 5% today.

What other things do you see that the all seeing eye should note?

anonymous writes: 

The sneak attack has to come at night, on a holiday, when the Americans, and only the Americans, are eating turkey and on holiday, stuck in airports.

Ken Drees comments: 

The grains at the end of the summer–indeed. 

Gary Rogan writes: 

Something needs to be done to avoid the supposed "government shutdown" by Dec. 11. Talking about it could provide some mild market-related entertainment.

Steve Ellison writes: 

Silver made both a 20-day low and a 20-day high on Monday. Going back to 2006, I find no previous occurrences of such an event.

Craig Mee comments: 

It would appear the commodity turn around was a function of a Friday Monday suicide run created by combined single factors and then astute cover, not by a function of any meaningful low being in and a return to global meaningful growth.

Duncan Coker writes:

March Chicago wheat had a robust move to the upside almost at limit on Monday, which in this case was not mimicked by the other grains, in other words grain spreads got a lot wider.
 

Jeff Watson comments:

Yesterday, the spread between beans and wheat narrowed, and is still narrowing, while the spread widened with corn. Spreads in wheat stayed pretty much in line. Due to arcane exchange rules for the delivery in grains, there is much gamesmanship in the front month that's ready to expire. The gamesmanship comes from the cash side of the business.
 

Nov

19

 Dorian Paskowitz was the patriarch of America's first family of surfing. He died last night at age 93 as a result of complications from a broken hip. He surfed until last year. He was a Stanford educated MD who chucked it all and raised 9 kids in a succession of beat up old 24' RV's traveling to wherever the surf was good.

He did not believe in formal education for his kids, and preferred them to learn from wise people wherever they went. Money meant nothing to him. He was a health guru, and also ran the Paskowitz Surf Camp, which his kids run to this day. He did more for peace in Gaza than any politician by introducing surfing and teaching Palestinian and Israeli kids to surf, and to surf together.

I ran across him and got to know his clan over a 30 year period, and found him to be a perfect gentleman who was always willing to share a wave. Some of his kids are close friends of mine, and it looks like I might be making a quick trip to California for a paddle out in honor of Doc, whenever that happens. Doc and I fundamentally disagreed on everything political and economic, but he still had my respect.

Some notable quotes from Doc regarding health are as follows:

"Some of the most profound realizations that I came to about health did not derive from medicine, but derived from surfing."

"Health is a presence of a superior state of wellbeing, a vigor, a vitality, a pizzazz you have to work for every single day of your life."

His book Surfing and Health is one of the best books on health I have ever read.

RIP Doc.

Nov

5

 The dollar is strengthening. I remember when I was young in the 50s and 60s and the dollar was worth 350 yen, and 7 Francs. Bank accounts paid 5%. The world was a great deal. I wonder if that world will return.

David Lillienfeld writes: 

That was the world in which Jews and blacks couldn't own homes in some neighborhoods and could be refused service at will by any business. It was a world in which someone could be denied a job because of his/her sexual orientation, ditto for renting an apartment/buying a house. It was an era in which when women worked, they were expected to earn a fraction of what their male counterparts did, particularly if they were married since they weren't (it was assumed) the primary source of income for the family. It was a world in which a physician might not inform a patient of a diagnosis of cancer or pressure a patient to participate in a research study after the patient had declined to do so—in some instances, declined repeatedly. It was a world in which a black man with syphilis in a government study would be denied treatment in the interest of learning about the disease's natural history, though without the man having given any consent to be so studied. Ditto for Guatemala men and women, who were infected with syphilis by the US government with the same aim of learning about the natural history of syphilis. That world included an American government which didn't hesitate to listen in phone calls as it pleased and spied on persons as it pleased.

I could go on. There were lots of aspects of that world that were good economically, it's true, but there were lots of downsides, too. Maybe the level of discrimination is the same as back then—just less visible, but I'd like to think that we've matured as a society, as a country, such that there's been a reduction, ideally a significant reduction.

Is today better? Worse? I don't know that I can given an answer other than to note that it's a different world. Would I like our economy to be such that we had the dollar at 350 yen and 7 francs. You bet. But as for the rest of that world, I'm not so sure.

Jeff Watson writes:

But we live in a world where the poorest of the poor can own a smartphone and have the access to information greater than the library at Alexandria, in fact they have all the information of the world available to them. I'm very optimistic for the human race. Our poor are better off than Louis XVI in almost every way.

anonymous writes: 

The central conceit of many well intentioned people is that the poor are dumb and can't find their way around anything. We think the poor need help, and they need our money transferred via politicians to be made whole. As the Chair drums the cadence in our heads, it's "the idea that has the world in it's grip." That conceit needs to go away as it is just wrong. The war on poverty has cost enough to give every poor person a couple hundred grand, but the money has gone to programs, not the recipients. Not all poor are dumb at all, they are victims of circumstance. However, the war on poverty will continue, as will the war on drugs, terrorism etc as there's really big money in it for the insiders. 

Oct

17

 There is kind of a nice but terrifying symmetry in the chart looking at the last two days, with a big red line in the middle.

In candlestick theory when the open and close are the same, it shows some sort of balance between buyers and sellers forming a doji pattern. These kind of things are testable. Also supposed to evidence change in direction when it occurs after a decline or rise.

I imagine in the old days in feudal Japan they would paint their charts for the rice warehouse receipts with a brush and ink while sitting in the tatami mat room in a kimono warmed by a charcoal brazier.

Jeff Watson writes: 

This is a good accompaniment to Sogi-San's mention of rice: Dojima Rice Exchange.

Jim Sogi replies: 

The Seventeenth Century Japanese rice traders relied on horse riders and runners to get the news of the crops and the buying and selling. To beat the time delay one enterprising trader rigged a series of flags on hilltops to relay the info to him in town so he would have the info he needed to place his orders ahead of the other traders. Definitely our kind of guy!

Jeff Watson writes: 

The Japanese taught old man Rothschild a thing or two 50 years before his coup in London. Hail to thee who can get and act on information quicker than the opposition.

Etali writes:

When living in Hong Kong, I learned of the story of an early British banker anxiously awaiting on Victoria Peak for signs of arriving ships from London. Apparently , the banker and shipping crews had worked out a flag signalling system. Certain flags signalled that the business news from Europe was good. Upon seeing the "good" flag, the banker rushed to the exchange to get his buy orders in before the ship from London docked. Other flags indicated the news was bad and of course, the baker dumped shares before anyone else had the news. This particular banker went on to found one of the beginnings of a highly successful British merchant bank.

Balzac: "Behind every great fortune, there is a crime!"

Oct

7

 Finally Ag Commodities are getting a little break after months of straight down. Coffee up 7%. What was the explanation? Strong dollar dampens ags exports. Note that the yen and Euro are getting a little bounce today too after both being in downtrends for months. They are really driving the yen down.  

Jeff Watson writes:

But the question remains…Is Dec corn going to break 3 and are Nov beans going to break 9? Commercial hedging companies sell and deliver if necessary. The selling pressure from hedging companies is a real headwind in your face, even in a bull market. While one has enjoyed a respite from the continual decline in prices, one wonders….has the form changed, is this a bottom, or is this a selling opportunity? For the past year if you sold into strength in the grains and held for a couple of days, you made a very serious return. That's been the form and one wonders if it's changed. I recently got faked out in the grains around an important price point, and left 40% of the money on the table had I cashed in on Friday. Oh well, things could be worse…I'm a terrible poker player, and Ceres is very stingy. 

Sep

22

Trader, from Jeff Watson

September 22, 2014 | 2 Comments

 44 years ago, the Beach Boys went through a major shift and produced some incredible material. One of my favorite songs of theirs is the antithesis of who and what I am. It is called, "Trader," and blames the decline of everything on the spread of people willing to trade goods and services for the mutual benefit of both sides. Still, I love the song because I am above pettiness, will continue to love it, despite the message. My first summer girlfriend in San Diego, turned me on to this when I was 16, and if you saw her you would capitulate also.

Trader sailed a jeweled crown
Humanity rowed the way
Exploring to command more land
Scheming how to rule the waves.
Trader Trader spied a virgin plain
And named it for velvet robes
Wrote home declaring,
"There's a place
Where totally folks are free
(Happily completely)
Nourishment fills the prairies and the hillsides
And animals stalk the mountains and the seaside
And fish abound the lakes and birds the skies
Signed sincerely."

Trader found the jeweled land
Was occupied before he came
By humans of a second look
Who couldn't even write their names shame
Trader said they're not as good
As folks who wear velvet robes
Wrote home again and asked, "Please help
Their breasts I see; they're not like me
Banish them from our prairies and our hillsides
Clear them from our mountains and our seaside
I want them off our lakes so please reply
Signed sincerely."

Trader he got the crown okay
Cleared humanity from his way
He civilized all he saw
Making changes every single day say
Shops sprang over the prairies and the hillsides
Then roads cut through the mountains to the seaside
The other kind fled to hide, by and by,
And so sincerely
Cried."

This song is the antithesis of what I believe, and how I run my life, yet I love it and it will always be on my playlist…maybe for sentimental reasons, who cares. As a side note, when this song was recorded, the author and singer of this song, Carl Wilson was a 20% shareholder in a $150-$200 million dollar value enterprise.
 

Sep

11

Grains, from Jeff Watson

September 11, 2014 | 2 Comments

 One must note that the grain market is on its contract lows. 6 months ago, the mention of $5 Dec wheat would have gotten you laughed out of the room, and we're almost there. Same thing with Dec corn closer to $3 than to $4. Nov Beans blew through the $10 the other day and hasn't looked back yet. The gravitational effect of the nearest buck in the grain markets cannot be over-emphasized. Furthermore, the fundamentals like country movement, crop size, carryover, demand, and a few other things support the lower price theory. When beans were at $10.75, I joked that when they got down to $10, I would probably not want to own them at all. Same thing with $5 wheat.

anonymous writes: 

I have very few kernels of knowledge on the grains. But, hidden in Jeff's note I think are some essential points that apply to markets. First, the power of sentiment/positioning and the force of the subsequent shift or reversal of the same. Second, while moves often take time to develop when they do the move is often faster and farther than expected. Third, the momentum in prices that can be generated and the signaling indicators within those price changes and levels. Fourth, the fundamentals and/or perception thereof and the confluence they might have with other supporting factors. Fifth, how does the psychology and risk around such a situation develop and best be handled in terms of adding, cutting, reducing, etc..

Prospectively we might ask what other markets might display similar conditions now to the grains a few months ago?
 

Sep

10

 The book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, a journalist, is about the formation and the neurophysiological basis for habits and how to change them. I've been interested in this since I was younger. My essay to get into Reed College was about the neurophysiological changes in the brain of the Buddhist monks who meditate for hours everyday. It would take another 25 years before experiments shed any light on this subject. I've also followed behavioral psychology and thought there must be more to it than behaviorists documented.

Apparently the Basal ganglia, a primitive organ in the brain responsible for reflexes is changed when habits form. Habits form on a behavioral feedback loop where there is a cue, a routine and a reward. The habits are subconscious. There is no simple solution because habits are created in a complex environment. It's not always clear what the cue, the routine, or rewards are, and often they're not what first appears.

The author talks about simple habits, experiments with brain damaged patients, about alcoholism and AA, and habits of organizations. Everyone who reads the book wants a simple answer and cure to change their bad habits. It's not that simple. One has to look to see what the cues are and what the true rewards are. The book was a good read, and well documented with notes and sources.

Alston Mabry writes: 

The Power of Habit is a very interesting book. I would recommend, along with it:

Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney and The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge M.D.

Aug

28

 What can be learned from the ice bucket challenge–the challenge task itself, how it has spread, why people enjoy watching it, and how when you search for "ice bucket challenge" on YouTube the next suggestion is "ice bucket challenge fail". The ice bucket challenge fail video reminded me of a stop-stop order that has skidded out of control and exits much worse than expected.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Patrick Stewart has a most elegant way of handling the ice bucket challenge. This meme is transferred similar to a way the Chair described years ago.

