Mar

19

I'm avoiding BA like the plague, but there are some incredible buys out there now…you don't even have to look at oil, looking at Visa here at 140…among 20 other big names.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Getting too old for this…bought spooz 2289-94 per your brilliance, and will be looking to add if it holds.

Ralph Vince writes: 

Alcoa…Dow Chem… UTX…you think these earnings are going to be impacted to ANYTHING of this degree? Wait to see new unemployment claims tomorrow morning…FB…AMZN…if you really want to be the king of nerve, PBR…

I got to keep buying into this or I'm going to be the king of chumps come the 3rd & 4th qtr.

anonymous writes: 

Respecting to the fullest Vic's prohibition on any kind of recommendation. I just want to put out there that many ETDs are half of their early February values. So for example TDS(Telephone and Data Systems) has 7 ETDs TDA, TDI, TDE, TDJ, UZA, UZB, UZC.

Whatever you think about TDS in the telco space, the common is holding up, but the debt got clobbered in forced selling and it now yielding ~12-15%

Just fyi not a rec, just b/c not much focus on ETD here.

Mar

17

While I have spent most of my adult years doing EW, my two cents on this Fibonacci myth in markets:

Someone made the idea popular that a woman with 36-26-36 statistics is beautiful. But that doesn't mean every beautiful woman has such statistics. It also doesn't mean that to be beautiful every woman must aspire for and achieve these stats.

And then its euologised so well through ages, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

If I will sound more convincing that the quantum cat is dead or alive based on the process of observation, then let me tuck in a more intelligent sounding line.

However, if I can get away in making my point in sharing a joke, then here it is:

Once upon a time not so long ago, the favourite dog of the Superintendent of Police of Gurgaon (now a well developed city in India) got misplaced. The senior cop was furious, after all its my dog and how can and where can he lose itself? As the sun rose higher into the sky and morning turned into noon, there was near pandemonium in the police force in Gurugram that the favourite dog of the Superintendent must be found, right away. The force divided itself into smaller units and went about the whole town hunting for the Superintdent's dog. No one could find a trace. As Sun grew mellower and began pulling itself closer to the other horizon a bright idea struck the minds of one of the junior officers. He whispered in the ears of his senior who whispered it in the ears of his senior. The plan was finalized.

The force returned back before sunset before the Superintendent with a monkey. They told the superintendent here is your dog! The Superintedent boiled up and screamed this is not my dog it is just a monkey.

The force asked the Superintendent, "Sir, this definitely is your dog. Ask him!"

Superintendent locked eyes with the monkey. The poor monkey nearly came to cries and pleaded "Sir, I have accepted I am your dog and I request you to accept this too. Since if you don't sir, I am going to be beaten so badly again that I shall be everyone's dog."

Gary Phillips writes: 

Are you disagreeing with me, or the chart?

Because doesn't your story offer proof?

I have accepted I am your dog and I request you to accept this too.

If the watchers accept that level as support, won't those watching the watchers accept it too?

It may be a monkey, but it also may be self-fulfilling prophecy?
 

Mar

15

Lost in the shuffle last week, was Mr. Rollert's observation and admonishment in reference to the Chair's query, regarding the drift.

"Look at the index performance without buybacks and/or M&A. It's vastly different.

Performance was enhanced by the ability and interest by banks in taking good companies private. The final cycle of the bull will show a very different pattern due to very different balance sheets"

It brought to mind the following quote from David Mamet's "Three Uses of the Knife". The subject of drama is The Lie. At the end of the drama THE TRUTH — which has been overlooked, disregarded, scorned, and denied — prevails. And that is how we know the Drama is done.

After last week, I would imagine that the truth is no longer ridiculed, nor violently opposed, but has now been accepted as self-evident. However, the drama is far from done, and the market still finds itself knee-deep in its own self-created shit.

We were told that the market was driven by a strong economy and solid corporate earnings, which were largely made possible by the President's tax cuts and de-regulation. But in fact, 2019's return was built on a foundation of Fed easing and stock buybacks. To wit, as soon as they were removed the market's foundation began to crack. The coronavirus was simply the stone cutter's last blow.

Those very tax cuts which were attributed to driving corporate growth, actually enabled corporations to buy back more stock. However, the majority of corporate buybacks were funded by issuing corporate bonds. And, corporations continued to execute buybacks right up to the highs of the move.

Taking on debt to finance buybacks while there weren't any revenue-generating investments, has irreparably harmed corporate balance sheets, as Jeff stated. They are now tasked with paying down that debt in an environment with (understatement-of-the-decade) greatly reduced liquidity.

I'm not trying to cast aspersions on the drift, but the truth is prevailing. The events leading up to the crash itself, are emblematic of a disregard for the long-term effects of thoughtless actions. And, sometime in the future, the same will probably be said about any remedies proffered in the near term.

We may bounce, and bounce hard, but the drama is far from over.

Jan

24

The Fed balance sheet ticks up.

Gary Phillips writes: 

And if institutions are all in, long to the max %tile, there's record low short interest, the Fed is beginning to shrink their balance sheet and buybacks are going dark, who is left to buy?

Market's reaction to the weak unemployment # may just be the beginning of a larger sell off.

Zubin al Genubi writes: 

Add a hundred billion here, a hundred billion there and pretty soon you're talking some real money.

Jan

12

"Recent Balance Sheet Trends"

Gary Phillips writes: 

And, if institutions are all in, long to the max %tile, there's record low short interest, the Fed is beginning to shrink their balance sheet, and buybacks are going dark, who is left to buy?

Market's reaction to the weak unemployment # may just be the beginning of a larger sell off.

Jan

11

 It does make one wonder: spurious correlation or not?

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Jan

5

 "A Clever New Strategy for Treating Cancer, Thanks to Darwin"

Relevant to big rises in a year in S&P?

Bill Rafter writes: 

This is a fantastic article for anyone with cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Thanks for posting.

K.K Law writes: 

A broader point is this is another excellent example of out-of-the-box thinkers and doers who create revolutionary innovations.

Dylan Distasio writes:

Unfortunately these innovations occur in spite of the current US system not because of it.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Not unlike market analysis, the key to effective clinical observation is how the scientist conceptualizes the problem, and how he uses the information gathered. The dilemma presented with molecular targeted therapy using chemotherapy, is the very process that induces cell death (aptosis) can also promote (chemo)-resistance.This is quite the recursive paradox. Chemo drugs activate multiple signal transduction pathways which can contribute to either aptosis or chemo-resistance. One of the ways to circumvent this problem is to use a combination of drugs; employing another drug that targets the signal pathways that contribute to resistance. Of course, treatment varies from one patient to another, and the major challenge is to develop individualized therapy options that are tailor made to the patient.

Ever changing cycles and evolving markets dictate that traders must be agnostic and and adaptive. A tested, multi-variate approach tailored to the intrinsic nature of the current market regime will provide the best assessment of the market's context and offer the best approach to trading that particular market.

Jan

5

SPY weekly close above 50-period upper Bollinger band is not bullish, but not bearish either for the following week.

Average                                   0.0%
Standard deviation                    1.6%
N                                             153
t                                             -1.39
Average of all weeks since 1993   0.2%
Looking ahead 50 weeks, results are consistent with randomness with only 17 non-overlapping occurrences since 1993.
Average                                   10.7%
Standard deviation                    11.8%
N                                              17
t                                               0.03
Average of all 50-week periods since 1993  10.7%
 

Gary Phillips writes: 

One thing about shorting es here (3241.00 - 42) is that the market will give you pretty quick feedback as to whether you are right or wrong.
 

 

Jan

4

How can anybody in their right mind go home long spooz, over the weekend?

Cagdas Tuna writes: 

I can say there is no panic or risk in this market. Spooz, Nazzy all at the levels where they were yesterday. 

Ralph Vince writes: 

Lot of people thinking 2020 will be another monster up year, despite earnings having flatlined for the S&P in recent months, a curve that has inverted and a deteriorating employment situation.

I'm still thinking 2020 will be a big up year (unless employment starts to hemorrhage - a 50/50 proposition right now). I'm only short because I'm looking for a serious (and technical) correction.

Incidentally, that's whats going on here - a technical, not news driven one. If it were the latter, the market would have responded on news last night, instead, it didn't, it terjiversated on the news, and the technicals ruled the night.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Not so sure if complacency is a compelling reason to feel good about a long position, unless we're talking about bonds or gold.

Tuesday, (NY+4) has fairly good bearish seasonality, and could be another day where we see a geopolitical type catalyst

At least, my dark passenger is hoping so.

Ralph Vince writes: 

I think you just have to be patient on his one. It;s a Miami landing in a July thunderstorm. Just keep the seat belt really tight and enjoy the bouncing around as it comes in.

Jan

3

 Romance before athletic contests lowers performance. I also believe that one reason the Knicks are so terrible is that they succumb often e.g. Smith and Carmelo.

Gary Phillips writes: 

A friend of mine from the Bond pit befriended Michael Jordan when he first arrived to Chicago while M.J. was looking for a golf partner at Evanston. C.C. Fitz used to accompany M.J. and Charles Barkley to the NBA All-Star game every year. Fitz would always return with some hilarious tales of their antics and quotes from the outspoken Sir Charles. I can remember one distinctly that I believe is emblematic of their attitude, at least at that point in their lives. "Fitz, if you aren't thinking about pussy all the time, you're not concentrating hard enough."

Mr. Isomorphisms writes: 

Do they succumb more often than the other side? ESPN had an article about the erosion of home/away advantage in the instragram era. Apparently instagram is where NBA players receive sexts and set up dates.

Jeff Rollert writes: 

There's a number of Greek and Roman stories supporting the no romance before a battle concept.
 

Jan

2

One should never dismiss information without reason, especially if it's information which contradicts one's preexisting beliefs in some way. Like Dexter, I have always had a "dark passenger" when it comes to trading, a diametrical tension between reason and reinforcement. It is not difficult to hold two contradictory beliefs about the direction of the market. It's the nature of the beast, not unlike Cerberus, the multi-headed dog that guards the gate to Hades.

But I'm afraid I may be addicted to this sense of being at odds with myself. Conflict can easily become a narcotic. When I attempt to forecast the future, my biases assume control and expose the flaws in my decision process. Luckily when I am trading my instincts and discipline assume control and rein in my ambiguous emotions. Somehow I still mange to make money in spite of my dichotomous self.

They say not to allow your strengths to become your weaknesses, but in my case, the real challenge is to transform my weaknesses into my strengths.

Dec

27

What are the chances by randomness that a market with 55% up days and 250 trading days will end at the high, and does that have any evolutionary significance e.g. the battle of males to be at a maximum relative to competitors in other fields?

Gary Phillips writes: 

The "unsinkable" S&P is reminiscent of Molly Brown. Her husband's fortune made in silver was lost, but resurrected in his discovery of gold. She even survived the sinking of the Titanic! If disaster were to befall the S&P, it would most certainly survive; and present one a buying opportunity, once again.

Ralph Vince writes: 

It will have 3 1/2 market days to recover what it will give up tomorrow in order to do that.

Alston Mabry writes: 

Just to see some stats on the SPY days YTD:

249 trading days
149 Up days, or 59.8%
mean Up day: +0.57%
mean Up day: 1.61 pts
sd: 1.32

mean Dwn day: -0.57%
mean Dwn day: -1.63 pts
sd: 1.83

Jared Albert writes:

Using  with gratitude Big Al's numbers:

up =np.random.normal(1.61, 1.32, 138)
down = np.random.normal(-1.63, 1.83, 112)
Total number of max high finishes divided by total runs:      0.1357 on 10,000 runs

from random import sample, seed
import numpy as np
seed = 10
#55% of 250 give 137.5, so to avoid half days went with 55.2% up days
'''249 trading days

149 Up days, or 59.8%
mean Up day: +0.57%
mean Up day: 1.61 pts
sd: 1.32
mean Dwn day: -0.57%
mean Dwn day: -1.63 pts

sd: 1.83'''
up =(np.random.normal(1.61, 1.32, 138))
down = np.random.normal(-1.63, 1.83, 112)
total_days = list(np.concatenate((up,down)))
win_count = 0
total_runs= 10000
for _ in range(total_runs):
    m=0
    running_total = []
    test_population = sample(total_days, len(total_days))
    #print(test_population)
    for i in test_population:
        m = m + i
        running_total.append(m)
    #print(f'running_total,{running_total}')
    if max(running_total) == running_total[-1]:
        win_count += 1
        #print(f'win_count: {win_count}')
print(f'Total number of max high finishes divided by total runs: \
     {win_count/total_runs}')

Dec

27

Along with all my other shortcomings, I have a very strong tendency to aggressively add and hold onto my winning positions for what I believe is "the really big move". Most traders exit their winning trades too early because they trade for average and lack the discipline to watch their profits erode. Markets usually do go further than one thinks, however these excesses can evaporate quickly also.

For me at least, managing a losing trade isn't fraught with much angst. I don't overstay my welcome. I just get out! Paradoxically managing a winning trade is much more emotionally demanding and realizing a large winning trade can be more emotionally destabilizing than a losing trade.

Dec

23

Given that the S&P is up big with approximately 7 days remaining and 2 that S&P has been up 10 of last 12 days, both events can be independently quantified with very positive expectations until end of year.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Difficult to argue against that kind of momentum. I would expect to see dealers come in buying tomorrow a.m., to hedge their deltas on options positions, rolled up-in-strike and out-in-time. But I also see a possible bearish divergence in Ralph's most-watched SVXY and an uptick in implied correlations.

