October 23, 2013 | Leave a Comment
When confronted with new ideas, the Dailyspec acts like a collective doppelganger; a looming reminder to suspend judgement until empirical proof is provided. It forces one to rethink all that had previously been taken for granted, with inference supplanted by intellectual caution, and reification replaced by consilience. Even one's successes are called to task to insure they are reproducible and not a victim of post hoc fallacy.
These predispositions to incredulity may not sit well with the secular world nor one's mate; they are often misconstrued as pretentious or disputatious, but in the context of the list, polemic comments are neither deemed arbitrary nor argumentative, and a degree of doubt is always welcomed.
So, what's the schtik about candlesticks, and single-day signals, and other simple linear relationships? It's true that a lot of extremes have reversal days; so, the probability is a reversal will occur with an attendant price extreme. but, it does not tell you the probability of having an extreme and a sustained change in market trend-given that you have a reversal day.
These approaches are intoxicating to the contrarian, but in a momentum, algo, and QE driven market, they only serve as a rationale to prematurely exit a successful trend following trade.
Anatoly Veltman writes:
One reversal bar (or candle) has proven to work better on Weekly than Daily charts. This is a very important note, as old technical analysis books glorified Daily reversal bars, "outside reversal". All of them implied Daily - and this just doesn't work in modern markets. But Weekly reversals do.
Someone will be expected to produce test results. Test results depend greatly on input, and on coding particular signal conditions. I'm afraid the test results we may hear on the list will not be based on proper signal conditions. I'm not aware of any one-dimensional signal that performs in today's markets, but unfortunately we'll likely hear back precisely that: a one-dimensional weekly bar reversal signal.
From Anatoly Veltman:
I just saw this Weekly SP chart, and it's honestly… Ugly (link).
I can't imagine how we're supposed to be Bullish on such chart. Mock me all you want, I am no buyer here, sorry. I'll probably miss another tremendous growth opportunity.
Victor Niederhoffer comments:
Needless to say my silence about the chart interpretations should not be taken as acceptance. And aside from the ecology of markets, deception, avoidance of fear, relation to music and barbeque and sport, longevity, board games, etc, the whole genesis of this site from its founder was to avoid such mumbo jumbo.
Gary Phillips writes a poem:
beware of greeks bearing gifts
and single data points
they support a myopic view
and play into the hands of the deceivers
at any given point in time
an equally compelling case
can be forged in either direction
depending on one's bias
the thing about charts
is that they fail to let one see
the markets for what they are,
but instead, for what they appear to be
Kim Zussman writes:
Like musical Tarts
The more you looks
The more it smarts
So look away
From Siren curves
Or you will get
What you deserves
I refer everyone to Bruce Kovner's quote regarding the utility of charts below. If you have a better track record than he does, then you are entitled to mock his wisdom. I will gladly wager that no one who is reading this comes anywhere close to his long-term, continuous, audited track record.
There is a great deal of hype attached to technical analysis by some technicians who claim that it predicts the future. Technical analysis tracks the past; it does not predict the future. You have to use your own intelligence to draw conclusions about what the past activity of some traders may say about the future activity of other traders.
For me, technical analysis is like a thermometer. Fundamentalists who say they are not going to pay any attention to the charts are like a doctor who says he's not going to take a patient's temperature. But, of course, that would be sheer folly. If you are a responsible participant in the market, you always want to know where the market is – whether it is hot and excitable, or cold and stagnant. You want to know everything you can about the market to give you an edge. Technical analysis reflects the vote of the entire marketplace and, therefore, does pick up unusual behavior. By definition, anything that creates anew chart pattern is something unusual. It is very important for me to study the details of price action to see if I can observe something about how everybody is voting. Studying the charts is absolutely crucial and alerts me to existing disequilibria and potential changes.
Gary Phillips writes:
Indeed, I look at 22 charts on 4 screens myself. But, what I should have said while in my rush for cynicism, is no one single chart stands out and provides me with a competitive advantage or a forward-looking view of the market; at least not in the time honored edwards and magee kind-of-way. But when charts are related to a broader network of market events, themes, and correlated markets, etc., and provide (to borrow from the chairman) a consilience, then one can assess the departures from value that govern trading opportunities. which is what, I may say, you do so well.
Victor Niederhoffer adds:
Please forgive my not using the term "armchair speculatons" or "furshlugginer" with reference to all those untested hypotheses and impressionist descriptives but not predictive things about chart movements and also ideas about secular bearish markets when we are within 1% of all time high, and a Dimson 1 buck in 1899 would have risen to 60,000 at present.
Scott Brooks writes:
I say this respectfully. Vic and I have jousted on this front several times (and I believe the back forth has always been good natured). But my overarching point on secular bear/bull markets is valid to the average investor.
The extreme highs and lows we've experienced since 2000 is all well and good for the speculator who can take advantage of the market ups and downs.
But to the average 401k investor, 2000 - 2013 has been the lost decade (plus 3+ years).
Yeah, they've continued making deposits and benefited from DCA'ing. But for far too many of working class Joe's, there is very little gain outside of deposits.
The trader can benefit from the market movements. Johnny Lunchbucket has no idea what to do except to move his money around chasing last years returns, and after a few years of that, he is just flat out frustrated. Johnny Lunch Bucket and Working Class Joe do not care that the market is near all time highs. What they intuitively know (maybe even only on a subconscious level) is that even though the market is near all time highs, they've lost something far more important–13+ years of time for that their money should have been, but wasn't, compounding.
I'm not trying to be contentious with the Chair….I'm just trying to present a different POV that many on this list never experience….the plight of the average investor.
Gary Rogan comments:
Scott, the average investor is handicapped by having the urge to sell low. If you sold during the 2008/2009 lows and waited to get in you are certainly left with a very negative impression of the market that feels like a bear market. The only feasible way for an average investor to think about the market is to look at their 45 or so year workspan as the period to evaluate market performance. 13+ years should mean nothing in that frame of reference. Now, if you start investing when you are 55, it means a lot, but you are doing the wrong thing so getting the wrong impression comes with that.