Aug

15

 This goes with the chair's admonishment to never play poker with someone named doc. Never play poker with a magician either, you will always lose.

Larry Williams writes:

There is this trick I've seen which is perhaps the all time best card trick. I call you on the phone
a million miles away, you cut a deck and choose a card. I tell you what the card is. 

Seems impossible, until you know how it's done and that's a lot like trading.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Larry, bravo, but do you think
you should let the masses in on this trick? That trick is the bomb and a
variation of that is my current bet of the moment at the 13th hole of
my club. I try to be hush-hush about profit centers like these nice
little bar wagers, and any other prop bet, including wheat, which seems
to be at the center of the board on the craps table lately. The wheat
market's been asking how may ways does it take for the pass to be made 4
times in row with the dice?(I know the answer, just trying to provoke
some good insight from the readers).

Aug

14

This is an enlightening article written in March about crop insurance that should explain some things to the layman.

Aug

11

 In the grain markets, if you don't know who all the players are and what they're doing, you have no business playing. If you are gambling, the grains are just as good of place to lose your money as anything else. Even the best gamblers in the grains are, at minimum playing the pass line, and the house still has that hard to overcome 1.414% edge over them. Is the identity of the players and what they are doing as important in other markets or does the total size of those markets dwarf the individual or commercial? Can an individual move a financial market, for an appreciable time, anymore? In the grain markets the commercial interests expect the speculators to do all the heavy lifting, then skim off the creme and leave the whey to the speculators. Need to check the market in whey, I guarantee there is one.

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? 

Jul

24

Pure random sequences are difficult to artificially generate using computers or algorithms. Some random number generators use natural phenomenon, such as a flame to generate a random sequence. Looking at the ocean waves, or sand dunes it is fair to think of the patterns a being random in the sense one cannot predict where a particular peak or valley will be at a particular time and place. Sailors know this all too well. However, there is an underlying process with its own set of internal rules that generates the the so called random pattern. For waves it is the dynamic between wind, the water surface and the water surface tension and viscosity, the length of the fetch and speed of the wind. Even with such a seemingly random pattern it is possible to predict certain aspects of wave generation such as size, direction with information of the wind speed and direction and duration. Applying the idea to markets, if one could identify the underlying functions would it not be possible to have some predictive ability on the wave size, or in markets volatility as to size time and place as is possible in wave prediction. The navy and NOAA has spent considerable sums on creating models for waves as it is used to time war attacks, landings, how it affect shipping, oil rigs and other industrial needs. Weather prediction is one of the main forefronts of computer science and modeling due to the large number of people affected, and the risks of life and property. Surfers happen to benefit being able to quite accurately predict waves, timing, arrival and size.

What are the winds that drive the markets? Fed stimulus, currency moves, economic forces, upward drift, regulation, bank policies.

Jeff Watson writes:

It is much more difficult than one would think, to generate truly random numbers.

Gary Rogan writes:

While there is no mathematical proof, as far as we know the digits of pi while of course truly deterministic also form a truly normal distribution.

Orson Terrill writes:

How would that be? It seems to me that the 10 digits (0 to 9) would merely have an irregular distribution for any stopping point, but would approach the same number of observations as the number of digits observed approaches infinity. Therefore, the digits would form a uniform distribution, no?…

summary(piVector)

Min.   1st Qu.  Median   Mean   3rd Qu.    Max.

0.000   2.000   4.000   4.443   7.000   9.000

691 decimal points.

Mr. Isomorphism writes: 

Getting arbitrarily long π is pretty easy with the Berkeley Calculator.

$ echo "scale=2222; a(1)*4" | bc -l > pi.2222

(    a(1) == arctan(1) == quarter-circle     )

then in R:
pi.2222 <- scan('pi.2222', 'character')
slice.pi <- strsplit(pi.2222, "")
table(slice.pi)

slice.pi
  .   0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
  1 199 229 230 204 219 230 223 217 227 245

One is then limited only by patience….

It's unclear what a 'normal distribution' of digits would mean, since the normal is defined on [−∞,+∞] and most of its mass is between [−3,+3] … it's not defined on {0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9}…. I think that Ï€ is actually a normal number, which means the digits are distributed uniformly.

Another nice artefact of using bc -l is that with obase=2, obase=16, etc one can play with the question a bit more, as 10 digits is not sacrosanct. The binary expansion of pi

11.00100100001111110110101010001000100001011010001100001000110100101

should have a 50/50 distribution of 0's and 1's if the decimal digits are evenly distributed, and higher bases (imagine base 12837687622234) would count what appear as "longer patterns" in base 10. I believe it's this way of thinking that leads people to say eg the works of Shakespeare are encoded in pi.

Jul

22

"The general welfare"–where would we be without its defenders?

"TLC Wrongly Accused Hundreds of Being Illegal Cabbies in the Past Year"

Jul

22

For 6 years I kept up a daily blog "Masteroftheuniverse" on which I shared a few insights. The blog was well crafted and I had many feature areas. Sadly, family and political pressures made me take it down. One of the areas, my free books download, has been demanded so many times that I resurrected it. If you have any ideas of links to books to add, please send me a PM and I will try to add it.

Jul

9

Here is an easy read. The paper is courtesy of the Kansas City Fed, on the history of agriculture, the booms and busts, other cycle changes, and agriculture's role in the economy, past, present, and future. For a layman, this represents and provides great value.

"Agriculture's Boom Bust Cycles: Is This Time Different?"

Ed Stewart writes:

Thank you for sharing. I wonder to what extent REIT and other capital markets investors will be adding fuel to this cycles' boom and bust experience.

 

Jul

8

Has it ever occurred to you that it is better to have no market instincts than the ones you think you might have? Just curious.

Jul

1

 Even I am starting to take note of the moves in the grains, logabola and then some.

Like the taxi driver commenting on stocks he is buying unsolicited by passengers, this must be some sort of indicator and I offer it as a free fade to the pros on the site.

Jeff Watson writes:

When you think about it, Ceres is the most important market mistress, because everyone has to eat. Even the insiders tread lightly around her, the medieval devices of torture she still employs are very painful.

Jun

16

My dad died on April 6, and I miss him quite badly. He was my best friend, mentor, partner, and confidante. His death has been the hardest thing to deal with in my life, ever….and I have dealt with death before. Father’s day was always an event in our house growing up, even bigger than Mother’s day. It was equal to Mother’s Day in our adult house, and my lovely wife and son always made sure I got a decent amount of swag.

Before my dad died, I spent a lot of time with him reminiscing, and just getting to know him. Over the few months while he was waiting for Charon, he offered much valuable advice. Here is a very tiny sample of some notes I collected, but some tidbits are very apropos for Father’s Day.

1. “Lying to protect someone’s feelings isn’t lying. It’s called empathy.”

2. To my son, “someday during a job interview, the HR guy will ask you “What’s your greatest weakness?” This isn’t an invitation to be honest. This is a test to see how well you can answer a stupid question.”

3. “Debt is oppressive and can be evil if done for the wrong reasons. If you’re going to go into debt for something, make sure it’s worth it.”

4. “Always go for women you think are out of your league…..you will be pleasantly surprised.”

5. “Compliment her shoes.”

6. “Always stand to shake someone’s hand.”

7. “Nice guy’s don’t finish last but the boring ones seem to”

8. “Never allow the little head to do the thinking for the big head.”

9. “Treat the woman of your life like a queen.” “Worship her.”

10. “There’s always money out there, but you need to hustle for it…..it’s not going to drop in your lap.”

11. “When you are forced to do something, don’t complain, the work won’t get done any faster.”

12. “The first one to mention price in any negotiation usually loses.”

13. “When asked for a loan from an acquaintance, respond with, ‘My banker told me he would not invest the bank’s money in grain futures if I would agree to not loan my money out.’ Then hand the acquaintance the banker’s business card.”

14. “There is life outside of business.”

15. “The first one to get angry loses in everything.”

16. “Personal thrift in all areas of life will pay big dividends later.”

17. “When I’m gone, the entire family is your responsibility…..be fair and just.”

Jun

16

I found this article very interesting but highly flawed: "Why Smart People Struggle".

Jun

14

As you might know, my dad died on April 6, and I miss him quite badly. He was my best friend, mentor, partner, and confidante. His death has been the hardest thing to deal with in my life, ever….and I have dealt with death before. Father's day was always an event in our house growing up, even bigger than Mother's day. It was equal to Mother's Day in our adult house, and my lovely wife and son always made sure I got a decent amount of swag. Before my dad died, I spent a lot of time with him reminiscing, and just getting to know him. Over the few months while he was waiting for Charon, he offered much valuable advice. Here is a very tiny sample of some notes I collected, but some tidbits are very apropos for Father's Day.

1. "Lying to protect someone’s feelings isn’t lying. It’s called empathy."

2. To my son, " someday during a job interview, the HR guy will ask you “What’s your greatest weakness?” This isn’t an invitation to be honest. This is a test to see how well you can answer a stupid question."

3. "Debt is oppressive and can be evil if done for the wrong reasons. If you’re going to go into debt for something, make sure it’s worth it."

4. "Always go for women you think are out of your league…..you will be pleasantly surprised."

5. "Compliment her shoes."

6. "Always stand to shake someone's hand."

7. "Nice guy's don't finish last but the boring ones seem to"

8. "Never allow the little head to do the thinking for the big head."

9. "Treat the woman of your life like a queen." "Worship her."

10. "There's always money out there, but you need to hustle for it…..it's not going to drop in your lap."

11. "When you are forced to do something, don't complain, the work won't get done any faster."

12. "The first one to mention price in any negotiation usually loses."

13. "When asked for a loan from an acquaintance, respond with,"My banker told me he would not invest the bank's money in grain futures if I would agree to not loan my money out." Then hand the acquaintance the banker's business card.

14. "There is life outside of business."

15. "The first one to get angry loses in everything."

16. "Personal thrift in all areas of life will pay big dividends later."

17. "When I'm gone, the entire family is your responsibility…..be fair and just."

Jun

8

 Heller wrote in Catch 22:

Seven-cent Maltese eggs cost the sellers in Malta four and one-quarter cents each to procure. Milo is actually buying the eggs from himself in Malta, which means that as a seller there he is making two and three-quarter cents each egg. After he resells the seven-cent eggs to the mess halls for five cents each, he is still making a three-quarter cent profit per egg.

However, it turns out that Milo's Maltese eggs are actually one-cent Sicilian eggs which he has secretly shipped to Malta to drive up their value, yielding him another three and one-quarter cents profit per egg.

In short: in all these dealings, where Milo is the producer, consumer, and middleman (twice), he can afford a two cent per-egg loss, because overall the syndicate is making six cents revenue per egg. And everyone has a share.

I'm involved in a cash grain deal that is turning into something like this.

Duncan Coker writes: 

I can only fictionalize (a la Heller Catch 22) what arbitrage Jeff has in place and the exotic transport involved. Buying Ukraine wheat shipped via ex-Russian military transport vehicle to the Black Sea, to load into barges to go down the Bosphorus to Istanbul. Then by freight via the Suez to Singapore for delivery against the Hong Kong futures sold for August. Just one possibility.

Jun

4

I found this hour long video on why gambling is so bad highly entertaining.

May

13

I have now read the paper sent me by a momentum fan. Our friend, Mr. Zachar, has a poignant phrase to describe such papers: "your own man". The paper consists of a series of hypothetical critiques of momentum, which he then debunks. Somehow he concludes that value beats growth. But all the prospective studies in the last 5 years, show that growth beats value.

The problem with the studies from my viewpoint is that they don't take account of ever changing cycles. The results from the 19th century don't really affect the current, since the strategy was not followed. The problem with studies of value from the past is that they use retrospective studies in one form or another. And the results are highly dependent on trying to find the few 10 bagger stocks that didn't go bankrupt that are still in the files and remain in the lowest decile of price to book.