Dec

23

1. My favorite articles on Daily Speculations are not about trading. They are the Chair's recollections of his father Artie.

2. New Jersey's only redeeming quality is the full service gas stations

3. Large families are more than worth the expense and attendant tribulations.

4. I miss the hackneyed, but fervent pitches, from the Long Island penny stock hustlers.

5. The shorter the time-frame (when trading), the more random the price action, the greater the capacity issues, and the greater the model risk.

6. Is there a way to keep the current generation from repeating "Sure" instead of "Yes, Please", and "No Problem" instead of "Your Welcome"?

7. "A happy wife IS a happy life". Place her on a pedestal and keep her there!

8. Sitting will kill you just as assuredly as cigarettes!

9. The attitudes of today's athletes have ruined my love of sports.

10. Try your best to avoid…getting stuck driving behind a Prius!

Dec

23

After a 4 year hiatus from trading, #7 is now four; and as Steven Tyler (and yes, Sleepy Joe), Gene Autry once sang, "I am back in the saddle again". Not much has changed. News and algos drive the market in the short term; and as a prominent spec-lister once stated, "momentum and sentiment" drive the market in the long term. Of course, so do stock buybacks and an acommodative Fed!

The current trend among marketnistas, academics, and dilettantes in social-media, appear to only "view the market through the lens of volatility". Short vol strategies are nothing new, but the obsession with dealers' counter-party options positions and their attendant gamma exposure, is herd like. But, nothing has really changed. It's still the drift driving price, albeit on steroids.

The transition back was nearly seamless. Trading is forever ingrained in my mind, my heart, and my soul; which is why I couldn't keep from returning to the screens. Unfortunately, all my bad habits appear to be ingrained in my psyche, also. Once again, nothing has really changed! Confirmation bias, and fomo/over-trading, systematically pervades my decision making.

Emotionally-neutral, logic based reasoning is the ideal we all seek. But, climbing out of that valley between perception and reality has always been a trek for me. Even after +45 years of trading, I am still fighting those cognitive demons.

Nevertheless "my get up and go hasn't got up and went"… quite yet. And trading is still my "Sweet Emotion".

Oct

3

 It was a cool, crisp morning as I climbed into my black Toyota Tundra "Rock Warrior" pick-up. I was sporting my "Adrenaline" t-shirt and work jeans. My feet were shod in 8" Danner boots. I popped on the radio and quickly changed the station from conservative talk to country music, and took a gulp of a coffee from my thermos. I wasn't in any particular hurry, but once on the highway, I was quickly doing 80, and then 90 mph. After all, it was a beautiful day, I was riding high, and I was feeling good! And although, I have a perpetually heavy foot when driving my truck, I've never been stopped on the interstate. I believe the state troopers can relate to the blue collar working stiff, and will give them a pass, more often than not.

This is in sharp contrast to the way I comport myself when driving the family SUV. I drive much more conservatively, even if the family isn't in the vehicle. And, the same phenomenon is present when I drive one of my children's (purposefully) under-powered vehicles. I've come to realize that my mood and demeanor while driving, is affected by my proximal environment, which includes the car I drive, the music I play, the lighting conditions and even my core beliefs. In the pick-up I'm the cowboy, and in the SUV I'm the family guy. I'll probably be doing the speed limit when listening to classical music in the Lexus, but be speeding along at +90 while listening to "Highway To Hell" in the truck, except on those days when it's raining or overcast and the light is flat as pancake; this cowboy is inevitably knocked-out of his emotional saddle.

Understandably then, it's wise to be aware of, and attentive to, one's environment, mood, and personal convictions - they may underlie inaccurate perceptions of oneself and others. This is directly applicative to how we organize and frame our perception(s) of the market, because a dialectical tension between Bayesian reasoning and the need to be right is constantly there. To simplify the process traders often use schemas to organize and interpret information. In psychology and cognitive science, a schema describes a pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. The problem with these heuristic shortcuts, is traders who organize new perceptions into schema(s) have a tendency to leave them unchanged, even in the face of contradictory information. This can cause them to interpret situations incorrectly.

A trader's awareness of his physical trading environment can certainly have an effect on a traders performance, but nothing like the effect of his cognitive focused awareness. An attitude and approach that utilizes the concept of mindfulness, or being aware of and attentive to the current situation and personal moods; and the skills to control intense emotions, and reduce self-destructive behaviors, is always going to be best practice. Emotional predictability and the ability to reframe schemas may be just as important a step in problem solving as analyzing the market itself. In only this way, can one identify and change core beliefs and/or behaviors that underlie inaccurate perceptions of themselves and the markets.

Sep

19

After each missile test by North Korea, the reaction changes slightly. On the first ones, there is a big decline overnight, then a rally. On the second not so big an overnight decline. On subsequent ones, hardly a blip overnight with the rally in US trading the next day a little less. Can this reaction to information be generalized and quantified, and can predictions be made? Will a subsequent missile test actually lead to a rally overnight? The theory of information bits is relevant I think.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Recursive events sans any consequences has resulted in the market becoming desensitized to the disruption, the resulting effect much like a diminishing return. The same phenomenon can take place when one takes his first bad hickey, and realizes one's world hasn't come to an end. Becoming de-sensitized to risk or large losses can be very destabilizing to a trader.

Kim Zussman writes: 

"The market's like an aging lothario that continually needs its balls fluffed (by cb's) to get and stay erect."

-Fun Zayn Moyl in Gots Oyer

Sep

6

 Back in the day, (on the trading floor) where you stood and whom you stood next to in the pit, had more to do with how much much money you made, than how good of a trader or market maker you were. Groups of traders congregated around various brokers (order fillers) forming little cliques within the pit, which were largely hierarchical relative to capitalization, risk tolerance, and motive; yet the pit as a whole, still functioned as an efficient marketplace. Customer orders flowed from outside the exchange into the pits, where a market was made and fair value was determined through the process of price discovery, price information then flowed back out from the exchange, and back to the customers. But, not before the locals had a chance to "pick-off" off the customers' orders.In theory, all trading was to be executed by open outcry, and all customer orders were to be kept secret until they were executed. In practice this was seldom the case. While the ball belonged to the brokers, they needed the locals to take the other side of their orders. The locals needed the brokers to get the "edge " on their trades and information about the order flow. It was this interdependence that forced a bond of trust and a doctrine of integrity between the locals and brokers. While it both empowered and enriched the pit's inhabitants, it was also the dominant reason why the pits functioned so efficiently.

Today's central banks work together in much the same way as the cliques in the pit did. Although disparate in terms of policy, execution, and motivation, the end result is a convenient alignment of their interests.They continue to underpin the markets with massive asset purchases in order to create the illusion of a healthy global economy. They are counting on structural reforms and fiscal stimulus from the Trump administration i.e., corporate tax cut, repatriation of offshore capital, and a trillion dollar infrastructure spend, will be enough to create a healthy, growing, and self-sustaining global economy, as it moves from a central bank driven recovery to a fiscal stimulus driven recovery.

And it will probably take a perfect storm of all three stimuli to reverse the the structural changes the U.S. economy has undergone in recent years; because there is nothing the Central Banks can do with monetary policy to reverse the changes related to an aging population and job distribution that has resulted in sluggish wage and productivity growth. Kind of reminds me of the waning days of open outcry, when traders on the floor hoped for some kind of Hail Mary, that would save them from obsolescence.

Aug

29

 If Floyd Mayweather needed to rationally, consciously evaluate each threat before responding, he unquestionably would have gotten his ass kicked last night. Sometimes we process the world far better in an implicit, subconscious mode rather than in an explicit manner. And, it is on this level that I state unequivocally, the market looks and feels like crap. This is not to say there isn't any data to confirm this bias; deteriorating market internals point to a shift away from risk. P/C ratios continue to rise and the VIX appears to be in a nascent uptrend. The 2-10 is bull flattening as the curve ratchet backs growth and trumpflation expectations, while the dec17/dec18 Eurodollar curve adds confirmation. As John Hussman recently stated, "The problem is that if interest rates are lower because likely future nominal growth in deliverable cash flows is also lower, then no valuation premium is justified at all." Hence, the persistent slowing in the rate of potential and actual U.S. real GDP growth.

Could there be a productivity boom as a by-product of tax reform, and the tax advantaged repatriation of U.S. corporate earnings held abroad? Perhaps, but believing Gary Cohn's assessment of the viability of tax reform seems naïve to me. He was probably given an "aliyah" at Emanu-El this Shabbos, for his comments that ramped ES to 2450 last week. Chances are his buddies exited their longs and shorted into the rally. Zei Gezunt and Gut Voch, Gary! Having money is a good thing, but having power over money is even better. Which is of course, the reason why the market is where it is today, and the best reason why it could be higher tomorrow.

If one were to believe everything one read in the media, one would believe that Conor McGregor actually stood a chance to beat Mayweather. One would also believe that the "doom-and-gloomers" are as ubiquitous as the young boys in "daisy dukes" sauntering down 8th Ave. in Hell's Kitchen. Granted, the usual perma-bears like Stockman and Rickards et al are touting financial disaster, along with the guys with real street creds like Dalio, Gundlach, and Hussman. But, if one were to look at the chart of the Rydex Total Assets Bear Index Funds, one would not think market sentiment is overwhelmingly bearish

As it were, the bulls are like Mayweather, and the bears are like McGregor. The bulls are always going to be favored, but in this case I'm betting on the underdog. Near term, the market is going lower, with a retest of 2425 in the imminent future. The 2400 level offers up obvious support thereafter, yet the minimum target to the downside is 2375. The inevitable rematch however, will probably see the favorite regain it's title once again.

Aug

20

In 2015, there was a very pronounced seasonality around the 3rd Friday of the month, where the market would ramp higher going into both quad-witch options expiration, and non-quarterly expiration, and then mean revert lower post expiration. J.P. Morgan had a couple of strategies that provided exposure to such options expiry momentum and it's subsequent mean reversion. Of course, this Friday's August expiration saw the market sell off the day before opex, and close unchanged on Friday. This is very similar to what happened during May opex of this year, when the ES sold off ~3% two days before expiration. While I'm not quite certain what the market will do next week, ES rebounded strongly the week following options expiration back in May.

As Kolanovic explained, the reason a broader selloff did not ensue is that none of the triggers for systematic selling were breached. Momentum stayed positive, bonds rallied and almost totally offset the equity selloff, and vol targeting strategies had already reached leverage caps at higher levels of volatility than those reached on that day. Options positioning going into May 17 was benign and long gamma, and as is often the case, moves are reverted when there is positive gamma exposure.

Bonds are once again negatively correlated to spooz, offsetting falling equity prices, and today's vol levels have only increased commensurate with May 17th's levels, however current VVIX:VIX is substantially higher than back in May, and momentum has turned negative. September options open interest is skewed toward puts in the current trading range with large pins at the 2400 and 2350 levels.

The stuffed cabbage appears to be falling apart, and there is no shortage of potential explanations as to why: trumpeachment, tax reform delay, balance sheet reduction, fed tightening, and if there were to be a selloff this Monday–renewed bellicose dialogue between the Kim and the Donald over war games.

P/C ratios continue to be bearish, and don't show signs of being overbought. A post-expiration move below 2425-20 on Monday would take dealers further short gamma as expired hedges are rolled forward boosting volatility. A test of 2400 in the ES then seems likely where a break below, might not be bought. The 'world' is leaning against that level, and recent statements imply the Fed may not be as inclined to be a buyer, as they have been in the past.

The powers that be seem determined not to allow gold to build value above 1300, however the $/yen is on the precipice, and further domestic conflict would pare it's price and support rallies in gold and treasuries. In any case triple bottoms (usd/jpy) and triple tops (gc) never hold.

Jim Sogi writes: 

Last weekend they paid a nice premium for taking the risk of holding their goods over the weekend. Always risk, and that's what they pay for.

Ralph Vince writes: 

Don't know if we'll see that tomorrow, but volatility is certainly telling us (very strongly) this is not the correction it seems most are looking for yet.

I still think we challenge the all-time highs first, and, very possibly, go into another strong up leg this Autumn on the inevitable tax cut legislation. The big bull–from wherever you begin looking at it from, March 09, Nov 2012, or, as I see it from January 2016, is far from over. And that means higher highs before it is.

I can be long and wrong but not short and wrong on the timing of all of this. But I'm quite certain we're going right back up to those all time highs here, just not so sure about tomorrow.

The bull market in bonds takes a breather this week.

Aug

17

If not today, then tomorrow…don't be shut out.

Gary Phillips writes: 

2475.00 appears impenetrable, at least until after opex Friday. If $/yen was to further take it on the chin due to Trump backlash, which looks likely, then gold should break higher and take out the round at 1300.00 while bonds tag along for the ride. Thinking 2440 in es before 2480.00.

Ralph Vince writes: 

Maybe so, Gary. BUT…there's no danger until the big indexes hit new all tie highs first, which is inevitable in the next couple of days.

anonymous writes: 

This is good, selling off into the open. Prime chance to add for another charge at new all time highs here. We are hitting a cycle low in this Thurs/Fri area, maybe even at it right now, and some intermediate stuff that is deeply oversold.