It is true, in my opinion, that the market today is expensive by such measures as total capitalization to GDP ratios. This is somewhat likely to limit returns in the next 15 years although it means very little for the next say 7 years, but within any 45 year period starting from 45 years ago to 45 years into the future market returns are likely to remain close to their historical average (barring a major calamity). The average investor who knows next to nothing should learn this very simple behavior: put a certain percentage of your income into stocks every year, and stop complaining.
Scott Brooks responds:
The best thing that the middle class working man who who is NOT eligible to invest with top tier money managers (due to accredited investor rules) and is stuck with 15 expensive mutual funds in his 401k or his cousins fraternity brother as a broker or some State Farm guy as his insurance agent, is TIME.
Over time he can make handle the ups and downs. But the fact that the S&P peaked at around 1550 in '00, and is now in 2013 getting ready to hit 1700 means he wasted 13+ years with less than a 1% average annual growth rate. Sure, he picked up a point or two in dividends and maybe benefited from DCA'ing….assuming he wasn't one of the many that stopped putting in money into their 401k's for whatever reason (got scared, saw his pay cut or his job outsourced or his spouse got laid off….or whatever)…..but when you subtract out management fees and 401k fees, he almost certainly netted 1% and maybe less.
That my friends is a secular bear market…..and that's the world that 90% of America has lived in for the last 13+ years.
We gotta remember that people on this list are not like the rest of the country, and it's easy to lose sight of that.
I hope it is clear to everyone that I don't pretend to be something that I'm not. I don't pretend to be a counter or even a trader. I'm a simple man who was raised in a lower middle class world and 90% of my family still lives in that world. I'm not trying to raise anyone's ire with these posts. I'm just trying to shed some light on a subject that is very real…..
And maybe somewhere in my words there is a way to create even more profit for those of us that are blessed with:
1. a brain that works better than 95% of the population and
2. have a burning desire to use that brain to it's fullest.
October 4, 2013 | Leave a Comment
Possibly the most major inhibitor of short term trading is not reacting enough to fundamental changes in the environment of changing cycles and inter-market relationships that you're not privy too until long after the flexions and insiders have pushed their boat into the pond. Discipline is the only way to combat this. The more the deception, the greater the chance of failure.
Gary Phillips writes:
I try to think of myself as simply an observer, not a trader, but an opportunist, which means I do not initiate arbitrary trades that inevitably degrade my P&L. This entails allowing questionable trades to go uninitiated, while waiting for trades that are well defined and have a proven edge, and levering up when a real opportunity is presented.
I'm reading Trading as a Business by Charlie Wright. Pretty good book profiling the evolution from discretionary trader to systematic trader. One of those books where I found myself laughing at having been down the paths. More trend following oriented but I think it is a pretty good synopsis of the systematic world and he covers some bases that added value in terms of elements to consider in one's trading (or at least mine). Decent set of checklists.
Do systematically inclined speculators recommend similar books (besides Victor Niederhoffer's and Larry Williams books).
Also, Tradestation seems to do most anything a trader would want in terms of trend following testing. I have never used it though.
George Parkanyi writes:
The only flaw I find with systems is that they immediately stop working as soon as you try to use them. I think people need to do more research on fading systems.
Christopher Tucker writes:
Where's the "like" button on the Speclist?
Steve Ellison adds:
Yes, even systems I developed myself stop working when I try to use them because of data mining bias. Even if there legitimately is an edge, some component of the good backtesting performance is better-than-average luck.
Leo Jia writes:
The word "enlightened discretionary" is very appealing. The reason for it, I guess, is because of the word "enlightened" more than the word "discretionary". Everyone hopes to be enlightened in someway. Being enlightened seems to be a spiritual consummation. But I guess that is not the first and real reason why people are after being enlightened. The real reason is that it is mystic and mostly unattainable. This coincides with a human nature of always craving for what they don't have, which is among the reasons why most people are persistently unhappy.
I feel preferring discretion to system is quite illogical. Aren't whatever rules one uses as a discretion by nature a system? It perhaps is not explicitly sketched out, but it by all means is a system of rules that resides in one's head. Couldn't that be phrased and then programmed? I agree some are not very easy. But are they really impossible?
Gary Phillips writes:
I've been doing this long enough to instinctively know what works and what doesn't. I only need to look at my P&L for empirical confirmation. If in doubt I just try to see the market for what it is and not what it appears to be. One needs to understand market structure, liquidity, and price action and develop a framework for analyzing the market, somewhere between bottom-up & top-down lies the sweet spot. This allows you to see the market in the proper context and provides you with a compass, which will keep you from feeling lost and will show you the way.
Craig Mee writes:
Hi Leo, you probably could say "whatever rules one uses as a discretion by nature is a system", but a system may not have the ability to load up once the move kicks (obviously it can be programmed) but at times the opportunity may appear intuitive, and a trader can do that on relatively short notice, whilst keeping initial risk limited.
Interesting, Gary, the issue with systems seems to be at times data mining against price action and structure which gives strength of understanding. The HFT may work on massive turnover, low commissions and effectively front running, and unless you have those edges then it appears difficult to succeed from a data mining basis (and relatively scary trading something that you don't effectively understand from a logical point of view). However classifying a markets structure, and working off 3-4 premises no more, (as I believe more would allow any edge to be diluted across a range of options), and the ability to leverage once on a move, appears to be something you can work with. This is purely from a hands on execution basis, no doubt the pure programmers can weigh in.