The other problem from my viewpoint is that they don't take account of the Gordon model. The return on stocks comes from making a high return on capital say 15% and the compounding effect. Momentum and value go against this in one way or another. There are several fund that try to track trend following funds in real life. There's an ARQ managed futures fund that tries to replicate the performance of momentum funds. It's down 7% this year. The fund was started in 2010 and it's down from there. But it still has 6.3 billion in it.

I believe Dimson tried to track the performance of the best versus worst stocks in a year, and found that in 2008 the best performed 80 percentage points worse than the best. Such results would give one pause. I previously reviewed a study from France where the regression results of trend following showed no practical significance, i.e. a strung out beta of 0.03. I would have to study the Fama french data much more closely, to see how much retrospection is involved. But since the results don't hold up in the real world, I will not review the errors in such, too closely. All this is from memory, and I will have to check all the references to get the figures and references correct.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Lots of grain managed futures guys are closing shop. The managers just don't, as Lack says, "get the joke." There's so much liquidity in grains, I would think fund managers would be jumping at the chance to pick my (and C@rgill's) pocket.

May

10

There are many market lessons in this article: "Anarchy and Surfing".

May

6

This is a great article on the similarities between surfing and entrepreneurship. Some market lessons are included.

May

1

 Back in the day in the pits, if one could predict when the market was going to go from half bid to half sellers with a 90% confidence rate, one had a huge edge. That was not uncommon either. Since all the visual and auditory clues have disappeared, along with open outcry, things have changed because of the screen. But it is still possible to tell when a market is going from half bid to half seller's and the edge remains for the patient. To capture the edge, you need to adapt and think outside the box. It's not as easy as when we traded against order flow, but it's not impossible.

Apr

24

 Time is unidirectional and relentless. We can never go back. There are no Mulligans. Music performance is good training to understand time. Music has a beat or a framework and the notes have to fit in in time. Beginners have difficulty with tempo and keeping up with the framework. When they make a mistake they try to stop and go back and redo the part. It doesn't work. The show goes on.

A curious thing about real time is that it fluctuates in tempo. In markets opens, closes, night all have different tempos. When you're in a trade, time seems different. When you're relaxed time is different than when stressed. When you sleep, time disappears to you. Time, in reality according to theory, is relative to speed. Delay or lag in a correlated system is very difficult for people to make proper adjustments to achieve a steady state. This is the thermostat problem. This is the FED's Problem as well. This is a portfolio balancing issue too.

Jeff Watson adds: 

And time only has a circular definition.

anonymous adds: 

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." — Lao Tzu
 

Apr

22

 We need to analyze this. She is unconventional, chatty, attractive. Does she throw the competitors off?

"Victoria Coren Mitchell makes poker history with San Remo victory"

Now Victoria Coren Mitchell has made history by becoming the first two-time winner of one of poker's most prestigious tournaments.

"I think I'm quite quirky in poker because there still aren't many women playing big tournaments," she said.

"I have another job and I sit at the table drinking wine and chatting. Poker's a strange game because it's face-to-face combat and we're trying to knock each other out and take each other's money but at the same time we're all friends."

Ross Jarvis, editor of PokerPlayer magazine, said Coren Mitchell's win came at a time when professional poker veterans are fighting it out with a new generation of online whizzkids, many of whom have won millions before they turn 20.

"You have players who are the best in the world who are well-known in poker, then there are so many young players who you won't have heard of until they burst on the scene. Within the hardcore, there are people as famous as Victoria but when it comes to the mainstream she's in a league of her own," Jarvis said.

Jeff Watson opines:

In my opinion, a good poker player that happens to be a woman will beat up most men. Women scare me at the table and I generally play around them. If they're semi hot, flirty, and charming, they have an significant edge provided they have solid poker chops. Their edge exists because they are in control just because of what and who they are and by virtue of this, can manipulate the opposite sex. It's a spectacle to see a solid woman poker player slice, dice, and chop up her victim. And many men believe that these women are just lucky since there's still that core belief out there that women aren't as good as men in poker. 

Ed Stewart writes: 

 A man's competitive instincts start to shut down around a beautiful woman. Competition goes against the natural order that furthers the species in a beneficial direction. Chivalrous notions emerge, good business sense quickly erodes. One can't fight that instinct for long, in my opinion. It is a lost cause.

In the old days when the workday was more segregated men were protected from this weakness. Now it is open season on us and the other side knows it. If a brokerage salesperson with a very sensual and attractive voice asks to make a face-to-face presentation, just say no, as difficult as it is to do, summon the will to do it and you will be thankful.

It could be that this is why men practiced some forms of workplace sexism. It kept us from becoming fools on a consistent basis. When our main work conflicts are with men we are energized. It feels natural. Not so much the other way. A women might read this and be extremely disturbed and think, "think with the big head" but it is easier said then done. Modern mores are constructs, conditioning, overwhelmed by the most simple flirtation, and every good looking professional woman knows this.

If we try to avoid the attractive woman we might be in violation of laws, so self-preservation is now illegal too. 

Mar

27

I cannot even count the number of trading lessons in this Bruce Lee video.

Mar

11

Let's assume the HFT does take a 1/2 tick out of the market per trade. But reflect back to the good old days when you would call in your orders to the floor. Then the locals would sit on the order for 1-2 minutes allowing plenty of time for front running, and other evil dong, then charge execution commissions of .50bp to 100bp. This was all before decimalization so instead of spread of .01 or .005 on stocks you had spreads of .06 or .25, higher by a factor of 5x. For a stocks or futures trader I will go with current electronic age even with those pesky HFT algos. If I was a floor broker, sure the old days were a lot better, but if you are sitting upstairs today beats by a mile.

Jeff Watson writes: 

But the trouble with the electronic market is that it's harder to know the size of the market (ie: how much wheat is really for sale in the pit). Plus, the electronic market eliminates the visual and auditory clues that one would get in the pit. The feel of the grains has changed significantly since electronic became the mainstay, but a bad fill is a bad fill, and your market order can get you a bad fill.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Floor brokers in the bond pit were under extreme pressure to provide institutional customers with good fills

Brokers were only as good as their last fill…

Good fills were taken for granted, but fills that were perceived as bad, were always acknowledged and then contested.

Adjustments for bad fills were de rigeur, if a broker wanted to retain his business.

But when a broker had an error, he had to eat it himself.

The risk /reward was definitely skewed against the floor broker.

Mar

3

Here's an interesting article for the layman regarding the use and misuse of P values.

Mar

3

 The grains (especially wheat) in the after hours are reacting to the Ukrainian situation. Big move to the upside that kicked in late last week when the commercials started buying. Grains tend to show sensitivity to events in the Ukraine.

Vince Fulco writes:

One wonders if the "seeds" for this were in the fertilizer firestorm a few months back? 

Feb

14

 I've been thinking about failure. There are several kinds. One is inevitable: the failing of organs leading to death. Everyone fails in this regard. I suppose it is the manner of living, style, and health before that defines whether death is a failure or the end of a good life. Failure of health is bad. It's important to take care of health. It's the most important thing there is.

Another kind of failure is  failure of judgment. We've all had them. These are mistakes, failure to see the train coming at you. Looking back, they are usually pretty stupid in hindsight, but very hard to see in real time. If you learn from them and grow, and let them go, they won't ruin your life.

That brings up the next type of failure. Failures in a career, a marriage, a relationship, a friendship, an investment, or a business are serious and not easily overcome. More than one is very bad. Sure Ray Kroc overcame failure dozens of times, but most cannot. The odd thing is that some people don't see why they failed. They don't see what they did caused their failure. This is the bottom half that thinks they are better than most, the rationalizers.

I look back on my failures and see they are from personal defects. I can only try to work around the defects. I'm not sure its possible to correct personal defects even if you recognize them.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Personal defects are so ingrained, they need to be worked around…..I have not seen any credible evidence that they can be corrected. I trade around my demons every day.

Feb

7

 The latest contestant on the popular game show "Jeopardy" has found an unorthodox way to beat the game. Using game theory, Arthur Chu has managed to win 4 times in a row. His unorthodox methods have traditional Jeopardy fans upset as he follows the rules, but goes non traditional, and hits the big money first, then searches for the daily double. In fact, in one daily double, he found it in the category of sports (which he has little knowledge), and bet only $5. His style of play is to deny his opponents the big money, just like we try in the markets.

Anyways, Chu has upset the apple cart and won over $100K. Fans, along with the host Alex Trebec are visibly upset, but Chu is playing to win, not appease viewers or the host. This reminds me of speculators who get upset and blame HFT, flexions, the other side, etc. when they lose. They were mad at old man Rothschild when he had news of Wellington first and scooped the market. I'm sure that in the future, there will be many boogeymen to blame things on.

I applaud Mr. Chu for his out of the box thinking, and wonder why nobody has done this before, considering Jeopardy has had a 30+ year run. Mr Chu can teach us many valuable trading lessons.

Andrew Goodwin writes: 

This guy is a close friend of my gf. He has garnered much anger from the crowd. He has won four times in a row and is now being called the "Jeopardy Villain" by the press and fans of the show.

This is a take from the net describing his methods:

"What is Chu's game theory, exactly? While most players opt to stick with a single category and work through it from lowest to highest prize amounts, crossword-puzzle style, Chu begins with the most difficult clues in an effort to solve the Daily Doubles and doesn't hesitate to lay down the big bucks when he finds them in a topic he's familiar with. If the question belongs to one of his less-practiced knowledge categories, like sports, he'll only wager $5 and throw it away, knowing that it's off the board for his competitors. He also spat in the face of the $1-over wager tradition in Final Jeopardy, in which the extra dollar prevents a tie; instead, Chu intentionally bet to tie twice, though only once did he and his competitor (Carolyn Collins) both answer correctly and move on. This is not a humanitarian move, by the way, but it is a clever one (Keith Williams, former Jeopardy! winner and obvious math person, breaks it down for you in detail here.

Playing to tie increases your chances of advancing both because of game theory and mind-fu—- your opponent ("if your opponent knows you're going to wager for the tie, he might disregard a rational wager and go for broke in an attempt to tie you"). Chu is also quick to buzz in, which is perhaps the most useful Jeopardy! skill of all."

Chu has already won four games in a row and gets to compete again on Feb 24th. He is using game theory and statistics to beat the other opponents and has mastered them all so far using his unexpected system.

I suggest we watch to see if his play changes the behavior of the next opponents so that they match his tactics and alter the game show for good. This is the live popular culture version of the theory of ever changing cycles at work for all to see.

Far from a game of mere trivia knowledge, Jeopardy now is a game of greater complexity than thought previously due to the skilled tactics of Arthur Chu. Granted, I understand that Chu was considered a genius back in college, but he is not winning like Jennings in knowing all the trivia.

Adam Robinson would really enjoy this story.

Best regards, Andy

Feb

6

 Slater won the Pipe yesterday. Check out this minute and a half video of a perfect 10 on a wave he rode. Even a non-surfer would regard this as a perfectly ridden wave. What other moments in sports are comparable? What trades are comparable?

Jim Sogi writes: 

Perfection. It's rare, but when it happens, it's the best. Yesterday the surf here was perfect. Same size as the pipe pictures, west swell, perfect form, no wind, perfect size. It was like the cover of a Beach Boys album.

There were only about 8 people out, all of whom I knew. I caught many waves and didn't fall. Caught them right on the peak, in the pit, dropped in, the wave walled up and then kickout on the inside. Just a perfect day. Everyone was hooting and hollering and smiling. A pretty girl in a bikini paddles by and says the waves are so good she feels like she's on drugs. Just perfect.

The other great thing is the perfect day of powder snow, sun, no wind, new snow, no people, untracked lines.

Another great thing is the perfect trade. Great volatility, good entry in size, and good mental condition to ride the trade to a good exit with no pain.

All very rare, but just the greatest thing. You have to watch and wait and then be on it when it happens.

Feb

6

 Weather must play a factor in ag commodities. The weather has been pretty weird lately with weeks of rain in Alaska in January, snow in Hawaii (skiied 2 days last week), bad East Coast weather, drought in California. I am guessing this will affect the volatility of the ags and energy in the coming years. On a larger scale, weather can affect the economy of the entire world.