Mar

21

The recursive paradox of self-determination or: If you lack the skills to trade, then trade to acquire the skills you lack

I ask for strength,

trading presents obstacles to make me strong;

I ask for wisdom,

trading provokes my critical thoughts;

I ask for courage,

trading challenges me with it’s risk and uncertainty;

I ask for patience,

trading puts me in situations where I am forced to wait;

I ask for discipline,

trading tests my resolve and determination;

I ask for prosperity,

trading gives me the opportunity to profit;

I may not get everything I ask for,

yet, trading gives me everything I need.

Oct

19

 Like any relationship, correlations have life cycles which can vary over time; increasing, decreasing, or even disappearing, depending on the steady or changing market environment. There was a time when there was a positive relationship between yield movements and stock returns, especially when the 10 year treasury yield was below 5%. Rising rates were historically associated with rising stock prices; but when the 10 year yield was above 5% a negative relationship between yield movements and stock returns existed. Since '09 the S&P rallied from 666 to near 2200 while 10 year rates fell from ~4% down to ~1.3 due to central bank monetary policies. However, the Fed's actions may result in changing the correlation between treasuries and equities once again, ushering in a secular regime change where rates are rising and are positively correlated with rising equity returns.

Aug

2

 Here's a recording of the full 2+ hour speech that the late legendary bond trader Charlie DiFrancesca gave in 1989. It's very pit centric and somewhat outdated, but he still delivers a hundred meals for a lifetime.

Gary Phillips writes: 

There is a great story about Charlie D. After a particularly tumultuous day in the bonds, the pit had emptied out as usual, except for a few stragglers who remained sitting on the steps. 'SPL' was sitting there looking unusually despondent as his clerk P&S'd his remaining cards. Charlie happened to walk by and ask one of SPL's other clerks "what was wrong with Steve?" I wasn't privy to those words, but as Charlie walked away I heard him say, " Shit, I thought Steve could handle dropping 2Mil better than than THAT!

May

2

 A broker in 1880 on floor said "seal". Others misheard him. Thought he said "sell". One person started selling, and others followed. A terrible panic occurred. Icahn said "apple". One person started selling. A rout ensued. Yes, the market moves every day for ephemeral reasons. It makes a regularity man "humble". Can you think of other stupid reasons for a market move? Late Thursday declines?

Alston Mabry writes: 

I think it's less ephemeral if you model it this way: (1) Many players were looking for en excuse to sell; (2) Icahn provides the excuse for selling AAPL; (3) falling AAPL provides the excuse for selling, say, INTC, which (4) provides the excuse for selling…and so on.

Jeff Watson writes: 

This reminds me of a drought back in the 80s where grains were moving much higher for weeks. It was an overcast day and someone noticed a few raindrops on the window, 10 minutes before the close. An astute local started selling and telling the pit to look at the window, "It's raining outside." Everyone started selling and the bean and corn markets went from bid limit up to offered limit down. Those few drops were the only rain that day and afterward, the markets resumed their summer weather drought pattern.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Back in the same day, I would often "break" brokers I stood next to (in the bond pit), so that they could use the bathroom.

On one occasion I was covering someone's business when an order was arbed into the absent broker's clerk. "Gary, buy me 200!" he barked. I looked over to Charlie D, hand-signaling 200, and took his offer. "You're filled– bought 200 at even!", I relayed back to the clerk.

It was then that the clerk frantically grabbed my arm and informed me he went backwards on the order, and that it should have been a sale and not a buy.

Before I even had a chance to react, the market violently sold off 45 tics. I was now long 200 bonds, 45 tics higher, and also owed the customer a sale for 200 bonds, 45 tics higher.

At the time nobody knew what had happened, but it turned out that there was a rumor that George Bush (Sr.) had been shot. I felt the color drain from my face, and my financial life flash before my eyes.

Not surprisingly, the market bounced back and completely retraced its move lower when the rumor proved false, allowing me to get off the 400 bonds I needed to sell.

Yet, I often wonder if there would have been a different resolution if the donkey had been in office instead of the elephant. A fitting lobogola indeed!

anonymous writes: 

One wonders if Icahn is talking the Trump book at this point given their mutual admiration and Trump's early desire for him as Tres Sec which Carl has repeatedly negated.

Dec

28

Recent posts by the chair have turned my thoughts inward. As I approach 63, I now find myself contemplating my mortality quite regularly. It's not so much that I am afraid to die, rather that I am fearful I won't be here for those who love me and need me. The irony is not lost on me. It often takes one's trepidation about death to put one's living into perspective, especially when one's wife is expecting a child any day now.

Trading summarily takes on a subordinated priority, and I can easily be susceptible to questioning what I was thinking. How can anyone in their right mind bring a child into this mad world. And as my most vocal critics have expounded, "how can you do it at your age?" The answer is quite simple and it's not a question of mortality, but morality. How can I not?

So, I am looking forward to this child with hope and great anticipation, not dread and fear. More than ever, family is the crucible of our future and is still the best means we have for nurturing future generations.

there is no need to take a poll
the years *have* taken their due toll
and no matter what is one's ideology
one cannot defy the laws of biology

one does not know more than the sages
nor the cumulative wisdom of the ages
one strives to be healthy, wealthy, and wise
but, in ways that may come as a surprise

hope once lost, has reemerged and unfurled
as i excitedly usher new life into this world
surprised by my prolonged luck and virility
blessed by love, grounded by profound humility

once upon a time there was six in the queue
and then quite surprisingly, one more was due
was not really trying to keep up with our mentor
it just so happened that the heaven above sent her

ava boriska, named after a famous forties siren
a blessed buju, equal parts lao and daughter of zion
a strategic acquisition and a granted new years wish
destined for papaya and kugel, sticky rice and knish

she has redeemed the cynicism, madness and deception
by miraculously turning the prose of love and conception
into the sublime poetry of a newborn baby's first breath
and serendipitously mitigated my dance with death

chava "giver of life" progenitor of future generations
spontaneous suspender of my fears and frustrations
you will be enveloped in a matrix of stability and love
this my heartfelt promise to you, and to the one above

i will teach you how to handle risk and conflict
how to give and receive love, and not be tricked
i will pass on my values; family is the most important tender
for the sake of civilization's future, you must be it's defender

another disruptive venture, that's already a sure win-win
hope she's out of diapers before its my turn, and* i'm* in
in any case, what's one more? i gotta say, what the heck!
like a sagacious man said to me,"you are indeed a true spec"

Nov

23

 A recent trip to upgrade my family's phones saw me leave with 3 extra android tablets, 2 iPads and a monthly phone bill that was 2x what it was when I walked in. The siren's call of the deep discount is as irresistible as the naive expectation of easy money. The closer we get to Black Friday the more we are exposed to the lure of 50-80% off deals. The ease of point-and-click shopping leaves us even more vulnerable to the pitfalls of anchoring bias. I find myself prone to frivolous and unnecessary purchases, just because items are cheap relative to what they once were, rather than because they are a good value and one needs them. Bears keeping in mind during the current holiday trading season.

Oct

12

 I read a few days ago on a website that no more evolution is possible beyond the human form, until consciousness is worked upon. I interpreted that nature kept forcing a biological evolution & brought us into human form and hereon for remaining relevant in the continuing evolution, for improving the lot within this and the next live(s), one will have to raise the envelope of one's consciousness.

If I connect this idea to another idea that we cannot let people press the wrong switches in our being, causing either morbid fear or fatal attraction, then I have a combined thought that for my evolution to continue I have to de-activate the wrong switches in my consciousness such as outside of me other forces cannot trigger them. Only inward flow of intelligence into any action or thought switch has to activate any.

This leads me to a thought that if God is the supra-intelligence design that Governs this Universe and every Universe, then there is a tendency for the human world to keep becoming more and more vigorous, intense in the stimuli each next generation will keep getting. The one effective in a world that will have more and more intense stimuli are then going to be those who are stronger in the face of such stimuli. The same way that progressive resistance training builds the muscles on our body, progressive resistance training to information stimuli may develop Emotion Intelligence.

More information, more TV channels, more internet, more books, more facilities, more attractions & eventually more frustrations and at an increasingly faster speed is the trend within this life. To evolve and become more effective than others is a goal of the process Darwinian Evolution, then each life we get is a preparation for the next one is one view. To be given birth in a much faster, more enticing, more opulent world one might be then actually getting eligibility by effectively training received in a lesser / simpler / easier world to respond less and less to external attractions and frustrations.

So if I let this process of imagination propagate forwards, undergoing evolution of the Emotionally Intelligent side of our brains we may one day become eligible to be given birth into Heaven and if we keep failing the tests of Emotional Intelligence we may keep receding into lower worlds and reach Hell too.

Yet, who knows if all universes are co-existent and time is a mere illusion that causes a sense of separated-ness and time provides a mythical yarn on which our mind travels, then Heaven and Hell may both be very well existent within this life and many have been to both several times within this life.

May I therefore conclude, those amongst the human specie that are able to restrain an impulsive response to stimuli more than others are on the way to building their Heavens, while those who respond more impulsively than the rest are accelerating their journeys towards Hell. This is felt most truly in the profession of trading, that provides unambiguous instant feedback with each piece of action and inaction, yet may be true in every human enterprise since this is the path of the ongoing evolution.

I am hopeful you will allow me an indulgence that, mere Intelligence is for those who are afraid of handling the journey to hell and emotional intelligence is for those who are making a successful trip back from hell with a determination to get to heaven on this leg. Perhaps, the passport to heaven, for getting in and staying there, is a high EQ and not a mere high IQ.

Gary Phillips writes: 

One can never count on the consequences of their actions, yet one can always count on the motive(s) of the action. The trader needs to take responsibility for the consequences of his own choices. The market demands objectivity and precision which is directly quantifiable. The ego is completely different from the market, and can only be measured subjectively and qualitatively. Why not simply, look at life as a flash of beta? There isn't any measurable premium to be paid to insure compensation or avoid retribution for the kind of earthly life one lead before one's option expired. Trite but true, "not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."
 

Sep

30

While helping me pack the SUV the other day, the 5 year old casually remarked, "I went to the doctor today". Oh yeah, how did it go? I said. "I got a shot". How was that? "Painful! he responded, with a slight grimace. I know how you feel. I had to get out of my long SPOOs today. "How was that?" he remarked. Painful! I lamented, with the very same look on my face.

Sep

24

Will someone explain to me how a 57% man survey versus a 57.5 consensus in cha— must be 1 in 200 varied, with a standard deviation of the number of 5 percentage points or 25… could cause an immediate drop of 20 points in SPU and 300 in Nikkei et al. Is it random? Is it bullish or bearish in itself? The old story… a number is seen as bad for China. The US markets swoon. And then China goes up regardless, but the bearishness persists. When people are bearish they're bearish.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Herd behavior appears to have become more institutionalized i.e, ETFs, risk parity funds. Traders need to adjust to the reduced level of liquidity (Volker Rule's effect?), and the higher level of realized and implied volatility. Eventually these things sort themselves out and the fundamentals reassert themselves. I suspect that's what will happen this time too. 

Aug

6

 Overconfidence

Success in the opening can lead to a weak middle game, and finally defeat in the ending. (Today in SPUs?)

The three pillars: playing much, suffering much, and studying much– these are the three pillars of learning.

A breakdown

Market and board players should not rely too much on the computer. Something new might arise and they might have to think.

Idiot savants

There are genius players who have a sixth sense but some of them do not have the other five (Sornette? The derivatives expert?)

Friends

Win, lose or draw, it's good to have friends. But it's especially good to have game friends. I've had some of them 50 year years (the spec list was started 18 years ago. How long will it last?)

A paradox

Checkers is so simple– it is difficult. Chess is so difficult, it is simple. (What is the simplest market, the simplest technique. The tall basketballer from Harvard who started with me liked to buy the open to 11 breakout in all markets).

Christopher Columbus

When you discover good moves on your own, you are likely to remember them. When you learn them by rote or the computer, you tend to forget. (Keep doing the hand studies. And follow the 3rd Contrivance in the art of trading. Keep half hour prices by hand. One has been doing so for 45 years. The bound books are all moldy in the former trading room)

Research

The search for the right move during the game is helped by the research you have done before playing (read the 100 year old books.)

These are 10 of the 5,000 proverbs that Tom wrote for us during the 20 years he gave us lessons. He wrote 25 books, and always said that the book he wrote based on these proverbs would be his best book. He'd always look around wistfully after saying that: "the one thing I wished is that I married a girl like Susan". Then he'd shake his head sadly. "But if I had, I might not have written the 25 books."

Gary Phillips writes: 

Like my mother used to say, Mr. Wiswell's first quote gave me goose bumps.

Vince Fulco writes: 

How many times will we decide we need to focus on one position to the detriment of the successful mix reminding of the term "perfect is the enemy of the good"?

Stefan Martinek writes: 

I think perfectionism is dangerous. In trading it leads to procrastination. For example, we can view any system as 3-dimensional cube: (dim "a") p of winning; (dim "b") avgWin/avgLoss; (dim "c") number of opportunities. Retail traders usually love high "a". But high "a" usually reduces "b" (we can also inflate "a" by faster exits/targets pushing "b" down). But in case that one is lucky and finds something with high "a" and "b", "c" typically gets killed (valid also outside of trading). Less perfect models with lower "a" and higher "c" usually make more money on both absolute and risk-adjusted basis.
 

