Dec

16

 This may be elementary for some but I happened to watch a video from October's Defcon conference last night and a presenter made an extremely persuasive argument for two factor password authentication. Gmail gives it away for free and I have been using for 6 months without a hitch. Something for list members to seriously consider in their business practices. While its a little irreverent, as defcon folks can be, the security pro reminded listeners multiple times that the Chinese are developing some of the most powerful systems in the world and even 6-8 digit passwords are not safe.

Nov

16

Is the EU end game near or will they be next year's business as often happens. moving August biz into the Fall? I'm trying to discern the real crisis intensifying vs. institutions, I'm just not willing to hold any new paper for YE marks making things look worse than they seem. I noticed Belgian 3M paper moved from ~1.4% to ~3% after only 1 year without an elected govt in place.

Nov

9

 Today was a first ever for up, up, and up, and up, reasonably defined. With this 1 or 2% magnitudes. Amazing.

Like a stone wall, the stolid Germans are ready to sacrifice for the good of the over lords + or - at the round number of 6000.

Vince Fulco adds:

Negative news couldn't make a dent for long; does that mean teflon conditions till Thanksgiving? Not likely.

Russ Sears writes:

Pardon the talk of politicians, but the count is two days in a row that prime ministers have announced their resignation and the market moved up.

At this rate one wonders how high the Dow would go if every day a member of Congress would announce their retirement.
 

Oct

31

 Aussie economist discusses economists influencing Minsky.

Behavioral Finance Lecture 10: Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis via Steve Keen's Debtwatch by Steve Keen on 10/30/11

In the first half of this lecture, I discuss the economists who influenced Minsky–Marx, Fisher, Schumpeter and Keynes–as a prelude to outlining Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis. (PPT File: Debtwatch Subscribers ; CfESI Members )

Having outlined Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis, I explain the mathematical model I developed of it, on the foundation of Richard Goodwin’s “Growth Cycle” model of capitalism. (PPT File: Debtwatch Subscribers ; CfESI Members ).

Oct

28

 Quick 2 minute video

Hats off to Mr. Lack.

 Vince Fulco comments:

I have always thought race car drivers professionalism and grit have been terribly under appreciated. Growing up I was partial to the European racing scene (formal courses and rally events). To think one has to stay constantly focused at great speed while riding in an extremely noisy environment (no insulation) and sometimes arm's length from the engine and transmission belting out tremendous amounts of heat (wearing nomex fire retardant suits/underwear) while constantly strategizing makes trading seem downright easy in comparison.

I remember a story about Porsche's Derek Bell (as I recall) who was in the final laps of the 24 Hours of Lemans when his transmission started to fail losing grip with its gears. On his last visit to the pits, someone got the crazy idea to pour a can of Coke into the transmission tunnel giving it just enough stickiness to make it through the race. Not sure if their version of urban legend but amusing nonetheless.

Oct

26

Allow me to bring your attention this article:

"The Psychology of Music and the tuneR package" by John Myles White, which deals with both the R programming language and music, two favorite subjects of mine.

Oct

25

I call your attention to this article:

Risk on the rise as political leaders give in to mob rule

By Ray Dalio, President, Bridgewater Asssociates Inc.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ed4439d4-fbeb-11e0-9283-00144feab49a.html

[link requires registration]

Highlights:

We are in the midst of a deleveraging, we are nearly out of [fiscal and monetary] ammunition and we are at each other’s throats. … being at each other’s throats is our biggest problem.

[In such situations ] frustrations increase, the established ways of doing things come under attack and frustrations over the ineffectiveness of government creates the perceived need for someone to gain control of the mess. Plato spoke of this dynamic. It was the reason Hitler was elected in 1933.

Matthew adds:

Mr. Dalio recently appeared on Charlie Rose . [37 minutes].

Tim Melvin writes:

This much publicity is inevitably followed by "bad things".

Philip J. McDonnell comments:

I agree with Tim. The tone of Mr. Dalio's screed is strongly doom and gloom.

I am guessing he is bullish though because he urges cooperative action.

 
 
 

Oct

14

 Are HFTs like insider traders? Insiders have an edge because they know nonpublic information about their businesses. What edge do high frequency traders have? Do their fleeting orders that are pulled within milliseconds give them unique insight into order flow?

Victor Niederhoffer comments:

No. It gives them the insight to earn the bid asked spread which specialists used to earn and prevents others from doing the same. See Niederhoffer and Osborne on this point jasa 1966.

Vince Fulco comments: 

HFT machines and their algorithms, competing fiercely amongst themselves to be the point of the cathode (bid, the electron receiver) and the anode (ask, the supply of electrons) across which a trade sparks, make it possible for a market order in size to be executed within the public bid-asked spread, which, in stocks is a penny. That means if the bid is 42.12 and the ask is 42.13, a buy order will likely be filled at 42.127566.

Compare to not too long ago when the minimum increment was a sixteenth (six and a quarter pennies) and before that an eighth (twelve and a half pennies.) As long as we aren't competing to be market makers, we the trading and investing public have benefitted from the machines duking it out in milliseconds and micropoints to sell at the ask and buy at the bid. It has narrowed the spread, speeded up executions, and facilitated ever larger trades which do not disturb the price.

This increased mechanical competition provides depth, though it is much less visible depth because the machines can flash in and yank bids and offers faster than the message can travel from your retina to your lizard brain. The supposed lack of depth is simply because the depth has gone stealth. It is there.

The franchises available to humans to make the market are gone are will be in the liquid equities markets. The machines have taken over. Our edges in humans, while they last, must span larger time scales.

anonymous writes: 

This just seems like a better adaptation, right?

At least in stocks, the order book is locked until the order executes, and so there is no way to get into the book ahead of anyone else to provide liquidity for an order as it execute. Similarly, there is no front running possible as the order book is closed.

The NYSE Specialists saw the orders first and made the quotes, and so had an 'unfair' edge. Otoh, they had to buy on zero or minus ticks unlike the HFT guys who can take stock.

As an aside, I assume that much of the price spikyness is is HFT (generation something) gunning against each other.

Phil McDonnell adds: 

 The edge they have is that their co-located servers get to see your order 30 milliseconds before it becomes marketable. This allows them to front run orders with a fast acting algorithm. Their orders are acted upon instantly but not yours. In effect they get a 30 ms option on your order.

The opportunity is very similar to the wire scam in The Sting where the results of the track races are delayed so that the scammers can appear to be picking winners.

Jim Lackey writes: 

 I bid for 5,000 shares of a nazzy stock during lunch and watched the HFT gone wild. When ESRX was pre split and over 100 a share I fooled with it at lunch one day last summer of 2010. It's exactly like us back in the day watching instinet bids and offers and we soes the market makers. Problem is or the unknowing if they can see your market order (even if limit to take the offer) 1 millisecond before it goes public the HFT can take the offer and then be the next higher offer and make a cent or as Gibbons says 1/10th of a cent. That was flash orders that are supposedly banned but who the Hades knows.

However, if you know there is nothing in the dark pool throw a market order up for as little as 500 shares and watch them take it up .125 or .25 cents and right back down. It didn't upset me much but it was funny as back in the day the spreads on those stocks were always .25 and the 1/8th for the most liquid. Order handling rules of 1997 changed the game so market makers couldn't make a living they quit became day traders the bubble hit there were no adults in the nazz and well, you saw what happened.

Opposite was the 666 lows and flash crashes. 

That isn't an edge we had that with ISLD exchange 13 years ago. First in line is no big deal, that is playing low or high tick of the day and or trying to take offers just as you know it's about to take off. We all operate on scales and if your no filled at all or enough it's because you were wrong not because your last in line for the penny or the 1/4 on the futures. Co location is the last thing I worry about. Even if you hide your orders or use limits at the offer prices or even above where your scale would be I do fear shortly the order sniffers would make my bid thru the ask the bid by the millisecond it takes my order to go from my machine in Nashville to the CME. Then see my order codes and say wow this lack is on the ball today and I go to buy 5es and they buy 50,000…

Yes that was a joke.

anonymous writes:

Hi Phil,

As I understand it, if I send an order to NYSE, my order posts to the NYSE book, and if it is marketable, the book is frozen (no new orders into the book) until my order becomes unmarketable. Are you saying that participants other than DMM's can see my order before it gets into the NYSE book? If so, I am headed to OWS.

Thanks! Jared

Tradercraft writes: 

They simply see and can react to bids and offers more quickly. If you put in a bid to buy at 15.23, they will bid 15.232. You pull yours out, and they pull theirs. You can't compete with them at the sparking tip of the arc gap. They make their money by making the market, so the competition is to be the just-highest bid, and the just-lowest ask. They pocket the spread. Outside pay the spread. That is life in the markets.

Vince Fulco comments:

Trade flow for all non-HFTs gets screwed up. Inevitably you have to bid much smaller and with wider scales lessening the chance of a full fill. HFTs exist for no other reason than to goad one to pay up.

Jim Lackey adds: 

I am not going to argue with time and sales whether or not HFT adds or takes liquidity for that second. However all day long they are simply market makers or short term scalpers, so at some point they add liquidity back.

Look at it this way, if a HFT decides to front run and buy and that next second the euro drops and the algoes whack all the bids then HFT is now a seller, which is good for us if we are looking to buy 5-50 or 5 hours later at lower prices. It's only bad when I am not long and we rise or I am long and it's a dramatic last hour decline. How you, me, and traders vs. investors scale is a function of the magnitude of ranges, day change/velocity and margin/firepower at the end of start of runs.

If you want my vote to kill off HFT or triple levered ETF's I say start with the ETF's first. What difference is it to me if its GSCO MLCO, Floorbrokers or HFT trying to rip me off? Yet the Triple nippled ETF's that are used to get around margin rules now make the stock it self a derivative of a ETF or an Index.

In a way its as wacky as that ABX intex or other mumbo that at first was a design to help and hedge a market and became a weapon. CDS ETF's all that off the book. Makes being a bookie a tough game…for what good reason? People gave up on the game as its so rigged now we have 5-10% air pockets in the entire US stock market. Kinda silly…

Anton Johnson adds: 

Will the evolutionary terminus be that the pride of once cooperative machines turn on each other once their prey is pressured to extinction, or will there be equilibrium where the apex predators maintain both population and stress levels that permit sufficient sustenance for their prey to coexist?

Gibbons Burke comments:

They are doing that now. There are algorithms that are designed to exploit the patterns of the other algorithms. There are all sorts of games being played at the millisecond level which are predatory in nature, and adaptive.

Oct

6

  For those who might not be on r-project type lists and have an interest in the R programming language. Source: Revolutions blog .

  (Contributing blogger Joseph Rickert reports from the Stanford University Statistics Seminar series - ed.)

 A Work of Art: Efron on Bayesian Inference via Revolutions by Joseph Rickert on 10/6/11

Stanford University is very gracious about letting the general public attend many university events. Yesterday, it caught my eye that Bradley Efron was going to speak on Bayesian inference and the parametric bootstrap at the weekly Statistics seminar. So, since the free shuttle that goes to the Stanford quad practically stops at Revolution's front door, I got my self down there to find a standing room only crowd of Stanford faculty and students. Rob Tibshirani, a student of Efron's, did his best to give Efron a hard time in a humorous introduction, but he didn't stand a chance against Efron's quick, dry wit.

Exploring the relationship between Frequentist and Bayesian thinking has been one of Efron's lifelong grand themes. In this talk, he used an early paper of Fisher's and an under appreciated paper from Newton and Raftery to show how importance sampling is a computationally efficient alternative to MCMC for certain classes of problems and to explore the link between Jeffrey's priors and frequentist estimates. Efron's presentation was a masterpiece. His talk was tight, meticulously prepared and delivered with an effortless grace that facilitated the illusion that even the most dense among us could follow the details. It was like having the company of a master painter on a leisurely Sunday visit to the museum: here expounding theory and there telling an anecdote about a the painter, or discussing some fine point of technique.

One goal of this talk was to demonstrate how one could go about estimating the frequentist properties of Bayesian estimates. Towards the conclusion, Efron remarked that if you have a real prior, even if its only in your head, then your analysis stands on its own, but if you are going to use an uninformative prior then you ought to check your results with frequentist methods.

For the R enthusiasts in the crowd a small surprise came on slide 22. When Efron got to the first line of this slide he paused to remark on the mixed notation, and pointed out that two of the inventors of the new notation were in attendance (Chambers and Hastie). I have been saying for some time now that the R language facilitates statistical thought. Now, I have some evidence.

Oct

5

Since the Fed Head expressed great satisfaction with asset inflation through the capital markets, particularly stocks, just a short time ago, surely he can't throw his theory and intervention(s) out of the window so soon? Blunt instrument indeed.

Kim Zussman comments:

 BBQ phase change from warming the corporate economy to juicing the protesters and the electorate.

Oct

2

Besides what we already know, how much of the need for all relevant parties to keep an unlevered book headed into quarter end is there for balance sheet purposes? The bulge bracket firms are not in a position to bulk up their books, n'est-ce pas?

Sep

28

 I am sitting here thinking about how when there is an attractive massage therapist at a poignant family occasion, she will invariably say to the chief poignancy, "I have a very special session for you so let us make an appointment". Or when you get the other something very especially nice and the other says, "You deserve a great reward for this. I'll be looking forward to seeing you tonight," I can just hear the market mistress saying to one of her guests yesterday: "Well, thanks much for coming today. I am going to dig into my bag of tricks and come up with something very special today. First, I am going to go up, up, and up, for the third day in a row. And then—ha. Just when all the weak shorts who were so steadfast that things were going to the dogs last week have given up—- then I'm going to take it down a fast 2 % and kill everyone sort of like I did last Thursday when I took it down 3% in the last half hour. And the beautiful fun part of it is that I'm going to wait until the last possible minute or two like 3:20 to do it. Abandon all hope, ye who dare to doubt me".

Vince Fulco writes: 

I like to call these "something for everyone days". The strength and conviction of the n-day move trend players disappears like flash paper.

Ken Drees adds:

And it did the trick just well enough below 121 SPY downtrend line to beat the profit takers and upturn the new shorters who were waiting to deploy at that level–so the technicians were thrown to the ground as well.

Well done–finishing the day in no man's land, mid range, everyone edgy. 

Jul

29

 As a golfer the Speaker of the House is clearly Lee Trevino. He is the only one of our present leaders who comes from "the people" - i.e. the vast majority whose families had little, if any, capital. Cantor, Pelosi, Reid and Obama all has the rough places in their upbringings made smooth by money and influence. Let's leave aside the question of the substance of the present political debate. What choice do we have when you consider that a 2% across-the-board cut in the current expenditures of the Federal government would be scored by the "non-partisan Congressional Budget Office" as a "Cut of $13 to $14 trillion". It seems to me that Boehner has successfully portrayed himself as someone who is barely hanging onto control of his caucus and that the Democrats will have to take whatever he proposes - even if it leaves the matters of the Debt and the Deficits to come up again next year during the election season.

"I'm going to win so much money this year, my caddie will make the top twenty money winner's list."

Gary Rogan writes:

I don't think it's easy to deduce what Boehner's real goal is. He has been recently accused by serious people in engaging in a charade to not really cut spending but to appear eager to do so. In this line of thought, this charade involves a pretend tug of war between his plan and Reid's. I don't really know whose side he is on or what his game is. If anyone knows, please post. I do think that the participants have differing goals, to some degree, but the overall framing is a complete con.

Vince Fulco writes:

So with this intensifying impasse, how do both groups walk away saving face and claiming victory? I guess only in the political world can one fool themselves that that can be done. Next few days should be rich with opportunities…

Kim Zussman adds: 

see: Brinkmanship

Gary Rogan replies:

Clearly the resolution is not predictable in any meaningful sense by those without the maximum access to information, and probably not even by those with it. Even the simplest game of chicken ends in three possible ways, and this game is more like a game where hundreds of participants are racing along multiple highways towards the center of the city, where the center is marked by a huge piece of concrete. If anyone hits the concrete, they all lose. While on the highway, they have to keep moving at roughly the same speed (assuming the distances are similar). They can swerve individually, or keep moving. There are no other choices. The game is complicated by the following:

-In this game, unlike an actual collision nobody dies even when they all lose. So the stakes for each participant are lower.
-Some participants believe that they can actually gain if the "loss" occurs.
-The stakes are also very different for each individual participant and are not fully known to the outside observers.
-Each participant may be communicating with any number of other participants, again not fully observable.
-The participants are forming fluid coalitions not fully observable by the outside observers via multiple communications channels.
-Many of the participants are in constant communication with multiple outside stakeholders who have enormous stakes in the outcome, and variable ability to influence the participants. All participants can hear the "roar of the crowd".

-Some of the participants are engaged in very public communication to the outside world through varying media channels. A large percentage of the participants are engaged in trying to misrepresent the pressures they are feeling and their real estimates of both the chances of the loss occurring and its consequences.

-There are points gained by having the "right" reason for not to swerving. The scoring is done both in real time and many months after the game is over. Observers can materially hurt the participant in a number of ways months after the race.
-There are points for appearing cooperative and there are also point for appearing uncooperative. Different observers have different rules, and they are unclear.
-The observers are under constant barrage by the media trying to shape their opinions about the race.
-Some participants took a pledge to never swerve under any circumstances.

-There are multiple disagreements about the distance to the center.
-"Losing" or "winning" without the right side-agreement will eventually result in the whole city being nuked (again figuratively, because nobody except a few unfortunate observers really dies, but many suffer a great deal of discomfort).

I can go on for a while, but I am not really shedding any light other than illustrating that trying to predict an outcome of something like this is futile. It's much more complicated than the Cuban missile crisis. On a side note, the Cuban missile crisis could have resulted in the nuclear war through a little known sequence of events when the captain of a severely damaged Russian submarine under extreme stress from almost unimaginably horrible environment inside the submarine and being pursued and bombarded by the Americans with training depth charges, and with the submarine secretly equipped with a nuclear-tipped torpedo was ready to order for that torpedo to be launched. He was talked out of it by a single member of the crew. It's the little known things that count.

 

Jun

23

 What higher purpose is involved in all the news about Greece? How does it help the flexions? And how does it make man small? The answer must lie somewhere related to these last two.

Vince Fulco writes:

1) "Only Govt has the answers…"
2) The powers that be must deliver bad medicine (aka taxes) regardless of one's individual responsibility/frugality/discretion/smarts.
3) Overcomplication hides the truth as long as possible.
4) Suffering should be shared by the masses, prosperity obtained/retained by the sharpies

Jeff Rollert comments:

Actually, I see the flexions losing control. The public has tasted information freedom. They won't give it up easily. If Greece says "No" then their world changes rapidly. In my circle, the banks are "reaching out in the community" with ever greater frequency. Yet, consumers interest in their products is waning, except at the mid/mega cap level and gov't.

Dylan Distasio replies:

Jeff, can you elaborate on what you mean by information freedom, specifically in reference to the Greek situation?

I think some of the flexions have already profited in the first round of the Greek bailout by offloading bad debt to the ECB from the private sector when the ECB agreed to take it. I'm sure the other ones tied up with the IMF have a strong incentive to make the Greeks take their medicine.

I don't see how the Euro will survive this situation long term. It is very unlikely that Greece's economy is going to improve enough to meet these payments especially with a Draconian austerity plan. All this new bailout is doing is delaying what appears to be the inevitable. It might take another year or two for the pain to become insurmountable for the ECB and Germany/France, but they will eventually be forced to stop throwing good money after bad. The Euro is a flawed currency and there was no exit plan built into it. Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland all need to devalue their currencies to one degree or another and are unable to. This situation is untenable.

  Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
   Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
   The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
   The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
   The best lack all conviction, while the worst
   Are full of passionate intensity.

Ralph Vince writes:

I agree with all except it "it could get real ugly part." Not that I don;t think the possibility exists, but my analysis leads me to believe we are on the brink of gigantic, unprecendented economic growth in America, that we are rounding the turn, given a trough of some sort around 2014-2015, things REALLY take off after that.

And as we saw with China post-Tiananmen, nothing quells the masses like economic growth.

This is an extremely sophisticated society that, in the main, on the level of the individual, produces, despite their governement. In the main, Americans are quite peaceful, self-organizing, self-reliant people when need be. The seeds of pare-to-the-bone efficiency are in place here like nowhere else, the technological advantages now in place and as-yet unfelt — a catalyst need only emerge. The amount of available capital, so desperate now for a return, will be the second great biblical flood.

Talk to the younger crowd, and you see they isotropically have little faith in the future, little appetite for risk. They aren;t going to all be right. We re in the prime years to push all of our chips as individuals out onto the table.

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

I share Ralph's optimism about future returns in what the old men with canes would have called "sound securities". If I had the energy for it and did not still live in California (aka PIGS West), I would be buying and managing as many small businesses as I did 20 and 30 years ago. I don't find the absence of "faith in the future" among young people to be as alarming as Ralph does; I don't remember even thinking about the future when I was 15 and 20 and 25, and the young people I now meet who "have a plan" are basing their projections on what they have learned in school, not their dreams. The others - who are properly cynical about school - understand that their fate is largely at the hands of the marketplace. But they are not scared. Quite the contrary. They seem to be far more comfortable with risk and uncertainty than my generation ever was and still is (we seemed to think we had the divine right to complain and receive whatever medications were available to escape from the pains of actual life.) I think intelligent young people now understand the difference between risk (doing potentially dangerous things that require skill and practice to avoid harm) and the arrogance that comes from ignorance. Extreme sports have never been more popular; but Lack's kids and others are sensible enough to wear helmets voluntarily. The kids are all right.

Jun

21

 Having just returned from a 3 day mini-vacation in Chi-town, I dare say they have superseded NYC in terms of things to see and do in a compact space. Within about a 10 block radius, one can enjoy the Art Institute, the Cultural Center (hand painted Ghanese movie posters, the largest Tiffany glass dome in the country and a US Veteran's Art show all under one roof), the Fields Natl History Museum, the Aquarium, the Planetarium and an architectural boat tour off of Navy Pier. Absolutely perfect for a visit with a short stay. Lastly, check out Le Colonial on Rush Street, French-Vietnamese cooking which has moved up my list of best places in the US. Wanted to try every single thing on the menu; they were that novel and interesting. As down as I am on IL about their politics/tax schemes, kudos for an extraordinary sightseeing experience.

May

30

Tune in, Turn On, Drop Out– The Start Up Genome Project:

"Max and his partners interviewed and analyzed over 650 early-stage Internet startups. Today they released the first Startup Genome Report— a 67 page in-depth analysis on what makes early-stage Internet startups successful."

May

25

 What % of NBA games these days are won by the team that puts in the first point, and can this be generalized to markets?

Jeff Watson writes: 

My grandfather used to tell me that a fist fight among boys was usually won by the kid who got in (not threw) the first punch. As an aside, I wonder if markets are susceptible to rhetorical sucker punches? 

Russ Sears writes:

In distance racing it is the opposite. You do not want to be out front at the start. This is especially true at High School races and at the big road races. Too much adrenalin spent at the beginning will waste it. The amount of aggression used at the start, may vary from sport to sport. But might I suggest that one on one sports or team against teams are different than sports like running or poker and trading where it is not just about beating the guy closest too you. You don't want to crush your opponent but use them or propel you to the front.

 On the other hand you must be watching for signs they can hold the pace. Exhaustion can be contagious if the pacer slows, all follow. Plus you must have confidence in your plan and stick to it. Do you beat all with a kick or do you win with a blistering last mile?

Having thousands chasing you can be a rush, but it is also very draining to wear the target on your back. You take the wind hardest without any wind blocks and you are also wasting mental energy setting the pace.

What I think all the comments below suggest is there are really 2 questions you need to ask yourself…How aggressive do you want to be at the start? And the second one is how intimidating should you be?

As Scott implies below, thugs will nip at you until they know you are or are not armed. But to answer these 2 questions in most civilized matter, you have to know yourself; be confident in your capabilities and and equally realistic about your limitations.

In racing, poker and trading, patience is the key. Be aggressive when you truly have the edge. Believe in yourself enough to wait for that edge.

What may be more fruitful questions are: what are the signs that the opponent has started too fast? And what are the signs that they are exhausted? 

A Mr. T.C responds: 

I spent years running, and I choose to disagree a bit. I don't know what type of resume is required, but I did manage two state championships and posted a 4:12 mile time in college.

Going out first doesn't always mean having to go out fast. Runners settle in as soon as someone takes the lead, whether it be track or cross country. If you can use just a quick burst at the beginning to get the lead, you can then set the pace you need in order to win. If it buries others, then great, but if you not, then you know what you have in terms of a kick when it comes to the finish because you set the pace.

Losing stinks, but there is nothing worse than losing and still having something left in the tank. That can happen if you let someone else set the pace, and you can't outkick them. Why? Because they set a pace knowing they could still have a strong finish. Yes, there are rabbits, but they are pretty easy to ferret out. They sprint out too far, too far, plus in any race you should have a pretty good idea of who your competition is not just who are the participants are. The wind is a factor, but only when the wind is actually a factor. Giving yourself some distance gives those behind you no benefit. They will hit the same wind. The idea of having to chase someone down can be tiring, and mentally it can crush you if you catch them, then they pull away.

The real key is any race with hills. A leader can really stretch a lead on the hills. It is where races are won and lost. I can tell you from experience, you do not want to be chasing on a hill nor do you want someone else to set your pace on a hill. If you have the discipline then being in front means you do not have to catch anyone else, and you merely only have to run the race. The same race you've trained for day in and day out. The same race you've run in your head so many times.

When I was good (and believe me when I say I am not good anymore), there was a span of 12 races that I did not lose (it was the 800m for those that care). In that time, I did not even trail a single lap. My first loss came when I altered strategy and ran with the pack. Through a combination of injury and mental roadblocks, I didn't win again after that…until the 4:12 road mile in which I never trailed. It is rarely about adrenalin. It is about preparation, planning, and running your race. And no, for some, it isn't from the front, but for others, they become almost unbeatable if you give them even an inch.

Russ Sears responds:

 Yes, there definitely are times to be the front runner. If you are better than everyone in the field and know it, taking the lead, pushing the pace is the way to go. Winning 8 races in a row shows that you had out grown your competition which does happen in high school and college. But as you imply, if a rabbit sprints to the lead let them go. The goal is not to win the first 100 meter, but the race.

A 4:12 mile would never have happened without preparation, planning and running your race, but also a personal record also never happens without digging deeper and find something extra within yourself at the end. As a 2:58 1200 meter runner, but only a 4:05 miler; I did not have a kick. So I understand that often you do not want to leave it down to the last 100 meter and you beat them when you can. But having to lead from start to finish sets yourself up for mental roadblocks in tough races.

Finally, I must disagree somewhat about the hills. If you are clearly better than your competition then the hills may further show this. But if your competition is equal or slightly better than you, extra resistance of the hills prevent you from putting too much distance between you.

On my hill workouts, I would practice relaxing at the punishing pace up a hill. In a race I would let my equal push trying to get away but near the top when the heart rates are at the highest, I take the lead. After the peak I then tried to stretch the lead on the level or down hill parts.

As a high school coach, kids would often think that we did hill work so we could beat the competition on the hills. So they would try to demolish the competition on the hills. But I would tell them it was to withstand the hills, and learn to relax while still giving the most effort, so that you can beat them when they are hurting the most. It is like buying the dips or taking out the cane.

Sam Marx writes:

4:05 is very impressive.

The greatest mile race I ever saw was Roger Bannister defeating John Landy at the Empire Games in the early 50s. For those of you unfamiliar with these names, etc., Bannister, of England, was the first one to run the mile in under 4 minutes, a major athletic feat at the time. John Landy, an Australian, broke Bannister's record shortly thereafter.

The two greatest milers in the world, both of English background, by a strange quirk of scheduling would then shortly meet thereafter and compete at the Empire Games.

In their race, Landy had the lead on the 4th lap going around the turn and looked over his left shoulder for Bannister. As Landy was looking, Bannister darted past him on the right took the lead for the last 100 yds and won.

It was the first time two men ran the mile in the same race in under 4 minutes or the first time anyone ran the mile in under 4 minutes and lost.

Maybe the film clip is on the net. An exciting race to watch and historic.

Russ Sears adds:

The distance runners are posting some incredible times. Granted the Boston marathon was wind aided point to point course, but simply amazing.

Thimes remained flat and perhaps a bit slower from 1985-1994 then times started dropping again.

Some of it is in the new training methods, some is due to the coaching available to most that show a promise, some is due to more ways to make a living while still coming up the ranks, and some may be due to the drugs available, but I suspect many of the best are clean, and those that aren't add motivation.

Jay Pasch writes:

Jeff, quite the interesting post as my father coached the same thing, and being small in stature, that it's not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog, and to work in tight, inside, where you have the advantage.

Scott Brooks writes:

Having grown up in a "rough" neighborhood and in light of the fact that I've been stabbed 3 times, I have always found that the best course of action was to avoid the fight at almost any cost.

I learned early on in life that there are "guys" out there who don't see the world the way 99% of the people do. They don't feel pain or fear like like 99% of the world. They are capable of a level of brutality and violence that is, quite simply, mind boggling. The way they fight and the things they are willing to do to their opponent in a fight is truly scary. They win fights because they are willing to go to a level of violence that 99% of the people in the world are not willing to escalate too.

My brother and three of uncles were "those guys". I witnessed them do things in fights that was truly stunning. My uncles grew up in one of the worst toughest neighborhoods in St. Louis. They were, hands down, the toughest guys in that neighborhood….no one was a close second to them. Two of these uncles were only a 2 - 5 years older than me.

 I remember one time when I was around 12 years old, I was over at my grandmothers house visiting. I was playing down the street from her house when these 4 guys came up to me and started to "accost" me. They surrounded me, started shoving me around and telling me to give them my money, and that they were going to beat the $#!% out of me. Basically, I think they picked on me because they didn't recognize me (they left the rest of the guys I was playing with alone….all of whom were from the neighborhood). One of the thugs asked me what I was doing in their neighborhood and I told them I was visiting my grandma. They kept picking on me. I was really scared and my mind was racing as they were starting "the process" of beating me up. It was then that a possible way out of this situation occurred to me. I asked the guys if they knew my uncles. They, of course, didn't care about knowing my uncles. So I said, you don't know my uncles, Mark and Kerry?

The next moment became frozen in time. You could have heard a pin drop. They immediately stopped shoving me around and all they stood perfectly still, first staring at me with a shocked look on their face, then their eyes began to dart from side to side looking at each other with the same stunned look on their face.

They immediately began to back peddle. They became my best friends and let me know that they were just joking around and were just messing with me. They said they were good friends with Mark and Kerry and that there was no reason to tell either of them. The "fear" in their eyes and their body language was as visible as lava pouring out of an erupting volcano. The mere mention of the names "Mark and Kerry" was like flipping on a light switch in a dark room. These guys who were just getting ready to steal my money and beat me up, who quickly became my friends, were now really anxious to leave the area as quickly as possible.

What happened next was really interesting.

When I saw my uncle Mark later in the day, I told him what had happened. He asked me to describe the guys who tried to mug me. Mark knew exactly who the guys were. Mark told me to stay at the house and he left. He returned some time later with bloody knuckles. He said he took care of the problem and that no one in the neighborhood would ever bother me again.

He was right. I was never bothered again. I saw those guys a few times after that. They not only never bothered me, they were semi-pleasant, while at the same time trying to get away from me as quickly as possible.

Between the level of violence that my uncles, my brother were capable of administering, I have decided that avoiding a fight is always the best policy….why take a chance on running into someone like my brother or uncles.

And anyway, even if you get into a fight and whip the other guys butt, if lands one good punch, you'll be laying in bed for the next week saying to yourself, "yeah, I won that fight, but man oh man, does my broken nose really hurt".

Call me a wuss if you want, but know this: I've been in more fights than most and had my butt WHUPPED by numerous people……and I never enjoyed any of them. I'll take "avoid" over fight any day of the week.

Sam Marx writes:

I grew up in the Weequahic section of Newark NJ, in the '40's (popularized in Phillip Roth's books).

We didn't fight we sued.

Steve Ellison writes:

I find it nearly impossible to literally score the first point in the market because of the bid-ask spread. If I hit the ask, chances are the next transaction will hit the bid. If I have a limit order to buy, it will not be filled unless the price is going lower. The best I can hope for is the analogy Mr. Sogi once made to a football play: the quarterback always has to retreat a few steps from the line of scrimmage to start the play. Similarly, the strategy on a hockey face-off is to draw the puck back to the defensemen so they can establish puck control and start a play.

Vince Fulco writes:

I often dream of being in the inner circle particularly under the scenarios of a nice outsized move off the O/N lows before the cash session. Then cash opens, declines all of 1/2 pt quickly, stops on a dime then zooms higher doubling the overall move.

Steve Ellison writes:

There are interesting parallels to the three choices for commerce posited by William J. Bernstein in his book A Splendid Exchange: trade, raid, or protect.

May

13

Probability distributions have a surprising number of inter-connections . A dashed line in the chart below indicates an approximate (limit) relationship between two distribution families. A solid line indicates an exact relationship: special case, sum, or transformation.

Click on a distribution for the parameterization of that distribution. Click on an arrow for details on the relationship represented by the arrow. Other diagrams on this site:

Conjugate prior relationships Modes of convergence Gamma and related function identities Special function diagram Bessel function relationships

Follow @ProbFact on Twitter to get one probability fact per day, such as the relationships on this diagram.

Read more on this topic here.

May

6

 A while back, someone asked about the value of doing nothing. I had two positions on going into this morning - short S&P, and short natural gas. Had I not turned on a computer today, I would have made enough money to forgive many a sin of the first quarter. As it is, I ended the day breaking even when I had started out being significantly short two markets that gapped in my favour and then later basically went over a cliff. I won't go into the gory details of what and why I traded - nor share my feelings - but I'm pretty convinced that I'm going to have to hire a guy with a gun who, after I've set up the trade and the risk management, under contractual obligation is required to say to me "Sir, step away from the keyboard, or I'm going to have to shoot you in the head."

I would say there is value in doing nothing.

Speaking of doing nothing, the hockey game is on and the couch beckons.

Alston Mabry comments:

 One sympathizes. It brings to mind this proverb.

Kim Zussman writes:

 Randomly speaking, the market might have just as easily shot up and you could have avoided regret.

Gordon Haave writes:

Whenever I am in a business meeting and someone has come to it with some pressing need we have to react to right away, I always ask "what if we do nothing?". Everyone is always stunned.. they haven't even considered not doing anything. After asking that usually the consensus become to, in fact, do nothing.

Alston Mabry writes: 

 I would say that the over-arching issue is that the Market Mistress can torment her lovers in many, many ways. And experience would lead one to believe that tormenting her lovers is, in fact, her main obsession.

George Parkanyi replies:

Oh sure, Kim, you're right about that. But I had my risk management in place. Stops. But the point is, I had my idea right, and the method of executing basically set up to exploit the anticipated scenario. That would have played out very well, since there was nothing more that I needed to do at that point. Then I started changing stuff …

I don't mind being wrong, because that always happens in the markets, and you plan for it. What really gets me angry at myself is when I'm right and then I get in my own way. What other people do, I can't control, but what I do I SHOULD be able to control. Not being able to maintain self-discipline is a character flaw that has to be actively managed, and today it got the best of me. Doesn't always, but today it did. (Tomorrow may not be so good either, because before the close I went long a little silver.)

Jim Sogi writes:

Well, the next best thing to doing nothing is doing just a little to see what happens. If you're wrong, not such a big deal, but a small sample gives a good sign. Like Commodore when the guy gives him a hot tip in Reminiscences of a Speculator. See how it gets swallowed up.

Jeff Watson writes:

Jim mentioned probably the best thing I ever learned in my speculation game which is still going since 1973. "See how it gets swallowed up." Second best lesson I ever learned, but it only works with big orders and can tell so much about the markets, where they are, where they're going, who want's what, etc. Many things can be said with words, but until the order is put to the market, one can't say anything. The order getting digested is where the rubber hits the road and contains so much information(even in these electronic days), almost 10,000 pages per order if one is willing to keep an open mind and analyze it. The Commodore's system still works well in the grains, more than any other market I've seen and has been responsible for much of my limited success.

Vince Fulco writes:

The multi-day swing boys and the deep pockets are the big winners in GC1 so far tonight. Late afternoon, the contract came in like a ton of bricks as ES tumbled, with modest movement in equities after hours, zoom goes Gold as if the latter part of the day didn't even matter. The solid long moves all seem to be held "in reserve" till the day traders are flat.

Jim Sogi responds: 

I know its so minuscule, but the market knows when I put in my and my order makes it harder for Globex to move to the price and for a fill. I try to stealth even my limit orders keeping them mental until the price is where I want, ambush like. It puts me near the end of the queue, but at least its the right queue at the right price tick. Less chance of the hunter becoming the hunted, less exposure.

May

5

Glencore (aka the metal men) IPO top ticks a number of markets within days. Not even Blackstone et. al had that kind of timing skill in the last cycle.

James Goldcamp writes:

And don't forget the tendency for central banks to move to an accumulative posture relative to the metals. Alas, the "convergence" of these types of indicators is too infrequent I would suspect to be of counting value.

Anton Johnson writes:

And let's not forget the guaranteed to happen yin yang of Zell's of near perfect timing vs. Blackstone, and his subsequent dinosaur endeavor.

May

4

 It is interesting that in many of the electronic markets that one has traded millions of contracts in, but still don't know how to participate in the official "opens" where there is a "single price" determined by a complicated set of rules that would take a hundred lawyers a year to figure out, the "open" is often the extreme of the day, and the only people who get it at the extreme are those who somehow have figured out how to trade the "open" or who have the equipment to do so. Such a situation occurred in the Bunds today, where it opened at "80", set a high of "82" a nano later, and then very delicately as my grandfather Martin would say, fell all the way down to 20 or so, "relieving" all the longs of their hard earned "wherewithal". The days of Livermore and Grandpa Martin, of Morse and Little and Boss Tweed and Drew and Travers ("although of genial disposition, he was a chronic bear") are not forever gone.

Nor for that matter are the days of James Hill who could not resist succumbing to some inside trading in railroad stocks based on the Chinese situation and who Harriman, the decorated political office holder and flexion cubed of his day, turned in to the office holders of the day for "hearings" and punishment for his "inexcusable and inexplicable behavior". James Hill who built the greatest railroad, the Great Northern,and spared no expense to engineer it perfectly for safety and efficiency and inspected every inch of the track he layed. Reminds one of the Scapegoat under fire today. 

Vince Fulco writes:

I have had the chance to tour his home in St. Paul last year. I dare say while opulent for the area, it was a functioning house and not a copy of the palatial, "money is no object" places like the gilded age titans out East. In keeping with the grounded, pragmatic Midwestern mindset I have witnessed often. The boiler room running hot water through the house; the first of its kind in town, is simply not to be believed.