Jeff Watson writes: 

The big drought played havoc with the grains and we had a monumental rally. Weather also affects shipping of grains by barge, and sometimes the Mississippi River is unnavigable due to a variety of weather conditions. The basis for corn and beans can easily double in a matter of days at the Port of New Orleans when that happens. Since the system is all interconnected, other ports will see an increase in the basis.

Feb

3

Much ado has been made on this site regarding music and markets. Sometimes the markets are playing Brahms, sometimes Frank Zappa, or whatever. Today the equities are not playing music so much as making this sound.

Jan

29

Here is an excellent NYT video on the odds making in Vegas for the Superbowl. Great discussion of the difference between the insiders and the general public. Discusses the proposition bets at length. One quote, "The public wants to bet $10 to win $200, but the pro will bet $200 to win $10 if he sees value."

Jan

2

 We're off to a rollicking start for the grains in the new year. The form still hasn't changed and so far one can still sell strength with impunity. How long it will last is anyone's guess, since I'm loathe to pick tops or bottoms, or to even try to predict what these crazy markets are doing. This form has lasted for months, but I've seen it go this way for years back in the 80s-90s. Prediction and prognostication is way above my pay grade. I'm still at the observation stage, where I see what is happening and trade according to my rules. I've always been that way, trading within my rules, and that defines my comfort zone. It's also my downfall as I could probably be remembered as a great like Cutten and not a bivalve filtering up detritus in the brackish waters inland.

Nov

28

There are many trading and life lessons in this great article: "10 Reasons Surfing Improves Humanity"

Nov

18

 This is an old 2009 video that discusses the localism on the North Shore of Oahu. No matter how you slice it and dice it, there is some level of localism at every break, and there are always problems associated with localism. If you show up at someone else's break, respect and be humble towards the locals, especially towards the alpha who will be easily identified, and you might have some fun. Hubris does not serve visitors very well. Hubris doesn't help in the markets either.

Nov

14

 Some time ago Mr. Jovanovich posted an anecdote about old man Mellon to the effect that his kids never let him pay for a bill at a restaurant because the old man felt that prices should be the same as they were when he was a young man and that they were too high today. This is a common thing one runs into in certain people of age. They are accustomed to the old p/e, the average of the last 10 years, on those rare occasions in the 1930s when Ben Graham wasn't chasing the skirts, when you could buy companies at below their liquid cash, assuming incorrectly as he did that any shares were available and they weren't losing so much that the previous balance sheets were meaningless.

Galton had a way of dealing with such things, and he was the most revered man of his age, commanding universal respect, and heading all the leading scientific and geographic societies. "Let the bygones be bygones". Don't fret about bad things that happened, or look to take back the things that you could have done that would have made you so much better off. The woman you didn't marry. The stock you didn't pick. The limit order that wasn't filled.

I recently ran into this in a business meeting where I was trying to sell a company. When negotiations started the earnings of the company were half what they were when the negotiations resumed. The buyer was stuck on the old price and old earnings. The buyer consequently missed an opportunity to make a tremendous profit, of about 10 times his investment of millions in several years.

One often makes this mistake in the market. You try to catch a falling star and you miss it. And then it goes in the direction you had hoped. But you never come in again because you are trying to catch it at the bygone price. Anatoly once mentioned that he was trained in checkers by the KGB to learn to be an amnesiac so he wouldn't regret moves that he should have made on the board, and would look to the future.

In chess, the good players always say forget about the prices that have been taken and concentrate on the pieces that are on the board. I believe this is a common mistake in life and markets, and would be interested in the scientific and empirical and life and market lessons that you all have learned from similar ruminations.

Richard Owen adds: 

 Ted Turner believes a large component of his success is attributable to the fact he readily accommodated and cared not much about what had past. The Buddhist concept of acceptance and Kabbalahist idea of cause and effect are similar.

Compare Germany and Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley ones past mistakes accrue as experience. In Germany there have been many internet start ups but also inevitably failures. Speaking to German friends, a failure there is carried like a deadweight around ones neck.

Society is destablising somewhat as the record of evidence of one's past peccadiloes becomes more extensive. Nobody can get into office or past congressional approval unless they lived a prude life of Cromwellian perfection. And its not clear one is best led by a Cromwellian prude.

Ralph Vince comments: 

There's two ways we learn things, the easy way, and the hard way.

If we learn things the hard way the FIRST time we climb up off of the pavement — that is the definition of a windfall.

Learning things the easy way is to accept facts like an obedient database. The only payoff to learning things the easy way happens when our perspective on the matter at hand altered such that we see it in its proper light and thus actually understand it, rather than merely as data.

To convey ideas to other human beings, we must amend their perspective, their point of reference on the matter, to see it anew from an entry point that they will understand it. To spare them the inevitable beatings of otherwise learning it the hard way is such a gift.

Stefan Jovanovich comments: 

In our misbegotten adventures in L.A. we had minor and almost all indirect dealings with the mouth of the South. Mr. Turner was so acutely aware of his father's defeat and death that even in casual dealings outsiders learned how determined he was to avenge/outpace/overcome his family legacy. He also was notorious, even in Hollywood, for accumulating personal grudges.

A great deal of individual success in Silicon Valley has come from the fact that the U.S. income tax code allows the tax-free pyramiding of gains through (1) buying and selling of principal residences and (2) exchanges of corporate interests. When you add the glories of carried interest, the result is a society of the well-connected in which there are very, very few failures who haven't held on to at least a respectable amount of the OPM. From the little I know of the German tax code, none of these opportunities to do a heads I win/tails you lose coin toss has ever existed in that country.

 Cromwell was many things, some of them awful; but he was never a prude. He and Elizabeth Bourchier had 9 children; and he and his wife were both, by religion, Independents. That meant they were those rarest of people who believed that Jews and (from the point of view of their Anglican, Presbyterian and Puritan contemporaries, even worse) Catholics were entitled to political and religious liberty.

What Richard may have meant is that Cromwell, as a military commander, was as piously single-minded as Joan of Arc. Like hers, his army never lost a battle once they had received proper inspiration; and each soldier literally believed in him and "the cause" for which they had a clear catechism. This was not ever going to be good news for anyone (Catholic Irish; Scots Presbyterian) who opposed him just as the Hussites (as dissidents from the true Catholic faith) would not have much mercy from St. Joan.

P.S. I find the history of Cromwell's catechism fascinating. If one were to ever come up for auction, the 1643 edition might be priced at a figure that even lovers of Bacon (the recently mentioned artist, not the writer) would respect.

For the American sequel to the story, check out The American Tract Society.

Victor Niederhoffer adds: 

One notes the Chinese proverb on a similar theme: "don't carry your hatreds into the new year" or the English variant, "you can't run a mill with water that's past". All languages seem to have a proverb similar to "let the bygones be bygones". The Jewish custom of asking forgiveness at the new year for all the harms that you have inflicted on other in the past year, and sharing a torte and tea is from a similar vein. 

Jeff Watson adds: 

One of my proverbs is to take the hit, forget about it, and move on. But then again I don't mind small losses as they are just part of my business, and I take many small losses of a couple of cents when I smell that the trade is going to be wrong. Just like surfing, where there will always be another good wave, in trading, there will always be another good trade.

Alan Millhone writes in: 

Dear Chair,

A grudge is a difficult thing to dismiss.

My Mother used to say, " I can forgive — perhaps not forget "

Sincerely,

Alan

Gyve Bones writes: 

Oliver Cromwell was an unmitigated bastard and I find no evidence he believed that Catholics were entitled to religious liberty. To the contrary, his raping and pillaging and wholesale theft of Ireland, which was clinging tenaciously to the Catholic faith, and the Penal Laws enacted for the suppression of the faith and Gaelic language starting then and continuing for a couple of hundred years was an attempt, largely successful at cultural and racial genocide.

His puritanism certainly enforced a prudery on England. Within 50 years of Shakespeare's death, his plays could not be performed. And prudery is not the same thing as having a fruitful but chaste (no roaming to other bedsteads) relationship with one's wife.

— G.B.

Show me a Puritan, and I'll show you a son-of-a-bitch. -H.L. Mencken

The President of the Old Speculator's Club writes: 

 Though Dailyspec seems to be a great repository of Mencken fans, there were a few voices which, although agreeing with him on many items, diverged on others. One such notable was G.K Chesterton. The two quotes which follow immediately demonstrate some common ground.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." —H. L. Mencken

"We are perpetually being told that what is wanted is a strong man who will do things. What is really wanted is a strong man who will undo things; and that will be the real test of strength." —G.K. Chesterton

On the issues of science and religion, however, Chesterton suggested that Mencken was equally skeptical:

I have already noted that, if there is such a thing as religious mania, there is also such a thing as irreligious mania. Just recently, perhaps, it has been the commoner of the two. But a very interesting study of the matter comes from a country in which we may say, without injustice, that both are fairly common. I had occasion to remark recently, in this place, that an American paper had accused me of being an anti-American writer; and I commented on the curious irony that the American paper was itself an anti-American paper. But, though I may be permitted thus to parry a purely personal charge, and a highly preposterous one, I should not like anyone to suppose that I do not both enjoy and value the magazine in question.

I am quite well aware that Mr. Mencken, the editor of the American Mercury, is really doing his duty as an American citizen in being an anti-American critic. I myself have been regarded often enough as an Anti-English critic, when I regarded myself as a patriot. In short, there are immense internal evils for Mr. Mencken to attack, and he is perfectly right to attack them. All is well so long as the good citizen abuses his own city. The trouble begins when the foreigner abuses it—or, almost as often, when the foreigner admires it. But, anyhow, the chief efforts of the American Mercury have to be directed towards this howling wilderness of sectarian sensationalism.

The popular science, that rages in the American Press and local government, is simply a dance of lunacy more ghastly than a dance of death. And an exceedingly valuable and important protest against it can be found in the same number of the Mercury from which I have picked the examples of theological hysteria. The protest is all the better because it is not the sort of protest that I should write, or that any person of my beliefs would write. The critic is writing entirely in the interests of Science, and is perfectly indifferent to the interests of Religion. And he enters a virile and telling protest against that science, which is his only religion, being dragged through the mire as a degrading superstition.

From a great article: "Religion in American History: I
Hate Methodism; and G. K. Chesterton vs. H. L. Mencken: Battle of the
Monogrammed Dudes. Surprising or Otherwise Interesting Primary Sources,
Pt IV"

Richard Owen writes: 

This is fascinating stuff. The modern day argo in British English of referring to something as Cromwellian is along the lines Gibbons indicates, although at one step removed perhaps.

Cromwell instilled the Protestant Work Ethic in puritanical fashion. That still pervades much of British psyche today, and is captured in popular imagination, for example, in the writings of the Daily Mail and the books of Tom Bower, Britain's foremost hatchet biographer of businessmen (I say this with great respect; his books are well written and I suspect Mr. Bower would be glad to acknowledge his genre bias).

Thus the Protestant Ethic mentality is to be rich and industrious. But with the emphasis on the latter. As Martin Sosnoff said of his Dad, something like: *"he never thought he'd earn an easy dollar, and he never did".*

The one thing that really irritates the Cromwellian mentality is to find out, after slogging ones guts up to Vice President and exiting to early retirement with a Carriage Clock and blue chip pension, is to find out the reason for corporate downsizing was because a kid from the JFS, assorted Anglo Norman public school boys, or an Asian immigrant rustled up a grub stake into Forbes Four Hundredism. And possibly even had some good sex, bad drugs, and hella fun in the process.

Not to make light. These are complex neuroses and threaded reasonable sense given each parties bias.

Craig Mee writes: 

Victor, the point can also be made that although a potential lost opportunity arises and there are fewer pieces on the board, the situation is then more clear. Although you may not establish the solid position you initially hoped for, many more tighter risk reward opportunities now present themselves, sometimes allowing you a defiant win on the move all the same. However, this outcome may be related to your initial and ongoing foresight about what's unfolding.