Aug

5

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

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

Ranging from bad to worse, were the losing days…

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

Ranging from good to better, were the winning days

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

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

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

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

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

Jim Sogi adds: 

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

Sushil Kedia writes: 

In my earlier years, there was a dream job I wanted to get hired for. Interview processes lead me to the final round with the big man, who has been an idol nearly for me for close to two decades now.

At the deeper end of what most would consider to be a long interview by his standards, since he had already given me twenty minutes he asked me to tell him one exceptional quality I have in me which would be really difficult to find in most others and how it is relevant to the job of running his billion dollar book.

I told him humility is my most effective quality. He asked why. I told him that it is the most powerful currency that can ever be invented. He stared at me and asked why. I told him, without spending any cash of any type, it is very effective in seizing a put option from the world of your own short-comings, follies and errors. He said, this may not always work, as some will be so good that they will still encash your short-comings. I wasn't sure if he didn't like what I said. Then with a long pause he asked, what more ways can you justify saying that humility is the most powerful currency. I said it helps you see others' cards often better without revealing most of yours. He smiled. He asked, tell me a third way in which humility is a currency. Told him, the same way that deception minimizes struggle for the discovery of the deal zone, humility also reduces the required effort for closure. He said you are hired, subject to reference checks.

Jul

6

I'm not sure how to frame this out yet (perhaps others have ideas) but I am thinking of an accumulation indicator. The basic idea is this. Have you ever seen a market that went from "volatile" to almost a controlled, with a steady rise up. The qualitative thing you see is every single morning dip reverses very quickly. The second thing is that over a period of time there are no sustained pullbacks of any magnitude, an invisible hand guiding the market up. You can imagine how that kind of market feels for a short–every single short covering opportunity is thwarted prematurely.

Regardless, out of these conditions the qualitative hypothesis is that the price needs to accelerate before it can reverse or have a substantial correction. The question is, if defined quantitatively, might such an accumulation pattern show above average expected value. It is perhaps the flip side of the normal swing-type idea of buying a dip. Also, it might be helpful to only look at markets that have a positive drift.

John Bollinger comments: 

Fred Wynia's volume work addresses this concept quite well. The work
is proprietary and quite elegant/sophisticated, but the underlying
concept, that of measuring and comparing volume in swings, has been
around for a long, long time. As usual, the devil is in getting the
details right.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Ed, good luck trying to develop an indicator that is both robust and deterministic. Just a note however, if one only looks at markets that have a positive drift, back-testing results could be affected by said structural bias and rendered useless because they would only reflect the longer-term tendency of the market to go up.

Ed Stewart replies: 

Thanks. The idea as it stands is to complex to begin evaluating. I don't think I have captured the essential nature of the idea yet. I'm going to look if any specific elements of the idea on a stand alone basis. In terms of drift impacting results, that is very true. Drift needs to be incorporated in or it is pure futility. Many years ago when I was a random reader of the site I emailed in and Victor sent me a paper explaining a method that I still utilize, if I recall correctly. That ended up helping me tremendously. 

When I wrote the accumulation post, it was in large part based on watching the climb in IBKR over the prior few months and also similar observations on a short-time horizon. What do you know, IBKR has accelerated quite nicely. Up 5% today and almost 10% in prior 3 days. You can see the qualitative example if you look at a 3 month chart. No luck though, understanding the phenomenon on a systematic basis on the intermediate term. I've had luck with the idea on a shorter time horizon though. 

Gary Phillips adds: 

Most trend following systems have average win rates because of high draw-downs during whipsaw periods. The fundamental problem of most trend-following systems is that in order to deliver a high payoff ratio they must sacrifice a high win rate. If you try to increase the fraction of winning trades, the payoff ratio will suffer. So in effect, you would like to mitigate the negative effects of these problems by by combining a trend following strategy with a short-term trading system that would compensate for the negative trend following performance when markets are range-bound or mean-reverting. I am sure there are those that would argue that volume and volatility are both robust and deterministic indicators, but neither rising volume, nor falling vol, are necessary, nor sufficient, for the market to always trend higher, and even if they are randomly presented they do not necessarily establish timing. 

Jul

5

 Michael Munowitz's Knowing: The Nature of Physical Law is a great book. All pairs attract and repulse based on proximity. Very relevant to bond stocks last week while away. A do si do.

Gary Phillips writes: 

I was lucky enough to buy spoos/sell bonds Tuesday morning feeling that the principals had traveled far enough apart, and would begin to attract to one another. I subsequently added 20% to my position the following day as their proximity increased and the attraction between them grew stronger. Unfortunately, I only covered a portion of my position on the payrolls number, and then the balance between attraction and repulsion tilted the other way. I hope that that the principals are simply taking a "step back" (covering short bonds due to a less than robust number), and that the attraction will resume next week.

Gary Rogan writes: 

Why is it more useful to look at unrelated things being attracted to one another vs. them getting to cheap or too expensive and reverting to some sort of a "mean" which would look like attraction if one is so inclined? Or if the yield on one sort of security is out of whack with respect to another and they equalize over time is this attraction or people buying for yield and selling expensive stuff?

Jun

29

One found this article one of the most revealing I've read in sociology:

"Negatively Sixth Street"

Gary Phillips writes: 

I've been on the road for the last 8 weeks or so, traveling the eastern seaboard with my wife and 3 of our 6 (call it a partial fill). While I had envisioned a trip worthy of Kerouac or even Kuralt, the eventual reality presented was much more griswoldian. Nevertheless, traveling by car does allow one greater freedom, the opportunity to experience extraordinary scenery, and the ability to capture the charm of small towns and the inherent individuality of its people. It also allows one to step back in time to a place where the only cracks visible are in the sidewalks, and not above the baggy trousers worn by rapper wannabes. And, it serves to remind us of the civility that once was part of the rich heritage of this great nation.

One used to receive a hearty "you're welcome" or "it was my pleasure" when one expressed gratitude. The contemporary response appears to be "no problem", as if your social counterparty was doing you a favor. I once believed the ubiquitous sense of entitlement and 'increasing narcissism" I encountered was and primarily contained among the members of generation z, but was disheartened to discover the casual disregard of manners crossed generational, regional, and cultural boundaries. This phenomenon has been summarily rationalized as the result of the internet's effect on the way people communicate. And indeed, social media may have conditioned individuals to be expert parsers of language, meaning, and authorial intent. Perhaps the brevity of discourse does not allow for a subtext of manners and humility. But is it really anybody's fault? "For a flow system to persist in time (to survive) it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier and easier access to the currents that flow through it". According to constructal theory, a written language evolves to "connect" better to the masses. If the elements that constitute a language are complicated, the language will take too long to write and will be more difficult to remember, and global resistance will increase. On the other hand, if the language elements are too simple, the users of the language will lack precision. The meaning of words will be misconstrued. The natural evolution of written language, then, must head for a balance between the complicated and the simple, and twitter seems to fit the bill. And as with the case with language, technological advances in information technology have caused markets to quickly adapt to anomalies and present traders with less and less opportunities. Nevertheless, one may still find an oasis of civility here and there if one looks hard enough and lucky enough, and the same can still be said for trading opportunities.

Jun

15

 Hi Victor,

Here is a new discovery that may be of interest to your readers at Daily Speculations, and which may serve as introduction to my Junto presentation on 3 September:

"Why humans build fires shaped the same way"

It has generated a wave of interest on the web during the past few days.

Here is an excerpt from the Abstract:

Here we see why humans unwittingly build fires that look the same: edifices of fuel, as tall as they are wide. I show that the hottest pile of burning fuel occurs when the height of the pile is roughly the same as its base diameter. Key is why humans of all eras have been relying on this design of fire "unwittingly". The reason is that the heat flow from fire facilitates the movement, spreading, and survival of humans on the globe.

With best wishes,

Adrian

Adrian Bejan ( MIT ' 71, ' 72, ' 75 )
J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor
Duke University
Academy of Europe
 

Gary Phillips adds: 

I wonder if there are corollaries from the abelian sandpile model that are relevant to the ways fires are built and subsequently burn.

Jun

8

 I have often walked down the moving average street, but I like to look at what number for the average elicits buying so as you get near it, you can hope for a nice change in the distribuion of subsequent changes. I like to stop and stare at the amount that the curent price is above moving averages of different length and look at the expectations that follow various amount above and below. The changes in direction of the moving average have also been of interest. And the first advisory service I ever bought in commodities was called 'the cumulative average'. 60 years ago I bought it.

Ed Stewart writes: 

In 2012 I applied a 10 - 20 moving average cross to VIX trading product as an example showing the propensity to trend downwards in those markets, do mostly to the massive contango effects that were even more severe at that time - I also noted that every single MA combination worked in a wide range. A guy has continued to track that simple MA cross in XIV (inverse VIX etn), and it has continued to work, often much better than "sophisticated" multi-factor systems. I have had a great deal of luck trading the VIX futures with a combination curve slope, moving averages, and my preference for getting a period after a (seemingly) failed breakout of elevated volatility.

My thought based on this is that if one has reason to believe a market has a great deal of trend persistence yet timing might still be an issue, the simple MA approach seems like a good or reasonable tool. It's not the tool or technique itself so much but the features of a market that count and define if an idea or tool might work.

On the distance from MA idea, I like to do a similar thing but use mid-point of an X period range or a point like open, close, or other specific time.

Gary Phillips writes: 

"It's not the tool or technique itself so much but the features of a market that count and define if an idea or tool might work."

Good point. Any technical information and inferences made from using this or related indicators reflect not a primary but a secondary process that involves compliance of the indicators with fundamentals and/or a cognitive bias. However, indicators that are derivatives of price, track price changes; and, if there is persistence (the future is like the past) they inevitably end up contributing to the myth that they are predictive.

Stefan Martinek writes:

I think the best tools/techniques "learn" from the market and use the data features in some way (e.g. market specific level of noise, noise "memory", etc.). This is why I never use MAs or anything that has MAs inside where we arbitrarily via parameter selection force our views on data. Good techniques are usually adaptive and ask data what parameters are preferred now.

May

14

 Nothing but free time, as I sit here long (from an average of 1999.00) watching the spoos take their shot at ath's.

I recently had the opportunity to don my cargo pants and tool belt and accompany my gc wife and her 15 worker crew on a project where we deconstructed the display merchandise at a dozen decommissioned u.s. branches of a large European bank. For one day I gave up the comfort of my home office and $1500 ergonomic office chair, for a box truck and impact drill — and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. While I was certainly, a fish-out-of water, I felt right-at-home taking orders from my wife. She is an unapologetic task-oriented leader, whose sole focus is getting the job done in a timely and productive manner, yet can always be found working along side her workers, showing them how-it's-done.

Luckily she had previously detailed the step-by-step procedures necessary to complete my arduous tasks, so I was able to immerse myself in the work-at-hand. Inevitably, second order analogies to trading came to mind, and it wasn't long before I began to compare my current blue-collar labor to the commonly perceived, white-collar vocation of trading. It really isn't much of a stretch as one would think, especially for an ex-cbot floor trader. Most of us had empathy, if not an outright disdain for the *suits,* whose shoulders we rubbed as we walked defiantly past them on la salle street. Those of us who traded in the pits, did not consider ourselves white collar guys. After all, there was nothing sexy, nor glamorous about standing next to a bunch of sweaty guys, with alcohol on their breath, risking your own money, in order to make a living. In reality, making markets was quite the workman-like activity and not much different than the task-like work I was currently performing for my wife.

To this day, I consider trading to be a blue-collar work. After all, the activity that is trading, is not that much different in it's simplicity from manual labor. One only needs to look at the worker, and not the work; to find where the blame lies for any added complexity. The laborer understands the workplace procedures required to get the job done within the team environment. If he does his work, he collects a paycheck. Yet as traders, we fall prey to our natural instincts which often make our analysis unnecessarily complex and our work burdensome.

Because we are self-professed critical thinkers, I believe we sometimes forget that we are at heart, traders and speculators. We often fail to just trade-the-market, or as Jeff wrote, "we over-think the market and miss out on-the-move." Which is why I often go back-to-basics and go *caveman* on the market. I study the markets price action, and if I think the market is going higher, I buy it. If I'm wrong I get out. If I'm right, and I think the market is going to continue to higher, I buy more. And when I don't think it can go any higher, I get out. and then, I do it all over again. There are no excuses; I just do my work and collect a paycheck. Maybe I'll start wearing a hard-hat when trading…

May

13

 1. One wonders to what extent ind stocks that go up when market is way down are bullish in the next relevant periods. Does something comparable for markets exist.

2. Gold and spu both break through round number on same day. Is it non-random.

3. How low do grains have to go before they turn bullish.

4. One reads The Life of a Leaf by Steven Vogel which shows leaves reacting as much to their environment as our markets do to theirs.

4. The absurd moves up in bonds whenever the economy is weak because of expected liquidity from the fed, and more importantly the absurd moves down in them when the announcements are strong, provides opportunity.

5. I own a reasonable quantity of twitter on the sprained ankle theory . Will it suffer the same fate as the blackberry I rode down from 60 to 10.

6. To what extent now do companies that are hit hard in the stock market by revenue shortfalls provide opportunity.

7. One of Wiswell's favorite proverbs was that "checkers is a game of architecture". I believe the same is true of markets, but I am not a good enough architecht to apply all the proper principles.