 

May

4

 Let us augment the Zacharian situation which I used to call a Finnegan where you look at the screen and a price is too terrible to contemplate because it's ruinous to you, and then you realize to your utter delight that the price was a misprint on the screen, and you're whole, and not losing at all, but …. by the end of the day or week, the price you feared actually turns out to be worse than you feared and you lose even more. Such a situation occurred in conjunction with the flash crash of May 6 when the price of 1060, which was ruinous for individual stocks and S&P was there for a second, but then it rose 8% in a day, and then Zachar predicted it would go bak there after it rose 100 points.

Okay, two other situations deserve a name.

You look at the screen, and you smile. Your market or stock is way up you think. But then– "Oh no," you were looking at the wrong market. And your thing is the only one that's not good or up if your long. That happened to me with my Rimm and Vix today. I see a market way up. I smile. Oh no. It's not Rimm, it's Vix that's way up.

What should this be called. And what about the variant where you have a price in mind to get out, and then you go to shave or take a call from a non-agenarian, and the price is realized, but by the time you can enter the order it's not there any more. And it never gets back.

A related situation is that you're out of office for a second, and you hear an announcement. The economy is very strong. However, bonds are down because of the crazy idea that a strong economy is inflationary. But that's causing stocks to go down. Okay, you're losing money on your longs. The market is crazy right? You grit your teeth and go back to take a look. Amazingly the bonds are way up however. WHY? Because stocks are way down. In other words, you lost on stocks because bonds were going to be down, but they actually went up when stocks went down, so you lost for an opposite reason.

What are the proper names for all these? And what variants of these type of things deserve a name?

Peter Earle writes:

The one where you look at the screen and smile– perhaps that moment is best termed an "Eastwood", a "Harry", or a "Dirty Harry", or being struck with/by (a) "Sudden Impact", as demonstrated by the relevant portion of this scene: first from 0:18 to 0:51…and then from approximately 1:05 to 1:13.

Chris Tucker writes: 

The last situation could be referred to as a "Cyclone", not for the storm, but in honor of the Chair and the iconic roller coaster of his youthful digs at Coney Island. The Cyclone is terrifying, filled with thrills, dips, lunges and jerks. And people keep coming back to plunk down there hard earned cash for more.

Very nice short history of the park at Coney Island here.

Vince Fulco writes: 

The Cyclone seems most apropos. What is it about Mr. Market's ability, esp. with these leveraged ETFs to give you a nice gain but not hit your target price and then revert back to your cost in an instant (many multiple percent away and seemingly not to be seen again in the near future with the new info) then turn within pennies and return you back to profit mode testing your temperament so mightily? The silver ETFs have acted like scalded dogs the last few days.

George Zachar comments: 

The Coney Island Cyclone was the signature thrill ride of my youth. I've ridden it well over 100 times.

What's always fascinated me about it, is how the experience varied with one's position in the 12 rows of seats.

In the very front, with the center of gravity many feet behind you, the visual danger signs led the acceleration by a couple of seconds, giving you the sensation of hanging over a cliff.

In the very back, my favorite spot, the acceleration came before you could see the rails dip, so it would catch you unawares and whip you sooner/faster than your mind anticipated.

Also, at the start of the right turn off the NW corner, the right-front wheels would leave the track for an instant, making first-time riders wonder if they were destined to die on Surf Avenue, in the shadow of the D train.

Alston Mabry writes:

The one where you're out of the office for a second, and hear an announcement– It's called "duck season".

The followup is too good to leave out: "Pronoun trouble".

Craig Mee writes:

About the one where "it's even worse than the mistaken price you mistakenly thought was your" :

I thought you were going to say, Victor, if after getting heart palpitations at the first incorrect reading, just by the fact you had done this, it's better to get out of your said stock now anyway, as you've brought bad karma to the trade.

Apr

12

 Julius Shiskin (1913-1978) pioneered some seasonal analysis programs at The Census Bureau that are widely used and responsible for much of the random data we receive on monthly increases and decreases. Around 1970, he wrote a great paper applying his methods of seasonality to stock market prediction. It was very suggestive. He immediately withdrew the paper, presumably for bureaucratic reasons. It would be interesting if that paper existed and could be applied prospectively. I looked through some google stuff and could find no reference to it.

Vince Fulco writes in:

I believe the  title of the paper you are looking for is, "Systematic Aspects of Stock Price Fluctuations", ~1968. Ask Doc to find a copy for you.

Apr

7

Hero for the day submission.

Found via the TED Blog:

The invention that unlocked a locked-in artist: Mick Ebeling on TED.com

The nerve disease ALS left graffiti artist TEMPT paralyzed from head to toe, forced to communicate blink by blink. In a remarkable talk at TEDActive, entrepreneur Mick Ebeling shares how he and a team of collaborators built an open-source invention that gave the artist — and gives others in his circumstance — the means to make art again.

approx 8 min.

Apr

7

Very interesting post on Buffet from the "accounting watchdog" Francine McKenna. She writes:

On the way to writing this story, I realized some disturbing things about Berkshire Hathaway and how Buffet runs it. So anxious are some to annoint gurus, sages, and oracles, that they overlook some of the worst corporate governance practices I have ever seen. And Buffett's Berkshire doesn't like to be told how to do its accounting, either. I'm writing about that next for Forbes.

Apr

4

 If someone could relate the 10 most important ways to be a successful beggar and somehow rate the big CEO's on how they fare on this, perhaps it would be a good way to pick investments these days. Certainly the basketball player, and the [deleted pending resolution of offer and counteroffer] would be high up there, and the heads of the certain institution from areas that are renowned for their ability to compromise would have many lessons to teach, and juicy stocks ripe for investment. The head of a metals company renowned for its low cost elevators in my day was a butler and this would seem to be very ideal training in the absence of a school for beggars in this country. How to generalize?

Gary Rogan writes:

They can't really beg and retain any illusion of authority. They have to prostitute themselves to the regime while plausibly (somewhat) appearing highly enthusiastic and supportive.

Some of the skills:

-Be able to speak with passion and conviction about complete nonsense, generally in the collectivist/green future and similar areas.
-Be able to deny obvious truth with passion and conviction in public, such as the real motivation for any help from the government.
-Regularly show up in Davos.
-Express a great deal of concern for various oppressed constituencies, at home and abroad and describe at length how the company/CEO are helping them.
-Be excited about creating jobs, especially "good" jobs, "skilled" jobs, "green" jobs. Talk at length about how the US needs to be a country that "builds things".
-Be able to motivate a large number of employees by any means necessary to contribute the government political candidate.
-Invest heavily in a number of "relationships" in DC to create wide-spread support for bailing out the company.
-If the company is a conglomerate that owns any media properties turn those properties into the echo chamber for the regime.
-Infrequently offer mild criticism of the regime while emphasizing the silver lining.
-Get involved as advisers to the various regime commissions.
-Hire former regime members.

Steve Ellison writes: 

Maiming: In one country I visited, there were many beggars, who served an important role in their religion by giving the faithful opportunities to do good deeds. Many of the beggars had been purposely maimed by their handlers in order to attract more alms.

Spinning a yarn: When I first worked in the big city as a young man, I was stunned by how many panhandlers there were. Locals informed me that the Republican president was to blame. I saw the same panhandlers day after day, but every once in a while somebody would approach me with a sad story. One woman rode the subway telling everyone she needed to get to a hospital for a medical procedure but needed money to get there. I occasionally would be approached by someone claiming to be a stranded traveler who needed money to get home.

Performing unwanted services to create a sense of obligation: The last time I went to the Los Angeles airport, I was approached as I walked out of the terminal by a woman who asked if I needed help finding anything. I said I just needed to find the shuttle bus for rental cars. She pointed out where it was (it was right in front of me, and I would have found it myself within five seconds) and then asked for money. Squeegie men and charities that send preprinted address labels are in this category, too.

Feigning virtue: I know people who have offered jobs to people holding signs saying, "Will work for food". None of the sign holders have ever shown up to work.

John Tierney writes:

10 attributes which get the alms seeker off to a good start:

1. stresses that the company is concentrating on "giving back to the community"

2. actively involved in and/or seeking out green initiatives.

3. putting increased emphasis on organic growth, but always has an eye-out for M&A opportunities

4. working hand-in-hand with government agencies/NGOs to address hunger/AIDS/climate change

5. supports and serves on advisory boards of outfits like Breast Cancer Awareness, Habitat for Humanity, Thurgood Marshall Scholarship program, anti-vivisection league, and Sierra Club

6. never misses annual meetings at Davos & Jackson Hole; always has time for interview with CNBC and others; dresses casually, but not ostentatiously for same, addresses interviewer by first name…refers to this year's meeting as "one of the most exciting" ever

7. rarely indulges in short-term predictions, instead devotes most of his time to long term initiatives (which he'd like to discuss, but, at this time, is premature); sees things improving slowly but surely

8. believes the Fed did the right thing - might have made a few small errors but, generally, moved decisively at a critical time. Country will bounce back, always has.

9. bailouts, QE1 & QE2, though regrettable, were necessary for the preservation of the financial system.

10. insists the public will realize a "healthy return" on bailout funds

Vince Fulco writes:

Not to be forgotten, the institutions that pound their chests with pride in their ad campaigns using misinformation as JPM has been doing recently re: the X number of mortgages (400M as I recall) the company has modified in 2010. "In order to do our part and assist ordinary consumers get back on their feet…" is the approximate spirit of the ad. Needless to say, for better or worse, in early consultation with these companies, the administration & Treasury planned for a 4-5X number of alterations.

Gary Rogan adds: 

Basically, the main requirement for being a CEO today is excelling at credible hypocrisy.

Russ Sears contributes:

Here are a half dozen more.

1. Beg for federal money for your customers. This should allow your prices to double what they put in. Plus the room for undetected fraud goes up. (See higher education and Medicare, medicaid and first time buyers tax credits). This way you get the best of both worlds, customers thanking you for making it affordable and tax payers footing the bills.

2. Give away your product to third world countries with tax breaks so that the Feds will extend the favor by lengthening your patent protection in US. Again gratitude for sticking it too us.

3. Have the government make it illegal not to be insured, and then make sure your product must be paid for by insurance. (car, health, PMI etc) Again with the government involved raising the easy of defrauding insurance companies.

4. If you are captured by the unions, make the government give only union shops a chance.

5. Use your size to get tax breaks as incentives, use your popularity to have the citizens build your stadiums.

6. Make sure that court system understands that with all the lawyers you hire, you are the ones keeping the judges in a job. Bringing regulatory capture to a new level, too big to prosecute.

World traveler B.K. writes: 

I've seen countless mutilated beggars in India, enough to make you want to cry coins to them. However, the practical advice is not to give: "In India thousands of children are being mutilated annually. The joints of their bones get injected with bleach. Infection is the result and amputation follows. Eyes are stuck out as well. …"

However, the greatest beggar I ever saw was an armless man in the NYC subway with a sign around his neck, 'Please give to buy drum set.'

George Parkanyi writes:

That may well be, but I look at it this way– who am I to judge? I once gave a leg-less homeless man a ten-dollar bill. Well he just absolutely lit up into a beautiful smile, looked me straight in the eye and said "God bless you!". That blessing hit me like a sonic boom. I felt it physically, and walked away feeling like I received much more out of that exchange than he did. Make of that what you will, but it had a huge impact on my outlook on life, and how we relate to each other. 

Marion Dreyfus writes: 

I saw the same mutilations and deliberate crippling in Nepal. Hundreds of kids tottered after Westerners, begging and making mewling sounds. If once you gave you were encircled and could not advance another step until each and every child had gotten coins from one. 

Art Cooper writes:

One of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories is "The Man With the Twisted Lip," an exceptionally successful London street beggar, who gave his benefactors psychic value for their alms.

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

Here is an article on organized phony beggars. Those who donate must be able to differentiate the individuals worthy of a helping hand:

"Certain persons posing as social leaders have been running the racket of beggary. We are busy in gathering necessary evidence to initiate criminal action against them," Ramalingappa said.

He claimed that at few places the "beggary business" was going on a "commission basis"

and whenever the officials conducted raids, the beggars escaped from the clutches of law and also alerted others over mobile phones.

"Whenever the beggars in disguise are arrested, lawyers rush to get them released," Ramalingappa said. Most of these rackets thrive in and around well known pilgrim centres and religious places where people generously offer to beggars. He said an awareness programme will be launched to impress upon people that beggary should not be encouraged.

Stating that no proper rehabilitation of "genuine beggars" has taken place anywhere in the State, Ramalingappa said a comprehensive survey on the conditions of beggars will be taken up soon. There are 914 beggars including 168 women in rehabilitation centres all over the State. Steps were being taken to set these centres in order.

Mar

16

Here is a great review of the fabulous UK Maker Faire.

Chris Tucker writes:

I LOVE Maker Faire!!

The Bay Area one is May 21, 22; Detroit July 30,31; New York Sept. 17, 18 at the New York Hall of Science

Feb

24

Shouldn't we be expecting a gust of dire prognostications mixed with some data very shortly providing justification for QE2.5/3? You know, "collapse is around the corner if we don't do this"…

The GS note on fiscal cuts was not enough, but a good first try!

Gary Rogan adds:

Flexionic symbiosis:

From the LA Times:

Goldman Sachs analysis says Republicans' $61 billion in cuts would trim
U.S. economic growth by half this year. Rep. John Boehner and others
reject the report.

Feb

21

While the equity market making machines sleep, markets become more logically reactive to news catalysts?

Feb

16

 Several of you began with relatively small sums of capital and made fortunes, got published, became your own boss, etc. (or so it seems based on posts here and material on the internet). This doesn't seem to happen as much anymore. Most Horatio Alger style stories these days begin with well established offshoots of big firms and too often end in handcuffs. I can't think of any instances of people started with a $5k credit card advance or loan and a dream in the past twenty years (except non-market stories like Facebook which is probably why compu sci is becoming so popular again).

Even those with multi-year consistently profitable track records with good alphas are having difficulties raising any reasonable sums of AUM. And turning $50k into $1mm let alone $20mm seems to require incredible risk or a time machine. Most biographies of successful people that I have read (whatever the field) tell stories of men and women who lay everything on the line and suffer any obstacle (lost spouses, prolonged poverty, living in a taxi while subsisting on ramen, etc.) to achieve their dream. Perhaps this is still the formula. But it seems the odds are stacked up against the would-be market entrepreneur more now than in the past with the current environment and many of the great success stories came in a period of unprecedented market rise. So, to those on the list who have achieved the improbable what would you recommend to your children or other interested parties regarding how to become a success in the markets these days while remaining personally solvent and without taking undo risk when in an era where raising external money is difficult with a good track record and impossible without one?

Charles Pennington comments:

Gladwell writes a lot of wrongs, but I think he has a point in this article . He says that often entrepreneurs have images as swashbuckling risk-takers, but in reality, at the time when they made their crucial decision(s), the circumstances were such that the decision was not all that risky.

Vince Fulco writes:

The authors (really Andrew) of the book I mentioned a few weeks back; "Panic" by Andrew Redleaf and Richard Vigilante, go in depth to the point Prof. Pennington is making. They point to the backgrounds of real entrepreneurs who seemed like risk takers but in point of fact often had years of experience before venturing out on their own.

Location 837-838 on kindle:

"…In the real economy we see all the time people being paid for hard work, for perseverance, for insight, and for experience. But it is all but impossible to observe anyone being paid for risk. It is easiest to see this starting with some extreme cases. There are many heros among the great entrepreneurs. It is almost impossible to think of one who got paid for taking risk. The more brilliant the entrepreneur and grand his achievements, the less true it seems. Was Alexander Graham Bell paid for the risk he might not invent the telephone? Nonsense, he was paid for inventing it. Was Edison paid for the risk that he might not invent a light bulb, or for actually inventing it? Henry Ford was not paid for taking the risk that he might not be able to build a car affordable to "any man of good salary"; he was paid for actually doing it. In the extreme case, even insurance companies, as the great Frank Knight pointed out almost a century ago, are paid not for accepting risks but for transforming genuine uncertainty–will I be in an accident?–into statistical predictability–some percentage of drivers will be. Even the flying Wallendas were paid not for their risks but for their skill. Dead acrobats don't get a piece of the gate. Acrobats who risk and fail are less popular than those who succeed despite undertaking greater and greater challenges…"

"…the deeper we look into these men's lives, the more difficult it is to justify the notion that 'risk taking' explains their achievements and rewards. The very notion of risk disappears into incoherence. What are the risks of not inventing a telephone (or a light bulb or an automobile)? Do we mean the odds against doing so? The odds against whom doing so? Anyone or the men who actually succeeded? If the odds against success are the measure of risk and hence reward, why were these men, who were good candidates to achieve these things and thus took less risk, so well rewarded?…"

"…Or by risk do we mean what the entrepreneur had to lose? But the more dramatic the story, the more we see that in their most productive years these men had very little to lose and enjoyed what they were doing far more than most men enjoy their own work. It is at least as true to say that they were 'at play' as to say they were 'at risk'…"

Jan-Petter Janssen writes: 

I won't call myself successful yet, but I do know a recipe for success in today's world.

1) Work and save money in a high income country.

2) Relocate to a low cost, tax free country.

1->2) Exponential growth for the savvy speculator.

The mining sector in Western Australia pays extremely well (you should be able to make $100-$200k). Since there are not many temptations in the Aussie outback (except playing the didgeridoo), you will see your bank account grow in tandem with your salary. After a few years you can take your money and move to one of the low cost, low tax countries in South East Asia.

Join me, Coyle!
 

Feb

1

I don't think one becomes good at trading until we have been beaten so much that we no longer fear the beast…once you learn how to take any shot the market give you, success comes so much easier.

Jay Pasch replies:

There is wisdom in this post; it also emphasizes the importance of having enough skin in the game to experience its sensitivities especially when it comes to turning points– turning points start to hurt, they frustrate you, they wear you down, they rub you raw to a point where you think you can't take it anymore, to a point where you question your methods, why you trade for a living, to a point of throwing in the towel– it is then that the trader needs his perseverance the most and to stay awake.

Victor Niederhoffer asks:

What are the turning points and how can they be predicted? That's a good way of
trading I think. A turning point and run are pretty much the same with
proper definitions as a start.

Jim Sogi writes: 

There are enough niches and styles in markets that a person can find one in which his own weaknesses create the least problems.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

Craig wrote about Cyclone Yasi a few days ago. This is a monster storm, and may hit Queensland sugar (and other ag) production. It will be a couple of days before the markets "digest" the results.

Spot sugar is already in tight supply. If the Queensland crop is damaged, it could push up out-month sugar prices, and this might even feed into higher corn prices (i.e. corn syrup). Conversely, the ag markets are already extremely "hot," and we've not seen a bearish headline for ages.

Earlier this morning, the chair asked a most relevant question: "what are turning points and how can they be predicted?" The chair has also previously written that "reversals are more lucrative than trends." Over the past 12 months, sugar is up 65%, coffee is up 76%, cotton is up 125%. If reversals are indeed more lucrative than trends, I'd love to figure out when I should reverse these positions, since I keep wasting money on my hedges. Sadly, the only turning points that I ever see are with 20:20 hindsight.

Vince Fulco writes: 

There seems to be a prevailing reasoning in the trading world that "reversals" or "turning points" are something which must be predicted– while trading "trends" is something which is not predicted, but merely, reacted to. The latter, not requiring "prediction."