I remember speaking to a guy who professionally programs for others… (admittedly a lot of retail), and we were talking about what are the laws in place for him to not front run me after developing a system I gave him…and he was like "mate, to be honest (probably insinuating "dont flatter yourself") 97% don't make a dime." That was certainly probably expected I suppose, but to hear it in technicolour was confronting and I was surprised he said as much.
Gary Phillips writes:
I really don't believe that discretionary trading today, is any harder than it used to be. The emotional aspects, and risk management, have essentially remained the same. Methodology is different, because algorithmic driven HFTrading has forced intra-day traders to change from momentum chasers to mean reversion traders. And as you stated, there are countless global/macro concerns as a result of the financial crisis and continued global easing. So, it does demand a broader universe of knowledge, and revamped techniques and benchmarks, but it still boils down to identifying what is truly driving price and how it is being driven.
I guess this is what gives you the elusive *edge*. But, as we used to say the *edge* can sometimes be the *ledge.* That being said, trading doesn't have to be about being right or wrong the market, or predicting where the market is headed in the next moment, hour, day or week. Trading can be nothing more than a probabilistic exercise, and a trade nothing more than a statistical data point - the next event in a series of events governed by the statistical random distribution of results.
Kim Zussman writes:
"Trading can be nothing more than a probabilistic exercise, and a trade nothing more than a statistical data point - the next event in a series of events governed by the statistical random distribution of results."
One would suggest that trading is a waste of time if your historical or expected mean are random.
Suction is the production of a more or less complete vacuum with the result that atmospheric pressure forces fluid into the vacant space (OED definition)
To what extent did the big down moves in such markets as gold, Russia, Spain (down 24% on year), Italy (down 15% on year) and Europe cause the decline with a lag in US stocks. Is there a general phenomenon with which suction can predict declines in closely related geographic areas? How does the concept of substitute good enter into the fray. A substitute is defined as a good whose price rises as the other good rises A complementary good is one whose price declines as the price of the other good rises. Are bonds a substitute for stocks? The dollar? What are the predictive relations?
Gary Phillips comments:
It seems many of the moves and traditional correlations occur without much logic behind them and have little to do with valuation fundamentals but rather with the tactical games the liquidity providers play.
Also, country ETFs emerged as an asset class and this has contributed to increased price volatility.
Similar phenomena were seen with commodities whose financialization led (see Tang & Xiong, 2010) to increased price volatility of non-energy commodities and an increased correlation to oil.
Another factor to consider may be global QE policies. Each country that adopts QE [Quantitative Easing] creates mispricings in assets and goods & services; however, the Central Banks have no control over which assets are inflated, to what degree they are inflated, or in which countries they are inflated in.
The dictionary defines complacency as “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies” . I don’t believe it would take much arm bending to convince current market participants that the market may be a tad complacent. In fact, bullish sentiment has been on the rise and is now at its highest level in more than a year. According to the weekly survey from the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII), more than half of all investors polled are currently bullish (51.64%) -Bespoke Investment Group.
Some may argue that complacency is simply the by-product of the intermediate term extant up-trend coinciding with reduced volatility. This has been helping to make intra-day trading more counter-trend within smaller ranges. However, ex-Fed Governor Warsh, sees something more structural in nature, remarking, " Central bank transparency is good, but transparency that delineates future policy breeds market complacency. It threatens to undermine the wisdom of the crowds and the essential interchange with financial markets."
Having laid all their cards on the table, has the Fed removed all doubt; hence, all perceived risk from the markets, essentially eliminating the need for price discovery and any incentives to de-leverage? Traders are certainly demonstrating they are not as quick, as in prior months, to flee the market at the first sign of trouble, e.g., all of the news that circulated about Greece last week, attended by the miniscule range and lowest volume day of the year.
As Mike Aston pointed out, the Fed is supposed to listen to the market for guidance in it's policy decisions; not dictate to the market what it should do, and where it should go. In doing so, The Fed may have manged to both undermine and subordinate the markets. The result is a somnambulent melt-up in asset prices, QE ad inflatam nauseum.
Rocky Humbert writes:
On Bloomberg, it's AAIIBULL Index. I just ran the numbers very quickly. In the past 10 years, there have been 91 weeks when the AAII bull reading have been over 50%.Three weeks later, the average return on the S&P (not corrected for dividends) was +.1% (.065 without rounding). The Stdev of the returns was .00767Over the same period, the average return on the S&P for ALL weeks was -.20% and the stdev was 0.073 SO THE BACK OF THE ENVELOPE CONCLUSION IS THAT THIS IS not A RELIABLE BEAR SIGNAL. Warning: I did this very quickly.
February 7, 2012 | Leave a Comment
Do markets learn from each other? For example, is the S&P market this year, following a similar path to bonds last year, with every trepidatious move down being requited with a rise? Are such "learnings" graduated to the point of regularities. And is it a domino effect or a path of least resistance or consilience or convergent evolution or what have you? What do you think? Can it be quantified? Should it be quantified?
Gary Phillips writes:
Price discovery has become as anachronistic a term as capital formation. The Fed is supposed to be listening to the market to give it guidance in it's policy decisions, not dictating to the market, what the market should do. If investors feel there are no surprises left, as the Fed is concerned, they will once again lever up, and inflate asset prices…QE1 - QE whatever. Rinse and repeat.
Bill Rafter adds:
Here’s a related (perhaps derivative) question: Do stocks learn from each other?
Let’s say you take a list of ~6,000 stocks and look at them over a 10+ year period encompassing both up and down markets. And you come up with a trading plan that buys a stock if it exhibits pattern ‘A’ and sell it if it exhibits pattern ‘B’. It is not unreasonable to then have a universe of perhaps 150,000 transactions.
On the first pattern you pick you will find positive average results for certain stocks, while other stocks on average will be negative. Some of these winning stocks will knock the cover off the ball by having say 35 of 50 trades positive, and vice-versa.
