"Sorry, the ‘January Barometer’ Is a Market Myth"

John Bollinger comments: 

I applaud the work of Messrs. Harvey and Hulbert and others of their ilk and I encourage them to be even more vociferous. Over the past several decades I have successfully used many of the tools and techniques that they denigrate. Investing/trading is a hard business and if they want to scare off the competition and help me maintain my edge I say "Go guys, go! Give it your best.".

As for Yale: It is true that Yale included the sample in the forecast in the early versions of his work, a forecasting no-no for which he has been tarred and feathered. I had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions and my impression was that he was quite bright and capable, so I always wondered if he didn't do that on purpose, deliberately throwing a wrench into the works…

Good trading,




 Based on the timing indicated, he must be significantly underwater at this time. That assumes he has not thrown in the towel by now: "Soros Doubles His Bet Against S&P 500 Index"

John Bollinger writes: 

The interesting question for me is: Why is he advertising this now?

Peter Tep writes: 

Good point, John.

Sounds like he is releasing the hounds, so to speak.

Did the same for his short Aussie dollar trade some years back and also his long gold position–get long, get loud.

Jeff Watson writes: 

The more important thing is, who cares what the Palindrome says he does. Whenever anyone who's purportedly a big player discloses his supposed position, I look at his motives with a big grain of salt.. People bluff in the markets as much as they bluff at final table of the WSOP. It's all a mind game, and while one should take in what the opponent says, keep in mind that their disclosure is not for your benefit and it could be a bluff. A good lesson is to look at announcements like this and try to find tells….they exist. Nobody ever discloses their position(real or fake) to the media to be altruistic and benevolent. The sad thing is that many people(retail investors, CNBC watchers etc) believe in the good will of the Palindrome and the Oracle to the small investor. Those same unknowing investors are the pilchards that are eaten by the sharks.

anonymous writes: 

"keep in mind that their disclosure is not for your benefit"

That is a key. Even if it is true it is still not for our benefit. For example "they" cover while "we are riding a growing loss waiting for the idea to play out. Our entry was their exit. The flexions/greats/insiders see angles we can't, if we listen regularly our account balances will be eaten. 

Petr Pinkasov writes: 

I struggle to see how in 2016 it's even intellectually sound to present Q as another 'dagger on the steering wheel'. It's hard to quantify the intellectual capital that investors are willing to pay 50x earnings. 

Alex Castaldo writes: 

Exactly. What is the Q ratio for AAPL, how many factories do they own and how much are those factories worth in the marketplace? (Rhetorical question). The Q Ratio is a statistic from another era, when John D. Rockefeller built oil refineries bigger than anybody else's or when Mr. Ford bragged about his new River Rouge plant. It has limited value in many businesses today.

Another smaller point: the proposed tail hedging strategy is designed to break even if the S&P declines by 20% in a calendar month. In the last 30+ years (367 months) this has happened on only one occasion (October 1987). It is quite a rare event. Would you do this tail hedging all the time? I am not convinced that the numbers work when you consider that every month you are paying for put options.

 Alston Mabry writes: 

Doing some searching, I ran across this on FRED:

Nonfinancial Corporate Business; Corporate Equities; Liability, Level/Gross Domestic Product

Cheap-seat question: I know what GDP is, but I'm not sure about "Nonfinancial Corporate Business; Corporate Equities; Liability". Is that simply adding up the liabilities side of the ledger for public companies? Actually, it peaks Q1 2000, so it must involve market capitalization.

But it does peak Q1 2000 and Q3 2007. Of course, ex ante how do you know it has "peaked"?

Ralph Vince writes: 

All measures from an era when there was an ALTERNATIVE to assuming risk — that alternative now is to assume a certain loss, or, at best, a large rate markets exposure for the (slightly) positive rates at the longer durations.

This is an ocean of money that is coming through the breaking dam. It likely will go much farther and for much longer than anyone ever dreamed. Imagine the unwinding of the government-required-soviet-style Ponzi schemes like Social Security, which, at some point must start affording for self-direction to provide an orderly unwinding. Not only from the natural bookends of life expectancy, and pushing out the book ends to where too few could expect to ever collect from it, but the pressure from below in a runaway market for self-direction. This too will fuel the hell out of this run and make it last much longer than anyone dreams of.