8. There are more things in heaven and earth. The great great grand nephew of Robert Boyle comes in and tells me the reason that one can't make money trading in stocks is that all the high frequency people use some sort of lock the price then front run to get ahead of you and not violate the rule that the customer has to get the best price. 

Larry Williams writes: 

Please tell the great, great, grand nephew there are still people making money buying value/momentum stocks and holding for more than a nano-second.

Whenever I hear people decry the market place as to one person, group, etc running the table so we mere mortals "can't" succeed I think it is just a losers lament.

People, lots of them, still win in this game.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Everybody needs a "scapegoat" especially the the disenfranchised traders who thinks the market owes them a living.

anonymous writes: 

It is particularly fruitless on that small time scale because any countermeasure you develop that works will be viewed as a criminal act. You either actively lose or you are found guilty of winning–take your pick. Larry's idea is the sensible one.

Victor Niederhoffer replies: 

As the EC says about all their countries, "they're one of us. We'll protect them", the grand nephew is one of mine. He worked for me and did a fine job, and is well aware of the drift. His only weakness is that he knows that the other side is a bunch of highway robbers, and like the man who complained about the Australian moves even though he doesn't change it, he's a real trader and knows you can never get an honest deal from the markets.

May

11

 Preeminent statistician and election prognosticator Nate Silver, recently lamented on the problems pollsters are experiencing; and the recent election results in the UK may be a glaring example of their waning accuracy. Most pre-election polls called for a deadlock between the conservatives and the labor party and not the one-sided victory that actually transpired.silver listed the inability to reach voters over the telephone, and a growing distrust with probability sampling as two of the factors contributing to the pollsters' problem. To make matters worse, there have been instances where some pollsters withheld results when they differed from other surveys. Instead of acting independently from the other pollsters, some pollsters have herded with the popular consensus.

"Why Did A Rasmussen Reports Poll Disappear"

Jeff Sasmor writes: 

The Observer Effect , i.e. polls are generally less effective because people are bombarded with polls, surveys, etc. The act of observation is tainting the process.

Purchase a car lately? The salesman will explain to you how someone will call from the OEM and they'd like you to give them all "excellent" on all questions.

Use opentable and you're asked to post a review. Go to a website or use a company's interactive phone system and you'll be prompted to please take a short survey. Marketers and pollsters call on the phone several times a week to ask your opinion.

There's so much of that going on that many people won't participate. What does that do to the validity of the statistical methods used to process responses from people who refuse to play?

May

8

A survey from CRT capital on the causes of the bond sell-off had 40% saying Bunds were to blame. Next was positions with 25%, followed by inflation fears (ECI, oil, the dollar and TIPS) with 15%. Domestic data only got 13% and other carried 8%. Liquidity and corporate issuance were mentioned as stressors.

May

7

 Guaranteed paydays in boxing implies there is no inherent risk premium, so taking larger risks in prizefights does not provide larger returns. Accordingly, Floyd "Money" Mayweather took very little risk last Saturday evening, and fought "not-to-lose".

Both traders and fighters are susceptible to being emotionally enticed into behavioral patterns that adversely affect their performance, so while Floyd's approach may have appeared to be "uninspired", his strategy was based on reason rather than emotion.

Throughout the night Mayweather displayed superb technique, pacing, discipline, patience, and emotional symmetry.

In the end, the punch count was close to even, but Mayweather landed more "big" blows. It may not have been an exciting fight to watch, but asymmetric punches were the difference.

Mayweather exploited Pacquiao's weaknesses while staying away from his opponent's strengths. Even though Manny was the aggressor, Mayweather took the fight to Pac-Man and pressed at the right times. When the openings weren't there, he covered up and rested.

The chair exposed naive analysis of the markets for the pseudoscience it is; with technical mumbo-jumbo, spurious correlations, and causal urban myth making it a negative-sum proposition for most to try to predict the market.

Even for non-pugilist tacticians who can make a variant perception of the market look like anything but rocket science; without proper execution, an ever-changing and idiosyncratic market will quickly render any prescient analysis less than effective.

A trader sits down in front of his screens, and faces what is arguably a much tougher and more formidable opponent. At times his opponent is very predictable and easy to hit, but the majority of the time, his opponent is extremely unpredictable and elusive.

The trader will know his opponent's tendencies and have a plan, but just like the fighter, the trader will ultimately rely on a dynamic assessment of price action and adjust his strategy accordingly.

In either game, no matter how well you have sized up your opponent and tested your strategy, you still have to go out there and fight-your-fight.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Gary, great post by the way.

I might add, the "not to lose" habit is the most important characteristic of any successful speculator. When winning, one presses their bets, and when losing, one takes the losses with alacrity. Managing the losses with strict discipline will allow the wins to take care of themselves, provided one knows how to take a win. Winning is not as easy as it sounds or looks.

Gary Rogan writes: 

Once again diversification is an alternative to taking losses "with alacrity", at least in some markets. If what you are buying or selling has no known intrinsic value than perhaps there is no choice but to let the market be your guide. But as the well-known metaphor of "Mr. Market" indicates, in some areas "he" is not rational and should be taken advantage of instead of being used as a guide. I know that's not how you operate Jeff (and what's the intrinsic value of onions when not in a burlap bag?), but there are alternatives.

Apr

15

I took the various sectoral indices trading more than 5 mil avg vol, with entry set at the close of tax day (15 Apr 2014 close in this year) and exit set to various 1/2/3/4/5/ trading days.

Top instruments for five day holding period, with win % > 80% , with data points >= 15 , avg expectation > 2%

Instrument    Exit    #    Wins    % Wins    Avg%    Avg Win %    Avg Loss %    Pay Off
QQQ              t+5    15    13           87        2.20        2.83             -1.85            1.53
XLU               t+5    15    13           87         2.01        2.47             -0.95            2.60

XLE                t+5    15    13           87         2.19        2.73            -1.28            2.14

Gary Phillips writes:

i must confess, i’d rather just guess
than be duped and fooled, by randomness
i rather think twice, than just roll the dice
these random studies, do not drive price

rather think like a fox, not be put in a box
as the markets are, a recursive paradox
if not arc sine laws, then ever-changing-cycles
if you are in denial, it can be almost suicidal

these damning effects, must be circumvented
but not with the invented, nor the misrepresented
not with tools that are myopic, or simply synoptic,
lest the retail hypnotic, not benefit the agnostic

a causal understanding, is certainly demanding
but in-or-out of sample, it sets the best example
there’s so much more, than just trade and win
like adding to profits, when others are cashing in

immune to the tout, trading without any doubt
entering trades, where others are stopped-out
not stepping out-on-the ledge, with an illusory edge
there’s no need to hedge, this is my solemn pledge

Kora Reddy responds:

whether it was working by fluke or not… a reminder at today's close!

Mar

26

dig if you will the picture
doubt and patience amiss
the smell of fear now vanquished
can you my bears
can you picture this

how can I be too long
when rates refuse to rise
maybe it's because of the dollar 2 strong
maybe I'm in for a surprise
maybe I'm just like the herd
they're always foolishly enticed
trying to change the free bird
maybe it's already been priced
but this is what happens
when doves fly

Mar

2

This is an excellent article on deception with many applications to our field where deception is needed at all levels to stay ahead of competition.

Gary Phillips writes: 

We're not only susceptible to being deceived by the narratives of others, but by ourselves as well. We take a linear view that doesn't lend itself to the complex systems described above. We see something happening in the market, and we can't help but create our own narrative to explain what's happening. Traders are very good at linking cause and effect, often incorrectly; thereby unintentionally deceiving themselves.

However, you can't understand a complex system, by simply looking at it's individual parts. There are multiple heterogeneous agents that make independent decisions that evolve over time. These agents will interact which leads to emergence i.e., the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. and, emergence will disguise cause and effect. Therefore, it may be difficult to determine if deception would have an effect on the outcome, or not.

In hindsight, it's often the hidden factors that one did not anticipate or even consider, that were the drivers behind a move. So, even a move built on the back of deception or misinformation, may still be an actionable event, if one if one practices good trade management.

Jeff Watson writes: 

I remember back in the pit days when I'd want to shake out some weak hands by trying to fake a rally…..I'd start, then after 5 minutes I'd start believing my own fake out.

Feb

18

Given the strong whiff of deflationary sentiment in the group and the extended thread about negative yields, I'd inquire if anyone else got a short term buy signal for TIP today? I am going to ignore my signal this time but not because I disrespect this crowd's sentiment.

Rocky's Ghost writes:

My models have demonstrated with statistical perfection that 100% of the TIPS that traded today were purchased by people who think they will increase in value on either an absolute or relative basis.

But regardless of the sophistication of my tongue-in-cheek model, a discussion regarding under what circumstances an investor/trader should ignore one's "signals" is a very worthy topic of discussion. I have found that ignoring an entry signal is more insidious than ignoring an exit signal. Missed opportunity cost doesn't show up in the P&L, hence it results in self-delusion.

Gary Phillips writes:

Missed opportunity can often end up costing you more than money, especially if it causes one to chase or revenge trade.

anonymous writes: 

One corollary question associated with the negative yield situation is as follows: how negative must yields get before managers of short-term assets decide that it is more cost-effective and return-supporting to cease putting assets in sub-zero instruments, and instead hoard physical currency in their own private vaults. Yes, it would incur security and insurance costs, and probably tempt personnel to engage in fraud, but one wonders about the extent to which significant and persistent negative yields would lead to disinternediation.

anonymous writes:

Samuelson discusses negativity in an opinion piece today

"A new economic mystery: negative interest

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

"Negative interest rates" are no more unprecedented than the idea that the Federal government should be smaller than the combined bureaucracies of New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania - which was the case by the time Ulysses Grant left office in 1877. If you held money - either coin or U.S. notes or a demand deposit account at a bank that saw itself as an intermediary and not a lender, you paid negative interest rates; if you had bullion and you wanted to convert it to money, both the U.S. Mint and the brokers who still dealt in "gold" exchanges would charge you a fee. So would the depository you trusted. The closest you would come to not paying negative interest rates was to do as Charles notes and incur your own "security and insurance costs".

Under the Constitutional gold standard, you traded the costs of negative interest rates for (1) avoiding foreign exchange risk - your gold dollar would be worth exactly as much as its weight in pounds, francs and marks, and (2) the market risk that the fluctuations in securities and asset prices always holds.

In abandoning the gold standard, the United States joined other believers in central banking in the notion that foreign exchange could be "controlled" in a way that still allowed national governments to play credit roulette using their own debt as currency while, at the same time, administering "stable" prices and full employment.

La-di-da.

Gary Rogan adds: 

For the purposes of calculating the discount rate of future cash flows and for valuing the stock markets it seems like today's market-based negative (or low) interest rates are in a different category than being charged a fee for bullion conversion.

Feb

16

 I always felt that Chicago is one of the most exciting cities to call home. Vibrant and sophisticated, yet friendly and very manageable; it's culturally diverse residents have a Midwest sensibility and a blue collar work ethic that complements the resilient economy. While it is often referred to as the city that works, it's politicians and patronage style government have historically, been corrupt. In turn, this doctrine of deceit has spawned many over-zealous and overly ambitious prosecutors, who have used the office as a springboard to higher political office.

I would imagine then, that Chicago would have seemed like the perfect setting for the producers of the "The Sting", a caper film that involved a complicated plot by two professional grifters, Robert Redford and Paul Newman, to con a mob boss, Robert Shaw. They were shooting scenes for the movie, in Chicago's Union Station, whose tracks ran below the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) while I still worked as a clerk, during the summer of 1973. While taking a break from shooting, the cast was given a tour of the CME trading floor by Leo Melamed and other Merc officials. Trading literally came to halt, as Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Robert Shaw, et al, walked from pit to pit. As they walked by me, I overheard Alan Freeman, a quintessential Merc trader, remark in typical Merc-Jerk fashion, " Well, I might not be as good looking as Newman or Redford, but I bet you I have as much money as they do."15 years later, the same hubris on display that day, would come back to haunt many of the members of Chicago's exchanges, as they became the target of a very similar sting operation.

Chicago had always "enjoyed" a much publicized bad-boy reputation, which some Chicagoans felt, was better than no reputation at all. Before MJ, Oprah, and Obama, Chicago was best known for being the home to the Mob and Al Capone. If you screwed the wrong people they would get back at you one way or another - either physically, or if they were powerful and had friends in the government, they would find a way to seek retribution through the court system. Duane Andreas was the chairman of Archer Daniels Midland, one of the largest food processors in the world. He was also one of the largest and most prominent campaign donors in the country, contributing millions of dollars to both parties. ADM had been investigated for price-fixing and would eventually be assessed the largest antitrust fine in United States history. Nevertheless, it was Andreas who complained to Federal prosecutors, that the Chicago futures exchanges were ripping him and the public off for millions of dollars.

The Federal governments response was to launch an undercover probe of floor trading practices at both the CME and the CBOT. The sting operation would not be easy to pull off. The floors of both exchanges were like a boy's club. Guided by a set unwritten rules and a bond of trust, we were able to make trades with each other, sometimes risking millions of dollars, on nothing more than our word. The FBI agents would have to infiltrate our tight- knit group, and then fool us into becoming their trusted friends. The best way to break into our fraternity, they reasoned, was to become one of us.The FBI sting was to become as intricate and complex as the 1973 movie. Four FBI agents, 2 at the CME and 2 at the CBOT, posed as traders, and taped conversations, both on and off the floor, with the real floor traders and brokers. They created lives for the agents that duplicated the typical trader lifestyle. The agents dressed like us, lived in luxury apartments, drove exotic cars, ate at the same restaurants, joined the same health clubs, and bought memberships on the 2 exchanges. Each agent traded in a different pit. At the CBOT, one agent was trading Beans and another was in the Bond pit. At the Merc, it was the Yen pit and the S&P's. Over a two year period, the agents befriended traders and brokers, going out for meals with us, playing basketball at the East Bank Club, and partying with us. At all times, however, the agents were wired; recording every word of every conversation they had with the real traders.