Now let’s say you pick different patterns, and again you find a collection of stocks that outperform. You think this is going to be somewhat of a random process where some of the winning stocks from pattern A/B become losers when you try patterns C/D or Y/Z. And that does occur. But you also find that some stocks are consistent winners throughout the various patterns. And of course, some are repeat losers (perhaps hoo-do stocks).
That leads to further inquiry to find what constitutes winning qualities or hoo-do qualities. Note that this is not a study of profitable patterns since the behavior is exhibited across different patterns, some mutually exclusive like trend-following and mean-reversion. Nor is it a study of good management styles, as the same behavior is exhibited with ETFs, which typically have no management.
You then try to identify specific characteristics (or group membership) of the winners. You might think sectors, because the behavior also occurs in ETFs, but not all of the constituents of a winning ETF are consistent winners, and ETFs behave differently than their constituents. You trot through the various possibilities: volume, volatility, beta, name recognition, size, sales, earnings, debt, short interest, institutional holdings, etc.
Continuously you come back to the possibility that some stocks are simply winners and others hoo-dos, until you can prove otherwise. It turns out (tongue firmly in cheek) that this is a good thing to know.
Alex Castaldo writes:
Probably I misunderstand or oversimplify the issue, but I think what is happening is like this.
Among stocks in your database there are some that have considerable price runups and declines, and others that have fewer such features. It is not exactly a question of volatility as conventionally defined, but it is somewhat related to it.
When you examine trading rules, selecting ones that are more successful with some stocks, you are necessarily picking up more stocks in the first category and fewer in the second.
There is a kind of oversampling at work that concentrates the successful population with stocks from the first category.
To take an absurd extreme to make things clear, if there is a stock that spent the entire data period at 10.00 (the ultimate quiet stock), then no method will make money from this stock, not trend-following, not mean-reversion, not seasonality, etc. This stock has zero chance of being among the 'winner' stocks, not because of its industry, or who is the CEO but simply because of the time-pattern of prices.
While on a trip to Havana in the summer of 2002, I wandered onto the patio of the Hotel Nacional in search of the perfect Mojito, albeit ever vigilant for the perfect senorita, for which to share my refresca. Sitting at a table overlooking the Malecon, was then Governor Jesse Ventura and an armed bodyguard/ Minnesota State Trooper. I was unaware that he was visiting the island for trade talks on behalf of Midwestern farmers, so surprised by his presence, I loudly exclaimed, "Jesse Ventura !!! " "Who are you?", he returned. All I could think of was, "Nobody. Mind if I join you?" He of course, asked me why I was in Cuba, and what I did for a living. I informed I was floor trader, (and with tongue planted firmly in cheek) likened it to being a Navy Seal. This "subtle" segue led to a very long and interesting conversation that was essentially the highlight of my visit.
Later that evening, my cohorts and I, journeyed to La Lisa on the outskirts of Havana to the Makumba nightclub. The club was frequented by the Cuban "elite", and very few if any tourists ever made it there. Once again, sitting at a table was someone I did not expect to meet so serendipitously - Diego Maradona. He was in Cuba for treatment of his cocaine addiction, but nevertheless was in Makumba, famously drunk, partying with his entourage. It took all of about 5 minutes before I was shaking "the hand of God", smoking Robainas, and pounding Cuba Libres, with Diego and some of Cuba's finest mujeres.
The evening I spent celebrating with Maradona was the polar opposite of the afternoon I spent conversing with Governor Ventura. Here were 2 men ( at similar stages in their lives) in 2 very different situations, yet with more in common, than one could see, prima facie. Both of them were particularly outspoken men with a palpable passion for life and drive for success; one had perpetuated these qualities and had manged to maintain his discipline, while the other had lost control of it because of addiction, and slipped through the cracks.
Attitude, emotional control, discipline, and how to handle success and failure, were just as important as knowing how to mange risk, if you were going to be profitable trading on the floor. Ex- athletes, on almost every level, seemed to possess these qualities coming into the (trading) game; others had to acquire these skills. If these traits were non-existent in your personal life, the odds were this shortcoming, would transfer over to your professional life on the floor. Nevertheless, even when an emotionally prepared trader walked into the pit, he had to magnify these extant traits, and step-up his focus and drive.
Attitude, emotional control, discipline, and how to handle success and failure, were just as important as knowing how to mange risk, if you were going to be profitable trading on the floor. Ex- athletes, on almost every level, seemed to possess these qualities coming into the (trading) game; others had to acquire these skills. If these traits were non-existent in your personal life, the odds were it would transfer over to your professional life on the floor. Nevertheless, when a trader walked into the pit, he had to magnify these traits and step-up his focus and drive.
I had begun my career aspiring to become an astute, independent thinking trader, yet had somehow devolved into a momentum chasing, blue collar, bond gladiator. I had morphed into a predatory algorithm programmed to take advantage of my knowledge of, and access to, the customer order flow, and trade in front and all around it. This was in fact, the real and accurate description of a floor trader. Yet somehow, I felt lucky that I had been tenacious enough to secure and hold onto, a valuable piece of bond pit real estate for the viable duration of the contract.
Not that I was complaining mind you, because I was making an inordinate amount of “easy” money. But like any inhabitant of any welfare state, I had become content, and was not prepared for the inevitable move to screen based trading. I underestimated the disconnect between the floor and the screen and it wasn’t until I accepted the reality that I didn’t know anything about electronic trading, was I able to begin to learn how to trade again. Everything I knew as pit trader had to be eliminated from my mind as I began anew, tabula rasa.
The majority of successful floor traders could not transfer their human, pit based “skill set” onto a human-less, computer screen. Being honest with myself and letting go of what had previously worked for me, and had been responsible for my success in the past, was the most difficult part - but it was a start. It was the greatest psychological hurdle I had to overcome on the road back to becoming a successful trader. However, it was a necessary prerequisite if I wanted to provide myself with the best chance for success. In the final analysis, electronic trading has made me a smarter and better trader. No longer playing with the "house edge", it has forced me to relearn my craft, adapt, and re-invent myself. And, it is in the ways, in which we adapt to change, that ultimately defines our success.