Every equity that yields a dime has greater value than the certain loss; every wigwam that provides shelter too, from investing in the ingredients of pizza in Pulaski to Poontang in Pyongyang, all the wealth of the world must come out of the shadows and find a risk — and this creates a self-perpetuating feedback that is something we've never seen.

This is the move that comes along once in a century at best, and we're already starting into it. The measures of the world of positive rates (which may not be seen for a long time) I do not believe are germane to the world today.



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. 



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.



I'm not a technician so I may have this completely off, but the Baltic Dry Index is making 12 month lows coming off a head and heck. I'm told that my suggestion of the HAN is off because the decline wasn't immediately after the right shoulder and the necklines were declining, but it makes me wonder about China.

John Bollinger writes: 

The point of studying such formations is to identify the underlying psychology and then act on it if appropriate. Perhaps, a core understanding might help? Richard Schabacker, Humphrey Neill, John Magee and Richard Wyckoff are a few of the authors that might throw some light on the matter for you.





 I became involved in the personal computer movement back in the early days. I built an 8 bit, Intel 8008 powered computer from a July 1974 magazine article in Radio Electronics. I also started one of the first "home computer" clubs at NASA/Houston in 1975, so I have been a really long-time observer of this technological development.

I have been amazed at the development of what has become the worship of Apple, even from the early days of the Apple 1. Now an anthropologist has confirmed that it has become a religion.

Today Apple Inc. has become a mammoth corporation. All very interesting.

John Bollinger writes:

I was just a few years behind you, starting with a z80 S100 system in 1978. Indeed, I developed Bollinger Bands on such a system. In those years there were a wide of microcomputer choices and many users moved around from platform to platform, but the Apple people were exclusive from the start. They used separate stores, forums, bulletin boards, user groups, ect… It seemed that with Apple you were either in or out, whereas with other platforms there was a lot of cross fertilization, debate and movement. One could work with a Commodore, Radio Shack, S100, cp/m, Atari, Sinclair, etc. user, even with some of the mini-computer users, PDP, VAX, etc., but rarely with an Apple user. The dividing line seemed to be memory mapping versus port mapping, with Apple's 6502 using memory mapping while much of the rest of field used port mapping, a distinction that faded long ago. My take is that the closed culture was deliberately fostered by Apple's founders to ensure the success of their brand.

David Lilienfeld writes:

I too remember those early days, having built the first MITS machine. Running a program meant flipping toggle switches up and down. The 8008 was followed by the 8080, which was a great chip with which to design. It was a lot easier than the 8008. There were only two competitors of note–the Motorola 6800 and the AMD 6502. That's how Motorola and Advanced Micro entered the microprocessor market (and the world introduced to Jerry Saunders, who could have taught Liberace a thing or two about flamboyance).The Z80 followed in due course. By then, the TRS-80 came on the scene, along with the first set of Apple computers. Those were heady days. Just getting a "Star Trek" program to work was considered a major accomplishment.

I'm not so amazed by Apple's development, per se, as by its rescue from the trash heaps of the PC industry. This isn't close to being the arrogant company that built the Lisa and the original Mac. I'm not sure it is a religion, though. Look at what's already happening with the early adopters and the new iPad. This situation is like the original versions of Word, and the Microsoft fans (Microsoft worship in corporations was pretty prevalent, though nothing like Apple). As with Microsoft, this support of Apple will in time pass.

Jeff Watson writes:

I remember my first Commodore and thought that being able to figure out empirical calculations(curve fitting) with major fudge factors to describe grain prices was the cat's meow. But then again I thought my old HP 35 calculator was something.





It is the oddest coincidence that on one of the rare occasions that you write to the list I am in the midst of a discussion with another (new member- neophyte to investing/trading) about the use of your bands. He is new to technical analysis and likes the ideas behind your bands. I mentioned to him that you are on the SpecList and he was intrigued. My question for you is simply: What is the best reference for him to learn about using your bands? Is it your book? (stupid question I know — but perhaps you have discovered someone else's ideas that you particularly like).

John Bollinger responds: 

Hello Chris,

The best introduction is still my book, even though it does need updating as I have extended the BB body of knowledge substantially since then.