I think that prevailing reasoning is false. Being a trend follower still requires one to predict in the sense that he is predicting the trend will continue. Both approaches require prediction. (Similarly, a non-directional approach, a market-neutral approach, say, writing butterflies, is, by the same reasoning, requiring prediction in that one is predicting the market will stay sideways, or at least not go into a protracted trend).

So my question to the site is this: Is it possible therefore to trade and not predict?

Gibbons Burke comments: 

Method one: Book your profits in your mind, don't treat it as "house money" and decide right now, for each market, how much of your money you are willing to give back to the markets. Draw your line in the sand and let the market take you out at that point. If it takes you out and then goes back to make new highs, consider maybe getting back in.

Method two, which I prefer: take half of your positions off the table, cash in the chips and reward your self for being right. Let the rest ride with a stop set at the point determined by method one. If you keep being right, and start feeling like you want to reward yourself for being right again, take half off again. Keep raising your stop on the remaining positions to lock in your profits, and let the market take you out when it feels like doing so. And given the magnitude of the trends, the likelihood is that when it decides to take you out, it will keep going in lobogola fashion.

I've had this very argument with a well known trend follower/leader on his Facebook page a couple of times. He keeps insisting that trend followers are superior to the other species of traders because they don't make predictions. But my contention is that trend followers are simply deluding themselves if they think they aren't making predictions.

They are predicting that when they get a trend following signal that the market will continue in their direction by a magnitude that is more than twice the size of the risk they are taking on. They predict that this will happen maybe 20% of the time, and that when they catch those big moves they will make up for all the psyche-destroying losses of which they predict their method will keep small.

It is a different sort of prediction, but it is nonetheless a prediction.

Feb

1

Almatarians of the world. Prepare to be befuddled like the rest of us.

Vince Fulco writes:

As Chair would often say, usually when he was closing a winning trade, "Haa!!" Reminds me of Omar Sharif shouting the same in Lawrence of Arabia when he was protesting blasphemy and falsehoods.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

On those all too rare occasions when one had a winning trade, one would hope that I was not exuberant enough to say "Ha" or anything like that but would maintain my dourness– except in the case where a flexion lost.

Rocky Humbert writes:

Here's another broken almatarian trade:

The "theory" from Mark Hulbert:

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (MarketWatch)

— Attention, investors in small-cap stocks: January is your month to shine. In fact, small-cap strength is so concentrated in the first month of the year that you might as well not bother favoring the sector during the rest of the year. That, at least, is the inescapable conclusion to emerge from my analysis of the relative performance of large and small-cap stocks over the last eight decades. I based my analysis on the database maintained by finance professors Eugene Fama of the University of Chicago and Ken French of Dartmouth. Click here to see the database yourself. 

The "fact" Russell 2000 Small Cap Index YTD: -0.36% S&P 500 Index YTD: +2.1%

The "meal" interested readers of this site can investigate whether a reverse January Small Cap Effect is predictive of whether the small caps will outperform/underperform for the rest of the year.

(Disclosure: I am currently long the S&P500 and short the Russell2000 as a hedged structural position — but my position may change at any time.) 

Jan

26

 I'm told by a colleague that the rogue's gallery of Bear Stearns mortgage characters profiled in the Atlantic Monthly piece yesterday have found themselves cushy little spots in the other IBs churning out new and improved product. And so it goes…

Russ Sears replies:

While I assume the title to Vince's post "Prepare For The Next Debacle" is tongue in cheek, I find this a defeatist attitude: Not worthy of an optimist's website. Leading to the inevitable conclusion that the only way to win is to cheat. This attitude leaves us without a knack for such to look for the worst possible people for us to partner with.

One of the most dangerous lies we often tell ourselves is that "I am glad he is on our side" when we see a politician, lawyer or salesman double dealing with a third party. The more brazen and egregious the offense the more we love them. If they barely escape prosecution with only the shirt on their back, they will still be in demand. If they leave a wake of destruction, but personally profit from the ordeal, we celebrate them and their stock goes up. These con men will never lack for lovers, business partners or clients willing to get in bed with them.

It seems the biggest dupes, in the end, are those eager to believe that there is honor amongst thieves. That he may be a crook, but at least he is "our crook". What the con fears most however, is not his partners, but all his small victims organizing against him. When they naturally do they gladly sell their "partners" out. If they are willing to cheat the little guy, because they can, you can beat that they will gladly sell you out when they must. If the clients interest is not first, then you can beat that you, without the stomach to personally do such deeds, are a distance third in their minds. Somehow it is overlooked that if they are so willing and in fact are eager to cheat the client, the life blood of any industry, that they can be trusted by the industry.

I believe this is drawn from an over abundance of cynicism. There is a fine line between recognizing the temporal advantage of the flexions, the cheats and the con and believing this is more powerful than the power of the crowd or mutual benefits of cooperation.

When you are the victim of such a con, it is easy to see the zero sum game. It seems for every winner there must be a loser. The con seemingly gets the easy win, without all the hard work. It is difficult to look to the larger picture. It is hard to look beyond your current predicament, to see a world full of opportunities to create mutual good. It is hard to imagine that the predator's life is a rough one. From a closed system of wealth it may appear that theft is the only way to improve ones lot. Further it is a fine line between spotting one cheat that has "made it" and saying all those that make it are cheats. As an individual it is hard to beat a con head on at any one competition. However, as a group over time, their lot is much less appealing.

Jan

24

Since the Chair has periodically focused on IBM, a 12 minute video dedicated to their 100 years of innovation.

The Most Inspirational Celebration of Commercial Success Ever

Jan

24

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/01/22/number-of-the-week-americans-dipping-into-savings/

 Pitt T. Maner III comments:

One notes that the price of beer has gone up to the point where many beverage companies are selling single, large bottles or 4-packs. Food stamp labels and codes are affixed to supermarket shelves and cashiers ask if what you have in your hand is actually cash or food stamps.

The trend seems to be to reduce sizes and amounts to hide the true costs to the consumer.

Lots of freebies too in Costco and local supermarkets to whet the appetite and induce spending.

Its an odd vibe in many ways. Perhaps companies will begin to even more closely track "spenders" like Vegas does gamblers and comp them accordingly.
 

Jan

24

Research published online Thursday in the journal Science, found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods repeatedly studying the material and drawing diagrams). One interesting paradox illuminated by this research is that struggle helps you learn but makes you feel like you're not learning.

“When you’re retrieving something out of a computer’s memory, you don’t change anything — it’s simple playback,” said Robert Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the study.But “when we use our memories by retrieving things, we change our access” to that information, Dr. Bjork said. “What we recall becomes more recallable in the future. In a sense you are practicing what you are going to need to do later.”
It may also be that the struggle involved in recalling something helps reinforce it in our brains.

Maybe that is also why students who took retrieval practice tests were less confident about how they would perform a week later.

“The struggle helps you learn, but it makes you feel like you’re not learning,” said Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College. “You feel like: ‘I don’t know it that well. This is hard and I’m having trouble coming up with this information.’ ”

Continue Reading in the NYT

Peter Grieve comments:

I often use exams as teaching opportunities, because that's when their minds are really open and the adrenalin is flowing. I remember plenty of exam questions from 30 years ago, but very few lecture moments.

Jan

19

How can the lunacy of going up on increased sales above expectation and earnings below expectation go on , and isn't this a symptom of flexionicism ?

Vince Fulco responds:

Everyone being led to believe 4% plus growth is baked into the year for sure.

Alan Millhone comments:

There is a election in two short years and all need to be very wary of all stats coming out of Washington.

 On another note two local gas stations have been back and forth from 3.06 to 3.15 twice today. This afternoon I was at our ACF Bulletin printer and had a nice chat with the owner who like me is a small businessman. He feels when regular hits 4.00 it will be a killer for what he sees as a struggling economy. His business is in parkersburg , W. Va. The council there recently passed a 2.50 " user fee " per employee per week of anyone who works in the city. Yet the city has 1.6 million of uncollected fire and police and flood wall fees.

Craig Mee comments:

It could be a relative symptom of lack of striking negative news after a period of so much and then the shear relief of a being able to breath. Bit like a sick person, who is able to walk and go to the park, after months in bed but still has a chronic condition. When the immune system gets hit again, and white blood cell count gets nasty then it will be back to bed….but in the meantime , the flowers are amazingly beautiful.

Jan

14

 If you are looking for a good book, try The Shadow Elite by Janine Wedel. She coined and documented the flexions of all stripes. Also very good is The Short Stories of Jack Schaefer, and Mathematics Unlimited, 2001 and Beyond by Engquist, Schmid et al

John Tierney writes:

OK, if you are looking for non-fiction try The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates

Kim Zussman recommends: 

"This Time is Different" by Reinhart and Rogoff

(Spoiler hint: the common ploy of sovereign debt default via confiscation and hyperinflation appears not to apply to U$)

Scott Brooks writes: 

We've talked about it on the list before and I I found it very good: Amity Shlaes "The Forgotten Man"

Easan Katir writes: 

To the Last Penny is an excellent but little-known Edwin Lefevre work, which, thanks to Google books, one can read online.

Bud Conrad writes: 

How about my book, which explains how the economy works from the view of an engineer looking at the total system. It also gives investment recommendations in the second half. It is titled Profiting from the World's Economic Crisis and published by John Wiley. Amazon has reviews and some sample pages. It is number one in one category on interest rates. 

Craig Mee adds:

I recommend the Book on Games of Chance. A few of you may be no doubt already connected with it. Here is an interesting excerpt about it:

Cardano was an illegitimate child whose mother had tried to abort him. His father was a mathematically gifted lawyer and friend of Leonardo da Vinci. Cardano studied medicine at the University of Pavia, but his eccentricity and low birth earned him few friends. Eventually, he became the first to describe typhoid fever, a not inconsiderable achievement in itself, but today, he is best known for his love affair with algebra. He published the solutions to the cubic and quartic equations in his 1545 book Ars Magna, but Cardano was notoriously short of money, and had to keep himself solvent by gambling and playing chess. His book Liber de ludo aleae ("*Book on Games of Chance*") written in 1526, but not published until 1663, contains the first systematic treatment of probability, as well as a section on cheating methods. I told you he was bad.

Vince Fulco adds:

A little late to this thread but "Panic" by Andrew Redleaf and Richard Vigilante is proving to be a good read. Redleaf is a convert arb manager out in my neck of the woods who runs Whitebox Advisors. He is in print in his Dec 2006 letter stating, "Here is a flat out prediction for the New Year. Sometime in the next 12-18 months there is going to be a panic in credit markets. Spreads which now hover at an extremely tight 300 bps or so, will gap to more than 1,000. To put it another way, prices of HY securities will drop by something like 20 percent with some weak paper plunging even deeper"

A few powerful paragraphs from the first chapter:

The ideology of modern finance tears capitalism in two, then abandons the half beyond the ken of bureaucrats and the professors. Capitalism demands free markets because it needs free minds. Modern investment theory says efficient markets can moot the minds entirely. The entrepreneur cherishes freedom including the freedom to fail. The bureaucrat of capital dreams of a world in which failure is impossible. Confronted with demons of uncertainty, the entrepreneur wrestles with them till dawn. The bureaucrat of capital crafts idols of ignorance and worships in the dark.

Prevailing in Washington as on Wall St. were the most vile and self-destructive assumptions of anti-capitalists everywhere who imagined they could wield capital while abandoning the principles that created it; that systems could substitute for the moral standards they once embodied; or that men who lost trillions of dollars of other people's money might somehow recover it if only the govt gave them trillions more. Crony capitalists on the right and socialists on the left united as always behind their most fundamental belief, that wealth is to be captured by power and pull rather than created in the minds of men.

Jan

12

 While we often focus on the up front and center challenges in the global economy and our own businesses, it is worth marveling at the immense power and tools one has to work with. That is assuming one can can study and keep up on the constant evolution of theory and technologies. While there are so many ways to skin a cat these days, this is the product offering from just a SINGLE company. One can only imagine what the DaVinci's or Einstein's or Edison's "stretch" projects, real or imagined, could have resulted in with these tools at their fingertips.

Amazon Mechanical Turk: Register at the Amazon Mechanical Turk
Requester web site to use the Amazon Mechanical Turk web service
Amazon CloudFront
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud
Amazon Elastic MapReduce
Amazon DevPay
Amazon Flexible Payments Service
Amazon Fulfillment Web Service
AWS Import/Export
Amazon Relational Database Service
Amazon Simple Storage Service
Amazon SimpleDB
Amazon Simple Notification Service
Amazon Simple Queue Service
Amazon Virtual Private Cloud

 

Jan

9

Can someone tell me why it was not guaranteed to happen that the pro business friendly, appointed by Obama, would be lobbyist for the biggest bank as the former flexerage whose chairs, or nephews of chairs headed the dept of the interior for most of last 12 years is now in disrepute. Thank goodness he is the brother and son of former Mayors of Chicago.

Vince Fulco comments: 

"Just breaking bread…" :

The president of the Federal Re serve Bank of New York doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut.

The entire Fed regularly observes what it calls a "blackout period" starting one week before Federal Open Market Committee meetings and lasts until the Friday after those meetings.
 

Jan

7

 Statistically significant ESP in a refereed journal. 

Vince Fulco writes:

Not exactly ESP, but I've been re-reading Kasparov's How Life Imitates Chess in the New Year.

On Intuition (p. 176):

This example is not intended to encourage you to blindly follow your gut instinct, or to rely indiscriminately on simple first impressions. As we've seen over and over again, diligent study and the gathering of knowledge about what came before in chess is essential to becoming a successful competitor. What I want to illustrate is the power of concentration and instinct. The biggest mistake I see among people who want to excel in chess–and in business and in life in general–is not trusting these instincts enough. Too often they rely on having all the information, which then force them to a conclusion. This effective reduces them to the role of a microprocessor and guarantees that their intuition will remain dormant.

Nigel Davies comments:

Kasparov was even one of the more intense and 'concrete' of champions. More relaxed players trust their intuition far more.

Jan

7

 A timely reminder of Stamp's Law, that "what you must never forget is that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the village watchman, who just puts down what he damn well pleases."

A well known quote from Stamp (often referred to as Stamp's Law) is:

"The government are very keen on amassing statistics. They collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But you must never forget that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the chowky dar (village watchman in India), who just puts down what he damn pleases." (Stamp recounting a story from Harold Cox who quotes an anonymous English judge).

Another quote often attributed to Stamp is:

"Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take away from them the power to create money and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money."

(Said to be from an informal talk at the University of Texas in the 1920s, but as yet unverified.)

From the FT

Jan

4

If only the little spec could realize his gains up front and losses over quarters and years like the big boys:

"Jan. 3, 2011, 4:16 p.m. EST For B. of A., mortgage 'put backs' aren't over More losses seen from Fannie, private insurers and investors…"

Dec

31

UPDATE 1/31/2011:

Contestants Summary:

- 31 Spec-listers contributed to the 2011 Investment Contest with "specific" recommendations.

- Average 4 recommendations per person (mean of 4.2, median and mode of 4) came in.

- 6 contestants gave only 1 recommendation, 3 gave only 2 and thus 9 out of the total 31 have NOT given the minimum 3 recommendations needed as per the Rules clarified by Ken Drees.

- The Hall of Fame entry for the largest number of ideas (did someone say diversification?) is from Tim Melvin, close on whose heels are J. T. Holley with 11 and Ken Drees with 10.

- The most creatively expressed entry of course has come from Rocky Humbert.

- At this moment 17 out of 31 contestants are in positive performance territory, 14 are in negative performance territory.

- Barring a major outlier of a 112.90% loss on the Option Strategy of Phil McDonnell (not accounting for the margin required for short options, but just taking the ratio of initial cash inflow to outflow):

- Average of all Individual contestant returns is -2.54% and the Standard Deviation of returns achieved by all contestants is 5.39.

- Biggest Gainer at this point is Jared Albert (with his all in single stock bet on REFR) with a 22.87% gain. The only contestant a Z score greater than 2 ( His is actually 4.72 !!)

- Biggest Loser at this point (barring the Giga-leveraged position of Mr. McDonnell) is Ken Drees at -10.36% with a Z Score that is at -1.45.

- Wildcards have not been accounted for as at this point, with wide
deviations of recommendations from the rules specified by most. While 9
participants have less than 3 recommendations, those with more than 4
include several who have not chosen to specify which 3 are their primary recommends. Without clarity on a universal measurability wildcard accounting is on hold. Those making more than 1 recommendations would find that their aggregate average return is derived by taking a sum of returns of individual positions divided by the number of recommends. Unless specified by any person that positions are taken in a specific ratio its equal sums invested approach.

Contracts Summary:

- A total of 109 contracts are utilized by the contestants across bonds, equity indices (Nikkei, Kenyan Stocks included too!), commodities, currencies and individual stock positions.

- The ratio of Shorts to Longs across all recommendations, irrespective of the type of contract (call, put, bearish ETF etc.) is 4 SELL orders Vs 9 Buy Orders. Not inferring that this list is more used to pressing the Buy Button. Just an occurence on this instance.

- The Average Return, so far, on the 109 contracts utilized is -1.26% with a Standard Deviation of 12.42%. Median Return is 0.39% and the mode of Returns of all contracts used is 0.

- The Highest Return is on MICRON TECH at 28.09, if one does not account for the July 2011 Put 25 strike on SLV utilized by Phil McDonnell.

- The Lowest Return is on IPTV at -50%, if one does not account for the Jan 2012 Call 40 Strike on SLV utilized by Phil McDonnell.

- Only Two contracts are having a greater than 2 z score and only 3 contracts are having a less than -2 Z score.

Victor Niederhoffer wrote:

One is constantly amazed at the sagacity in their fields of our fellow specs. My goodness, there's hardly a field that one of us doesn't know about from my own hard ball squash rackets to the space advertising or our President, from surfing to astronomy. We certainly have a wide range.

May I suggest without violating our mandate that we consider our best sagacities as to the best ways to make a profit in the next year of 2011.

My best trades always start with assuming that whatever didn't work the most last year will work the best this year, and whatever worked the best last year will work the worst this year. I'd be bullish on bonds and bearish on stocks, bullish on Japan and bearish on US stocks.

I'd bet against the banks because Ron Paul is going to be watching them and the cronies in the institutions will not be able to transfer as much resources as they've given them in the past 2 years which has to be much greater in value than their total market value.

I keep wondering what investments I should make based on the hobo's visit and I guess it has to be generic drugs and foods.

What ideas do you have for 2011 that might be profitable? To make it interesting I'll give a prize of 2500 to the best forecast, based on results as of the end of 2011.

David Hillman writes: 

"I do know that a sagging Market keeps my units from being full."

One would suggest it is a sagging 'economy' contributing to vacancy, not a sagging 'market'. There is a difference. 

Ken Drees, appointed moderator of the contest, clearly states the new rules of the game:

 1. Submissions for contest entries must be made on the last two days of 2010, December 30th or 31st.
2. Entries need to be labeled in subject line as "2011 contest investment prediction picks" or something very close so that we know this is your official entry.
3. Entries need 3 predictions and 1 wildcard trade prediction (anything goes on the wildcard).

4. Extra predictions may be submitted and will be judged as extra credit. This will not detract from the main predictions and may or may not be judged at all.

5. Extra predictions will be looked on as bravado– if you've got it then flaunt it. It may pay off or you may give the judge a sour palate.

The desire to have entries coming in at years end is to ensure that you have the best data as to year end 2010 and that you don't ignite someone else to your wisdom.