January 30, 2012 | 1 Comment
Chart 1 - Key trendline resistance on the monthly off the 2007 pre-recession high
Chart 2 - 12 Year Fib Phenomena… Counting backwards from this month (1), ~ major tops, including the double top formed by the 2000 high (144 months ago), & 2007 pre-recession high (55 weeks ago), along with the most recent swing high on May 2011 (8 weeks ago), all fall into a Fibonacci progression.
Chart 3 - Perfected 13 count on the TD Sequential.
Chart 4 - Not saying that it's January 2010 redux, but it is something to keep in mind especially when considering the other charts
Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.
It was rollover and I was standing close to the center of the bond pit so that I would have access to both the spread paper and 2nd month brokers, when D. X walked up to me. The bond market was experiencing a brief respite from it’s usual frenzied trading activity and Dx had taken the opportunity to come by and talk to me. He informed me that he was working with some large institutional traders in New York and overseas, and that they were going to be trading some size in the 30 year. He then asked me if I would like to fill their orders, or at least a portion of them. I explained to Dx that although I occasionally did brokerage, it was only as an accommodation to the floor brokers I stood next to, so that they would be able take a break or have lunch.
The majority of the time I functioned as a trader, and I wasn’t interested in being taken out of the market, to fill some orders. Besides, I didn’t know who these customers were. Dx went on to tell me that there was going to be a considerable amount of business, and that if I did a good job, I could have the deck. I respectfully declined his offer and Dx walked away. It wasn’t long before I saw Dx talking to another broker on the other side of the pit, and then another. Little did I know, that I had just made one of the smartest decisions of my life.
I had met Dx and his wife Lisa, who doubled as his clerk, in the lounge of my clearing firm. He was a very talkative and gregarious guy, but in a used-car-salesman kind of way. He was a perennial bust-out, kicked out of numerous clearing firms at both the Merc and the Board, but now had an account where I cleared my trades. There were a lot of *Dxs* that hung around the Merc and Board; ego-driven dreamers that chronically blew up their trading accounts, yet always found a way to get back in the game; hanging on a little while longer before justice was inevitably meted out. A lot of them would quietly disappear, while others would get jobs on the floor, evaporating into the milieu of floor clerks never to be seen or heard from again, yet always fantasizing about making it big one day.
Every trader did it; dreamed about the big trade; fantasized about taking a shot. Chicago’s traders had their own mythical way for making this dream come true, the O’hare spread. The idea was to put on an incredibly large position, get in a cab, and head for O’hare airport. If the trade was a winner, you either returned home or got on a plane to Hawaii — if the trade was loser, you bought a one way ticket to a country that did not have an extradition agreement with the U.S. We also had a saying, “If you are going to blow out, blow out big” If your debit was too small, your clearing firm would write off the loss, and then write you off. But in the CBOT's version of “too big to fail", if you hurt your clearing firm bad enough, they would arrange a way for you to generate the income necessary, to pay them back. Apparently, Dx had taken these fantasies to heart having already already planned to put on an O'hare spread, before he approached me in the pit that day. While I had refused his offer, he did manage to enlist 9 unwitting brokers to assist him and his partner, Tony C, in a scheme that would bring down one of the oldest clearing firms at the CBOT.
The bell rang at 7:20 AM on a Thursday morning and Tony, who had strategically placed himself in the Bond options pit, was buying up every at-the-money put he could get his hands on. Meanwhile, Dx was putting in huge sell orders in the bonds to the 9 brokers whose help he had enlisted earlier. Tom B was on the other side of the bulk of these orders, and when the options traders started to lay off the puts they sold to Tony, with short hedges in the bond futures, panic ensued and the market had nowhere to go but down. Dx then entered the pit himself and began to sell more bonds. In the Bond options pit, the put options were going through the roof, and Tony was beginning to take profits on his long put position.
This all took place before 7:30 AM, when an economic release came out which was negative for bond prices. In a stroke of incredible luck, the market broke even more and Tony covered the balance of his position for about a 1.5 million profit, while Dx was now short about 12,000 bond futures, and up about 5MM on his open position. The feedback loop of selling they had created was working perfectly.
Dx had been dismissed long ago from my clearing firm, and along with Tony C, was now clearing Stern & Co., a family run business that was founded by Lee B. Stern. Lee had made his fortune trading grains, and owned the Chicago Sting soccer franchise, a piece of the White Sox, and was one of the most respected members of CBOT. Lee rarely came onto the floor anymore, but when he did make an appearance in one of the grain pits, his actions were highly scrutinized by other traders, as a possible clue to where the market was headed.
Bad news travels fast in the futures industry and virally fast on the floor, so it did not take long for word of Dx’s and C’s involvement in the "bond panic," to reach Stern’s office. Lee’s son and a few of the firm’s employees rushed to the floor and quickly enlisted the help of the security guards. Dx had lost his count and was standing outside of the pit when they grabbed him, while they physically pulled C out of the Bond options pit. After witnessing this melee, traders in both pits began to piece together what had happened. Tom Baldwin, who had been unsuccessfully taking the opposite side of Dx’s orders, realized the sell-off had been artificially induced, and that traders would have to cover their shorts. He quickly took advantage of the situation and began to bid up the price of bonds. Bond futures and bond options prices reversed on a dime and snapped back with a vengeance.