By the time the sting operation was terminated, the FBI had spent millions of dollars. The agent/traders lost an undisclosed amount of money attempting to trade, but were alleged to have made a profit when they sold back their memberships. In all there were 47 indictments; a small fraction of that number actually resulted in convictions.The alleged millions of dollars in customer losses, turned out to be in the thousands, One trader was indicted for trading after the closing bell and another for changing the price on an order, which turned out to cost the customer $62.50. Of course, the government response was:

"No infraction or loss is too small when it comes to protecting the public. The message has to be sent, that these kinds of actions will not be tolerated, and in the final analysis, operations like these save customers millions of dollars."

It was a classic Chi-town example of hypocrisy, and misuse of power and influence. But, Duane Andreas had gotten what he wanted. He convinced a politically ambitious prosecutor to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to investigate Chicago's "corrupt" futures exchanges, while at the same time, he manipulated the markets on such a large scale that he was eventually fined a $100MM. And in order for the exchanges to maintain their self-regulatory status, the exchanges tightened up their audit trail and increased the penalties for breaking their rules. But, nothing really changed as far as the way business was transacted on daily basis in the pits; we were just more careful about whom we trusted.

Feb

16

As we grudgingly approach the 2100 level, let us not forget the legend…

"Opinion: Stock market guru’s new forecast: S&P 500 at 2,300 in six months"

Feb

12

Any reader who has not looked at a price chart in the past 90 days please stand up and identify yourself. For that person and that person alone can cast a stone (at technical analysis).

Gary Phillips writes: 

I look at charts all the time, but that's really not the point. For someone who is as truly blessed with the ability to determine causality as yourself, you must realize that charts are not predictive in of themselves.

Larry Williams writes: 

Parts of charts are most definitely predictive. Patterns repeat. And I agree that so much of TA is misleading and based on whims and fancy yet there are parts that really do work.

anonymous writes: 

Ah, the chart debate has returned.

While surely an example of survivor bias, I have witnessed industry greats use charts and technical analysis as part of their speculative arsenal. Of more interest is that these people used their own personally derived versions of these methods and not the versions available at no cost to everyone. I dare say that the creators of well known indicators have ways of using them that they would never reveal (rightly so!).

A few points about charts:

1. At the higher frequency end, in the OTC macro markets, ALL of the chart services are wrong and ALL of the chart services are correct. Each has its own price, so there is no 'right'. This probably doesn't matter to most and doesn't fatally damage the pro chart school.

2. Some market extremes are written out of history for various reasons (regulatory, legal, error, political correctness and vested interest). The move toward full electronic trading might alleviate some of these in future.

3. Commodity prices on charts…. Should we adjust them by inflation? What are we actually looking at? What are we comparing.

4. Equally spaced data? What to do with price action measured in equal intervals (say, for example, 5 minute charts) when the price doesn't change during the period but the recording software has to put a number in there so it averages, uses the last price, the first price of the next period etc…

5. There is a reason why the big quant firms have interesting individuals whose life's passion is ensuring data is clean/ accurate.

6. It is probably a fair point to state that the recording of price information has improved since, say, the 1970's. The tricks now are more to do with latency of its delivery and the subtle recursive methods some providers appear to use to set their lows and highs. As an example, watch EURUSD spot today if you have something approaching Direct Markey Access and if you watch closely enough you may note that the high as printed on your screen (for eg.) sometimes moves higher a few seconds after the price has actually moved lower. A less charitable person than I would suggest it was to ensure all the stops on the banks' electronic platforms could be said to have been done within 'the range' ( whatever that is ). I guess it might just be an optical illusion generated by my mind's inability to accept being stopped at the high. Ha!

SideBar on this last thing– one great method market makers employ to get stops done is to drastically widen their spreads when near stops. ( Much small print allows stops to be done if inside the spread for ' risk management' purposes ). This may go some way to explaining the mystery of the changing highs/lows after the fact….

John Bollinger writes in: 

I don't understand. If charts aren't predictive why in the hell do you all waste your time looking at them? Do you have so much time on your hands that you can engage in frivolous pursuits at work? If you gonna talk the talk, walk the walk. If you think charts aren't helpful, STOP LOOKING AT THEM.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

While I am in agreement with the inestimable Mr. Bollinger that looking at charts has utility, I would be cautious about the term "predictive."

When I go to the doctor's office, her nurse always takes my temperature. My temperature is not so much "predictive," but rather it is informational. In numerous ways, looking at charts are like taking a patient's temperature.

I wish I could claim credit for this insight, but I can't. It's from Bruce Kovner (who I still consider the best trader/investor from a risk-adjusted return perspective of the past 30+ years.)

Ed Stewart writes: 

It seems to me that body temperature is predictive of future temperature change do to homeostasis. The breakout from the range where homeostasis functions is going to be predictive of body temp = ambient temp if there is not a reversal or intervention.

Rocky Humbert replies:

Fair point. But you don't need to take a patient's temperature to know that EVENTUALLY body temperature = ambient temperature.

Keynes figured that out when he wrote that "in the long term, we're all dead." (See: JM Keynes "Tract on Monetary Reform, (1923) Chapter 3)

Kovner's actual quote was in reference to so-called fundamentalists who scoff at charts. He said, "Would you go to a doctor who didn't take a patient's temperature."

Gary Rogan writes: 

You don't need to take the patient's temperature nor to study medicine to know that eventually the body will assume ambient temperature, but there are clearly situations when the current temperature is highly predictive of the timing, barring an intervention. As such, this whole analogy and the corresponding point just don't work.

A more expanded quote by Keynes reads as follows: The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again. He was in fact arguing for short-term action based on predictions even though in the long run the economy will recover. So it a way it's almost the opposite point to what Rockstergeist indicated he was making.

Craig Mee writes: 

No doubt with the right risk management you can make money trading in many ways, but surely the best outcome is to not leave plenty on the table and have a lot of what ifs in the outcome, together with an ordinary win loss ratio while still banking a healthy return. In the pursuit of excellence, it doesn't seem winning and the above go hand in hand. Though possibly for others this isn't an issue, and probably quite rightly it's all about the bottom line. Hence the saying, "trade the way that you're comfortable with".

Gary Phillips writes: 

Considering the maelstrom of controversy and unchecked emotion the subject elicits, perhaps TA should join sex, politics, and religion on the list of banned subjects for this site.

John Bollinger replies:

Careful, the site will become very quiet as the best part of what is discussed here is technical analysis in one way or another as a survey of the literature will confirm.

Feb

11

 I am currently on a road trip with my wife, and I couldn't help but consciously relate my experiences on the interstate back to trading. Insights gained from negotiating the roads inevitably reinforced my perspectives on trading. One can draw their own inferences from my observations, but the analogies are pretty clear. (Only #8 has nothing to do with trading, but may have everything to do with the difference between men and women.)

1. People will speed for miles, then slow down for a state police vehicle, and continue to drive slow after passing, even though the odds of seeing another trooper has probably been lowered.

2. A driver will be content to drive at a moderate speed, until he is passed by another vehicle. He will then inevitably speed up. Driving behavior becomes ego driven.

3. It only takes one driver texting to upset the flow of traffic or cause an accident. Small perturbances can affect complex systems.

4. Cars have a tendency to bunch together. Even with a total bumper-to-bumper density that would be physically able to go the speed limit, cars will drive in fits-and-starts, at an average speed that is allowed under the constraints of the variables affecting the constructal flow of traffic.

5. Professional drivers are not necessarily better drivers, but they are bigger than you.

6. It's best to think two moves ahead when driving. And, always leave yourself an out.

7. If you're tired, pull over– if you're in the flow, press on.

8. Nine times out of ten a driver in the left lane, who is not keeping up with the flow of traffic, and refuses to change lanes, will be a woman.

9. It's always best to slow down when conditions become inclement.

10. Anticipate how other drivers will act and expect the worst.

11. The Toyota Prius is the new Volvo.

12. One can learn a lot about a person by observing how he drives

Dec

23

 American Exceptionalism. I have always hated that phrase and the perverse doctrines that accompany it. The American Constitution is remarkably exceptional; one wishes it were still followed. But the idea that we Americans were born or (equally bad) become endowed with some special grace is one that makes me look for the Exit sign in the hall every time I hear it.

It also reminds me of the disastrous presumption that infected so much of the period that Stern writes about and led to WW I.

Ed Stewart writes:

I notice that every time I start believing that I am an exceptional trader (like I did a few weeks ago), a large loss is near at hand. Best to curtail commitments at the hint of that feeling– the opposite of what the feeling suggests to do.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Success is more destabilizing emotionally than failure.

Ralph Vince writes: 

Failure is absolutely necessary–in fact, nothing is more necessary, in all aspects of life.

For one, it teaches the individual not so much not to do what caused the failure, but how to regroup, reassess and recover from failure. The lesson of failure is about what you do afterwards.

Many things in life require failure. No one learns, say, to lift a lot of weight, to solve a differential equation, or do a backflip on pavement, without failing many, many times. There is no may to accomplish many things in life without enduring the requisite and many failures required.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Failures teach you much more than successes which can lull you into complacency and hubris (like when you have 10 successes in a row). But you must attention pay attention to and analyze the failures inside and out. You have to ask yourself "why?". Ralph hit the nail on the head with his post.

Ralph Vince replies: 

The 13-year-old boy looks around the gym, struggling to lift pipsqueak weight. Failing.

I point to all the old smellies, putting up ungodly amounts of weight.

"You see those guys - every one? Every one of them failed at every increment, every 5 pound increment between what you are failing at and lifting what they lift and they failed at every increment over and over. That had to keep trying, eventually, sneaking up on it. Failure, repeated failure, is part of the process."

Dec

15

 It was 10 days before Christmas, Dec. was soon to expire

We neared the festival of lights, with its eight days of fire

The bulls were dormant, their hubris handily contained

Stocks had collapsed, and crude oil was to be blamed

While visions of dollars, danced in their heads

the bears rejoiced, as the bulls slept in their beds

Dreaming of a sleigh, pulled by many a reindeer

Bulls wondered, if St. Nick would show up this year

One long abruptly awoke, searching for the great man in red

But, found a woman standing there, dressed in blue instead

No one else awoke; there was nary another soul to see

He whispered to himself, Janet Yellen is standing next to me

"Happy Hanukkah", she said as she brushed off some snow

Maybe you were expecting someone else? I just don't know

A fat man named Chris with a sled pulled by many a reindeer

Turned out, PETA complained, and I'm replacing him this year

Thought some charitable work, would be good for my reputation

Hit a few homes here and there, before I go to Miami for vacation

No sliding down chimneys, nor any high flying sleighs in the sky

No reindeer named Rudolph, just a limo with a driver named Sy

With a smile, a wink in her eye, and a tilt in her head

"i'm long chocolate coins covered with gold", she said

I feel your pain; the price of gold is way down there too

Just have faith in the Fed, as she began to fade from view

I know you've been good, not bad; and not naughty, but nice

So no need to pout, that stocks are at such a reduced price

Yet, it's only fitting to give credit, where credit is rightly due

Not to some fat man in red, but the munificent lady in blue.

Aug

18

Overheard at the oval office. Considering the lack of aplomb dealing with domestic and foreign policy currently on display, it's no wonder he's singing-the-blues…

market at the crossroads
not sure where to go
market at the crossroads
same ole 3 ways to go
one is up, one is down
one, it just don't know

market at the crossroads
trying to catch the drift
market at the crossroads
hoping for a draghi lift
propped by asian greed
and one more yellen gift

you can fight, you can fight
comrade from moscow town
you can fight, you can fight
red with an indelible frown
we may be at the crossroads
but you can't putsch us down

i’m going down to crimea
take my grach by my side
going down by the black sea
take ole vlady for a ride
bust a cap in his kgb ass
dump him by the ocean-side

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? 

Jun

16

 One found this Ted Talk on the Constructal Principle the most stimulating video about markets I've seen in the last years.

Gary Phillips writes:

Configuration - Evolution - Performance

Humans and animals instinctively nest before giving birth while price intuitively reverts to the mean or fair value time regulates gestation before each moves away– driven and sustained by an evolving flow structure that moves price and people more effectively and is fueled by monetary and human stimulus.

Richard Owen writes: 

I couldn't tell in my naivete if the video Vic kindly shared was genius or stating the obvious. Or indeed, stating the tenuous: "life is a function of force times distance and energy" is a bit like saying "the pop charts are a function of quantum mechanics". In some fundamental sense yes, but, well… um.

I have spent the afternoon trying to manipulate 600mb of data. With rudimentary tools on a regular computer, this is is not very efficient and requires souped up DBs and subscriptions to a cloud and so forth. This is despite my processing requirements being very simple.

As is typical with such affairs, I end up with fifteen applications and fifty browser windows open, trying to speed read this, that and the other, with high tonnage of adverts and so forth. Thus everything slows to mud.