Odd that you should mention discovering someone else's ideas that I particularity like, as Ian Woodward has been an inspiration to me over the past couple of years. He has just turned 80 and is still going strong. I can think of many analysts half his age who haven't a quarter of his current creativity. His work with Bollinger Bands is very interesting.





Here is his most recent article:

An above average 2010, from Sam Eisenstadt

Perhaps now that he has left Value Line we'll learn a bit about what really went on with that ranking system?

Kim Zussman replies:

Similar results [to what Sam Eisenstadt reported regarding "rally from recession lows"] when isolating on major declines in DJIA (1929-09, weekly closes), defined as:

This weeks close = low for prior and future 20 weeks (major low) + This weeks close = low for prior 255 weeks (5 year low)

Using this definition, here is the size of the decline (from max prior 5 years to the major low), return next 40 weeks, and return for 20 weeks following the first 40:

Date         decline    nxt 40W    nnxt 20W
03/02/09    -0.53      0.59      ?
09/30/02    -0.36      0.22      0.12
12/02/74    -0.45      0.41      0.21
05/18/70    -0.33      0.38     -0.07
04/20/42    -0.50      0.35      0.14
07/05/32    -0.89      0.99      0.15
11/11/29    -0.40      0.05     -0.30

Four out of 6 subsequent 20W returns were positive, with the notable exception of 1929 (whose repetition has been ruled out through close study by the current Fed Chair).

Phil McDonnell writes:

What went wrong with the rankings? Gaming may be part of the answer. Sam Eisenstadt clearly did not know the answer when I asked him a few years ago. In my opinion, the SEC has the best theory but they let the 'monsters' off easily with only a fine and no admission of wrongdoing. According to the SEC they were funneling money off to an in-house brokerage, in effect skimming the investors.

Dr. McDonnell is the author of Optimal Portfolio Modeling, Wiley, 2008

Sam Eisenstadt replies:

I hope Phil is not implying that I was somehow involved in the SEC case against Value Line. Nowhere in the SEC charges am I mentioned, nor was I aware of the goings-on in the brokerage area. As far as Jim is concerned, I recognize that he has never been a fan of the Value Line Ranking System, even when it was performing well from the late 1960s into the late 1990s. I would recommend he read Fischer Black's "Yes Virginia, There is Hope — Tests of the Value Line Ranking System. " In recent years, the system had problems as "earnings growth," (the major component in the system) was deemphasized in favor of "value" factors. The Niederhoffer Theory of Changing Cycles. Perhaps we're approaching another change, in which event we may not hear from Jim for a while.

Victor Niederhoffer explains:

What everyone associated with, or knowing of, Sam Eisenstadt, certainly all contributors here and those associated with me, has thought about this issue is that Sam is just the finest gentleman anyone has ever had the pleasure of meeting. A beacon of light in our industry. The Osborne of fundamentals. The Balder of our field. What a joy to have him swinging and gliding again unfettered from the River Styx.



SushilBollinger Bands provide so many utilities in figuring out different aspects of the market. I discovered one few years ago and find it pretty useful in getting the broad sense of the fear and greed state of the market. You can try it as follows:

((Next Expiry Futures - Current Expiry) / Current Expiry) X No. of contract rollovers in a year X 100 is the underlying variable you want to calculate and then throw around Bollinger Bands over its ongoing plot. I use the upper standard deviation at +2 and the lower one at -3 standard deviations.

This variable basically plots a cost of carry / yield equivalent of the futures contract differential on a rolling basis. The reason I do not use Current Expiry - Cash is that at expirations there would be huge noise as well as one would have to multiply the ratio by the No. of times the current contracts could rollover found by dividing 365 days by days left to expiry. A bit cumbersome. Also, Cash and futures comparison requires finding out dividend declarations, dates of ex-dividends for various index components. So the formula I have chosen is simpler, easier to build (you can use the CIX function on Bloomberg to build this for example in a minute).