Nov

11

This is a fascinating little essay by Wendy McElroy describing two types of child labor in England during the Industrial Revolution: "The Industrial Revolution You Haven't Met"

Oct

31

 This afternoon I was thinking of the events of my honeymoon back in 2009 and while in Hawaii we visited the Sogi residence which featured some good ol' jam band rock-n-roll action by Sogi and his team.

The decay in current music quality versus yesteryear production came long before the decay we have recently seen in the financial services industry. About 30 years or so is my estimate. What is interesting is that classic rock and roll will always have its place — like an old shoe or old pair of jeans. Financial services should be so lucky. What is scary while also quite ironic is that technology is largely the culprit for the decline in both fields.

Jeff Watson writes: 

 Rock and roll is not in decline at all, far from it. Revenues might be down, but not the musical quality. People of a certain age just get stuck in the 60s and 70s and won't let go. But one tends to only taste the cream and forgets that the 60s and 70s brought some absolutely horrible music to the table, stuff (I won't even call it music) performed by Boyce and Hart, Cyrcle, King Harvest, C.W.Mcall, and The Cuff Links. This is the worst song ever written.

My parents thought music died in 1955. My grandparents thought music died in 1920, and on and on. Every generation experiences the same nostalgia for the past, for the music of their youth and feels the new music of the day is declining in quality. Nostalgia is big business because people miss their youth. Bands like the Mowglis, Black Keys, Of Monsters and Men, Daft Punk, Outkast, et al are producing some amazing music which is just as good, or better, than the rock of 40+ years ago. Troubadours like Jack Johnson write and perform music which is just as relevant today as what Bob Dylan wrote two generations ago. An entire new group of people, our kids, are listening to the new rock, and a few old people like myself enjoy it immensely. Stop listening to Clear Channel and find some music……it's out there just waiting to be discovered.

Jim Sogi comments: 

 One day someone asked while I was playing, "Do you know any songs less than 10 years old?" I was kind of stumped, so I've tried to find new songs. It's harder to learn things when you are old and have to beat the new neural pathways harder.

A childhood friend of my son is Ryan Fontana, of Sex Panther. He has achieved big success as a DJ playing electronic dance music. There is some good music there and it's good for dancing. The girls really like it. EDM keeps people dancing and drinking. Some clubs according to WSJ can sell a million dollars of drinks in a night. Some of the music can feel repetitive but when they're dancing, they're not really listening to the music, but feeling it. With the big sound systems, the ground literally shakes. It's an experience and it's good business. I've got an open mind and even like some hip hop stuff, though it's taken a while.

Oct

30

 I'm a bit concerned about the last Apple quarter report—not because of what's going on right now but because the thing that i was hoping to hear was that the company wasn't concerned about margins so much as market share. That was the mistake of the 1980s—Apple focused on keeping margins up. Scully thinks that that was a mistake though not as much as firing Jobs. I think he has it backwards. Amazon is worth a fortune without having worried much about earnings. Apple would be the same—if it focused on market share first.

On the innovation front, Apple has always been about changing the relationship between man and his environment. That's what the iPod was, that's what the iPhone was, that's what the iWatch will be about, ditto for the iTV. What are the next two things in Apple's quiver? Try these two:

1. Apple purchases Nest, creates an iTune interface for all manner of modules to control a house. For instance, it reaches an agreement with Whirlpool to put those modules into Whirlpool's products. The modules cost all of $20-30, but they allow you to control everything in your house remotely. Everything.

2. Apple reaches an agreement with Ford to put an Apple iCar into each Ford auto. The iCar contains a description of what properties you want the car to be optimized for. Speed? Mileage? Handling soft ride? Handling firm ride? and so on. You could even build into the iCar a module, software programmable by an insurance company to monitor driving habits, a la Progressive. You could change the iCar with an iTunes like interface, and each driver in the family could have their own iCar. Junior wants the car? Dad puts the iCar into the car—using a secured compartment that Junior wouldn't have access to. Why? Because Dad's put a special limit on the iCar to keep Junior from going more than 70 for more than 15 seconds every 15 minutes. (Junior may need that momentary spurt to escape an accident.)

Ford would like the device because it could segment the market with it—the more expensive the car, the more capabilities in the iCar, and the iCars could be separated on the basis of the attached device, much as differentiates the iPhone 5 from the 4S.

There's lots Apple could do with such a device.

Strange that I have't heard anything about it—and that would sell quickly. You could even upgrade the iCars with each model year. Apple would have secured built in obsolescence. Upgrading the motor? Upgrade your iCar. Etc.

Now, if I can think of that, why hasn't Apple?

Jeff Watson comments: 

If you don't like what's going on, you can always short the stock.

Ed Stewart comments: 

Tying the aspirational Apple brand to something so lame as a mainstream car company seems like a terrible idea to me.

As for Nest, I think about my smoke alarm or other appliances in the home only once every 3 years or so, if that. It is a non-issue that does not solve any significant need. I can handle my smoke alarm without notes from my iphone. Why apple would want to tie in with such things once again seems a non-starter to me, degrading to the brand's appeal. If anything such features could be done through an app of little significance, a side feature among tens of thousands for those who want it, developed by a third party.

I could be dead wrong, of course. One person's strategic brilliance appears banal and foolish to another.

Good thing we can trade and sort things out.

Carder Dimitroff writes: 

I'm not an expert on Apple. I have no idea what they may be developing. However, I do think David may be offering an interesting idea.

Somebody will offer a simple home management system to manage energy consumption. It would take someone like Apple or Google to figure out a simple, easy to use system. It also could come out of somebody's garage.

Pressure is building for consumers to gain control of their energy consumption. Despite low wholesale prices, retail energy prices continue to increase. Regulators are promoting demand side management policies. Intermediaries are happily removing themselves between the consumer and the [volatile] power markets. Smart meters are being deployed across the nation to help consumers become responsive to market conditions.

The setup is nearly complete. A new day is arriving. Consumers will become fully exposed to the dynamics of the deregulated power markets, which operate 24/7 and change every three to five minutes.

The utility will always own the meter and outside wires. The consumer will own everything behind the meter. Creative developers will begin focusing behind the meter and help consumers manage their purchases of electric, natural gas and water.

Residential and commercial consumers will need programmable sensing and control devices. I have no idea what the technology will look like. However, it needs to be simple, buried and invisible to slow adoption consumers (like automobile computers). It also must manage energy consumption without altering lifestyles.

This is more than managing a thermostat. It is about controlling everything on the consumer side of the meter.

Apple and Google are very aware of energy issues. They are aggressively investing in large-scale alternative energy production facilities (solar, wind, fuel cells). Google invested in high voltage transmission lines.

Combining their energy knowledge with their consumer electronics experience suggests they are in a unique position to offer innovative demand-side management technologies. This would include the opportunity to manage massive amounts of data (Oracle is already trying to claim this space). If Apple or Google takes this path is another question.

Apple and Google have already demonstrated that change usually comes from the outside. One fact we know, consumers cannot expect their plain old utilities to develop innovative technologies. The question for me is whether Apple or Google can still deliver an out-of-the-ballpark product.

Oct

22

Here's an excellent video on how to split a 20,000 pound piece of granite in half. What you think about after watching the video is how musical it was. It's those who have perfect pitch in the markets who can hear the market like the splitter hears the rock.

Oct

15

This book Benson and Hedges presents: Recipes From Great American Inns honestly has the greatest chili recipe ever, plus a bunch of other recipes that have influenced my cooking over the past 30 years. 

Sep

27

 Here is a program that allows you to calculate the area of damage from any type of nuclear weapon, and will even drill down to your home town.

It gives you every scenario in the book, (air burst, ground burst, size etc) and has advanced settings so one can refine the map. The biggest weapon allowed was the Russian 100MT weapon was a beast, but I heard that it's power was dialed down to a more manageable 69MT.

The smallest was a 20KT weapon that would take out a kilometer and that's it.

Sep

25

 The earth is going to run out of natural resources starting in 2030 according to certain flexions. Hasn't that been the mantra for a many years? But the politicians are coming up with a plan (they are always coming up with a plan.) One suspects that whatever initiative they come up will involve more government control and less personal freedom. Free markets will have nothing to do with the solution.

Pete Earle writes: 

It's funny you mention that, as I'm currently reading The Bet by Paul Sabin, which chronicles the growth of the neo-Malthusian 'population apocalypse' movement in the late '60s under Paul Erhlich and the long, subsequent battle with the economist Julian Simon (who argued that innovation and markets would blunt the unrealistic projections of the doomsayers). I recommend it.

Sep

13

 An article in honor of Jeff : Amarillo Slim plays Bobby Riggs in Ping Pong with Coke Bottles.

"Amarillo Slim Hustles the Hustlers"

Jeff Watson writes: 

Some take aways from that most excellent article.

"Once again I proved that you can make a living beating a champion just by using your head instead of your ass. The easiest person in the world to hustle is a hustler."

" So I practiced and practiced until I could hit the ball over the net every time, and right then I knew that Coke bottle was going to make me a boatload of money. "

Sometimes, you need a stall. This one was perfect………………. "Let's get it on!" Lefty said. "No," I said, savoring the moment. "Let's post our money and play thirty days from now. I need to practice a little, now that I see you got yourself a real-life Ping-Pong champion."

" I am not interested in speculating, nor am I interested in making a small score. You see, friend, when I make a wager, the bet has already been won. And if I'm gonna win, I sure as hell want to break somebody doing it."

" I like to bet on anything—as long as the odds are in my favor."

"….I also learned that there are people who love action and others who love money. The first group is called suckers, and the second is called professional gamblers, and it was a cinch which one I wanted to be."

" If there is one fatal flaw, the Achilles' hell of every gamble, it is hubris. No gambler ever wants to lose face, and I have used that psychological edge to my advantage. All I have to do is play to a wealthy man's ego, and not only can I get him to gamble, but I can get him to gamble with me for life."

I can't even count how many market lessons are contained within that story. But then again how much money did my own hubris cost me over the years?

Sep

12

 This is an interesting article for the layman about the changing gravitational constant. One part that intrigues me is their hypothesis that maybe the nature of gravity (the form) is changing and that some other force might be changing it. Or maybe gravity is subject to oscillations? Any change could have interesting consequences.

Gyve Bones writes:

A rather weighty and grave subject for this site, eh? I reckon it falls under the category of ever-changing cycles, and perhaps, BBQ.

Gary Rogan writes: 

It's almost funny to see these scientists very concerned about the possibility that G is changing without much concern about what, in our universe (other than some supposed new field), really determines why it has any specific value vs. any other value or why it's at least somewhat constant through the Universe. Why shouldn't it change, if you have no idea how the value comes about in the first place?

Jeff Watson adds: 

But then again, if gravity can change form, can time and space be far behind? And I'm not talking Discovery Channel stuff.

Gary Rogan replies: 

ANYTHING where you don't understand the root cause (and even then if your understanding is wrong or incomplete) can change. All the fundamental physical laws are basically just observations that haven't been contradicted YET, and all the social science/market "laws" are just observations that at some point seemed correct to enough people. 

Jeff Watson writes: 

I suspect that F=MA would stand the rigors of any test in the macro realm. PV=nRT would probably stand up also, as well as V=1/2 AT^2. The fundamental Newtonian physical laws are pretty intact and have been proven in a variety of ways. Had the physical laws been incorrect, man would have not been on the moon, we wouldn't have landed a rover on Mars etc, Ohm's law(among other things) would not have be proven and I would not be able to communicate with you in this venue. And " the social science/market "laws" you make note of are more of an art than a science. I apply science to markets every day, but along with the science, I also use the art taught to me by my mentor to achieve a small degree of success….sometimes.

Sep

12

As long as I land a few miles up or down the coast from the target, I'm ok. Trying to hit the target exactly feels like when you have $9500 sitting on the blackjack table, and you won't quit until you have the winnings up to an even $10K. Made more than a couple of variations of that mistake over the years. If I'm making a transatlantic sailing voyage, and forced to rely on a sextant and chronometer and depart from Southhampton and I'm aiming for NY harbor, If I end up in Newport, I'm cool because I still got close.