Meanwhile, Stern’s employees, who had wrestled the trading cards out of Tony and Dx’s hands, were frantically trying to get a handle on what was now, Stern's position. In addition to the trades that Tony and Dx had made, were the fills of the 9 floor brokers, which had to be collected and aggregated in order to get an accurate count. It took them 2 hours before they could figure out the position, and what had been a $5MM winner, had turned into an $8.5MM loser by the time the position was liquidated. Had they been able to figure out Dx’s position quicker, and not tipped off floor to what was going down, Stern could have escaped with anywhere from a small loss to a small gain. Instead, Stern had to make good for Dx’s $8.5MM loss, and as a result, lost it’s clearing status after 25 years in business, and had to lay off 20 employees.
Tony C tried to collect on his $1.5MM profit on his options position, but received a 42 month prison sentence instead. The proceeds from his trades were awarded to Stern to help offset his losses, while Stern went after the 9 filling brokers for the balance. Dx hopped in a cab to the airport and got on a plane to his parents home in Canada, completing the other leg of the O’hare spread. He was eventually extradited and sentenced to 42 months for *his *efforts. Dx came very close to pulling off his insane plan, but he let his ego and his greed get the best of him. Had he executed his plan on a smaller scale, in a more restrained manner, he might not have aroused the suspicion of his clearing firm. He had the market right where he wanted it, and had he not lost his count and tipped his hand, he might have been able to cover his position while it was still a huge winner. Whether they would have let him keep his profits is highly dubious, because Dx’s sole legacy from his lunatic scheme, is the eponymously named rule, that allows clearing firms to seize the profits of any trader that attempts to take a shot at them.
Victor Niederhoffer comments:
A generalization and quantification of Mr. Philipp's great story would show why when there is a big swing down and it recovers, it has a long way to go on the upside. All this must be quantified and the reverse as the story probably captures a basic element of human nature.
When I traded on the floor, superstition gave rise to very ritualistic behavior among traders. A bad day suffered, meant that certain abstract actions and physical items would be avoided if perceived to have caused bad luck. Conversely, if a trader had a good day, he would look to repeat the events that led up to his good fortune.
Not enough time to shave, and then a profitable day? Good chance, you were now growing a beard! Often times, boxers failed to be discarded in the laundry hamper in a timely manner, and most assuredly, ties were never changed after a good day in the pit. Pens were saved and reused, along with the repetition of parking spot, route to the building, and ingress into the pit; as long as your propitious streak persisted.
This perverse protocol even extended to the members bathroom. Inside this veritable sanctuary, every member had their lucky stall, having mentally claimed “squatters rights” after spending time there prior to a particularly profitable day. Conversely, losing stalls were avoided like a trip to OIA.
What are your trading superstitions or idiosyncratic behaviors?
Scott Brooks shares:
Anyone who thinks shaving or not shaving has never watched hockey playoffs…..a bunch of unshaven guys wearing one of two different uniforms, all skating around. One wins, one losses, and both have itchy scratchy beards that played no role in their success.
However, routines, based on logic and reason, can have a huge impact on outcome.
I have routines for hunting that I've used for years that I know work. From the time I get up to the time I am situated in my tree stand, I follow a routine. A routine that minimizes scent and the chances that deer will know I've moved into the area are followed religiously.
Reading my reports, news articles checking the spec list and communicating with other traders are all a part of the routine that I follow every day.
But the most important thing that I do when it comes to trading is this: If I have an up day, I don't change underwear, shower or brush my teeth as long as the winning streak continues, because I don't want the good luck to rub off…..but yeah, I know that's pretty obvious as I'm sure everyone else does the same thing…..right?
Jeff Watson writes:
I remember knowing a very nasty wheat trader who was very superstitious and wore the same unwashed blue trading jacket for about 4 years straight. The thing was so dirty it stood up on it's own and smelled like a combination of sweat, nicotine, and BO. Although he ascribed many powers to the jacket, he was very careless with it and would leave it hanging on a coat hook after market hours. One night after the close, after about 5 hours at our local watering hole, a couple of us partners in crime went back to our clearing firm's office, in a prankster-ish mood and sufficiently lit, and hid his jacket at the back of a closet. The next morning, before the open he came in and couldn't find the jacket and went absolutely nuts. He was inconsolable, irrational, and out of control….and this was before the open. After the open, he went on tilt, made a hundred mistakes, and ended up losing a ton of money, all in one day.
The trading jacket, like any other talisman, had no power. What had the power was his faulty belief system and his delusions that he could not make money without the jacket. He was one of the most rational people I ever met and he thought a jacket had supernatural powers. He gave the jacket powers because of a couple of untested, unscientific, irrational, anecdotal observations.
Back to the story…..He lost money all week long and I felt very bad and ended up coming in early on Friday morning and put his jacket back up on the hook. He was very happy and thought his jacket would turn things around. Needless to say, he continued on his losing streak, bidding instead of offering, buying the spread instead of selling it, and making a million other costly mistakes. The jacket made no difference and it took him a couple of months and a few weeks off to right his head. Although it was a cruel joke, it wasn't the jacket that was keeping him from making mistakes and he ended up realizing that talismans are what they are….talismans.
Gary Rogan writes:
These were cool stories, thanks for sharing Jeff!
I am researching and reviewing my contact with hats over a not uneventful life. I am considering their value, their uses, their symbolic significance, the great people I know who have worn them, the hat corporation of America I bought as my first trade, the hat that Tom Wiswell always wore to prevent sunburn and cover up baldness, the hat that Shane wore that made him an icon, the hat that the accountant in Monte Walsh wore that Hat Hendersson just couldn't resist noting was just right for a pistol shot, the hat that I wear now to show my respect for those previous, the man I called Hats H. because he always had a million different conflicts of interest while working for us. The importance of a hat outdoors in the West to shield from rain, sun, and the elements. Et al. What value do you see in hats these days? What anecdotes? They seem to have gone out of style because of the automobile. You don't need protection from the elements any more. Also they're hard to store. How do they relate to markets?
Alan Millhone writes:
I remember well the hat Tom wore. The ball cap I wear has a board on it (see picture). The Market trader might wear such a hat to remind them to look ahead and make the right moves (trades).