As the reading gets closer to the upper standard deviation line it is a fair indication of the long risk taking capacity exhaustion in the current state & as it slips closer to the lower (deeper) standard deviation line it is the extreme of risk aversion. The %B indicator of Mr. Bollinger provides additional qualifier often. Whenever there is a divergence between the main indicator and %B that is the indicator makes a higher high or a lower low while %B did not it becomes an even securer reading. Trade entry decisions made with other tools thus come with a greater confidence as to whether one is trying venturing into a turning tide or into a running tide.

A perspective of observing the market through such a lens provides to my own psychology a more positive frame of mind. Someone who aspires to consistently be paid by the market can take the attitude of providing some utility and service to the market for which it should be compensated regularly. When the market is at +2 line indicating a state of avarice you supply to the stretched out demand and when the market is at the -3 line indicating a state of panic you demand courage. That way an attitude of being a consistent service provider looking for consistent rewards helps one overcome one's own emotions of fear and greed that cold otherwise arise much more easily with a sense of competition with the system. I find, for myself, that an attitude to serve the emotionally unintelligent is the reason for them to pay me consistently.

John Bollinger adds:

There is a little-used method of calculating a constant-maturity futures contract that constantly looks n days into the future that is sometimes called a perpetual contract. Comparing two of these perpetual contracts with differing look forward lengths, say 10 and 30, would be quite helpful for Sushil's type of analysis.



 Bollinger Bands are frequently deployed in multiples, with the most popular multiple probably being threes with upper and lower bands of one, two and three standard deviations.

From my perspective Bollinger Bands define whether prices are high or low on a relative basis. However, just as many authors find that the books others have read are not necessarily the books they wrote, Bollinger Bands are used for lots of things that I never conceived of. Enjoy and please report back on your success or lack thereof.



 This is grillin', not BBQ, but I just had to pass it on anyway. A friend here in British California got himself a nice, new, giant Weber "Genesis" grill. Given the size, it ought to be called the "Missouri" or the "Invincible". It plugs right into an outside gas line, so no external tank needed.

One of his specialities is to put a bunch of sun dried tomatoes, parsley, garlic and herbs in a food processor, whip it into a pesto, and then spread it in a thick layer on the skinless side of a properly prepared (i.e., de-boned) slab of fresh-caught salmon. Then he puts the salmon skin-side down on that Weber and cooks it until it's just firming up but still juicy. Meanwhile, he's tossed big chunks of onion, mushrooms, peppers and squash in olive oil, added salt and pepper, and roasted them in a veggie tray, also in the Weber.

Throw in a bottle of Rigamorole (blended Riesling and Gewurtz) from the Okanagan, and fresh blueberries for dessert, and it's one of the best meals I've had in a long time.

Greg Calvin adds: 

I have put one of these Webers to good use after obtaining it through the certified pre-owned program. The Genesis is a well-constructed grill that provides for even distribution of heat throughout the chamber, making it ideal for when you don't want to flip the food. The design is flare-up resistant, and higher models generally have more stainless steel.

This grill is not perfect for BBQ as the burners run side-to-side, but this is a minor gripe. The Summit line provides front-to-back burners as well as other accessories at a substantial jump in price. Weber's customer service is even better than its grills.

Some simple equipment lessons learned:

If you're using propane, get a spare tank. It's a minor cost, and eliminates some 'uh oh' bbq moments. Keep the grate clean, keep it oiled, or seasoned. Finally, get a second opinion — Check the built-in thermometer with a good oven thermometer. This is especially important for BBQ and roasting.

John Bollinger writes:

Get some swordfish steaks, one per person. Wipe 'em and spread one side thickly with a mixture of Dijon mustard, a little good olive oil, a bit of sea salt and a few good cranks on the pepper mill with a mix of peppercorns. Let 'em sit while you fire up your grill. Grill 'em mustard side up, without turning. The heat cooks 'em from the bottom up and the acid cooks 'em from the top down. Five to seven minutes should be right depending on the thickness of the steaks and the temperature of the grill.

Webers: I have three, a little Smokey Joe, an 18" One Touch and an old 22", so I always have the right tool for the job. They sit in a line like the three bears. Use hardwood charcoal if you can get it. Mesquite charcoal is cheap and plentiful here. My local liquor emporium sells it in 50 pound sacks for the cost of a 20 pound sack of the standard toxic oil-refinery briquettes.