Market direction picks are wanted:

Examples: 30 year treasury yield will fall to 3% in 2011, S&P 500 will hit "x" by June, and then by "y" by December 2011.

The more exact your prediction is, the more weight will be given. The more exact your prediction, the more weight you will receive if right and thus the more weight you will receive if wrong. If you predict that copper will hit 5.00 dollars in 2011 and it does you will be given a great score, if you say that copper will hit 5.00 dollars in march and then it will decline to4.35 and so forth you will be judged all along that prediction and will receive extra weight good or bad. You decide on how detailed your submission is structured.

Will you try to be precise (maybe foolhardy) and go for the glory? Or will you play it safe and not stand out from the crowd? It is a doubled edged sword so its best to be the one handed market prognosticator and make your best predictions. Pretend these predictions are some pearls that you would give to a close friend or relative. You may actually help a speclister to make some money by giving up a pearl, if that speclister so desires to act upon a contest–G-d help him or her.

Markets can be currency, stocks, bonds, commodities, etc. Single stock picks can be given for the one wildcard trade prediction. If you give multiple stock picks for the wildcard then they will all be judged and in the spirit of giving a friend a pearl–lets make it "the best of the best, not one of six".

All judgments are the Chair's. The Chair will make final determination of the winner. Entries received with less than 3 market predictions will not be considered. Entries received without a wildcard will be considered.The spirit of the contest is "Give us something we can use".

Bill Rafter adds: 

Suggestion for contest:

"Static" entry: A collection of up to 10 assets which will be entered on the initial date (say 12/31/2010) and will be unaltered until the end data (i.e. 12/31/2011). The assets could be a compilation of longs and shorts, or could have the 10 slots entirely filled with one asset (e.g. gold). The assets could also be a yield and a fixed rate; that is one could go long the 10-year yield and short a fixed yield such as 3 percent. This latter item will accommodate those who want to enter a prediction but are unsure which asset to enter as many are unfamiliar with the various bond coupons.

"Rebalanced" entry: A collection of up to 10 assets which will be rebalanced on the last trading day of each month. Although the assets will remain unchanged, their percentage of the portfolio will change. This is to accommodate those risk-averse entrants employing a mean-reversion strategy.

Both Static and Rebalanced entries will be judged on a reward-to-risk basis. That is, the return achieved at the end of the year, divided by the maximum drawdown (percentage) one had to endure to achieve that return.

Not sure how to handle other prognostications such as "Famous female singer revealed to be man." But I doubt such entries have financial benefits.

I'm willing to be an arbiter who would do the rebalancing if necessary. I am not willing to prove or disprove the alleged cross-dressers.

Ralph Vince writes:

A very low volume bar on the weekly (likely, the first of two consecutive) after a respectable run-up, the backdrop of rates having risen in recent weeks, breadth having topped out and receding - and a lunar eclipse on the very night of the Winter Solstice.

If I were a Roman General I would take that as a sign to sit for next few months and do nothing.

I'm going to sit and do nothing.

Sounds like an interim top in an otherwise bullish, long-term backdrop.

Gordon Haave writes: 

 My three predictions:

Gold/ silver ratio falls below 25 Kenyan stock market outperforms US by more than 10%

Dollar ends 10% stronger compared to euro

All are actionable predictions.

Steve Ellison writes:

I did many regressions looking for factors that might predict a year-ahead return for the S&P 500. A few factors are at extreme values at the end of 2010.

The US 10-year Treasury bond yield at 3.37% is the second-lowest end-of year yield in the last 50 years. The S&P 500 contract is in backwardation with the front contract at a 0.4% premium to the next contract back, the second highest year-end premium in the 29 years of the futures.

Unfortunately, neither of those factors has much correlation with the price change in the S&P 500 the following year. Here are a few that do.

The yield curve (10-year yield minus 3-month yield) is in the top 10% of its last 50 year-end values. In the last 30 years, the yield curve has been positively correlated with year-ahead changes in the S&P 500, with a t score of 2.17 and an R squared of 0.143.

The US unemployment rate at 9.8% is the third highest in the past 60 years. In the last 30 years, the unemployment rate has been positively correlated with year-ahead changes in the S&P 500, with a t score of 0.90 and an R squared of 0.028.

In a variation of the technique used by the Yale permabear, I calculated the S&P 500 earnings/price ratio using 5-year trailing earnings. I get an annualized earnings yield of 4.6%. In the last 18 years, this ratio has been positively correlated with year-ahead changes in the S&P 500, with a t score of 0.92 and an R squared of
0.050.

Finally, there is a negative correlation between the 30-year S&P 500 change and the year-ahead change, with a t score of -2.28 and an R squared of 0.094. The S&P 500 index price is 9.27 times its price of 30 years ago. The median year-end price in the last 52 years was 6.65 times the price 30 years earlier.

Using the predicted values from each of the regressions, and weighting the predictions by the R squared values, I get an overall prediction for an 11.8% increase in the S&P 500 in 2011. With an 11.8% increase, SPY would close 2011 at 140.52.

Factor                  Prediction      t       N    R sq
US Treasury yield curve      1.162    2.17      30   0.143
30-year change               1.052   -2.28      52   0.094
Trailing 5-year E/P          1.104    0.92      18   0.050
US unemployment rate         1.153    0.90      30   0.028

Weighted total               1.118
SPY 12/30/10               125.72
Predicted SPY 12/30/11     140.52

Jan-Petter Janssen writes: 

PREDICTION I - The Inconvenient Truth The poorest one or two billion on this planet have had enough of increasing food prices. Riots and civil unrest force governments to ban exports, and they start importing at any cost. World trade collapses. Manufacturers of farm equipment will do extremely well. Buy the most undervalued producer you can find. My bet is
* Kverneland (Yahoo: KVE.OL). NOK 6.50 per share today. At least NOK 30 on Dec 31th 2011.

PREDICTION II - The Ultimate Bubble The US and many EU nations hold enormous gold reserves. E.g. both Italy and France hold the equivalent of the annual world production. The gold meme changes from an inflation hedge / return to the gold standard to (a potential) over-supply from the selling of indebted nations. I don't see the bubble bursting quite yet, but
* Short gold if it hits $2,000 per ounce and buy back at $400.

PREDICTION III - The Status Quo Asia's ace is cheap labor. The US' recent winning card is cheap energy through natural gas. This will not change in 2011. Henry Hub Feb 2011 currently trades at $4.34 per MMBtu. Feb 2012 is at $5.14. I would
* Short the Feb 2012 contract and buy back on the last trading day of 2011.

Vince Fulco predicts:

 This is strictly an old school, fundamental equity call as my crystal ball for the indices 12 months out is necessarily foggy. My recommendation is BP equity primarily for the reasons I gave earlier in the year on June 5th (stock closed Friday, June 4th @ $37.16, currently $43.53). It faced a hellish downdraft post my mention for consideration, primarily due to the intensification of news flow and legal unknowns (Rocky articulated these well). Also although the capital structure arb boys savaged the equity (to 28ish!), it is up nicely to year's end if one held on and averaged in with wide scales given the heightened vol.

Additional points/guesstimates are:

1) If 2010 was annus horribilis, 2011 with be annus recuperato. A chastened mgmt who have articulated they'll run things more conservatively will have a lot to prove to stakeholders.

2) Dividend to be re-instated to some level probably by the end of the second quarter. I am guessing $1.00 annualized per ADS as a start (or
2.29%), this should bring in the index hugging funds with mandates for only holding dividend payers. There is a small chance for a 1x special dividend later in the year.

3) Crude continues to be in a state of significant profitability for the majors in the short term. It would appear finding costs are creeping however.

4) The lawsuits and additional recoveries to be extracted from the settlement fund and company directly have very long tails, on the order of 10 years.

5) The company seems fully committed to sloughing off tertiary assets to build up its liquid balance sheet. Debt to total capital remains relatively low and manageable.

6) The stock remains at a significant discount to its better-of breed peers (EV/normalized EBITDA, Cash Flow, etc) and rightly so but I am betting the discount should narrow back to near historical levels.

Potential negatives:

1) The company and govt have been vastly understating the remaining fuel amounts and effects. Release of independent data intensifies demands for a much larger payout by the company closer to the highest end estimates of $50-80B.

2) It experiences another similar event of smaller magnitude which continues to sully the company's weakened reputation.

3) China admits to and begins to fear rampant inflation, puts the kabosh to the (global) economy and crude has a meaningful decline the likes of which we haven't seen in a few years.

4) Congress freaks at a >$100-120 price for crude and actually institutes an "excess profits" tax. Less likely with the GOP coming in.

A buy at this level would be for an unleveraged, diversified, longer term acct which I have it in. However, I am willing to hold the full year or +30% total return (including special dividend) from the closing price of $43.53 @ 12/30/10, whichever comes first. Like a good sellside recommendation, I believe the stock has downside of around 20% (don't they all when recommended!?!) where I would consider another long entry depending on circumstances (not pertinent to the contest).

Mr. Albert enters: 

 Single pick stock ticker is REFR

The only way this gold chain wearing day trader has a chance against all the right tail brain power on the list is with one high risk/high reward put it all on red kind of micro cap.

Basic story is this company owns all the patents to what will become the standard for switchable glazings (SPD smart glass). It's taken roughly 50 years of development to get a commercialized product, and next year Mercedes will almost without doubt use SPD in the 2012 SLK (press launch 1/29/11 public launch at the Geneva auto show in march 2011).

Once MB validate the tech, mass adoption and revenues will follow etc and this 'show me' stock will rocket to the moon.

Dan Grossman writes:

Trying to comply with and adapt the complex contest rules (which most others don't seem to be following in any event) to my areas of stock market interest:

1. The S&P will be down in the 1st qtr, and at some point in the qtr will fall at least

2. For takeover investors: GENZ will (finally) make a deal to be acquired in the 1st qtr for a value of at least $80; and AMRN after completion of its ANCHOR trial will make a deal to be acquired for a price of at least $8.

3. For conservative investors: Low multiple small caps HELE and DFG will be up a combined average of 20% by the end of the year.

For my single stock pick, I am something of a johnny-one-note: MNTA will be up lots during the year — if I have to pick a specific amount, I'd say at least 70%. (My prior legal predictions on this stock have proved correct but the stock price has not appropriately reflected same.)

Finally, if I win the contest (which I think is fairly likely), I will donate the prize to a free market or libertarian charity. I don't see why Victor should have to subsidize this distinguished group that could all well afford an contest entrance fee to more equitably finance the prize.

Best to all for the New Year,

Dan 

Gary Rogan writes:

 1. S&P 500 will rise 3% by April and then fall 12% from the peak by the end of the year.
2. 30 year treasury yields will rise to 5% by March and 6% by year end.
3. Gold will hit 1450 by April, will fall to 1100 by September and rise to 1550 by year end.

Wildcard: Short Netflix.

Jack Tierney, President of the Old Speculator's Club, writes: 

Equal Amounts in:

TBT (short long bonds)
YCS (short Yen)
GRU (Long Grains - heavy on wheat)
CHK (Long NG - takeover)

(Wild Card)
BONXF.PK or BTR.V (Long junior gold)

12/30 closing prices (in order):
37.84
15.83
7.20
25.97

.451

Bill Rafter writes:

Two entries:

Buy: FXP and IRWD

Hold for the entire year.

William Weaver writes:

 For Returns: Long XIV January 21st through year end

For Return/Risk: Long XIV*.30 and Long VXZ*.70 from close today

I hope everyone has enjoyed a very merry holiday season, and to all I wish a wonderful New Year.

Warmest,

William

Ken Drees writes:

Yes, they have been going up, but I am going contrary contrary here and going with the trends.

1. Silver: buy day 1 of trading at any price via the following vehicles: paas, slw, exk, hl –25% each for 100% When silver hits 39/ounce, sell 10% of holdings, when silver hits 44/ounce sell 30% of holdings, when silver hits 49 sell 60%–hold rest (divide into 4 parts) and sell each tranche every 5 dollars up till gone–54/oz, 59, 64, 69.

2. Buy GDXJ day 1 (junior gold miner etf)—rotation down from majors to juniors with a positive gold backdrop. HOLD ALL YEAR.

3. USO. Buy day 1 then do—sell 25% at 119/bbl oil, sell 80% at 148/bbl, sell whats left at 179/bbl or 139/bbl (whichever comes first after 148)

wildcard: AMEX URANUIM STOCKS. UEC, URRE, URZ, DNN. 25% EACH, buy day 1 then do SELL 70% OF EVERYTHING AT 96$LB u http://www.uxc.com/ FOR PRICING, AND HOLD REST FOR YEAR END.

Happy New Year!

Ken Drees———keepin it real.

Sam Eisenstadt forecasts:

My forecast for the S&P 500 for the year ending Dec 31, 2011;

S&P 500       1410

Anton Johnson writes: 

Equal amounts allocated to:

EDZ Short moc 1-21-2011, buy to cover at 50% gain, or moc 12/30/2011

VXX Short moc 1-21-2011, buy to cover moc 12/30/2011

UBT Short moo 1-3-2011, buy to cover moc 12/30/2011

Scott Brooks picks: 

 RTP
TSO
SLV
LVS

Evenly between the 4 (25% each)

Sushil Kedia predicts:

 Short:

1) Gold
2) Copper
3) Japanese Yen

30% moves approximately in each, within 2011.

Rocky Humbert writes:

(There was no mention nor requirement that my 2011 prediction had to be in English. Here is my submission.) … Happy New Year, Rocky

Sa aking mahal na kaibigan: Sa haba ng 2010, ako na ibinigay ng ilang mga ideya trading na nagtrabaho sa labas magnificently, at ng ilang mga ideya na hindi na kaya malaki. May ay wala nakapagtataka tungkol sa isang hula taon dulo, at kung ikaw ay maaaring isalin ito talata, ikaw ay malamang na gawin ang mas mahusay na paggawa ng iyong sariling pananaliksik kaysa sa pakikinig sa mga kalokohan na ako at ang iba pa ay magbigay. Ang susi sa tagumpay sa 2011 ay ang parehong bilang ito ay palaging (tulad ng ipinaliwanag sa pamamagitan ng G. Ed Seykota), sa makatuwid: 1) Trade sa mga kalakaran. 2) Ride winners at losers hiwa. 3) Pamahalaan ang panganib. 4) Panatilihin ang isip at diwa malinaw. Upang kung saan gusto ko idagdag, fundamentals talaga bagay, at kung ito ay hindi magkaroon ng kahulugan, ito ay hindi magkaroon ng kahulugan, at diyan ay wala lalo na pinakinabangang tungkol sa pagiging isang contrarian bilang ang pinagkasunduan ay karaniwang karapatan maliban sa paggawa sa mga puntos. (Tandaan na ito ay pinagkasunduan na ang araw ay babangon na bukas, na quote Seth Klarman!) Pagbati para sa isang malusog na masaya at pinakinabangang 2011, at siguraduhin na basahin www.rockyhumbert.com kung saan ako magsulat sa Ingles ngunit ang aking mga saloobin ay walang malinaw kaysa talata na ito, ngunit inaasahan namin na ito ay mas kapaki-pakinabang.

Dylan Distasio comments: 

Gawin mo magsalita tagalog?

Gary Rogan writes:

After a worthy challenge, Mr. Rogan is now also a master of Google Translate, and a discoverer of an exciting fact that Google Translate calls Tagalog "Filipino". This was a difficult obstacle for Mr. Rogan to overcome, but he persevered and here's Rocky's prediction in English (sort of):

My dear friend: Over the course of 2010, I provided some trading ideas worked out magnificently, and some ideas that are not so great. There is nothing magical about a forecast year end, and if you can translate this paragraph, you will probably do better doing your own research rather than listening to the nonsense that I and others will give. The key to success in 2011 is the same as it always has (as explained by Mr. Ed Seykota), namely: 1) Trade with the trend.

2) Ride cut winners and losers. 3) Manage risk. 4) Keep the mind and spirit clear. To which I would add, fundamentals really matter, and if it does not make sense, it does not make sense, and there is nothing particularly profitable about being a contrarian as the consensus is usually right but turning points. (Note that it is agreed that the sun will rise tomorrow, to quote Seth Klarman) Best wishes for a happy healthy and profitable 2011, and be sure to read www.rockyhumbert.com which I write in English but my attitude is nothing clearer than this paragraph, but hopefully it is more useful.

Tim Melvin writes:

Ah the years end prediction exercise. It is of course a mostly useless exercise since not a one of us can predict what shocks, positive or negative, the world and the markets could see in 2011. I find it crack up laugh out loud funny that some pundits come out and offer up earnings estimates, GDP growth assumptions and interest rate guesses to give a precise level for the year end S&P 500 price. You might as well numbers out of a bag and rearrange them by lottery to come up with a year end number. In a world where we are fighting two wars, a hostile government holds the majority of our debt and several sovereign nations continually teeter on the edge of oblivion it's pretty much ridiculous to assume what could happen in the year ahead. Having said that, as my son's favorite WWE wrestler when he was a little guy used to say "It's time to play the game!"

Ill start with bonds. I have owned puts on the long term treasury market for two years now. I gave some back in 2010 after a huge gain in 2009 but am still slightly ahead. Ill roll the position forward and buy January 2012 puts and stay short. When I look at bods I hear some folks talking about rising basic commodity prices and worrying about inflation. They are of course correct. This is happening. I hear some other really smart folks talking of weak real estate, high jobless rates and the potential for falling back into recession. Naturally, they are also exactly correct. So I will predict the one thing no one else is. We are on the verge of good old fashioned 1970s style stagflation. Commodity and basic needs prices will accelerate as QE2 has at least stimulated demand form emerging markets by allowing these wonderful credits to borrow money cheaper than a school teacher with a 750 FICO score. Binds go lower as rates spike. Our economy and balance sheet are a mess and we have governments run by men in tin hats lecturing us on fiscal responsibility. How low will they go Tim? How the hell do I know? I just think they go lower by enough for me to profit.

 Nor can I tell you where the stock market will go this year. I suspect we have had it too good for too long for no reason so I think we get at least one spectacular gut wrenching, vomit inducing sell off during the year. Much as lower than expected profits exposed the silly valuations of the new paradigm stocks I think that the darling group, retail , will spark a sell-off in the stock market this year. Sales will be up a little bit but except for Tiffany's (TIF) and that ilk margins are horrific. Discounting started early this holiday and grew from there. They will get steeper now that that Santa Claus has given back my credit card and returned to the great white north. The earnings season will see a lot of missed estimates and lowered forecasts and that could well pop the bubble. Once it starts the HFT boys and girls should make sure it goes lower than anyone expects.

Here's the thing about my prediction. It is no better than anyone else's. In other words I am talking my book and predicting what I hope will happen. Having learned this lesson over the years I have learned that when it comes to market timing and market direction I am probably the dumbest guy in the room. Because of that I have trained myself to always buy the stuff that's too cheap not to own and hold it regardless. After the rally since September truly cheap stuff is a little scarce on the ground but I have found enough to be about 40% long going into the year. I have a watch list as long as a taller persons right arm but most of it hover above truly cheap.

Here is what I own going into the year and think is still cheap enough to buy. I like Winn Dixie (WINN). The grocery business sucks right now. Wal mart has crushed margins industry wide. That aside WINN trades at 60% of tangible book value and at some point their 514 stores in the Southeast will attract attention from investors. A takeover here would be less than shocking. I will add Presidential Life (PLFE) to the list. This stock is also at 60% of tangible book and I expect to see a lot of M&A activity in the insurance sector this year and this should raise valuations across the board. I like Miller Petroleum (MILL) with their drilling presence in Alaska and the shale field soft Tennessee. This one trades at 70% of tangible book. Ill add Imperial Sugar (IPSU), Syms (SYMS) and Micron tech (MU) and Avatar Holdings (AVTR) to my list of cheapies and move on for now.