Aug

26

 My 3 year old son recently transitioned from a glide bike to a real pedal bike. For those who are not familiar with glide bikes, they are basically small bikes with no pedals that kids ride by pushing with their feet and gliding on. Here is the type we got for my son (which I would highly recommend to anyone).

We got my son's glide bike after he turned 2 years old. It took him about 3 weeks to figure out, but not long after that he was gliding 20+ yards and could cruise at an adult's slow jogging pace, which looks pretty fast when done by a 2 year old.

So, when we recently got him a real pedal bike, I wondered how quickly he would be able to pick it up, given that I new he had good balance on a 2 wheeler. Yet, even I was shocked when on the third push, he took off riding and went about 50 yards with no aids. Basically, the glide bike made it possible to completely bypass the training wheel stage. Just this morning he rode all the way to the local park.

Anyways, it got me to wondering about the learning process in general. How often do learning aids end up hindering progress (or at best being tangential to progress)?

Common examples might include:

A music teacher that teaches a "cheat" method that ultimately thwarts progress for years.

You get interested in investing and trading, and an "expert" hands you a book on technical analysis, suggesting it is all you will need to profit

A coach who teaches a pet technique rather than proper form

Using calculators in a basic math class in a way that might harm the development of efficient mental techniques

I wonder what things I have unknowingly accepted and used over the years that have made me poorer, more ignorant, and less skilled than I might otherwise be. What are the best techniques to identify and avoid such pitfalls in the future.

Jeff Watson adds:

My son bypassed training wheels as well. When he was 3 and a half, I got rid of his trike and bought him a small bike without training wheels. The way I trained him to ride was to have him put on a safety helmet, then I made him get on the bike and I balanced him and started pushing, running next to him while he pedaled. I must have pushed him a good 400 yards until he started to get the hang of it. Once he discovered the gyroscopic effect of the wheels, he figured out how to balance, and was riding within an hour on his own. Not to say that he did not wipe out, which he did frequently, but he climbed back on the horse every time. Within a week he was an accomplished rider, and wanted to ride with the older kids.

He was an early learner though, swimming 3 different strokes by age 3, and diving and doing flips off the side of the pool by the age of 4 and a half, and surfing and doing skateboard tricks (ollies and kick flips) at age 5. I suspect that he was able to do these accomplishments because there was only positive encouragement and we told him that he could do anything he wanted, despite his young age.

Aug

19

 In this society, the notion of someone having any backbone is quaint. It is also wonderfully discordant with the realities of the society. Expediency has become our byword. Vision and courage are in short supply. Let's face it, few will take a risk unless it's with someone else's money.

And our government is the best at using OPM's to mitigate risk…..well, the risk of their political cronies.

Jeff Watson writes: 

The aforementioned men can be found on the few trading floors that are left, in back offices trading their own accounts. Ayn rand summarized it best when she said:

"The symbol of all relationships among [rational] men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader. We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws. A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit—his love, his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect. The mystic parasites who have, throughout the ages, reviled the traders and held them in contempt, while honoring the beggars and the looters, have known the secret motive of their sneers: a trader is the entity they dread—a man of justice."

Aug

15

 I'm just curious: why is the rice market small when the crop is so popular all over Asia and Asia has so much population? Is is because the Asian country make it a priority to be as self-sufficient as they can be even when it's not economical?

Leo Jia writes: 

As a picky rice eater, I think the large varieties of rices segment the rice market. All these rice are not the same at all though they may look very similar. The majority of rice produced in China is a hybrid rice developed by a contemporary Chinese scientist named YUAN Longping. Its mouthfeel is horrible, but it is much cheaper and contributed largely to feeding the large population in the country. Sogi-san commented that rice in Japan costs 4x or more than it does in the US. I am not sure if he referred to the same rice, but to my taste, some Japanese rice are much better than the American one.

There are two rice futures in China, but to my understanding they are both of some small varieties and therefore traded thinly.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Rice is a thin market because the insiders want to keep it that way, and the export market is small compared to other staple grains and grasses. Furthermore, rice tends to be consumed in the country of origin. We export around 3 million metric tonnes if memory serves me correctly, which is about half the US crop.

Aug

6

Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale in this video.

What market lessons can this offer?

Jul

24

 I heard something on NPR this morning (from the CEO of Mashable) which got me thinking about Apple. Consider: Back in the early 1980s, Apple was flying high–it occupied the high margin section of the emerging PC industry and it was making lots of money. Its CEO Steve Jobs was seen as a major entrepreneur. However, by the mid 1980s, Apple had lost its way, as it maintained its margins even as it lost market share. Jobs had been jettisoned in favor of someone with no computer industry marketing experience. Apple maintained many of Jobs' hires as Apple saw its market share shrivel. The high flyer then was a software company whose offerings ran on a host of hardware platforms–Microsoft. Everyone could use Windows and everyone could use Office. Now, fast forward a generation: Apple is again flying high, determined to hold its profit margin even as it loses market share. But there's a new kid on the block offering a mobile operating system used with different hardware platforms: Android. And Jobs is no longer running Apple. And Apple is again run by someone lacking computer industry (or consumer electronics) marketing experience.

Looking at this picture, I have to wonder if it isn't deja vu all over again. Now, I know that Apple has gazillions of cash that it can use to buy companies, but I'm looking at which of its acquisitions has been that helpful to its bottom line. Not much help that I can see. Kind of like Cisco during and soon after the dot-com boom and bust. Lots of money, not much to show for it. Its products are looking dated (and some products, like AppleTV, haven't appeared at all), several products have been introduced though they no longer elicit the oohs and ahs that characterized the products commanding the profit margins associated with Apple. Its execution on the software side has been little short of awful (the cloud in particular is something Apple doesn't get), and it no longer commands the attention of young engineers in the manner that it once did. And while it's PE is low, there's nothing to suggest that earnings will stay healthy, particularly if profit margins give way.

Is history repeating itself?

Gary Rogan writes: 

Apple is followed by zillions of super-smart people who track every available piece of information, many in real time. It also has a lot of moving parts and a lot of very smart people working for them. I doubt it's feasible to make money by out-thinking them all without some identifiable edge.

anonymous writes:

Didn't they say the same thing about Japan in the mid 80's?

Gary Rogan responds: 

Did Japan have a P/E of 10 and down almost 50% from its recent peak? There doesn't seem to be either irrational exuberance or irrational despair about AAPL but there is frenetic interest. It's latest numbers resulted in some pretty healthy volume after hours and a reasonable jump. Who knew how much it would jump and in which directions? Someone probably did, but it wasn't on the basis that Apple doesn't get the cloud. The point is, if there was ever an efficient market this is it. Not always, not for all time, but for here and now.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Isn't every stock that's not on the Pink Sheets followed by a bunch of super smart people who get tons of info in real time? Do you think the market makers have a pretty good estimate of the value of the stock? Don't insiders in their particular companies know if their stock is too cheap or too expensive? Just because AAPL is a cultist type of phenomena, please don't ascribe mystical powers to the stock. It's going to do what it's going to do, without any regard for the super smart people who follow and trade it. In fact, personal experience tells me that the super smart people are going to feel the most pain.

Gary Rogan retorts: 

I don't ascribe any mystical powers to it at all. It's a stock constantly in the spotlight. In my experience, there are "sleepy" stocks and there are highly followed stocks, in the sense of constant attention being paid to them everywhere. The market seems less efficient in the stocks that are not in the news all the time. If you have a long time horizon, and the highly followed stocks is showing signs of a mania, it may be a good short candidate, and the opposite if there is widespread despair, but it's hard to know. Of course it will do what it will do, I never claimed otherwise, but ruminating that their CEO, who at some point was in charge of worldwide sales, doesn't get marketing or the company doesn't get the cloud, or that Jobs is dead, or that there is this new kid on the block called Android would get you about as much as edge as me claiming that the world population is growing and needs more wheat and therefore going long wheat.

David Lillienfeld weighs in: 

Let's deal with these one at a time, and keep the emotion out of it.

First, Tim Cook was EVP for Sales and Operations, but insofar as he's never held a marketing position in his career (certainly not as long as he's been at Apple), this position seems as much organizational as anything else. His marketing value-add seems to be pretty small, if not nil. Fact. Cook's role has been manufacturing, and he executed pretty well. But that's quite a ways away from marketing, I think you'll agree. There isn't any report suggested that Cook has ever had any involvement in marketing other than this title, and one must note that at the time Cook was placed into the position, Jobs was handling marketing himself. Fact.

Right now, Android is doing to iOS exactly what Windows did to Mac OS in the 1980s. Fact. Apple kept a closed system and IBM/Microsoft an open one. Guess what. The open system won. When the Mac came out, one of the things seen in its favor at the time was that, much as happened with the Apple 2, there was software around to run on it. Same thing today–except it's now in the form of the App Store. Again, fact. We're now seeing the same thing happen in mobile. Google may not be able to monetize Android, but that's probably a matter that will be dealt with once someone figures out how to monetize mobile. (That's opinion, but one I think is supported by facts.) Do you deny that Android has taken market share from Apple, that it's more widely used than iOS, or that iOS doesn't seem to have much place in the low margin East Asia market? Moreover, Apple focused on maintaining margins rather than going after market share–both during the 1980s and also during the recent period. Fact. Earlier, that turned out not to be the way to success. Fact.

As for Apple being followed, that's irrelevant. Apple was heavily followed in the first half of the 1980s. I remember it well. By the latter half of the 1980s, it was no longer followed because it was in the process of becoming irrelevant in the face of Windows. By 1997, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy with 90 days of payroll in the bank. Fact. That's hardly the setting for a followed enterprise. Successful companies are followed. When success disappears, so does the following.

Lastly, if you think Apple gets the cloud, then I suggest you review how Apple's efforts in that space have fared compared with its competitors. I know of few who would opine in favor of Apple's efforts, even the cultists. Let's not forget that fantastic roll out of Apple Maps. Fact. Enough said.

I also noted that Apple has lots of money to work with, but then again, back in the early 1980s, it did too. (It's worth remembering Microsoft was similarly fortuitous–and well followed–and I don't know that it has a similar following today as it did in years past.)

That a generation has grown up since Apple's last appearance in similar circumstances of adulation also suggests that the younger minions may have forgotten that Apple's earlier escapade didn't result in hegemony–far from it. Fact.

As for Jobs, the reality is that since Jobs died, Apple hasn't functioned anything close to what it did when he was around–and he was active until about a month prior to his death. Fact. He may have picked the management team to succeed him, but much as happened back in the 1980s, without Jobs, that team didn't perform well. The contrast with, say, Alfred P. Sloan or Andrew Carnegie, or John D. Rockefeller, or David Hewitt or Adolph Ochs, or Robert Noyce or … I could go on, but the one thing that separates this group of CEOs is that when they stepped down as CEO, it took at least two generations of managers after before the company hit much of a bump. That's the mark of a great CEO–in addition to what happened to the company on the CEO's watch. Jobs didn't do so well with it in the 1980s, and it appears he didn't do so now.

If you don't like the facts, that's fine. Don't like them. But those are the facts. I'll leave the other elements of your comments for some other time.

But let's stick to the facts.

anonymous writes:

Let's cut to the chase. Tell me the long term growth rate of AAPL's earnings and I'll tell you (+/- 10-20%) what the stock is worth today. The bloomberg consensus growth rate is 19%, so the stock is worth about 1090/share.

If you cut it to 10%, the stock is worth 512/share.If you use a 5% long term growth rate, the stock is wroth 340/share.

The primary reason that 19% is wrong is that AAPL is simply too big to grow at that rate — or it would suck all of the oxygen out of room. At 442, it's priced for about a 8.25% growth rate. Not crazy, but 8% is still a lot of growth for such a big company. But their buyback can provide a lot of help in achieving EPS growth. BUT — the chart looks good! 

Jul

17

 Any thoughts on this futuristic contention in this short video "Why Did Einstein Say 'God Doesn't Play Dice'" that in the levels above the sub atomic level, given enough information, we can be always right in our prediction of events? Market implications?