 Investors are often perplexed by the lack of warning of market tops and bottoms, until after the fact. There is no alarm bell tolling. However, there are warning signs at the tops usually based upon enthusiasm, and at the bottom signs based on despair. Didn't Mutual Fund Magazine close its shutters at the end of the last bear market, ringing the bell near the bottom? So now we have a new FOX Business Channel to start broadcasting this year.

Is this a warning bell that the market is flirting with the top?

Victor Niederhoffer writes:

This is all very well and good except that there are approximately 1 billion qualitative events like starting a new business channel that come within a month of all market tops, bottoms, and continuations. It is impossible to differentiate the cause, effect, or any other factor related to the seemingly and for the large part random movements from drift.

From Jason Goepfert:

My local Barnes & Noble is relatively small and its business magazine section is sparse, Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek and not much else.

Last year, they started carrying Active Trader, which I found at the back of the top rack. If I weren't 6'6", I never would have seen it.

This weekend, on the second shelf, I was taken aback when I saw the following magazines all prominently displayed: Active Trader; Equities Magazine; Technical Analysis of Stocks & Commodities; Traders Press; Trader Monthly; and Bloomberg Magazine 

Jim Sogi writes:

My daughter called last week and said, "Dad, I want to buy some stocks, now." I said, " Wait till they go down a bit." She said, "You always say that." I told her that, as with the rest of the public, with recent all time highs, the urge to buy stocks at high levels is typical but often wrong. It is better to buy stocks when they are down so you aren't down a couple percent as soon as you buy. She looks at her stocks about once a quarter.

From Stefan Jovanovich:

 The actual use of canaries in coalmines fails to provide the historical lesson that the metaphor promises. Mining for "sea" coal (named because the earliest pits were at the coastal towns like Newcastle in what is now the United Kingdom) began in the 1400s. Canaries were first used in British coal mines in 1911. As part of the political alliance between the Liberals and the new Labor Party, parliament adopted regulations requiring that two canaries be placed in every mine. That, of course, required that someone be assigned the job of canary keeper.

The requirement for canaries was finally abolished in 1986. There is no evidence that the canaries served any useful purpose; the scientific justification was so weak that they were first described as being uniquely qualified to detect carbon monoxide. When that proved not to be the case, they were rationalized as being peculiarly sensitive to methane. The canary in the coalmine is probably better compared to the caboose on the rail train, a "safety" requirement that provided a comparatively soft berth for the man assigned to the useless activity.



One must repeat that the unconditional drift of the market is 10% a year. Whenever you are short, you have a drift going against you. When you wish to go short, chances are that the drift of the market will be above 10% a year. That’s because you and others think there’s a bear market retrospectively, and require a higher rate of return to be invested. In addition there are frictional costs to being short. Put them all together, and I’ve never seen a short seller who’s made money, nor has the Palindrome. It does give psychic value however in that it lets you vent your hatred of the system and yourself. It also gives stature because you are always on the negative which seems so much more poignant than the positive.

Since you always are giving away money on the short side, on an expectational basis, it is best not to consider it as the wind is against you unless you are truly insecure. The question of when you should go short is the wrong question. A better question is when you should increase the leverage of your long investments. I would propose a hypothesis that it is good to do that when the market has suffered a decline with a given period of a certain magnitude or more.

I believe the above reasoning, as well as the questions I ask bears about whether things are truly so much worse than before, and whether if they are, is this bullish or bearish, which I have made repeatedly since 1960 but also for the last four years, during which the market has doubled, has prevented many people from self destruction.

Dr. Janice Dorn provides a different perspective:

Part of the profundity of Victor’s remark is that the bears make poignant arguments which are almost tailor-made to touch something very deep inside of those who are always watching and waiting for some disaster or catastrophe. The bearish arguments tend to be more scholarly, detailed, laced with Latin words and appeal to the limbic core of the brain (which holds memories of fear and terror and sees them even in their absence), as well as the higher neocortical areas which are, in some way, hard-wired to process, consolidate and retain bad news more firmly and longer lasting than good news. Bad news is stored as pain and that pain can be evoked in almost any situation. Good news tends to be more fleeting and there is more difficulty reaching into the brain stores to retrieve the memories of euphoria. Perhaps the neurochemistry of euphoria (be it dopamine, serotonin, norepi, or any of the thousands of neurochemicals) is configured in a way as to be more transient, spontaneous and non-entrained. Depression, disaster, danger lurking around every corner is much more “reachable” in terms of our psyche. Once again, this is likely a function of the way that the cortical neuro-pathways are laid down and communicate electrochemically with each other in the vast cortical landscape.