I am going to start building my small bank portfolio this year. Eventually this group becomes the F-you walk away money trade of the decade. As real estate losses work through the balance sheet and some measure of stability returns to the financial system, perhaps toward the end of the year the small baileys savings and loan type banks should start to recover. We will also see a mind blowing M&A wave as larger banks look to gain not just market share but healthy assets to put on the books. Right now these names trade at a fraction of tangible book value. They will reach a multiple of that in a recovery or takeover scenario. Right now I own shares of Shore Bancshares (SHBI), a local bank trading at 80% of book value and a reasonably healthy loan portfolio. I have some other mini microcap banks as well that shall remain my little secret and not used to figure how my predictions work out. I mention them because if you have a mini micro bank in your community you should go meet then bankers, review the books and consider investing if it trades below the magical tangible book value and has excess capital. Flagstar Bancorp(FBC) is my super long shot undated call option n the economy and real estate markets.

I will also play the thrift conversion game heavily this year. With the elimination of the Office of Thrift Services under the new financial regulation many of the benefits of being a private or mutual thrift are going away. There are a ton of mutual savings banks that will now convert to publicly traded banks. A lot of these deals will be priced below the pro forma book value that is created by adding all that lovely IPO cash to the balance sheet without a corresponding increase in the shares outstanding. Right now I have Fox Chase Bancorp (FXCB) and Capital Federal Financial(CFFN). There will be more. Deals are happening every day right now and again I would keep an eye out for local deals that you can take advantage of in the next few months.

I also think that 2011 will be the year of the activist investor. These folks took a beating since 2007 but this should be their year. There is a ton of cash on corporate balance sheets but lots of underperformance in the current economic environment. We will see activist drive takeovers, restructures, and special dividends this year in my opinion. Recent filings of interest include strong activist positions in Surmodics(SRDX), SeaChange International (SEAC), and Energy Solutions. Tracking activist portfolios and 13D filings should be a very profitable activity in 2011.

I have been looking at some interesting new stuff with options as well I am not going to give most of it away just yet but I ll give you one stimulated by a recent list discussion. H and R Black is highly likely to go into a private equity portfolio next year. Management has made every mistake you can make and the loss of RALs is a big problem for the company. However the brand has real value. I do not want town the stock just yet but I like the idea of selling the January 2012 at $.70 to $.75. If you cash secure the put it's a 10% or so return if the stock stays above the strike. If it falls below I' ll be happy to own the stock with a 6 handle net. Back in 2008 everyone anticipated a huge default wave to hit the high yield market. Thanks to federal stimulus money pumping programs it did not happen. However in the spirit of sell the dog food the dog will eat a given moment the hedge fund world raised an enormous amount od distressed debt money. Thanks to this high yield spreads are far too low. CCC paper in particular is priced at absurd levels. These things trade like money good paper and much of it is not. Extend and pretend has helped but if the economy stays weak and interest rates rise rolling over the tsunami f paper due over the next few years becomes nigh onto impossible. I am going take small position in puts on the various high yield ETFs. If I am right they will explode when that market implodes. Continuing to talk my book I hope this happens. Among my nightly prayers is "Please God just one more two year period of asset rich companies with current payments having bonds trade below recovery value and I promise not to piss the money away this time. Amen.

PS. If you add in risk arbitrage spreads of 30% annualized returns along with this I would not object. Love, Tim.

I can't tell you what the markets will do. I do know that I want to own some safe and cheap stocks, some well capitalized small banks trading below book and participate in activist situation. I will be under invested in equities going into the year hoping my watch list becomes my buy list in market stumble. I will have put positions on long T-Bonds and high yield hoping for a large asymmetrical payoff.

Other than that I am clueless.

Kim Zussman comments: 

Does anyone else think this year is harder than usual to forecast? Is it better now to forecast based on market fundamentals or mass psychology? We are at a two year high in stocks, after a huge rally off the '09 bottom that followed through this year. One can make compelling arguments for next year to decline (best case scenarios already discounted, prior big declines followed by others, volatility low, house prices still too high, FED out of tools, gov debt/gdp, Roubini says so, benefits to wall st not main st, persistent high unemployment, Year-to-year there is no significant relationship, but there is a weak down tendency after two consecutive up years. ). And compelling arguments for up as well (crash-fears cooling, short MA's > long MA's, retail investors and much cash still on sidelines, tax-cut extended, employee social security lowered, earnings increasing, GDP increasing, Tepper and Goldman say so, FED herding into risk assets, benefits to wall st not main st, employment starting to increase).

Is the level of government market-intervention effective, sustainable, or really that unusual? The FED looks to be avoiding Japan-style deflation at all costs, and has a better tool in the dollar. A bond yields decline would help growth and reduce deflation risk. Increasing yields would be expected with increasing inflation; bad for growth but welcomed by retiring boomers looking for fixed income. Will Obamacare be challenged or defanged by states or in the supreme court? Will 2011 be the year of the muni-bubble pop?

A ball of confusion!

4 picks in equal proportion:

long XLV (health care etf; underperformed last year)

long CMF (Cali muni bond fund; fears over-wrought, investors still need tax-free yield)

short GLD (looks like a bubble and who needs gold anyway)

short IEF (7-10Y treasuries; near multi-year high/QE2 is weaker than vigilantism)

Alan Millhone writes:

 Hello everyone,

I note discussion over the rules etc. Then you have a fellow like myself who has never bought or sold through the Market a single share.

For myself I will stick with what I know a little something. No, not Checkers —

Rental property. I have some empty units and beginning to rent one or two of late to increase my bottom line.

I will not venture into areas I know little or nothing and will stay the course in 2011 with what I am comfortable.

Happy New Year and good health,

Regards,

Alan

Jay Pasch predicts: 

2010 will close below SP futures 1255.

Buy-and-holders will be sorely disappointed as 2011 presents itself as a whip-saw year.

99% of the bullish prognosticators will eat crow except for the few lonely that called for a tempered intra-year high of ~ SPX 1300.

SPX will test 1130 by April 15 with a new recovery high as high as 1300 by the end of July.

SPX 1300 will fail with new 2011 low of 1050 before ending the year right about where it started.

The Midwest will continue to supply the country with good-natured humble stock, relatively speaking.

Chris Tucker enters: 

Buy and Hold

POT
MS
CME

Wildcard:  Buy and Hold AVAV

Gibbons Burke comments: 

Mr. Ed Seykota once outlined for me the four essential rules of trading:

1) The trend is your friend (till it bends when it ends.)

2) Ride your winners.

3) Cut your losses short.

4) Keep the size of your bet small.

Then there are the "special" rules:

5) Follow all the rules.

and for masters of the game:

6) Know when to break rule #5

A prosperous and joy-filled New Year to everyone.

Cheers,

Gibbons

John Floyd writes:

In no particular order with target prices to be reached at some point in 2011:

1) Short the Australian Dollar:current 1.0220, target price .8000

2) Short the Euro: current 1.3375, target price 1.00

3) Short European Bank Stocks, can use BEBANKS index: current 107.40, target 70

A Mr. Krisrock predicts: 

 1…housing will continue to lag…no matter what can be done…and with it unemployment will remain

2…bonds will outperform as republicans will make cutting spending the first attack they make…QE 2 will be replaced by QE3

3…with every economist in the world bullish, stocks will underperform…

4…commodities are peaking ….

Laurel Kenner predicts: 

After having made monkeys of those luminaries who shorted Treasuries last year, the market in 2011 has had its laugh and will finally carry out the long-anticipated plunge in bond prices.

Short the 30-year bond futures and cover at 80.

Pete Earle writes:

All picks are for 'all year' (open first trading day/close last trading day).

1. Long EUR/USD
2. Short gold (GLD)

Short:
MMR (McMoran Exploration Corp)
HDIX (Home Diagnostics Inc)
TUES (Tuesday Morning Corp)

Long:
PBP (Powershares S&P500 Buy-Write ETF)
NIB (iPath DJ-UBS Cocoa ETF)
KG (King Pharmaceuticals)

Happy New Year to all,

Pete Earle

Paolo Pezzutti enters: 

If I may humbly add my 2 cents:

- bearish on S&P: 900 in dec
- crisis in Europe will bring EURUSD down to 1.15
- gold will remain a safe have haven: up to 1500
- big winner: natural gas to 8

J.T Holley contributes: 

Financials:

The Market Mistress so eloquently must come first and foremost. Just as daily historical stats point to betting on the "unchanged" so is my S&P 500 trade for calendar year 2011. Straddle the Mistress Day 1. My choice for own reasons with whatever leverage is suitable for pain thresholds is a quasi straddle. 100% Long and 50% Short in whatever instrument you choose. If instrument allows more leverage, first take away 50% of the 50% Short at suitable time and add to the depreciated/hopefully still less than 100% Long. Feel free to add to the Long at this discretionary point if it suits you. At the next occasion that is discretionary take away remaining Short side of Quasi Straddle, buckle up, and go Long whatever % Long that your instrument or brokerage allows till the end of 2011. Take note and use the historical annual standard deviation of the S&P 500 as a rudder or North Star, and throw in the quarterly standard deviation for testing. I think the ambiguity of the current situation will make the next 200-300 trading days of data collection highly important, more so than prior, but will probably yield results that produce just the same results whatever the Power Magnification of the Microscope.

Long the U.S. Dollar. Don't bother with the rest of the world and concern yourself with which of the few other Socialist-minded Country currencies to short. Just Long the U.S. Dollar on Day 1 of 2011. Keep it simple and specialize in only the Long of the U.S. Dollar. Cataclysmic Economic Nuclear Winter ain't gonna happen. When the Pastor preaches only on the Armageddon and passes the plate while at the pulpit there is only one thing that happens eventually - the Parish dwindles and the plate stops getting filled. The Dollar will bend as has, but won't break or at least I ain't bettin' on such.

Ala Mr. Melvin, Short any investment vehicle you like that contains the words or numerals "perpetual maturity", "zero coupon" and "20-30yr maturity" in their respective regulated descriptions, that were issued in times of yore. Unfortunately it doesn't work like a light switch with the timing, remember it's more like air going into a balloon or a slow motion see-saw. We always want profits initially and now and it just doesn't work that way it seems in speculation. Also, a side hedge is to start initially looking at any financial institution that begins, dabbles, originates and gains high margin fees from 50-100 year home loans or Zero-Coupon Home Loans if such start to make their way Stateside. The Gummit is done with this infusion and cheer leading. They are in protection mode, their profit was made. Now the savy financial engineers that are left or upcoming will continue to find ways to get the masses to think they "Own" homes while actually renting them. Think Car Industry '90-'06 with. Japan did it with their Notes and I'm sure some like-minded MBA's are baiting/pushing the envelopes now in board rooms across the U.S. with their profitability and ROI models, probably have ditched the Projector and have all around the cherry table with IPads watching their presentation. This will ultimately I feel humbly be the end of the Mortgage Interest Deduction as it will be dwindled down to a moot point and won't any longer be the leading tax deduction that it was created to so-called help.

Metals:

Short Gold, Short it, Short it more. Take all of your emotions and historical supply and demand factors out of the equation, just look at the historical standard deviation and how far right it is and think of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story and when he thought he was actually flying and the look on his face at apex realization. That plus continue doing a study on Google Searches and the number of hits on "stolen gold", "stolen jewelery", and Google Google side Ads for "We buy Gold". I don't own gold jewelery, and have surrendered the only gold piece that I ever wore, but if I was still wearing it I'd be mighty weary of those that would be willing to chop a finger off to obtain. That ain't my fear, that's more their greed.

Long lithium related or raw if such. Technology demands such going forward.

Energy:

Long Natural Gas. Trading Day 1 till last trading day of the year. The historic "cheap" price in the minds of wannabe's will cause it to be leveraged long and oft with increasing volume regardless of the supply. Demand will follow, Pickens sowed the seeds and paid the price workin' the mule while plowin'. De-regulation on the supply side of commercial business statements is still in its infancy and will continue, politics will not beat out free markets going into the future.

Long Crude and look to see the round 150 broken in years to come while China invents, perfects, and sees the utility in the Nuclear fueled tanker.

Long LED, solar, and wind generation related with tiny % positions. Green makes since, its here to stay and become high margined profitable businesses.

Agriculture:

Short Sugar. Sorry Mr. Bow Tie. Monsanto has you Beet! That being stated, the substitute has arrived and genetically altered "Roundup Ready" is here to stay no matter what the Legislative Luddite Agrarians try, deny, or attempt. With that said, Long MON. It is way more than a seed company. It is more a pharmaceutical engineer and will bring down the obesity ridden words Corn Syrup eventually as well. Russia and Ireland will make sure of this with their attitudes of profit legally or illegally.

Prepare to long in late 2011 the commercialized marijuana and its manufacturing, distribution companies that need to expand profitability from its declining tobacco. Altria can't wait, neither can Monsanto. It isn't a moral issue any longer, it's a financial profit one. We get the joke, or choke? If the Gummit doesn't see what substitutes that K2 are doing and the legal hassles of such and what is going on in Lisbon then they need to have an economic lesson or two. It will be a compromise between the Commercial Adjective Definition Agrarians and Gummit for tax purposes with the Green theme continuing and lobbying.

Short Coffee, but just the 1st Qtr of 2011. Sorry Seattle. I will also state that there will exist a higher profit margin substitute for the gas combustible engine than a substitute for caffeine laden coffee.

Sex and Speculation:

Look to see www.fyretv.com go public in 2011 with whatever investment bank that does such trying their best to be anonymous. Are their any investment banks around? This Boxxx will make Red Box blush and Apple TV's box envious. IPTV and all related should be a category that should be Longed in 2011 it is here to stay and is in it's infancy. Way too many puns could be developed from this statement. Yes, I know fellas the fyre boxxx is 6"'s X 7"'s.

Music:

This is one category to always go Long. I have vastly improved my guitar playin' in '10 and will do so in '11. AAPL still has the edge and few rivals are even gaining market share and its still a buy on dips, sell on highs empirically counted. They finally realized that .99 cents wasn't cutting it and .69 cents was more appropriate for those that have bought Led Zeppelin IV songs on LP, 8-track, cassette, and CD over the course of their lives. Also, I believe technology has a better shot at profitably bringing music back into public schools than the Federal or State Gummits ever will.

Other:

Long - Your mind. Double down on this Day 1 of 2011. It's the most capable, profitable thing you have going for you. I just learned this after the last 36 months.

Long - Counting, you need it now more than ever. It's as important as capitalism.

Long - Being humble, it's intangible but if quantified has a STD of 4 if not higher.

Long - Common Sense.

Long - Our Children. The media is starting to question if their education is priceless, when it is, but not in their context or jam.

Short - Politics. It isn't a spectator sport and it has been made to be such.

Short - Fear, it is way way been played out. Test anything out there if you like. I have. It is prevalent still and disbelief is rampant.

Long - Greed, but don't be greedy just profitable. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was the pilot fish.

I had to end on a Long note.

Happy New Year's Specs. Thanks to all for support over the last four years. I finally realized that it ain't about being right or wrong, just profitable in all endeavors. Too many losses led to this, pain felt after lookin' within, and countin' ones character results with pen/paper.

Russ Sears writes:

 For my entry to the contest, I will stick with the stocks ETF, and the index markets and avoid individual stocks, and the bonds and interest rates. This entry was thrown together rather quickly, not at all an acceptable level if it was real money. This entry is meant to show my personal biases and familiarity, rather than my investment regiment. I am largely talking my personal book.

Therefore, in the spirit of the contest , as well as the rules I will expose my line of thinking but only put numbers on actual entry predictions. Finally, if my caveats are not warning enough, I will comment on how a prediction or contest entry differs from any real investment. I would make or have made.

The USA number one new product export will continue to be the exportation of inflation. The printing of dollars will continue to have unintended consequences than its intended effect on the national economy but have an effect on the global economy.. Such monetary policy will hit areas with the most potential for growth: the emerging markets of China and India. In these economies, that spends over half their income on food, food will continue to rise. This appears to be a position opposite the Chairs starting point prediction of reversal of last year's trends.

Likewise, the demand for precious metals such as gold and silver will not wane as these are the poor man's hedge against food cost. It may be overkill for the advanced economies to horde the necessities and load up on precious metals Yet, unlike the 70's the US/ European economy no longer controls gold and silver a paradigm shift in thinking that perhaps the simple statistician that uses weighted averages and the geocentric economist have missed. So I believe those entries shorting gold or silver will be largely disappointed. However in a nod to the chair's wisdom, I will not pick metals directly as an entry. Last year's surprise is seldom this year's media darling. However, the trend can continue and gold could have a good year. The exception to the reversal rule seems to be with bubbles which gain a momentum of their own, apart from the fundamentals. The media has a natural sympathy in suggesting a return to the drama of he 70's, the stagflation dilemma, ,and propelling an indicator of doom. With the media's and the Fed's befuddled backing perhaps the "exception" is to be expected. But I certainly don't see metal's impending collapse nor its continued performance.

The stability or even elevated food prices will have some big effects on the heartland.

1. For my trend is your friend pick: Rather than buy directly into a agriculture commodity based index like DBA, I am suggesting you buy an equity agriculture based ETF like CRBA year end price at 77.50. I am suggesting that this ETF do not need to have commodities produce a stellar year, but simply need more confirmation that commodity price have established a higher long term floor. Individually I own several of these stocks and my wife family are farmers and landowners (for full disclosure purposes not to suggest I know anything about the agriculture business) Price of farmland is raising, due to low rates, GSE available credit, high grain prices due to high demand from China/India, ethanol substitution of oil A more direct investment in agriculture stability would be farmland. Farmers are buying tractors, best seeds and fertilizers of course, but will this accelerate. Being wrong on my core theme of stable to rising food/commodity price will ruin this trade. Therefore any real trade would do due diligence on individual stocks, and put a trailing floor. And be sensitive to higher volatility in commodities as well as a appropriate entry and exit level.

2. For the long term negative alpha, short term strength trade: I am going with airlines and FAA at 49.42 at year end. There seems to be finally some ability to pass cost through to the consumer, will it hold?

3. For the comeback of the year trade XHB: (the homebuilders ETF), bounces back with 25% return. While the overbuilding and vacancy rates in many high population density areas will continue to drag the home makes down, the new demand from the heartland for high end houses will rise that is this is I am suggesting that the homebuilders index is a good play for housing regionally decoupling from the national index. And much of what was said about the trading of agriculture ETF, also apply to this ETF. However, while I consider this a "surprise", the surprise is that this ETF does not have a negative alpha or slightly positive. This is in-line with my S&P 500 prediction below. Therefore unless you want volatility, simply buying the S&P Vanguard fund would probably be wiser. Or simply hold these inline to the index.

4. For the S&P Index itself I would go with the Vanguard 500 Fund as my vehicle VFINXF, and predict it will end 2011 at $145.03, this is 25% + the dividend. This is largely due to how I believe the economy will react this year. 

5. For my wild card regional banks EFT, greater than IAT > 37.50 by end 2011…

Yanki Onen writes:

 I would like to thank all for sharing their insights and wisdom. As we all know and reminded time to time, how unforgiven could the market Mistress be. We also know how nurturing and giving it could be. Time to time i had my share of falls and rises. Everytime I fall, I pick your book turn couple of pages to get my fix then scroll through articles in DSpecs seeking wisdom and a flash of light. It never fails, before you know, back to the races. I have all of you to thank for that.