Sam Marx writes:
On the subject of "Hats". I am reminded of the aversion that John F. Kennedy had to hats and the picture that has stayed in my mind, since 1961, is of his carrying and not wearing his hat at his inauguration. I believe it was his attitude that caused the downswing in hat wearing in the U.S.
Tim Hesselsweet writes:
Seems like a good example of ever-changing cycles. The hat has been making a comeback for the last several years. Kate Middleton has become a popular figure and she frequently wears hats. Upscale department stores like Saks now carry a large selection of hats as well.
Alston Mabry responds:
Yes, but…mens hats are a different dynamic:
Scott Brooks writes:
When I graduated high school, the guy who measured my head for my mortar board said, "Young man, I've been doing this for 35 years and you have the biggest head I've ever measured".
As a result of my freakishly large cranium, hats rarely fit me. I wear one from time to time, but only out of necessity, and occasionally for functionality.
Necessity is when I need to keep my bald head from burning in the sun or freezing in the winter or dry in the rain. Never under estimate the insulating and protective qualities of hair.
Functionally is because I need a hat when I hunt to keep the sun out of my eyes when I'm scanning for game, peering through my scope to place the cross-hairs on the shoulder of my intended quarry, or placing the aiming pins of my bow in the middle of said quarries chest cavity.
I avoid hats otherwise as I can rarely get one big enough to fit. If I wear one too long, it gives me a headache. Therefore, when it comes to trading, if you see me placing a trade while wearing hat, fade my position as I'm likely making a losing trade because my mind is clouded by the hat that is squeezing my brain all to tightly.
Pete Earle writes:
I wear a hat, and have for seven or eight years. When I began to wear one, I expected to be lightly razzed by friends; that not only didn't deter me, but never occurred. Instead I've received unexpected compliments, and over the last few years other have seen a higher frequency of hat wearers in Manhattan, Washington D.C., and even when I'm down in Auburn and Atlanta.
Christopher Tucker writes:
The grandfather of my best friend from college was one of the kindest and most sensible men I have ever met. He was a traveling sales rep for the John B. Stetson company. The man always had the best (the absolute BEST) hats.
GAP Capital comments:
Born and raised in Chicago, so "hats" remind me of only one person…Dorothy Tillman!!!
Anton Johnson writes:
"By some accounts, Christopher Michael Langan is the smartest man in America……….he has a fifty-two-inch chest, twenty-two-inch biceps, a cranial circumference of twenty-five and a half inches–a colossal head, more than three standard deviations above the norm"
Esquire article on "The Smartest Man"
Alan Millhone sends another photo:
Here is Tommie Wiswell with his trademark hat tilted back. Might also been used to keep
overhead light from his eyes while he focused on the many boards.
Russ Herrold writes:
I am traveling, and so cannot conveniently post, but I placed orders this week for a new Stetson, a couple of Fedora designs, and some other … I forget …and have in my car, for the conference I am at this weekend, easily 5 or so, which I use both for their protection of my head from the cold, and also so I can 'do some branding' work in the community the conference represents (I also have other 'branding' in my clothing, and appearance), such that people I deal with, who don't know me by sight, can recognize me anyway.
Marion Dreyfus adds:
I think I am fairly well known as a hat person, and have been since I wore unusual chapeaux /to synagogue and school when 12 or 13.
Aside from style and stating an individualistic aspect, I think a hat harks back to a gentler, more mindful age, perhaps 100 years ago. It also keeps the head, inside of which are all these excellent ideas and scenes for a better tomorrow and a niftier evening today, comfy-cozy. Hats also show, oddly enough, respect. Hatless men in the 1970s were declaring their freedom from the mindfulness of suit and hat, and perhaps we are the poorer for having abandoned hats.
They also keep milliners in funds, and milliners I went to grad school with in the early 90s were aghast at the drop in hat-wearing citizens, alleviated only by temporary crazes or fads that fade as swiftly as they arise.
As a biker, for me, even mild days produce a breeze when one is on that leather seat, and a hat prevents sunstroke and sun in one's eyes as well as too much wind over one's head.
In the Orthodox world, wearing a hat connotes one is married, so it may be foolish of me to wear hats, because i communicate a status I do not currently entertain. But i do like the fashion and focus statement being made by wearing a lid, many of which, actually, i create myself.
Finally, one can maintain a superior air of mystery in a hat, which is impossible to the same degree in a hatless state.
Alan Millhone adds:
What really amazes me on hats are the clods at football games I attend who don't remove their head cover when the National Anthem is played.
Ken Drees muses:
The baseball cap trend: rappers wearing the caps askew, wearing caps with logos of designers and companies, wearing caps for status/advertising, caps as gang signal, wearing caps in restaurants/indoors, wearing hoodies in lieu of caps, caps as fashion, caps on backwards, caps with brim curved just so, it all has to do with being cool. Lebron James wears Yankee cap to Indians games–it's all about me, fool.
Gary Phillips writes:
"Wearing a cap backwards is a baseball fan tradition that started with Yankee fans. It wasn't because they liked Yogi Berra, either. The Yankees and Red Sox have a century-old rivalry. A group of young guy Yankee fans, around 1980, took the train up to Boston to catch a couple of games. Boston fans are loud and boo other teams. The young Yankee fans were seated in front of loud Bostonians. The New Yorkers didn't want to start an altercation, but made statement. Those guys turned their Yankee caps around backwards to show the Bostons that they were Yanks fans and proud of it."
Anton Johnson writes:
On baseball's rally cap superstition:
"A rally cap is a baseball cap worn while inside-out and backwards or in another unconventional manner by players or fans, in order to will a team into a come-from-behind rally late in the game. The rally cap is primarily a baseball superstition."
And hockey's Hat-trick.