Richard Owen writes:

Stephen Hawking wrote a good article on the evolution of dice thought since Einstein: "Does God Play Dice?"

In Einstein's non science writings he would talk about the comfort he took when things were going badly for him from the idea of a deterministic world.

Can you imagine how bad insider trading is going to get once a time machine is acquired.

Jul

5

I've been recently having success with this basic, very easy recipe

2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce(Tabasco is fine)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together, and bring to boil and let boil to a proper consistency. Works equally well on pork, beef, chicken, and shrimp etc.

Jun

30

 The Mrs and I are at Twickenham to see Rihanna with two no show tickets to sell.

What is the correct algorithm for touts (a.k.a scalpers in the US)?

First ask to buy then use that as a reference for an offer?

What is market standard discount an hour before start?

And what average vig does a tout make?

Here is my fast hand analysis of the market made by ticket touts.

Touts are generally criticised as parasitical, like many financial market participants. However, they provide a valuable service. Since concertgoers know there will be a market made, they are willing to show up for events without tickets. Last minute spare tickets that would otherwise be worthless to punters are therefore saleable.

For a £60 Rihanna ticket at Twickenham as the base of calculation we can note the following:

- Initial instinct in selling a ticket before the event to a tout might be to accept a discount to face value.

- The touts take advantage of this by using anchoring. Different touts rapidly quote heavily reduced prices of £5 or £10. This is accompanied by pained faces and "there's no punters around love" despite a stream of people walking by.

- Conversely, reverse anchoring is recommended: ask the tout "how much to buy a ticket?", then when they quote their price say, "ah, that's good, I have one to sell". And vice versa.

- In fact, the touts carry inventory, some of which they must have purchased before the event. This indicates that they expect to trade out their inventory for par or above, in order to avoid capital losses.

- Since the market is disorderly (although there may be unspoken 'exchange rules'), a punter could in theory join them and front run the next bid.

- All this suggests that tickets should never need to be sold for less than face value, despite this being the typical deal struck by punters looking to sell. This is especially true for ticket pairs.

- The tout's inventory drops to zero value at the time of the event. However, with Twickenham as our example, there are plenty of pubs and clubs nearby, one assumes that the last minute backup plan is to prowl the pubs offering the tickets to couples at knockdown prices. If offered a £60 ticket for £10, the price of a few drinks, one assumes it is easy to trade out of the inventory to locals at the last minute.

- As a finger in the air, one feels a buyer looking for a ticket before the event would pay ~£150 (and this is without factoring in any 'hotness' of the tickets in the weeks before the event thanks to EBay, etc.).

- Thus, for sake of calculation, if you assume (wrongly) for each tout a 50% chance of having to sell each ticket held in a forced sale just before the event at £10 and a 50% chance of getting it bid at £150, it suggests an average liquidation value of £80.

- If tickets are on average bought at ~£20 and sold/liquidated on average for £80, for a £60 ticket that's £60 or 100% roundtrip vig. For pre-purchased inventory, that's £20 roundtrip profit or 33% vig.

- So if 80% of inventory is pre-purchased and 20% bought in the market, that's an average vig of £28 or ~50%.

- For a ~50k seater concert, £3m of ticket inventory exists. So for every basis point traded (5 tickets) that's £300 face value.

- So for each basis point traded (5 tickets) that's £140 profit to the touts.

- It's hard to guess the actual number of basis points traded without empirical data. If you guessed 25bps, that would be £3500 profit to the touts.

- Since taxi drivers double up as the stereotypical tout, and they typically make ~£12/hr, for three hours work (£36), that would suggest an equivalent hourly income for ~100 taxis drivers (ignoring a fee for "return on risk capital").

- The above suggests either (i) very thin trading <<25bps of face value, (ii) my vig estimate is way off, or (iii) this is a way to make supernormal profits by taxi drivers. I eyeballed about 5 touts in total at our gate, so generously say 25 total.

Jeff Watson writes: 

 My dad used to scalp tickets when he was a kid. He financed me to scalp the Rolling Stones 1971 concerts, and I had to pay kids to sit in line to get the tics. Typical of my dad, I did all the work and he got his 60%. Still, it was a good learning experience, I made a couple grand (which was a lot of money in 1971), and that money was the seed money for my first excursion into soybeans and commodities in general. Had I never scalped the Stones concert, I would probably be a drone in a lab somewhere with a much different career path. Funny how the most minor things in life can affect the biggest changes. Heck, the most minor things in the market can do the same thing.

Richard Owen responds: 

That reminds me of a story told to me by a friend acquainted with one of London's most successful touts. He is known at "Gary One-Point-Eight". Why? Because he bought a house in Chigwell worth £1.8m with the proceeds.

Jun

20

On the website for Mega-Millions Lottery, to encourage action, they are giving "statistics" for their players, much like the statistics one sees in a keno room or at a roulette table. Very interesting. After all, balls with numbers on them have memories…..just like coin tosses, ha.

Jun

12

An edge can last a long time, but when a paper is published outlining a system with an edge, sagacious people note the edge and start trading that system and natural market forces move that edge to zero. We all know people who have shared their systems and their edge. Regrettably, I've given away a few myself. Once they're shared, in my personal experience, they tend to disappear quickly and may not reappear for a very long time. That's why I would no more give details of my methods than I would give perfect strangers a glimpse into the most private areas of my life. The only consistent edge is to pay the price to have exchange privileges, able to buy at the bid and sell at offers on the inside market. You won't get rich but probably won't get killed either. But then again, I should be talking…….Ceres decided to give me an auto da fe today, with musical accompaniment, and she used a cat of nine tails in 7/8 time.

Jordan Neuman writes: 

Hi Jeff,

Interesting note. I have found that edges go away even when I don't give them away — if I am paranoid, I would think I am in a Truman show. Others start talking about what I discovered eventually, and I also wonder if I discovered it because of what others have talked about previously. Thus, I am not sure if edges go away faster if you discuss them versus the null of not doing anything. I think it also depends on what the edge is…some like the January effect will last a long time because of tax arbitrage while others might fade to equity-like risk/reward and then lack the "natural market forces" to fade further.

Regards,

Jordan

Jun

11

 A quote from an interesting article follows below that refutes the conventional images of drowning. Closest I have come to drowning as a kid was at the Y when a smaller child, playing around, jumped on my back and put me in a choke hold while I was swimming underwater. It was quite a tussle to get him off and make it back to the surface–the nearby lifeguard didn't see it.

The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC). Drowning does not look like drowning…

Full article here, "Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning"

Jeff Watson adds:

As a surfer, I have saved more than a few people from drowning. Every instance was with them getting caught in the rip and trying to get out by swimming against the current and becoming exhausted. I would paddle over to them and insist that I tow them in to shore. Often, people would refuse my assistance, not realizing their danger. I sat on my board nearby, waiting for them until they changed their mind, or started to swallow water or go under. My Senior Lifesaving teacher once told me that one needs to get control of the victim before you can make the rescue. My own technique is jabbing my thumb as hard as I can into the side of their rib cage (between the ribs) which makes them submit. And you're right, drowning does not look like drowning. Fellow dailyspec-er, George Parkanyi should recount his heroic life saving experience. 

Jun

4

Gerry Lopez, might not be the best surfer ever, but his style approaches sublime. No other surfer, ever, had the natural style of Lopez. I wonder whose style in the world of speculation is similar to his. 

It's his flow, the way he glides along the face, always on the best part of the wave, gets tubed, and casually stands up fully erect, shakes some water out of his hair, little smile on his face, then kicks out of the wave and starts over again. He is totally relaxed, zen-like, despite the conditions being really hairy.

What you never see with Lopez is the horrible wipeouts that he took as the cost of doing business. He was brutalized by the reefs under the waves, yet he always kept riding. Lopez's style is something a trader would want to emulate but on a different plane.

Richard Owen writes:

 An equivalent investor would be Crispin Odey.

The only man in town with enough style, accrued wealth, and know how to swing a book that actually looks like a hedge fund of old.

Able to turn gracefully on a wave before it engulfs him. Who pulls out the longboard, the quad, etc. dependent upon conditions. And who is likely as fascinating off the water as on.

Jun

4

 Blackjack tables seem to be the major profit centers in Vegas, and I don't see them going away anytime soon. The house has the edge when you're playing a "perfect game." Make one or two mistakes or deviations from the perfect game and the house vig goes to ~18%.

At the Riviera, if they suspect you are counting, that shoe gets reshuffled every other hand. On those non-regulated offshore gambling boats, they either put in a mechanic or a gaffed shoe to bury you. Blackjack, roulette, slots, lotto, keno, etc are way too tough for me.

Steve Ellison writes:

I had three fraternity brothers on the team referenced in the below article. The most obvious parallel with trading is that casinos won't tolerate any player who consistently wins. Casinos have rules against card counting, but the principle applies in other games, too. My wife knows a guy who has won big at video poker and is banned from several casinos.

"Aces Return to Vegas for Gaming Panel"


"Blackjack is the 'minor leagues,' said John Chang '85, one of three alums from the notorious MIT blackjack team who returned to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas May 28 for a panel discussion at the 15th International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking.


The Las Vegas Sun reported on the panel, at which Chang joined Houh '89, SM '91, PhD '98 and Andrew Bloch '91 for a frank discussion of the years-long streak that MIT students enjoyed, putting their math skills to practice.

Chang had to join the panel remotely, answering questions in a prerecorded session, since his ban from Caesar's (among other casinos) is still in effect. …"

Jun

3

 When I was a 9 year old kid, my parents told me that a diamond was the hardest thing on the planet, virtually indestructible. A friend came over, and we were talking about Superman and indestructibility and I told him that Superman was fiction, but a diamond was impossible to be damaged, since it was the hardest thing in the world. He said, prove it, and I said OK, and even made a huge bet of all my baseball cards on the outcome. I sneaked into my mother's jewelery box and filched a 1.5-2 ct loose diamond she had. Brought it downstairs into the basement where my dad had a small anvil. I put the diamond on the flat surface of the anvil, grabbed a 5 lb hammer, took a swing, and came down really hard on the diamond. I thought it would just bounce off, but imagine my surprise when all I found that the diamond had turned to dust. Later on that afternoon, my sister ratted me out, and I got that "Go up to your room and wait until your father comes home" speech. My dad came home, went upstairs to my room and wanted to know why I would destroy a very expensive diamond. I told him that both he and my mother told me that diamonds were the hardest thing on earth, virtually indestructible, and I was just proving what they told me to a disbeliever. After all, my own parents wouldn't lie to me or give me unscientific facts.

I thought that my explanation would suffice, reason would prevail, and I'd be in the clear, but I was still grounded for a week, had to do all the dishes, polish all the silver, wash floors, plus I lost a my entire baseball card collection when I paid off the bet.

This was the first experience I had as a kid that taught me that adults were just as full of crap as kids and to not take their word as gospel. That lesson alone, when applied to markets and gambling, gave me more than a few million % return over the years. It took me the rest of the summer to win all my cards back as I had mastered the trick of flipping for cards. Learning the mastery of flipping cards was another story in itself and was the result of losing all my cards the year before to a big kid in the neighborhood. It takes hours and hours of practice, practice, practice to learn how to flip cards to give you an edge.

May

31

 For the most part on this site, we discuss the big picture and large important markets. We discuss their stats, their trends and their probabilities.

By focusing only on these large markets (usually indexes and their derivatives) we can lose sight of the smaller markets and often we forget those markets even exist.

By focusing only the large, we not only miss out on "alternative" opportunities, we miss out excitement and ready made profits.

Therefore, I would like to point out to the list some alternative markets in baseball.

As I'm sure everyone on this knows, there are really only 3 teams in baseball. The Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles which trade in the AL East market. The Trinity of Baseball, if you will.

Now, most people who follow these team know that there are also at least two other teams in called the Devil Rays and Blue Jays. This is known because every once in a while, either the Yankees, Red Sox or Orioles has to play one of these teams. Of course, there are "lesser markets out there that occasionally pop up and as a result the only three teams that really exist have to go trade (errrr….I mean…..play) in those markets as well.