Now the ideas;

-This year's lagger next year's winner CSCO

Go long Jan 2012 20 Puts @ 2.63 Go long CSCO @ 19.55 Being long the put gives you the leverage and protection for a whole year, to give the stock time to make a move.

You could own 100,000 shares for $263K with portfolio margin ! Sooner the stock moves the more you make (time decay)

-Sell contango Buy backwardation

You could never go wrong if you accept the truth, Index funds always roll and specs dont take physical delivery. This cant be more true in Cotton.

Right before Index roll dates (it is widely published) sell front month buy back month especially when it is giving you almost -30 to do so Sell March CT Buy July CT pyramid this trade untill the roll date (sometime at the end of Jan or begining of Feb) when they are almost done rolling(watch the shift in open interest) close out and Buy May CT sell July CT wait patiently for it to play it out again untill the next roll.

- Leveraged ETFs suckers play!

Two ways to play this one out if you could borrow and sell short, short both FAZ and FAS equal $ amounts since the trade is neutral, execute this trade almost free of margin. One thing is for sure to stay even long after we are gone is volatility and triple leveraged products melt under volatility!

If you cant borrow the shares execute the trade using Jan 12 options to open synthetic short positions. This trade works with time and patience!

Vic, thanks again for providing a platform to listen and to be heard.

Sincerely,

Yanki Onen

Phil McDonnell writes: 

When investing one should consider a diversified portfolio. But in a contest the best strategy is just to go for it. After all you have to be number one.

With that thought in mind I am going to bet it all on Silver using derivatives on the ETF SLV.

SLV closed at 30.18 on Friday.

Buy Jan 2013 40 call for 3.45.
Sell Jan 2012 40 call at 1.80.
Sell Jul 25 put at 1.15.

Net debit is .50.

Exit strategy: close out entire position if SLV ETF reaches a price of 40 or better. If 40 is not reached then exit on 2/31/2011 at the close.

George Parkanyi entered:

For what it's worth, the Great White North weighs in ….
3 Markets equally weighted - 3 stages each (if rules allow) - all trades front months
3 JAN 2011
BUY NAT GAS at open

BUY SILVER at open

BUY CORN at open
28 FEB 2011 (Reverse Positions)
SELL and then SHORT NAT GAS at open

SELL and then SHORT SILVER at open

SELL and then SHORT CORN at open
1 AUG 2011 (Reverse Positions)
COVER and then BUY NAT GAS at open

COVER and then BUY SILVER at open

COVER and then BUY CORN at open
Hold all positions to the end of the year

WILD CARD
3 JAN BUY PLATINUM and hold to end of year.

RATIONALE:

. Markets to unexpectedly carry through in New Year despite correction fears.

. Spain/Ireland debt roll issues - Europe/Euro in general- will be in the news in Q1/Q2

- markets will correct sharply in late Q1 through Q2 (interest rates will be rising)

. Markets will kick in again in Q3 & Q4 with strong finish on more/earlier QE in both Europe and US - hard assets will remain in favour; corn & platinum shortages; cooling trend & economic recovery to favour nat gas

. Also assuming seasonals will perform more or less according to stats

If rules do not allow directional changes; then go long NAT GAS, SILVER, and CORN on 1 AUG 2011 (cash until then); wild card trade the same.

Gratuitous/pointless prediction: At least two European countries will drop out of Euro in 2011 (at least announce it) and go back to their own currency. 

Marlowe Cassetti enters:

Buy:
FXE - Currency Shares Euro Trust

XLE - Energy Select

BAL - iPath Dow Jones-AIG Cotton Total Return Sub-Index

GDXJ - Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners

AMJ - JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN

Wild Card:

Buy:

VNM - Market Vectors Vietnam ETF

Kim Zussman entered: 

long XLV (health care etf; underperformed last year)
long CMF (Cali muni bond fund; fears over-wrought, investors still
need tax-free yield)
short GLD (looks like a bubble and who needs gold anyway)
short IEF (7-10Y treasuries; near multi-year high/QE2 is weaker than
vigilantism)

Dec

6

 The current Fed's chairman, in my view, did much better than his predecessor in last night's "60 minutes" interview. This interview, though obviously well orchestrated, did project candor, clearness, lucidness. I haven't noticed a single slip-up, even when he had to touch on the most unpleasant and controversial subjects. Green-speak was always mired in smoke and mirrors– and always left listener completely puzzled and disassociated. Bernanke projects stark contrast– albeit Fed's task, as most policy making, may be doomed by definition…

Vince Fulco writes: 

I try to look at this from other angles, i.e. why would a "nice country boy from S.C." who understands the plight of his fellow citizens gun the hell out of asset markets with all the concomitant deleterious effects potentially setting us up for another mega boom/bust scenario? Could it be that the rot within the mortgage agencies and institutions (commercial banks both here and abroad) is so terribly bad regardless of what the accounting books say that he has no other choice? QE2 just seems way too blunt an instrument to be affecting employment decisions a few years out. I noticed the bad bank list hit a new high (or near high) over the weekend while the capital markets are whistling dixie. Two to three years into the last bank debacle, we were starting to see the light of recovery through RTC efforts but then again we weren't kicking anything down the road and addressing problems front and center.

Grasping at straws…

Gary Rogan writes:

In my view, the number one purpose of government is to prevent younger/stronger warriors or anyone else from taking anything from anyone else by force or in fact using force for any purpose on unwilling participants. The second purpose of government is to arbitrate and enforce contracts. There are no other real purposes, but I consider it reasonable for people, in a democratic fashion to decide that the government needs to provide fire protection, etc., dispose of public property, and build roads, etc. It's also reasonable for people to decide to delegate these tasks to private enterprise. Things like secretly printing money to buy mortgage-backed securities from foreign banks and secretly printing money to save motorcycle companies are so outside of what I consider the purpose of government to be that saying it's either that or hide your women is a somewhat artificial polemic on the government vs. free markets.

Lying about not printing money on national TV is a consequence of a government-like entity trying to justify its involvement in a matter where it has no natural reason to be involved.

Rocky Humbert rants:

There is nothing remotely interesting, stimulating, humorous or provocative about insulting the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

However, I remain keenly interested in hearing one's macro economic analysis of QE, and how it affects asset prices.

My thoughts about this dialogue can be found here.

Dec

5

 This review reads like Robert Cialdini's work:

 A master of persuasion reveals his secret:

First, though, you need to outfit yourself with the basic knowledge, and Mr. Dutton's research suggests there are five key elements, which he wraps up in the acronym SPICE. (His use of quippy anecdotes to begin each chapter, and his instinct for neologisms - the book was published in the U.K. as Flipnosis - illustrate his own canny knack for persuasion.) SPICE stands for Simplicity (that is: don't complicate matters), Perceived self-interest (someone will only be persuaded if they believe what's on offer will benefit them), Incongruity (the tactic, which throws off the target, often takes the form of humour), Confidence, and Empathy. Most of these, of course, are incorporated in the best ads for products, services, and politicians. But they also form the basis of the come-ons of, say, used car salesmen, so Mr. Dutton positions his work as an antidote to unwanted appeals.

"I think the people who read the book will not only learn the tricks of the trade - how to persuade - but they'll also know what to look for when such persuasion is angled at them," he says. "With knowledge comes protection."

The fact that some need that protection more than others - some are more persuadable - has led to a frenzy of scientific research. Neuroscientists are busy trying to read the brain's responses to various persuasive stimuli: Indeed, a study published last month in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience suggested there is a network of regions in the brain that responds to the act of being persuaded by an argument.

Nov

26

 The Best Day of the Year

As Hershel Lamont drove up to the rigs, he used his arm to shield his eyes from the already blazing early morning Texas sun. The old sun visor just won't do it in this part of the country but there's nuthin' a good cowboy hat and a raised arm can't block. He parked his pickup in the usual place; behind the wide-body trailer that served as his office, so the truck's interior would stay cool most of the day. Stepping out onto the dry soil as he had for the last five years since graduating from Petroleum & Mineral School, he surveyed his small yet adequate oil exploration operations. “Wildcatting”, Hershel said out loud, “the word alone sounds like something decent folks wouldn't do, couldn't do, shouldn't do…” But Hershel knew if given the chance, he still wouldn't choose any other life. As he strode up to the trailer, he stopped for a second to knock the dirt off his boots. Chuckling he thought, “Always easier to talk to myself when none of the crew has arrived yet. Lest they think I'm nuts.”

So what was it about this business called Wildcatting that drove him to it? It was damn hard work; the hours grueling, dirty and hot most days, dangerous as hell when you least expected it. Other times were marked by hours of boredom when all ya can do is watch the equipment and wait for the pumping process to unfold for better or worse. What was it gonna be coming up the pipe this time; water or something worthy of a noble effort? “Hot damn though”, Hershel said while slapping his leg, “there is nothing like hitting a gusher, when black gold shoots 30 ft. into the sky and somehow watching it flow, it washes away all the fatigue and pain you've been carrying around in your bones seemingly forever.” Prospecting has a way of aging you fast and the elixir of a find comes at just the right time; that is most times.

Five rigs wouldn't make Hershel rich, he knew that already, but he had a knack for the business. And something about it kept him springing out of bed every morning, most days before the rooster crowed. Many guys couldn't keep their prospectin' running past the first year and Hershel had lasted five times as long. It had to count for something in the big game. Keeping his budget tight, he could get by on two rigs and with the other three producing even modest amounts, the cash flow would build up a kitty to buy a few more rigs and double his acreage in the next year. He hoped old widow Kelly would be agreeable to a similar land deal since he had been fair with her on price the last time and she had no one to leave the ranch to. Besides they both knew there were no guarantees the ground would yield anything; Boss Kelly had tried his damndest and failed. But he hadn't tried hard enough by Hershel's estimation. “…Ahh, another benefit of wildcatting! Little by little, if you stick with it long enough; what some call grit, an unshakable faith in yourself builds. Ya just get a sense that through thick and thin when the smoke clears you'll be left standing to live another day.”, Hershel surmised.

Sure it took smarts to get into this business and stay in it. He studied hard at Western Amarillo College but there were always going to be smarter fellows. That didn't mean harder working though since he had seen his fair share of sharpies who were lazy and wasted their God given talents. Some of them couldn't find water if they stepped into a bucket; they were too lazy to lift their heads from their naps. Anyway, it took him more time than he expected to adjust from broncho busting to sitting at a desk and studying chemical structures of oil, rig setups, subsurface formations and the like. Even though some days he could barely contain the ants in his pants, somehow he plowed through the required courses graduating with admirable grades. But grades did not get you far in this volatile business and it took more than a bit of luck which not everyone has. Hershel recalled that old Navajo sitting in front of the general store on the first day he arrived in the little town of Soudan. Out of the blue, the Indian gave him a cockeyed glance and said “You look like you're here to hunt oil…In a few years, you'll almost be able to smell where it is.” Hershel thought he caught a scent every once in a while and his rigs were working flat out right where he first placed them. “Boy, did I sweat those final days of studying soil samples. Thought my eyes would go bad if I looked at them any longer”, Hershel said. Still, he reckoned he had a few more years till it would come that easy to him.

“Hells Bells”, said Hershel looking at the faded Snyder Oil calendar on his desk, “Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! I have been working so hard, it crept up on me this year.” Of all the holidays, this was Hershel's favorite. New Years Day was usually spent laying in bed taking the day very slow after imbibing too much the night before in some Honky Tonk bar. Didn't really matter which one and frankly Hershel usually didn't remember the name of the place he stumbled out of. Now before you get any ideas, Hershel allowed himself one day every year to really rip it up, speak his mind and feel free from his obligations. After all, every man has to cut loose once in a while. Sure Valentine's Day was a hoot and he liked the girls plenty. But he hated hauling into town as fast as he could after work to get cleaned up, run over to the store for flowers and barely make it to the girls' homes to pick them up for a proper dinner and dancing afterwards. He always felt a bit disheveled and sheepish pulling into his chosen date's driveway. You wouldn't find him complaining about the benefits of that holiday though; the after-effects felt like walking on clouds for a week. Christmas was always special with most of the day spent in Church; the only day Hershel found the time to go, and swapping gifts with family and close friends. Mostly enjoying folks he didn't see very often.

 Thanksgiving just seemed different. Yea, there was the over-eating and over-drinking of the other holidays but on Thanksgiving, Hershel always felt it was a day of gratitude. Mind you, not just the normal gratitude for what others had done for him but something deeper. A day to sit back and recognize his own accomplishments. It sounds a little selfish and luxurious to some but how often can ya take note, if only for one day, of all that you've surmounted? Most days were spent handling all the little details which put a small business on the road to becoming a big one. And Hershel knew hardship. “Yep, it has been a rough ride and the weight on one's back seems unbearable but sticking to it sometimes life just has a way of giving you a break too.” Hershel was proud of all he had done– from small town, broncho busting hick with two buffalo nickels and a folding knife in his pocket to bona fide professional oil driller with the sky's-the-limit opportunity. He was his own man; beholden to no one and didn't have to dress in fancy clothes or socialize with folks he didn't respect in order to run his outfit. His hard work and sacrifices translated into accumulating all the land he could see from his office, selling off all the petroleum he could bring up from the ground and supporting his crew of roughnecks and their families. As for the other townfolk, his supply orders brought all sorts of vendors selling their goods to the general store, his pipes and fittings needs kept the blacksmith's forge running hot, and old Doc Mackson's sleeves seemed to be permanently rolled up ready to patch up a few of his boys. Grinning, Hershel said, “I always smirk seeing Mr. Cobbs the banker hop up from his chair and greet me at the door when I walk in to make another deposit after selling my barrels.” So Thanksgiving isn't just about blessings which we should consider every day if we know what is good for us but it is also about admiring the good and decent which comes from pursuing what compels you; what drives you. Beaming with pride, Hershel said, “From one man's dream chasing and the early results of it being realized, my business touches and improves the lives of forty to fifty people I imagine. One has to give thanks for that…”

Nov

23

Colorful language from the Dutch: "RTRS- DUTCH FINMIN SAYS SHAREHOLDERS, BONDHOLDERS IN IRISH BANKS "WILL HAVE TO BLEED" IN CONSOLIDATION".

Nov

21

 An email my Dad sent me after discussing some of the implications of Obamacare:

…The Obamacare bill has some very good things in it but there is a lot not to like, and if it is not changed it will come back to bite us you know where. The bill creates a whole new expensive bureaucracy and will force many small businesses to cancel their employee health insurance benefits. We will be seeing real significant health care premium increases in the next 6 months to a year. Yet my re-reimbursement is going down 21% by Jan 1st. NYS just imposed an additional % income tax increase on those making $ more than 200,000. If the Bush tax cuts expire or do not cover my salary range, I will see the largest tax hike in income tax in the history of the USA. My employees work 7 hours a day plus 1/2 hour for lunch and two 15 min breaks. At 68 years old, I work 12 to 14 hour a day often without lunch or breaks but I am the bad guy. I and my partners created 59 employee positions in our offices but I am the bad guy. I do not use any more service than the average guy but I do not pay my fair share according to my congressman and the Obama administration . I guess $xxx,xxx in federal income tax is not enough. If you include state and other taxes I pay close to $xxx,xxx in taxes but I do not pay enough. It is getting to the point that retiring is looking better and better. They are destroying our healthcare system. There is not enough money to provide the kind of care they have proposed. Oh well, let me get back to work since I am on call.

Love you, Dad

Nov

21

What began as denial, denial, denial for an Ireland bailout is now $160B which is about $80B higher than the highest estimates I casually collected. Not exactly Paulson's bazooka but more like a light anti-tank weapon. Portugal and Spain have repeatedly said they are not in need given their debt schedules. Will the bond vigilantes strike again (and again)?…

Nov

17

 It's become popular in this community to bash the Fed's QE– and most recently, the story championed by some is that the Fed is "giving away taxpayer money" to the primary dealers with the mechanics of its open market purchases. This hysteria reached an embarrassing climax when the Chair chose to post a Daily Spec Website link to Zero Hedge's entirely wrong article on the subject entitled "Is QE2 a Stealthy $90 Billion Gifting Scheme to The Primary Dealers?"

I am not a fan of QE, however, the facts are quite different from the conspiracy theorists' allegation regarding the costs and mechanics.

Here is a link to today's open market operations.

An objective observer notes that the largest purchases were in securities that were between 2 and 5 basis points CHEAP on the curve. An objective observer further notes that there were no purchases in quite a few securities — and on balance, those securities were rich spots on the yield curve. Furthermore, anyone with a Cantor-Fitz broker screen can see that all of these securities trade with a 1 to 2/32 bid-ask spread.

My conclusion is that the open market desk today did a fairly good job at buying securities that represented relative value on the yield curve. And even if the NY Fed pays the offer side on its entire 600 Billion QE, that bid/ask spread totals about $187 million. That isn't chump change, but it is materially smaller than the savings which they can achieve by picking "cheap" points on the yield curve.

If the community wants to debate the philosophical and economic issues at stake, that seems productive. But I hope these facts will put to rest the baloney that the NY Fed has handed a $90 Billion gift to the dealer community — as Zero Hedge wrote — and which Mr. Rogan and the Chair gullibly accepted.

George Zachar writes:

It's been known all along that Goldman's branch at Liberty Street tends to buy the "cheap" parts of the targeted curve segment. It's childsplay for dealers knowing in advance the outlines of the NY Fed buyback program to accumulate the "right" securities, certain they'll face a forced buyer in the near future. The size of this "edge" is only known by the P/L clerks around the street.

Even if it's "only" a few hundred million dollars, it's becoming increasingly hard to view the current matrix of finance/govt interlocks as anything but a brazen conspiracy to loot a defenseless public.

Tim Melvin writes:

Of course there is NO chance the dealers bought those securities a couple of days ago and sold them "cheap on the curve" today. Such a thing would be unheard of on Wall Street. 

Rocky Humbert replies:

In the event that some members of the community have never run a treasury arbitrage book, I'll let you all in on the dirty little secret of how it works: (1) buy the stuff that's CHEAP. (2) short the stuff that's EXPENSIVE. (3) Pray that the repo-clerk doesn't screw you on the financing. (4) Wait for a real money (i.e. Pimco, Fidelity, OR THE NY FED) account to close the arbitrage. It's always nice as a broker dealer to avoid paying the bid/ask spread, however, if even LTCM (a non-broker-dealer) had stuck to this strategy, they'd still be in business.

Mr. Zachar seems "shocked - just shocked" that Goldman might buy the cheap part of the yield curve in the course of its market operations. But that is the job of a treasury trader — QE or no-QE. I'd also remind him that primary dealers are REQUIRED to provide a bid and offer to the NY Fed — whether or not they have inventory. I feel some sympathy for the hapless mid-curve trader who had to make an offer on $2 Billion of the 9%'s of 11/18 — since that issue is probably held by a bunch of widows and orphans, and the dealer would have been stuck paying a reverse rate for god-knows-how-long.

I am skeptic about the efficacy of QE — for a variety of macro-economic and feedback-loop reasons, but I refuse to stoop to unconvincing hyperbole such as "looting a defenseless public." Whatever happened to the ballyhoo deflation and the scientific method?

George Zachar recovers:

I traded on-the-run mortgage-backed securities at primary dealers for a decade…"shocked" is not exactly how I feel.