This experience seems to have been a constant throughout my years of using computers, despite Moore's law and my task business task being somewhere in complexity along the lines of what IBM was tinkering with back in the 1950s.

I then start to wonder if the constructal principle isn't subject to its own law of relativity, such that just as light is constant in speed despite all available rocketships, so are my cromagnon perversions a constant despite all available processing power. Now hmm, where's that Miley Cyrus video where you can almost see her nips. I'm sure I had that loaded HD on youtube somewhere.

Jun

6

without exogenous concern
sans respect nor deference
for what or whom preceded
just an internal preference

ever changing context
predictability they crave
these traits not found
in the home-of-the-brave

old formulated solutions
for a state-of-flux enveloped
knee deep in past bias
game irrationally developed

it is a self-evident gift
hell sent, but heaven bent
it's dimson and then some
all else is just sentiment

everything is always different
to some degree
everything remains the same
it has to be

if you catch my drift…

Jun

5

Whatever the market does… will be. Whatever the market doesn't… will not.

Some may argue that the market is overpriced relative to SPX's p/e ratio which is trading at about +1 SD above it's mean, but p/e ratios have no predictive capacity, especially in high cap indices like the SPX, and since the 2008 crash have become seriously skewed because of their high values attained at that time.

So where does today's market fit in with past markets? Maybe the answer is, it doesn't. And, maybe this is the reason traders, pundits and analysts, are having such a hard time getting it right. And, why their models, which are all predicated on past price action, aren't working - because they're backward-looking. And there's the wrinkle, the ultimate post hoc fallacy of the "it's overvalued" crowd. It's an arbitrary judgment of past earnings, past price action, and past situations. Past performance does not dictate future returns - the future determines the future.

Traders are hard-pressed to explain the present, nevertheless the future. Markets are in uncharted territory and there have been structural changes to the markets, as a result of the crash and prolonged qe/ zirp contamination. The markets reaction to the taper is a glowing example of how fate can be twisted. Historically, bonds sold off and the curve steepened when the fed tightened. Instead, post-taper money, paradoxically flowed into both assets,as the curve flattened.

Stock prices are rising, earnings yield, dividend yields, and 10 year yields are rolling over. Debt levels are not-an-issue and liquidity is sanguine. One thinks that as long as treasury yields are kept in the basement, there should be a continued risk-on, yield grabbing skew to stock prices, irrespective of fundamentals, past economic models, or aggregate financial ratios - and maybe valuations will follow- or not.

Jun

1

 As the month of June arrives and heralds in the dog days of summer for equities and debt, it is inevitable that a trader's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of grains. Over the years, untold fortunes have been made and lost during the summer grain markets. I have participated and traded in these markets off-and-on since the mid-seventies; starting in the soybean pit at the Mid-America commodity exchange, and then on the floor of the CBOT in the soybean pit. I went on to trade 30 year treasury bond futures for almost 25 years, but when the bonds went to the screen, I traveled full circle and finished my career back where I started, in the bean pit.

The beans had changed dramatically from when I first stepped into the pit in the seventies. The commodities markets back then were relatively inefficient, and dominated by heavy retail participation. Busy summer markets would see runners lined up 10 deep trying to get retail orders into the pit to their filling brokers. The commercials did manipulate the market, but there was still an a value oriented element to pricing.

My second time around however, saw a market dominated by commercials (hedgers) and commodity funds. In addition, there were now options on soybeans futures; and indexes and etfs were beginning to emerge. The eventual result was the financialization of commodities. Beans were now lumped together with other commodities into one asset class.

As I contemplate my return to trading beans, I wonder:

If beans have lost their uniqueness, price discovery and risk transference functions, due to financialization

If given the near extinction of retail participation, and the almost total dominance of professional and algorithmic trading, if readily "available" cognitive reference points that are the providence of the retail trader, still exert their influence on bean pricing.

If the change from a commodity to a financial instrument means that at times, price drivers for soybeans may have nothing to do with soybean fundamentals, and everything to do with their inclusion in the commodity asset class

If I'm competing against professionals in a relatively illiquid market, do I want to venture away from my core competency to "play poker against a guy named doc"

May

31

The long expected break-out to new all time highs proved to be the real deal, and not the obligatory fbo/bull trap we have grown accustomed to enduring. The market quickly reached escape velocity and extended it's historical move, with a strong second day and even added more distance as the eminis were marked up throughout the week into the last day-of-the-month. With consistent positive returns generated on Fridays and Mondays it appears, this timeframe is a sine quo non for continued bullish momentum. Equity only p/c ratios are all on a buy signal, and market breadth is bullish also, which lends positive confirmation to the breakout. The continued low volatility situation has received much press, and no doubt, signals an overbought condition, but it is not a sell signal. That being said, the market is good, and is headed much higher; but is overbought. This means there is a high likelihood that the market will experience a sharp, but short-lived correction at any time. However, a sell-off should be greeted with open arms and both hands, as an opportunity to initiate or add to a long position. As reported by trim tabs, savings accounts remain the most popular destination for investor money and saw $139 billion flow into them in the first four months of 2014, exceeding the $77 billion inflow into all equity funds. So with the taper winding up and qe winding down, the next impetus for higher prices may just be the (fomo) fear-of-missing-out trade, as retail money inevitably chases the market higher.

As we say farewell to May and welcome in June, we should keep in mind, that the last trading day of the month plus the first four days of the following month are the best performing days of the month. Nevertheless, the economic calendar is busy next week, with china pmi, the ecb meeting on thursday, and and the employment situation on Friday; and any of these events or others, could provide the catalyst for a sharp sell-off.

It still appears to me that the current rally has been fueled by lower interest rates, which was the result of the big yield grab in both u.s. and European bonds. money flowed out of the euro into bonds ahead of the ecb meeting while the rally was further fueled by bad short bond positions. Nothing has changed valuation-wise since last year, other than the fact, that the market as a whole, is growing more expensive; but with rates falling from 3% to less than 2.5% the ratio of earnings yield to bond yield is being dynamically maintained. Since the crash, the difference between the 10 year yield and the dividend yield has been shrinking compared to the historical norm. When this distance is negative, it is only natural that money moves out of treasuries and into blue chips (dividend stocks). It is interesting to see that this move reversed when the gap between treasury yields and dividend yields reached close to 2% - the current ratio is 0.60%. For a reversion to 2 % to come about, dividends would have to stay flat or fall while interest rates would have to rise to at least 3-3.5%. However, as long as treasuries keep rallying and interest rates keep falling, equities will remain undervalued and continue to rally. It is interesting to note that the money flow into equities was weak today, which is not normal for a Friday, especially at the end-of the month. Low volatility stocks outperformed their high beta counterparts and the utility sector was uncharacteristically strong for an up-day in equities. This supports the theory that investors are looking for yield and not growth.

It is also interesting to note, that an oversold spot $vix with a steep contango in the vix futures used to mean that smart money was betting on higher volatility in the near future– and they were usually right. But since 2008, and especially since the inception of the VIX exchange traded products in 2009, the steep contango has not necessarily preceded equity sell-offs. This phenomena exists even with the vix at seemingly oversold levels with the attendant expectation for mean reversion. This is because the volatility products lose money when they roll their positions before expiration to maintain exposure. Etfs are forced to roll long positions into more expensive deferred contracts… on the other hand traders are more-than-happy to take the other side of the trade, and continue to sell-the vol-and-roll their short positions, because it still remains profitable.

May

12

Granted, es's test and failure failure from last Friday's unemployment-spike-high cannot be ignored, but still, the market has been going sideways for around 3 months (and is still priced in the upper-half of the range); yet, the cognoscenti appears to be convinced there has been a regime change. Methinks everybody is a) a bit TOO bearish, b) believes everything they read, and c) is prone to a multitude of cognitive biases and faulty heuristics.

Let's take a look at comments from zero hedge this a.m.

*It has been a very quiet session so far, and despite the slow-mo levitation in the USDJPY, its impact on US equity futures has been minimal if not negative. In fact, following yesterday's latest late day tumble, which Goldman summarized as follows, "Equities tried and failed again to break 1885, it continues to be the level that we can't escape"… it would appear we are increasingly changing the trading regime, and as Guy Haselmann explained simply, markets are slowly but surely coming to the realization that the Fed's crutches are being taken away (that they may well return following a 20%, 30%, or more drop in the S&P is a different matter entirely) and that the economy will not grow fast enough to make up for this. Perhaps the most notable "event" is the sheer avalanche of banks pushing up their forecasts for an ECB rate cut (and or QE start) to June following Draghi's yesterday comments. And so the 1 month countdown begins until the end of forward guidance, or until the ECB "shatters" its credibility as expained yesterday.*

My thoughts:

1. I wouldn't trust Goldman's "opinion" even if Donald Sterling were to give me all of his money.

2. Guy Hasselman is "assuming" a) the 5 yr equity rally was "entirely" a result of qe, simply based on correlation b) taking that stimulus away will prohibit the market from continuing higher and c) earnings growth will not be able to keep up with the market.

Here are two opinions that essentially meaningless, if not self-serving, but because it is in print on a widely recognized site, they will be taken as gospel by the herd. Indeed, the market looks like crap, largely in part to momentum stocks that got way ahead of the market, and are still in the process of getting re-priced to acceptable levels.

What they fail to take into consideration or fail to say is:

continued low interest rates are:

- improving(shrinking) spx dividend yield/10yr yield ratio
- taking the "pressure" off of earnings growth
- making equities under-valued as risk-free rate drops
- and even more undervalued if equity-risk-premium drops
- helping fund buy-backs

…driving price, and keeping equities undervalued on a relative basis

and, as long as the ten doesn't get back above 3.00%, the bull market may be tougher to derail than most people think

granted these too, are all assumptions

but that's the point…isn't it?

p/c ratios are split, breadth is struggling, $vix is still bullish, the indicators are mixed, and the outlook is neutral, but the bull trend is intact. both the bulls and the bears had their chances to assert their dominance, but at the end-of-the-week, all we are left with is an inside week

key levels look like this:

1900

1885(6)

1875

1862

1850

May

12

 

It's not central bank policy per se that makes the price of the market go up or down, it's Common Knowledge regarding the ability of central banks to control economic outcomes that makes the markets go up or down.

-Ben Hunt

The market has been locked in a trading range for an extended period of time. Is it because the market is still in the process of vetting both the taper and Janet Yellen or is it simply Le Chatelier's principle's market clearing effect? And, while there has been, both a policy change and a changing-of-the-guard at the Fed, it is still unclear as to whether there has been a regime change in the market. What we are left with is a stable equilibrium where competing influences are balanced, resulting in no net change. While it is virtually impossible to predict, it will certainly be interesting to see, what shock to the system will have enough influence to disrupt this equilibrium.

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

What the market may, in fact, be forecasting is the beginning of a shift in sentiment to a common opinion that the government cannot and should not "control economic outcomes". What we now see as the classical liberalism of John Stuart Mill - laissez faire - was hardly the product of benign progress. It came to be received wisdom only after a deep skepticism had taken hold of the country. People whose families had seen a 100-fold increase in public indebtedness over the previous century had had enough when that spending to defend Britons had ended not in freedom but in the loss of traditional liberties.

I leave it to the readers of this site to gauge how the exact parallels between the post-Waterloo period and our own; but there is no question that the rise in the sentiment for "free trade" would not have occurred without the reaction to Robert Jenkinson's ministry. The suspension of Habeus Corpus in the U.K in 1817 (which had not happened during the Napoleonic Wars) was a shock; the adoption of the Six Acts was the last straw. Between them they produced a financial and political revolt that ended with the bi-partisan abolition of the Corn Laws and the adoption of the Bank Charter Act (think the repeal of the Internal Revenue Act and the enforcement of the gold clause in the original Federal Reserve Act for the appropriate modern American comparisons).

For those who may not know them, the Six Acts were these (my numbering):

1. The Training Prevention Act - which made attending a meeting for the purpose of receiving training or drill in weapons a crime punishable by transportation.

2. The Seizure of Arms Act. It allowed local magistrates to order the search of any private property for weapons, the seizure of weapons and the arrest of the owners.

3. The Misdemeanors Act. It restricted the availability of bail and allowed summary trial.

4. The Seditious Meetings Prevention Act. No meeting of more than 50 people could be held without the permission of a sheriff or magistrate if the subject of that meeting was "church or state" matters. Attendance by people not inhabitants of the parish was a violation.

5. The Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act confirmed that political speech could be a crime; punishment was increased to fourteen years transportation.

6. The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act required all publishers to post a surety bond and pay a duty for any publication (previously only "news" papers but not journals of opinion had been required to pay a duty; neither kind of publication had had to post a surety bond.)

Gary Phillips comments: 

Perhaps they're taking a knee, but I wouldn't count out the perception that Fed policy was responsible for sanguine market outcomes; if that wasn't the case gold would be trading at much higher levels. The QE narrative continues to persist and effectively shape our world today and like all good narratives it succeeds because it has an intrinsic ring of truth which speaks to broader interests on an intellectual and emotional level and even though, it always coincides with flexionic goals and preferences.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

During the century in which the Bank of England's notes were taken to be as good as gold, the metal's price declined. The market expectations are never true in a compass sense; they are always shifting - sometimes against insiders' certainties. The bets made against the dollar during and after the Civil War did a great deal to weaken the City's dominance over American finance. If the flexions in London and Amsterdam and Vienna and Paris, the Morgan Bank would still be a mere correspondent.