Many of the anointed traders (fans) might be confused by these other markets, and not only not know anything about them, but may not even be sure they really exist. Because, they are in what Dr. Zaius refers to as "The Forbidden Zone", or as some of our anointed betters refer to it: Fly over country.

These alternative markets are commonly referred to as the AL West and the AL Central.

Now, I need you all to buckle up because I'm gonna tell you all something that will rock you at the core of your belief system. I'm gonna challenge your belief in the existence of the Trinity. For even beyond the rumors you hear of the AL Central and the AL West and the almost credible reports of citings you hear about teams existing in "The Forbidden Zone", I am going to tell you that even more than you can imagine is in the Forbidden Zone…..

You see, a little know alternative market actually does exist. It is called "The National League"….I know, I know, stay with me here. I hear your gasp and your cries of "HERESY, HERESY". But if you will stay with me, I will lead you closer to the truth.

You see, there is market out there right now that you can trade in that will bring you much pleasure. It is market based on teams that are built on fundamentals, coaching and training in the minors.

You see, not all teams are bought on the free agent market. Some teams have only a fraction of the budgets that the Trinity of Baseball has.

And these teams are doing quite well right now.

For instance, if you were to google "MLB NL Central", you would find that there are three teams that dominating. And the third best of those teams, as of yesterday, would be in FIRST PLACE in every other division in MLB.

One of those teams, a mid-market team, has a long storied history of success. A history of growing their talent internally on the farm, and making wise free agent acquisitions to lead the nucleus of home grown talent. They are so good at this, that they have won the second most championships in the history of the game, second only to the head of the Trinity, the Yankees.

And if one were to compare the money spent in reference to winning championships, the Yankees aren't even a close second to this team.

What team am I talking about?

Well, the St. Louis Cardinals, of course.

Now, I know that many of your may not know about this market, let alone have ever even bothered trading in it (or following it).

But this is a market that is worth following as there are many life and trading lessons associated with how this market works, how the team works and how they consistently build championships teams and teams that contend year after year after year.

Throw away your belief system realize that great teams are not spontaneously bought and magically appear over a few days. The late George Steinbrenner may put together championship teams in 7 Days, but there are a lot of teams out there, like the St. Louis Cardinals, that grow their teams over time….teams that evolve into Champions.

And that is your snarky lesson for the day.

One of those teams, a mid-market team, has a long storied history of success. A history of growing their talent internally on the farm, and making wise free agent acquisitions to lead the nucleus of home grown talent. They are so good at this, that they have won the second most championships in the history of the game, second only to the head of the Trinity, the Yankees.

And if one were to compare the money spent in reference to winning championships, the Yankess aren't even a close second to this team.

What team am I talking about?

Well, the St. Louis Cardinals, of course.

Now, I know that many of your may not know about this market, let alone have ever even bothered trading in it (or following it).

But this is a market that is worth following as there are many life and trading lessons associated with how this market works, how the team works and how they consistently build championships teams and teams that contend year after year after year.

Throw away your belief system realize that great teams are not spontaneosly bought and magically appear over a few days. The late George Steinbrenner may put together championship teams in 7 Days, but there are a lot of teams out there, like the St. Louis Cardinals, that grow their teams over time….teams that evolve into Champions.

And that is your snarky lesson for the day.

Jeff Watson adds:

Gibson, 1968, greatest season of pitching in baseball? What about 1968 when Denny McClain won 30 games? Who's done that since?

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

21

Here is a deeply flawed article in Texas Monthly about BBQ, but the article contains an interesting (but somewhat inaccurate) map of BBQ across the South. The flaw is the essential conceit that Texans have by thinking their BBQ is the best in the world and every other BBQ is inferior. I've had some inedible BBQ in Texas and I have had some awesome BBQ in the North when Mr. Humbert was gracious enough to take me to a BBQ place in CT. That place was better than any Texas BBQ I ever had.

May

14

 I first saw the 'dead eyes' look of a poker player/loser when I was 13 or so. Still gives me restless nights and I know I cannot become that way.

My dad took me into the "stockman's bar" in Billings, Montana to impress upon me what degenerate, greedy people turn into.

Probably another sleepless tonight tormented by that devil.

Gary Rogan asks: 

What is the real difference between gambling and speculation (if you take drinking out of the equation)? Is it having a theory about the odds being better than even and avoiding ruin along the way?

Tim Melvin writes: 

I will leave the math side of that answer to those better qualified than I, but one real variable is the lifestyle and people with whom one associates. A speculator can choose his associates. If you have ever been a guest of the Chair you know he surrounds himself with intelligent cultured people from whom he can learn and whom he can teach. There is good music, old books, chess and fresh fruit. The same holds true for many specs I have been fortunate to know.

Contrast that to the casinos and racetracks where your companions out of necessity are drunks, desperates, pimps, thieves, shylocks, charlatans and tourists from the suburbs. Even if you found a way to beat the big, the world of a professional gambler just is not a pleasant place.

Gibbons Burke writes: 

 Here is something I posted here before on this distinction…

Being called a gambler shouldn't bother a speculator one iota. He is not a gambler; being so called merely establishes the ignorance of the caller. A gambler is one who willingly places his capital at risk in a game where the odds are ineluctably, mathematically or mechanically, set against the player by his counter-party, known as the 'house'. The house sets the odds to its own advantage, and, if, by some wrinkle of skill or fate the gambler wins consistently, the house will summarily eject him from the game as a cheat.

The payoff for gamblers is not necessarily the win, because they inevitably lose, but the play - the rush of the occasional win, the diversion, the community of like minded others. For some, it is a desire to dispose of money in a socially acceptable way without incurring the obligations and responsibilities incurred by giving the money away to others. For some, having some "skin in the game" increases their enjoyment of the event. Sadly, for many, the variable reward on a variable schedule is a form of operant conditioning which reinforces a compulsive addiction to the game.

That said, there are many 'gamblers' who are really speculators, because they participate in games where they develop real edges based on skill, or inside knowledge, and they are not booted for winning. I would include in this number blackjack counters who get away with it, or poker games, where the pot is returned to the players in full, minus a fee to the house for its hospitality*.

Speculators risk their capital in bets with other speculators in a marketplace. The odds are not foreordained by formula or design—for the most part the speculator is in full control of his own destiny, and takes full responsibility for the inevitable losses and misfortunes which he may incur. Speculators pay a 'vig' to the market; real work always involves friction. Someone must pay the light bill. However the market, unlike the casino, does not, often, kick him out of the game for winning, though others may attempt to adapt to or adopt his winning strategies, and the game may change over time requiring the speculator to suss out new rules and regimes.

That said, there are many who are engaged in the pursuit of speculative profits who, by their own lack of skill are really gambling; they are knowingly trading without an identifiable edge. Like gamblers, their utility function is not necessarily to based on growth of their capital. They willingly lose their capital for many reasons, among them: they enjoy the diversion of trading, or the society of other traders, or perhaps they have a psychological need to get rid of lucre obtained by disreputable means.

Reduced to the bare elements: Gamblers are willing losers who occasionally win; speculators are willing winners who occasionally lose.

There is no shame in being called a gambler, either, unless one has succumbed to the play as a compulsion which becomes a destructive vice. Gambling serves a worthwhile function in society: it provides an efficient means to separate valuable capital from those who have no desire to steward it into the hands of those who do, and it often provides the player excellent entertainment and fun in exchange. It's a fair and voluntary trade.

Kim Zussman writes:

One gambles that Ralph and/or Rocky will comment.

Leo Jia adds: 

From the perspective of entering trades, I wonder if one should think in this way:

speculators are willing losers who often win; gamblers are willing winners who often lose.

David Hillman adds: 

It is rare to find a successful drug lord who is also a junkie. 

Craig Mee writes: 

One possible definition might be "a gambler chases fast fixed returns based on luck, while a speculator has time on his side to let the market decide how much his edge is worth."

Bill Rafter comments: 

Perhaps the true Speculator — one who is on the front lines day after day — knows that to win big for his backers, he HAS to gamble. His only advantage is that he can choose when to play. 

 Anton Johnson writes: 

A speculator strives to be professional, honorable, intellectual, serious, analytical, calm, selective and focused.

Whereas the gambler is corrupt, distracted, moody, impulsive, excitable, desperate and superstitious.

Jeff Watson writes: 

I know quite a few gamblers who took their losses like men, gambled in a controlled (but net losing manner), paid their gambling debts before anything else, were first rate sports, family guys, and all around good characters. They just had a monkey on their back. One cannot paint with a broad brush because I have run into some sleazy speculators who make the degenerates that frequent the Jai-Alai Frontons, Dog Tracks, OTB's, etc look like choir boys. 

anonymous writes: 

Guys — this is serious, not platitudinous, and I can say it from having suffered the tragic outcomes of compulsive gambling of another — the difference between gambling and speculating is not the game, the company kept, the location, the desperation or the amounts. The only difference is that a gambler, when asked of his criterion, when asked why he is doing this, will respond with "To make money."

That's how a compulsive gambler responds.

Proper money management, at its foundation, requires the question of criteria be answered appropriately, and in doing so, a plan, a road map to achieving that criteria can be approached.

Anton Johnson writes: 

It's not the market that defines whether a participant is a Gambler or a Speculator, it's his behavior.

Gibbons Burke writes: 

That's the essence of my distinction:

"gamblers are willing losers who occasionally win"

That is, gamblers risk their capital on propositions where the odds are either:

- unknown to them
- cannot be known

- which actual experience has shown to have negative expectation
- or which they know with mathematical precision to be negative

They are rewarded for doing so on a random schedule and a random reward size, which is a pattern of stimulus-response which behavioral scientists have established as one which induces the subject to engage in the behavior the longest without a reward, and creates superstitious as well as compulsive behavior patterns. Because they have traded reason for emotion, they tend not to follow reasonable and disciplined approach to sizing their bets, and often over bet, leading to ruin.

"speculators are willing winners who occasionally lose." That is, speculators risk their capital on propositions where the odds are:

- known to have positive expectation, from (in increasing order of significance) theory, empirical testing, or actual trading experience

They occasionally get unlucky, and have losing streaks, but these players incorporate that risk into the determination of the expectation. Because their approach is reason-based rather than driven by emotion, they usually have disciplined programs for sizing their bets to get the maximum geometric growth of their capital given the characteristics of the return stream, their tolerance for drawdown.

If a player has positive expected value on a bet, then it is not a gamble at all. The house does not gamble. It builds positive expectation into its games. It is a willing winner, although it occasionally loses.

There are positive aspects of gambling, which I have pointed out earlier in the thread and won't belabor. To say that "all gambling is bad" is to take the narrowest view. Gamblers who are willing losers (by my definition all are) provide the opportunities for willing winners (i.e., speculators) to relieve gamblers of the burden of capital they clearly have no desire to hold onto, or are willing to trade in a fair exchange for the excitement of the play, to enable their alcoholic habit, to pass the time, to relieve their boredom, to indulge delusions of grandeur at the hoped-for big win, after which they will quit playing, or combinations of all of the above.

Duncan Coker writes: 

I found Trading & Exchanges by Larry Harris a good book on this topic and he defines all the participants in the exchanges and both gambler and speculators have a role to play. Here is something taken from page 6 that make sense to me: "Gamblers trade to entertain". Speculators to "trade to profit from information they have about future prices."

He divides speculators into those that are well informed versus those that are not. One profits at the expense of the other. Investors "use the markets to move money from the present into the future". Borrowers do the opposite.

May

7

 My wife wrote:

Does this count as an Economics lesson? I pay 1 cent per dandelion picked from our yard (organic control). Two children secretly agreed to leave a breeding stock. (A third child ratted them out, but I did nothing as there were more children not party to the agreement than party.) One of the children who made the agreement secretly picked all the dandelions that had been set aside as breeding stock and turned them for cash. The other wigged out.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Very smart kids who deserve a reward. But I advise you to gently punish the one who queered the deal. Nobody ever liked or respected a tattletale.

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