In any case, the rah-rah cheerleaders are often seen as buffoons, whereas the permabears are the scholars and masters of Latin.

“A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink”
–George Orwell, writer (1903-1950)

John Bollinger adds some numbers to the discussion:

S&P 500, 1950 to date, returns by month, ex dividends mean = 0.734%, standard deviation = 4.085%

Dr. William Rafter explains the professional’s dilemma:

Dear Mistress Market,

To second the chair’s remarks about the risks of being short, I emphatically state that “a friend” has never made any money on the short side of equities. Even in profound bear markets, the friend has gotten nothing but frustration out of the short side. Conversely the friend has been able to make money on the long side in those same profound bear markets. But the friend has a problem: people who hire his services want him to add a short component.

More than a quarter of the hedge funds pursue a long/short (”L/S”) style. Let’s assume that our friend had a very successful fully-invested long-only (”L-O”) strategy. The funds don’t want to employ his L-O strategy because they are under the impression that a market-neutral strategy of L/S is less risky. But our friend knows that the short side is just wasted; he can prove that his L-O strategy beats a L/S version of the same thing. By beating it, we mean in every way: higher Sharpe Ratio, lower drawdowns, etc. Now the friend is looking for an allocation of X dollars in his L-O program, but the funds only want to give him .3X or .5X. Since he clearly cannot make money on the short side, he has adapted by finding a strategy that will go nowhere - and that’s what he shorts. (He cannot short the index, because he knows that also will go up.) By his little charade he gets his full allocation, and the fees that go with it.

But this irks, as there are inefficiencies all around: extra transaction costs, risk of errors, extra man-hours, etc. Furthermore, our friend assumes that he is not unique. Others must have the same problem. With more than a quarter of the hedge funds using L/S strategies, how much is being wasted? Is our friend on ethical quicksand by giving the “professional client” what that client says he wants?



Laurence Glazier asks if Optimism in the Markets Exists for More Simple Reasons:

Putting it very simply (or too simply?) is the positive drift in the market an inevitable manifestation of human potential and the innate cheerful optimism we all have, or at least were born with?

Scott Brooks provides his perspective:

I would say no.

Most people are not innately positive or optimistic. Most Americans are blessed by capitalism simply by accident of birth. If they had been born in a communist country, they would simply be sheep there (as they are sheep here) albeit much more unhappy sheep with a greater sense of hopelessness.

Growing up where I did and being surrounded by the people (and their negative destructive attitudes), I don’t think most people are innately optimistic. Any optimism they have is because they are surrounded by an environment of capitalism which breeds some optimism because here they are at least safe (no secret police to break down your door in the middle of the night), they are well fed (no mass starvation, or really, any starvation here), there is consistency of rules (rules and laws are not based on the arbitrary whim of whomever is in charge) and they can see that what is happening around them is consistent with what they innately know is the philosophy of life (as opposed to the propaganda they are exposed to in statist countries…innately they know its a load of cr-p).

No, people are not innately optimistic. Capitalists are. Think about it. What we have today is because of the skills and mind set of very few men. Rockefeller, Carnegie, Edison, Gates. Or men like Jefferson, Franklin, and Henry. Or scientists like Currie, Oppenheimer, Watson and Crick, or my uncle Bob.

What we have as a country is the result of just a few people who were truly optimistic and had the strength of character to fight through all the naysayers and negative busybodies (the Elsworth Tooheys and Wesley Mouchs, Dan Rathers, Paul Krugmans, Alan Abelsons, etc. of the world).

No, people are not optimists. They are negative pessimists who will almost always resort to the lowest common denominator of gossip, destructive thinking and thinking the worst of people.

Just a few of us actually create something of value in this world.