Anchors drag.

David Lillienfeld writes:

A number of railroad bankruptcies helped, though they also affected the Dutch, not just the English.

May

12

 I found this 1926 paper "On Being the Right Size" by J. B. S. Haldane quite fascinating.

To the mouse and any smaller animal it presents practically no dangers. You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes.

Gary Phillips writes: 

That reminds me of Billy Eckhardt's comments on bet size…

If you plot system performance against bet size, you obtain a curve in the shape of a rightward-facing cartoon whale, going up in a straight line before dropping dramatically.

He said: "Trading size is one aspect you don't want to optimize: the optimum comes just before the precipice. You want to be at the left of the optimal point, in the high zone of the straight curve."

Ralph Vince comments: 

Not altogether true.

Expected growth-optimal bet size is a function of horizon, i.e. how many plays or periods.

For one period with a positive probability-weighted expected outcome (what most refer to as the misnomered "positive expectation") the expected growth optimal bet size is 1, one hundred percent.

As the number of periods approach infinity, this diminishes to the asymptote at what I refer to as Optimal f (not "Kelly," which is subset of Optimal f).

But all that is f we are discussing expected growth-optimal as criterion.

In capital markets, the criterion is often to maximize the risk-adjusted return, which occurs in the region between the inflection point less than the peak, and the point where the curve's tangent has the highest slope, which is greater than the inflection point, but less than the peak. These two bounding point for risk-adjusted return optimality are, as with the peak itself (and, as I hope I have convinced in another, previous post, the actual "expectation") a function of horizon.

May

8

u know the old skool chartists
are looking at the daily,
and can't help but notice
what they believe to be
an inverted complex head and shoulders (bottom/continuation) pattern
replete with upward sloping neckline and a higher right shoulder
and the attendant bullish implications
they have come to expect,
or
perhaps they visualize a diamond pattern (debatable implications, there)

ironically,
if the market does indeed trade higher
and makes new historical highs,
or fails to do so,

it will have nothing to do
with the perceived formations

May

6

maybe i'm just an old school trader
unaccepting of the postmodern world
weary of the intellectual masturbator
no skin of his own exposed and unfurled

and the varied self-serving ramblings
of journalists who in reality never trade
not a penny earned from their gambling's
just a wall street journal and cnbc fade

granville, garzerelli, prechter, & cohen
self appointed legends of just one hit
yet, they just keep on comin and go'in
like armchair rappers talking their shit

forever searching for fortune and fame
always eager to proclaim & bet the pot
proficient at talking a brave good game
especially when taking a virtual shot

risk and reward it's inherent in the biz
short some futures or even sell a call
put your money where your mouth is
and where they may the chips will fall

why predict and degrade-the-trade
to show all you can’t be tricked
sharing success before you've been paid
just to show you got the market licked

long and protracted is the bullish status quo
as gimmicked prophecies seek to behold a top
iconoclasts looking 2b right just once-in-a-row
with so few outcomes why* not* call for a drop

they look at the age of the bull and it's lofty level
say markets look forward and emh must be true
not realizing it’s backwards the details-in-the-devil
as the data has nothing to do with objective value

oh so many disillusioned by gambler's fallacy
hubris and greed led to tug on shiller’s c.a.p.e.
or influenced by evolutionary red-queenalicey
yet equity-risk-premium reality they can’t escape

so short of a m.a.d. russian icbm first-strike
the beginning-of-the end & world war three
or mario draghi caught with a nubile young tyke
playfully bouncing on his eurocentric roam'n knee

we drift higher….

Apr

29

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

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

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

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

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

- success is fleeting, losing is forever

Leo Jia writes: 

Thanks Gary, for the interesting post.

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

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

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

Leo Jia writes: 

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

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

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

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

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

J. Hughes comments:

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

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

Ed Stewart writes: 

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

Apr

22

all the charlatans, poseurs, and gurus

no skin-in-the-game, never paid any dues

with all their gimmick driven prophecies

they cant see the forest through the trees…

as a 92 yo legend patiently waits for 2100

Apr

16

i must confess, i’d rather just guess
than be duped and fooled, by randomness
i rather think twice, than just roll the dice
these random studies, do not drive price

rather think like a fox, not be put in a box
as the markets are, a recursive paradox
if not arc sine laws, then ever-changing-cycles
if you are in denial, it can be almost suicidal

these damning effects, must be circumvented
but not with the invented, nor the misrepresented
not with tools that are myopic, or simply synoptic,
lest the retail hypnotic, not benefit the agnostic

a causal understanding, is certainly demanding
but in-or-out of sample, it sets the best example
there’s so much more, than just trade and win
like adding to profits, when others are cashing in

immune to the tout, trading without any doubt
entering trades, where others are stopped-out
not stepping out-on-the ledge, with an illusory edge
there’s no need to hedge, this is my solemn pledge

Apr

15

Taking a look at the BDI over the past year, is there now a head and shoulders? I ask out of pure ignorance—just trying to learn.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Back in the day, before the day…

I am loathe to admit it, but I first read Technical Analysis of Stock Trends by Edwards and Magee in 1971 when I was 18 y.o. (Btw: the acknowledged bible on technical analysis was written in 1948). There weren't any computers back then, so we had to keep the charts by hand. Along with reading and studying the book, Leo Melamed and Barry Lind mentored me in the application of TA to trading. I used to keep charts back then for Tom Dittmer, who ran Refco. In return, he taught me how to scalp in the pit when I first became a member of the CME in 1976. Bob O'Brien sr. taught me about the livestock markets, and when I migrated to the CBOT, I leased my membership from Bill Eckhardt, and was lucky enough to receive his tutelage. I stood next to the largest independent futures trader in the world (Tom Baldwin) for 10 out of my 25 years in the bond pit, and after + 40 years of trading, at the age of 61, I am still learning the craft from Vic and others on the list. Ghere are a couple of points to be gleaned here:

1. as Rocky H. once said, I am smart enough to know I'm dumb enough, that I don't know everything; which is the reason why I have always surrounded myself with individuals who are smarter and more experienced than myself. Unless you are playing poker, you never want to be the smartest person in the room– you won't learn anything, and you should never stop learning! and 2. the bible on technical analysis was written when Truman was president. I think they were still communicating by telegraph back then! Does anyone in their right mind really think that today's machine driven markets even remotely resemble the markets of that era? 

David Lillienfeld writes: 

Ok, but I don’t think the BDI is an object of HFT. So wouldn’t older approaches (i.e, from 1948) still be applicable? Or from a technical perspective, is it the tenor of the market (a butterfly in Africa flapping its wings sort of thing) which matters?

Gary Phillips writes: 

It's still an index and algo-driven professional trade, and I can't envision the palindrome putting on a massive short position predicated on a h&s top formation.

What is timeless in reference to traditional TA, is the tendency for traders to isolate the one data point (formation) that supports their directional bias while ignoring data points that contradict with their forward looking view of the market.

Charts in and of themselves are invaluable. They provide a point of reference for money management, capital flows, correlations, relative strength, etc, but, traditional TA (cliched patterns, trendlines, etc) seem anachronistic as a stand-alone predictive tool.

Craig Mee writes: 

Hi Gary,

I think its a mistake to put all TA in one basket. For example, trendlines are very different than patterns. If you can quantify the edge your setups possess, you may have something to work with. The problem that I see is with most technicians, they are running so many parameters and indicators that this is unachievable. I think market volatility and news is a function of whether markets behave similarly now to 60 years ago and am constantly amazed at often they do.

Gary Phillips writes: 

Perhaps in a very generalized manner, i.e., markets go up and they go down, they back and fill, and uncertainty is still a fundamental reality in trading, and, just as in the past, the best we can hope to achieve, is an incomplete, but probabilistic knowledge of that environment. However, the tools we use have changed and so has the perspective needed to understand the context of the contemporary market. It requires an approach built on an analytical framework that is relevant to current drivers of price. While traditional TA may provide a comfortable resolution and a summary shortcut to order amongst all the chaos, it doesn't yield any insight into market structure. What dramatically distinguishes today's trade from yesterday's is market structure and Fed policy. To a very large extent, price action is no longer controlled by humans, and to an even larger extent, price action has been contaminated by qe/zirp. This is the fork-in-the road where the past deviates from the future. This means resisting the sirens' call to assign causality to traditional ta patterns, trend-lines, fibs, and other hackneyed tools that were created for highly auto-correlated markets, driven by human decisions and real risk/reward considerations. It means using the right tools with proper perspective and incorporating relevant informational signals from a wide range of deterministic processes. The new-normal approach begins with recognizing the current dynamics of liquidity provision and developing an informational framework with signals that reflect the machine driven reality of HFT, along with an understanding of the impact of qe/zirp and risk-on/risk-off.

Craig Mee writes: 

Agreed there are some larger drivers at play, and something like a magnetic or invisible hand keeping the pull to one side. But the boom and bust nature of the markets of the last 19-20 years is far from at an end so any extension will still be reverted. There may be periods and instruments where opportunities at times are limited, (for example, I would say its probably easier playing the curve now in rates then trading outrights) however fear and greed under the right volatility conditions is, in my humble opinion, still a force to be reckoned with. Separating the house of TA from price action and behavioral sciences is probably a good start so as not to give a illusion of believing in hocus pocus and mad methods while not understanding the underlying. The major returns and opportunities will still run with fundamentals, whether forced or established, but being able to have a value entry via the opportunities that humans create through their ever present qualities such as running with the herd on news and perceived threats which don't eventuate can allow for outperformance. I believe that the question of whether to weigh the opportunities that human behavior presents has to be sized up under the right volatility to ascertain whether risk has been compromised. 

Apr

10

hey janet yellen

what do you say
you must be learning
ya saved the bulls today

you made it done,
a fait accompli
a jew from brooklyn
just set us free

it was just a flash thought
a fact i did contemplate
what the struggling market
had been missing to date

conspicuously absent
was any help from zion
although I'm sure it's not
for any lack of gods' tryin

but, u know what they say
& it  just might be true
they're good with money
know business and fair value

so, like Moses before ya
his people he led
u didn't pass us over, &
got the spx out of the red

Apr

1

I hate to say it, but i don't see that much difference between yesterday's human-driven liquidity providers (floor traders) and the machine-driven liquidity providers of today. Except that as a local in the pit, I often possessed exogenous information, yet to be incorporated in the market. Predatory algorithms must rely on their endogenous actions to trigger the desired outcome.

Of course, in my own version of strategic sequential trading, I would often hit bids and lift offers, in search of stops, only not quite as fast or unemotionally. Yet all of this was easily rationalized as our due privilege for the risk incurred while providing liquidity. Ceteris paribas, we did this for the same reason a dog licks his balls… because we could.

Perhaps, if Goldman wasn't Obama's largest campaign contributor, and SEC officials didn't have a quid pro quo for job placement in place with the private sector b&ds and law firms, and the exchanges hadn't gone for-profit, we might not be discussing this topic.

Mar

30

 Friday’s end-of-the-week festivities failed to endure past the European markets’ close before the es began it’s daily swoon, and couldn’t even reach a level lofty enough to allow yesterday morning’s longs the opportunity to escape at break-even. After all is said and done, the SPX is still trapped in the ~40pt trading range that has defined the market for the past +1 month. Emerging markets re-emerged and displayed very good relative strength as money rotated out of past over-performers (bio-techs-naz and momentum stocks-rut) into past under-performers (EEM). The yield curve continued to flatten and credit spreads widened as the market discounted Yellen’s, and other’s hawkish comments. Once again, internals are mixed, with a bearish p/c ratio and breadth, juxtaposed against a benign and bullish $vix. After settling the week midway between the weekly S1 and the weekly pivot, the market appears to be waiting for long-term traders at-the-margin to weigh their options before stepping in full force. Relatively low vix and skew readings indicate an unreasonably complacent mood in the market, although a $2.8BB put position was executed this week — so someone is concerned about downside tail risk.

The market has taken on the visage of an aging fighter who has absorbed an inordinate amount of blows to the head and body, yet still remains standing; willing, but not as eager as he once was, to continue fighting. of course, the market cannot stay in the current trading range indefinitely; some endogenous or exogenous event will cause the threshold to be breached, and the market will eventually make it’s mark, as it departs from current value. Perhaps the fix is in, but somebody is betting a lot money, that an overextended and beaten down Mr. Market, finally utters “no mas” on his way to a hard landing on the canvas.

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

10

 Frank Zappa said it best. The market may not appear to be portrayed against a bullish backdrop, but irrespective of fundamentals, geopolitical perturbances, inter-market context, and lofty location, it is the willing beneficiary of the matriarch's munificence and investor inflationary expectation.

you are what you is
you is what you am
you ain't what you're not
so see what you got

a cow don't make make hams
and a bear don't make clams
five years since its birth
the bulls still inherit the earth

p/c ratios, breadth and volatility are all sanguine — but not overly so, it is what it is — and that's all it is.

Feb

14

One of my favorite short term patterns here today; outside day in up close in tight trend markets are bullish and daily a/d line at new high…

Gary Phillips writes: 

Beans in the teens already, but seasonally ripe for a rally…also my only worry is post-taper/risk-on has seen a stronger dollar, although it did decouple today after the european close…

keep looking »

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