Victor Niederhoffer writes:
It would be nice if this worked in the market. But then the adversary could always tell if you were weak or strong, especialy if signals could be reflected from the hat. I was surprised to see that in all the uses for hats I have collected, including flopping the rump of your horse, and fanning a fire, and collecting water from a stream or the rain, I did not see many variants of using it as a signal to get a cab or alert a Native American that a interloper was near, or to collect bets, or to conceal a salt shaker. This latter is particularly effective in the west because to ask a man to remove his hat is akin to a date with boot hill.
Gary Phillips adds:
Surely not a hat, barely a cap, let us not forget the kippah or yarmulke. The Talmud says that the purpose of wearing a kippah is to remind us God is the Higher Authority over us. He alone is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. When we pray and worship with our heads covered, we are saying that we are in total and complete submission to the will of God Almighty now and forever.
I was recently in the hunt for 2 of the crocheted variety for my 2 and 4 year olds to wear to school. My elder son demanded that the kippah be white with a blue Magen David. The synagogue gift shop was unable to fill our order, so I turned to a higher authority - E-bay. As J. Peterman would say, it is 6" in diameter — one size fits all. Handmade in Israel with a *very small* fine stitch. The yarmulkes are from Israel and are made by people who have made Aliyah; low income and handicap people, generating income to make a living.
I grew up and observant Jew until I had my first taste of bacon and blondes, and I never looked back. However, I now find myself lighting the candles, saying the hamotzi, and making Kiddish on Friday nights… Nice.
Jim Sogi writes:
A hat is essential in Hawaii to keep off the sun, rain and wind, to keep glare out of your eyes, and at night on the mountain for warmth when it gets cold. There are different hats for different situations. A baseball cap is good all around since it keeps the sun off your face, stores easily, can be worn in a car and is cheap and stays on in a brisk wind. A good brim hat is good to keep the sun and rain off the back and shoulders as well. A nylon hat is light and can be washed. A waterproof rain hat is good for extended rain, and a light nylon brim is good for hot sun. A small brim bucket with a strap is worn in the water while surfing to keep intense sun at bay for hours in the water, and to stay on in the surf. A knit or fleece watch cap is good for boating at night or sleeping in the cold. A helmet is good for sports to protect the skull from boards, rocks, trees and impact. The Original Buff is an adaptable piece that can be worn as a hat, scarf, or facemask. A balaclava is good for winter conditions and can be used as a hat, or face mask in windy conditions. I must have 20 or more hats.
As with all equipment, each type of hat is specialized for specific conditions, and there is not one that is good for all conditions. As with markets, its good to have specialized systems and rules for the differing conditions or cycles and no one rule is good in all conditions but must be tailored to match the expected conditions.
Rudy Hauser writes:
I do not wear a hat indoors with the exception of trains and planes or if there is no good place to put the hat. If there is a draft from air conditioning it helps to keep me from getting a headache. But more important is that unless I just want to hold my hat in my hands there is no good place to put it. I prefer to read, not hold a hat. I once made the mistake of putting a Panama hat in the overhead rack in a plane. The motion of the plane bounced it around enough to ruin it. That gives me little choice but to wear it. If I have a hat without a brim, such as my winter hat, I can a do take it off aside from trains which are not that warm.
Bill Rafter adds:
Glare, particularly from lensed overhead lights or high-hat floodlights can cause headaches and eyestrain. That can easily be counteracted by wearing a baseball cap or other large-brimmed hat indoors. I have kept one at my desk for decades.
For years I noticed that whenever I saw a certain actor & director, he was always wearing a hat, even indoors. Then I saw him entering a food emporium at a ski area and he removed his hat. I immediately understood why he always wore one — his particular baldness aged him at least 10 years. So his vanity choice was either a wig or a hat, and he chose the hat.
Hats indoors also provide a level of anonymity for those who do not want to be recognized in an airplane or robbing a bank.
My first "real" hat was a Homburg, which was required for one of my college jobs: pallbearer.
January 20, 2012 | Leave a Comment
10. I want to hire a hot assistant, but my wife won't let me.
9. My neighbors think I'm a drug dealer.
8. Oprah retired.
7. The pizza delivery boy is becoming overly friendly.
6. I haven't shaved, gotten out of my pajamas, or left the house in a week.
5. Networking to me is talking to my 2 year old son.
4. My wife thinks I need to get a "real" job.
3. When I take a break, I throw in a load of wash.
2. All I hear is… "Since you're home all day anyway, can you just do this…?"
1. I feel like I live at the office… Wait, I do!
Jay Pasch responds:
Top Ten Reasons I'm NOT Ready To Leave My Home Office
1. It's all about you and yours, the way it should be.
2. Better to suffer for one's self than for the white shoe.
3. My children are here.
4. The wife appreciates home-cooked meals when she gets home.
5. The rent is cheaper
6. Friends are easier to find.
7. Foes are easier to shut off.
8. The commuting cost is zero dollars and zero cents
9. The couch is two feet away
10. Dogs aren't allowed in the corporate office
Professional money had sold into the liquidity ramp that preceded this break, adding to their existing short positions. Somewhat coincidentally, they then pulled liquidity before the calls accommodating the sell-off. They proceeded to cover about 25% of their shorts on the break, while weak longs puked and flipped short.
This now leaves the market in a situation where the dumb money is a small short, and the smart money is still a relatively large short, which goes a long way in explaining why there was a short covering rally, on less than spectacular volume, ahead of last weekend. This also indicates large traders are reducing their short exposure as small traders begin to get short.
Given the current market structure, seasonality, willingness of global central bankers to add liquidity, and professional short covering, it would appear that the path of least resistance would be up. However, any bullish sentiment must be tempered by the current context of the market, i.e., Eurocratic risk.
Still very short, institutional traders will pull liquidity at the first sign of indecision or negative news or have their bots step down a vulnerable market. This of course, offers a wonderful opportunity to accumulate some longs.
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