The rest of the world rides on our coat tails….and most of them are dragging anchors behind them or throwing rocks at the back of our heads, or climbing up on our backs to whisper in our ears all the negative things they can think of…but the nice thing is that on our coattails there is also an odd person or two (not very many mind you) who are glad to be on our coat tails…

They appreciate what the men of the mind do for them. And they fight the negative naysayers dragging anchors, throwing rocks or whispering in negativism in our ears.

They are known by many names…but most on this list would think of them as the “Eddie Willers” of the world.

Prof. Gordon Haave Disagrees:

No. The things you cite explain the growing economy. The positive drift is simply what the market pays you to part with your $$$ to put into volatile investments. In fact, the more optimism you have the less the market would have to pay you, so that would actually bring returns down, which of course highlights the important to us optimists of people like Abelson. If everyone thought like us, returns would be lower.



I was watching CNBC over a bowl of cereal a short while ago and Pisani said something along the following lines: “The S&P cash hit 1388 or 1389 again this morning and backed off. This is about the seventh time this has happened.” I don’t generally follow information like this but have seen lengthy List conversations about various indicies at various levels (including “the round”). First, is Pisani’s information accurate (or at least close)? Secondly, is it indicative of anything important? I’ve heard much of “levels of support and resistance” but am not sure that they, or double and triple tops, are significant (it wasn’t that long ago that Dow 11350 was being watched as an area of resistance - obviously it has been overcome).

John Bollinger replies:

I find repeated visits to a level, line, band, etc… useful as ‘logical places’ to take decisions. This is the sort of thing that is hard to ‘count’, but relatively easy to trade. Some of you may know Fred Wynia, it was he that taught me the importance of making decisions at ‘logical places’. I put ‘logical places’ in quotes as it is Fred’s term.

Dr. Phil McDonnell replies:

Pisani is accurate. The previous 6 dates and highs are:

11/13  1387.61
11/8   1388.92
11/8   1388.61
11/7   1388.19
10/27  1388.89
10/26  1389.45

So this morning’s high made the 7th such high in the 1387-1389 range.

Under the category of knowing one’s adversary I would note that there has been a long term up channel which one can draw on a chart over the last few years. The tops of significant rallies appear to be collinear, so drawing a line through them gives an upper limit to the channel for chartists. We hit that line on 10/26 at 1389 (or so) on the SnP.

Note that the line is an up sloping line but it has a much more gradual slope than the recent advance from the June-July lows. I would put this in the same category as round numbers and other such things which cannot possibly work but do. Human beings are superstitious and those who look at charts may sell at such junctions ‘just to be safe’.



Years back I read a comment from Tom Dorsey of Dorsey Wright who stated that it is easier for a stock to go from $80 to $100 than from $15 to $20.

Is there an optimal price of a stock to purchase? $30 or above?

If one bought a basket of stocks at $80 at the beginning of the year, and held it for one year, what would be the performance of the basket and would it outperform the S&P index? What would the standard deviation be?

What price should an investor avoid? Below $12 or below $5? What are the reasons for doing so?

James Sogi adds:

Aside from the high/low price issue,

> 20/80

[1] 0.25

> 5/15

[1] 0.33

So it’s about 8% easier.

John Bollinger recalls:

I think the first to dip his toe in this pond was Frederick Macaulay, later of ‘duration‘ fame, writing in the Wall Street Annalist — a NYT publication — in the 1930s, the exact date eludes me.

Martin Lindkvist elaborates:

Ahh… the square root theory. Norman Fosback has a little discussion in Stock Market Logic. The square root theory says the the magnitude of the stocks price move is directly related to the price of the stock. Specifically, for a given market advance, all stocks should change in price based on their square root. So the $15 stock (square root is 3.873) would advance to 24 (3.873+1 squared) and the $80 stock should at the same market advance go to 99 (8.944+1 squared). Or so according to the theory. The gist in any case is that in during an advance it pays to have the lower priced stock which should be more volatile.

Fred Macaulay originated the theory in the Annalist, March 13, 1931. William Dunnigan’s New Blueprints for Gains in Grains from 1956 also has a discussion.

Gibbons Burke replies:

These lines from the first of the Quartets, Burnt Norton, resonate with philosophical thoughts on the nature of the markets, and the study of market history….

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden...


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