The "dirty little secret" of primary dealer flow trading is that front-running inflexible counter-parties is a central strategy. Not news.

One problem with QE2 is that the primary dealers have sympathetic decision-makers on the other side of the trade who are not trading their own capital, or even client capital that is accountable. The dealers are blissfully front-running the taxpayers of the US, with their own pals facilitating the trade.

As someone who owns high-end real estate in NYC, it is very much in my interest for the local swells to fleece the broad public, keeping a bid under my assets.

That doesn't alter the nature of what's happening to the nation's taxpayers. One man's clever arbitrage P/L is another's "looting the tax payer".

Vince Fulco writes:

On the eve of the GM deal and near the holiday season, a fine American like Rattner reminds us of all WE have to be thankful for w.r.t. the actions taken by the Bush and Obama admins. Reminds me of the recurring historical magazine cover which keeps popping into my head…anyone remember the line from National Lampoon in the 1970s, "Buy the magazine or we'll shoot this dog!"

 

Nov

17

 One wonders whether there is excessive pessimism at this time.

Vince Fulco comments: 

Where is the bolt from the blue story to save all the longs and squeeze the life out of the shorts? Something along the lines of "Berkshire asking for outsized allocation of GM…"

Rocky Humbert writes:

Forgive me for asking, but where is the excess pessimism? Last week's AAII Survey had the second lowest level of pessimism of the year. And, even after this bond market shellacking, the five year tips are still NEGATIVE 11 basis points; and yes, the commodity space is having a Niagra Falls decline– but from the highest levels since 2008. If one's time horizon is twenty minutes, perhaps this constitutes "excessive pessimism" but in my world, one hopes the Chair's barrel is waterproof and well-lined should this evolve into a real waterfall (not that I'm predicting anything). I'll see y'all down river … !

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

 There is still considerable pessimism in consumer sentiment, measured by the Conference Board and Michigan Surveys. But, at the same time, the general public has greater confidence about the possibilities of good results from the recent political change than the professionals in D.C. do.

So we have a Hugh Hendry paradox: as Rocky notes, the investor class continues to believe in the future of risk assets and is, at the same time, pessimistic about political change, while the common (sic) people know they are in hard times but have hopes that the Tea Party/Republicans will actually change things for the better.

That, and $8 will buy Vic the cup of coffee I will soon owe him.

Alston Mabry writes:

Everyone needs to fret for a while and then wake up one morning and think, "Oh yeah, the New York Fed is buying $6B a day! What was I thinking?"

Paolo Pezzutti adds:

In no way. Europe can be a better haven than the dollar as bailouts continue to be the only way to delay the payment of an expensive bill. The dollar found a wall at 1.40, which is too high even for QE.

Victor Niederhoffer responds:

Ultimately the public will go on strike. Enoch Powell predicted this so clearly 25 years ago. By what normal human instinct, can people in Germany or any other country be expected to spend their money and work, to give to visible needy in another country they've never met or who are not part of their family. When money is printed and given to a specific group, it reduces the value of everything that other people own, by that total I believe, the same way a discovery of a mineral reduces the value of every other holder of that minerals by the amount of the value of the find. Landburgh is good on this point, and I think I am correct in generalizing.

Stefan Jovanovich comments:

 The Second National Bank had been chartered to act as an American cousin to the Bank of England - a private bank that would be the nation's depository for the taxes collected by the Treasury. When Jackson campaigned for reelection in 1832, he ran on a platform of "an independent Treasury" - i.e. the nation's precious specie would not be under a single bank's control but would be held "independently". What that meant in practical terms was that the specie on deposit in Philadelphia and the Bank of the United States' branches would be transferred to banks that favored the Democrats. (My own theory is that this was the first of several wars between the New York and Pennsylvania bankers. Henry Clay's running mate, the Whig Vice-Presidential nominee, was John Sergeant was from Pennsylvania; Jackson's Vice President was Martin Van Buren, "the Little Magician" from New York.) After Jackson's landslide victory in the 1832 election, he issued an executive order transferring the Treasury's gold to seven state-chartered banks. By the end of 1836 the Treasury had accounts at ninety-one of Jackson's "pet" banks. Most of these failed in 1837, causing the Panic that ended Martin Van Buren's political career.

Jackson and Clay - the first two prominent American politicians from west of the Appalachians - thoroughly hated each other. There survives a letter that Clay wrote to Nicholas Biddle, the 2nd National Bank's President, before the 1832 election. It says volumes about Clay's inability to count votes (in the election he won only 6 of the 23 states and gained 49 electoral votes compared to Jackson's 219 and the anti-Masonic candidate's 7) and his and Biddle's naïve optimism that people actually like bankers: "You ask what is the effect of the Veto (Jackson had vetoed the renewal of the bank's charter). My impression is that it is working as well as the friends of the Bank and of the country could desire. I have always deplored making the Bank a party question, but since the President will have it so, he must pay the penalty of his own rashness. As to the Veto message I am delighted with it. It has all the fury of a chained panther biting the bars of his cage. It is really a manifesto of anarchy such as Marat or Robespierre might have issued to the mob of the faubourg St Antoine: and my hope is that it will contribute to relieve the country from the dominion of these miserable people. You are destined to be the instrument of that deliverance, and at no period of your life has the country ever had a deeper stake in you. I wish you success most cordially, because I believe the institutions of the Union are involved in it."

I stopped reading Griffin's book when I got to this explanation of the Second National Bank crisis: Biddle's bank "had promised to continue the tradition of moderating the other banks by refusing to accept any of their notes unless they were redeemable in specie on demand. But when the other banks returned the gesture and required that the new Bank also pay out specie on their demand it frequently lost its resolve." Whatever Nicholas Biddle's faults, "resolve" was not one of them. Biddle used his position as the de facto central bank to call in the loans of the "country banks" in the year between Jackson's veto of the recharter and the October 1833 when Jackson's executive order took effect. Jackson turned that to his benefit by announcing that the country should not come to him for money but should go to Mr. Biddle: "he has all your money." Biddle proved to be a better banker than the state banks; but he was unable to survive the ravages of the Panic of 1837. By 1841 his bank was also gone.

Gary's theory about xenophobia is interesting but it does not fit the facts. Before the Civil War "the public" was chronically short money; there was very little for a central bank to steal, and there was no central bank. The episode from the Resumption Act to World War I is the exception in our history, not the rule; it is the only time when both the people and the government were net savers and the New York Clearing House handled all the transfers now handled by the Fed without finding it necessary to try to reconcile the divergent needs of the holders of money and the buyers and sellers of credit.

Russ Sears writes:

 I guess we will see tomorrow if such a nice start deflating late in day to negative for S&P index yesterday was close enough to count.

Gary Rogan writes:

According to G Edgar Griffin, the author of "The Creature of Jekyll Island" (here's an audio link where he explains everything he believes) the only purpose of all central banks (from the government perspective) is to steal money from the public through inflation in order to avoid explicit taxation. All else is pretense. The mechanism is exactly the same: print, give to a particular group, dilute the value for all pre-existing owners. It's interesting that it takes doing this very thing, but giving the money to foreigners instead of the government which of course spends it on the favored domestic groups, for the public to become agitated. It takes xenophobia to make people care about what is equally objectionable in both cases. 

Stefan Jovanovich adds:

There is no question that the Panic of 1907 created a trans-Atlantic consensus that trade had to be "better managed" by the financial authorities in London and New York through coordinated central banking. What is usually omitted from the story is how much of that consensus came from purely mercantilist interests. Both the Brits and the Americans had been literally shocked by how effective the Norwegians and Germans had become as competitors in the North Atlantic shipping trade. (J.P. Morgan's one conspicuous failure was his attempt to create a shipping trust; the Hamburg-American Line saw no reason why they should abandon their Wal-Mart approach to fare pricing.) Cecil Rhodes and Teddy Roosevelt contributed their view that the "Anglo-Saxon" race should rule the world and its gold supply. Gary's comment about xenophobia is, If anything, too polite with regard to Aldrich-Vreeland and what followed. Our modern monetary system has its founding in a joint desire of the more leveraged British and American banks to create a permanent imperial preference that would allow them to be able to clip their own coins in the name of "the money supply". What is amazing is that this is - even now - considered a good thing by the same academics who shudder at the idea that people should be able to ship goods and send services across sovereign boundaries by paying an ad valorem customs excise and not bothering the WTO.

Read more here.

What is completely forgotten is that the pre-WW I Left in the United States and France agreed with laissez faire capitalists on the question of open trade and the gold standard. As Michael Polyani's brother Karl puts it, "where Marx and Ricardo agreed, the nineteenth century knew no doubt." The Socialists and peaceful anarchists like my grandfather agreed with their class enemies: both opposed the Federal Reserve Act because it would allow the government to spend money it had neither borrowed nor collected in taxes. Both agreed that the gold standard and trade taxed at value but not otherwise restricted were the foundations of the capitalist economic order. The Socialists like Jean Jaures assumed that the growth of international commerce would lead to a peaceful transformation of world affairs because it would make war financially impossible. They were right, of course. And a lot of good it did them.

Without the Federal Reserve's literal monopoly over international transfers, it would have been impossible for the Wilson Administration to allow the Treasury Department to (1) suspend the domestic gold standard, (2) close the NY stock exchange for 4 months, and (3) reach swap agreements with Britain and France that allowed them to run a bar tab for war supplies. If international exchange had followed the old pattern of individual banks dealing with their foreign correspondents, the more cautious American banks would very quickly have come to the conclusion that their correspondent's IOUs could no longer be discounted and they would need to ask for some gold bars to be packed in barrels and put on a ship heading west before they sent the next shipment of artillery shell casings from Pittsburgh.

Nov

16

 There has been no stopping median executive compensation growth as this study shows (+139% from 1995-2005) and similar ramps from the mid 80s into the 90s to present.

I contend that a lot of wealth due shareholders has gone to the professional C-suite with a varied mix of new compensation schemes: large awards of restricted stock bestowing wealth with even modest and industry average relative changes in the shares, options (reset when they became too far out of the money), health insurance, highly remunerative life insurance, bonuses, corporate jet use even for private business, special ad hoc awards for completing deals which ultimately are shown to be dilutive, created little value but built the empire bigger. Many of these 1 ft hurdles are created by weak boards with annual goals not tied to known shareholder friendly strategies. And even when they fail they win if we take Bob Nardelli as one ignominious example. I'm not saying true value creators shouldn't be paid as well as the market will bear but let's just use real benchmarks and real implications for failure like the rest of society has to endure.

By the time protestations by TIAA-CREF and the like come into play, the stock has been driven into the ground. Perhaps the line "where are the customers' yachts" s/b changed to "where are the public stakeholders' ones?"

Nov

15

The exquisite sensibilities of this — selecting just a few high yielding securities, only doing it in modest increments, removing the % of outstanding restriction– one must applaud their discipline and endeavors for the public good while buying all the outstanding debt held by their clients. It would be nice if one owned 200% of the outstanding debt of such a security to know that the Fed was going to buy that security without regard to concentration requiremnts. Indeed, it would seem to be a license to profit et al.

Gary Rogan writes: 

They are just helping their friends, because that's what friends do.

Is QE2 A Stealthy $90 Billion Gifting Scheme To The Primary Dealers?

We have previously discussed how due to the inability to know at what price (par or market) the Fed is buying back bonds from the Primary Dealers, there is a distinct possibility that due to the par-market difference, especially with many CUSIPs trading near record prices over par, the Fed may be implicitly letting PDs pocket the market-to-notional difference. The total, as shown below, could amount to over $40 billion. Furthermore, by avoiding the tight spread of on the run bonds, the Fed is effectively allowing PDs to pocket a huge bid/offer spread, which assuming a total size of ~$800 billion (low estimate) of all USTs bought over the (initial) life of QE2, aka QE2.5 and higher pre-extensions, amounts to $50 billion over the next 8 months.

Vince Fulco writes:

Isn't this just another version of Japan's price keeping operations (PKO) done in the early 2000s and perhaps for some periods in the decade before? Just substitute govvies and drechy mortgage products for equities in the case of the rising (or is it setting) sun?

Nov

15

Perhaps one or two folks haven't come across this great article online yet. 

Nov

9

No sooner said that increase in inflation expectations might change the schedule of flexionic payments, then bonds go to a 3 month low. The vigilantes finally do their thing.

Vince Fulco writes: 

Especially on a day when the former Harvard head said the Fed "needs to do much more".

Ken Drees comments:

Back to back red days per dailyspec calendar– recently rare.

Nov

7

 The leading historian says that he'll buy me a $ 8 cup of coffee under certain considerations. And I don't know much about coffee. But I've had occasion to have coffee at Stumptown Coffee, an Oregon firm with branches in New York now, and it's far and away the best coffee i've ever had. Next in line is the coffee at Kaffe that Mr. Florida surfer has recommended. The web mistress is a vegan, and I don't pay her that much to do all the editing and picturing so she usually doesn't put our stuff on barbecue up unless I get her mother on the case, which isn't that effective since she doesn't believe in coercion. Let us expand our mandate from bar b que to good beverages like coffee and tea.

Vince Fulco comments:

I wouldn't say THE top tier but for solid, day-in, day-out coffee, a NYC mail order institution which we order from is portorico. It's been around for over 100 years and we especially like their couple times a year sale with numerous versions of beans $5.99-7.99/lb, a veritable bargain when retail goes for similar prices for 10 ounces. They also have a weekly sale of one kind or another.

Jeff Sasmor writes:

For NJ suburbanites, the local roasting of primo beans and a nice college town quasi-hipster atmosphere is provided by Small World Coffee in Princeton. In spite of a Starbucks opening around the corner, Small World has actually grown larger.

David Hillman writes:

Stumptown is among best ever drunk here, too. We have a pound or two shipped in regularly. They ship the same day they roast and deliver in about 2-3 days, so coffee is very fresh. Currently in the cabinet is Indonesia Sulawsi Toarco and the African's are exceptional this year. An admirable direct trade business model worthy of support.

 Also, when in Portland, breakfast at Mother's. They serve Stumptown varieties in a french press at the table. That and the wild salmon hash is more than worth the long weekend a.m. waits.

Boom Bros. in Milwaukee is also happily recommended. Excellent roastmaster, their Velvet Hammer is the 'every morning' coffee at Cafe DGH.

Another favorite is this coffee from the D.R. Very cheap, very good. Best drunk in a cafe on the beach in Sosua. Maybe there's a Caribbean store of some sort in NYC?, but if not, there's always Bonanza:

"…..Always the most fresh production guaranteed! Manufacturer send my orders 3 times a week…..Thanks for looking!!!"

Chris Cooper writes:

Coincidentally, I have recently embarked on a quest to brew (consistently) the best cup of coffee. I have started roasting my own beans, and now it is evolving to importing my own green beans. Next month on the container arrives 300 kg of single-origin green beans from Indonesia from five farms. We call them Bali Kintamani, Java Jampit, Aceh Gayo, Sumatra Lintong, and Torajah Kalosi. I guess this may become more than just a hobby.

 While Mr. Surfer and family visited not so long ago, we served some Kopi Luwak, famous due to the journey of the fresh beans through the digestive tract of a civet. It turns out that there are various grades of Kopi Luwak, and since that time I've found a verifiably authentic version, which is rarer because often the growers will mix in other beans. I may try to import that as well, but it's very, very expensive, and I can probably only get 10 kg per year. The taste is really different, much earthier.
 

Larry Williams comments:

My cup runneth over with coffee from these guys, but thanks for the tips. I will begin my journey again for greatest java.

By the way, Overstock.com seems to have the best deals on espresso machine.

T.K Marks writes:

All this talk of coffee has gotten me nostalgic for one of my life's more squandered opportunities.

There was this little coffee spot on the Upper West Side, just a stone's throw from Lincoln Center, called Cafe Mozart. I used to spend much time there.

I would get a pot of coffee. Once even this thick Turkish stuff that perhaps made one look of Left Bank sensibilities, but tasted like tar. Would while away the hours there with reading, backgammon, or chess. It was a peaceful place.

So one night I'm sitting alone at my table reading when walks in and approaches, a woman.

A woman with a very fetching smile.

Bob?…she asked hesitatingly, as one would when meeting a blind date.

I stood up politely, smiled at her for a few seconds, and, No, was all I said.

Till this day I regret not lying through my teeth.

Had nothing to lose.

Jeff Watson writes:

 Many of my friends are coffee experts but I am sadly lacking in that department. One thing I do know is how to make is one of the better pots of coffee on the planet. The following recipe will even make even the most mediocre coffee taste good, and good coffee taste……delicious.

1. Wash an egg then break it into the bottom of an old fashioned metal campfire coffee pot, beating the egg slightly, leaving egg, shells and all in bottom of the pot..

2. Add a cup of very cold water to the pot, covering the egg and then add a pinch of salt.

3. Pour in a whole cup of course ground coffee to the water and egg mixture, and stir it up.

4. Pour enough boiling water over the coffee, egg, mixture to almost fill the pot up, and stir until mixed.

5. Cover the pot and plug the spout with a dish towel.

6. Put the coffee pot over a fire, heat it up to a gentle boil, back off, then let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

7.
Take the pot off of the fire, let the coffee settle for a couple of minutes then add a cup of very cold water to precipitate the coffee grounds/egg mixture. Let the coffee settle for another minute, then serve.

My grandfather was taught to make coffee this way from some real cowboys when he went to the Arizona Territory for a trip sometime before 1910. He taught me how to make coffee when I was around 7 or 8, and put me in charge of the coffee every time there was a family picnic or outing. The secret to wonderful coffee is the egg, the pinch of salt, and good water. Coffee prepared in this manner evokes many good memories, and the good smell alone will attract any friends or neighbors in the near vicinity. Once in a great while, I will make this coffee on the stove and it's almost as good as on a campfire.

I have often wondered what a Kona coffee would taste like if prepared in this manner.

J.T Holley writes:

 I'm not a professional roaster or barista, but the keys that I learned in the 8-9 years that I mentored to roast, grind, and brew coffee are the following:

1) The time between roast and grind needs to be minimal (oils of the roast and storage important)

2) Method of brewing important to your individual tastes (percolate, press, or electric drip)

3) Water is 99% of a cup of coffee! Good tasting waters need to be used and free of chlorines, flourides, and impurities

4) Filtration choice and cleanliness of the brewer of choice imperative for consistent cups of good flavor

5) Once pot is brewed then stirring the pot and stirring the cup is important regardless of cream and sugar for consistency of coffee.

That's the basics!

All good shops should know this regardless if its a private house, private shop, franchise or friend.

Kim Zussman queries: 

How can coffee gourmets taste fluoride but not civet excrement?

Jim Sogi writes:

Chris's special Java java was distinctive and earthy. A treat especially in the palatial surroundings.

The key to brewing good coffee from whatever origin, is:

1. Be sure the parchment is sun dried, not machine dried. It has a much mellower smooth flavor.

2. Roast your own coffee. My favorite roast is 462 degrees, 11 minutes give or take based on humidity and ambient. Roast until the oil just starts to show, but is not oily. The oily roast is more for show. Roast only what you can use in 3 days.

3. Grind your own fresh roast. This is the most important of all. Don't try to freeze coffee beans.

When brewing in filter, only pour a little, not boiling, water through at a time.

Oh yes, Kona Coffee is without doubt the best in the world.
 

Oct

19

 Let's not forget the existence of many other distinct possibilities when dealing with microcap, possibly shell stock issues; the two currently being discussed here– simply 'going to zero'' vs. 'shooting up to $100/share'– are not, by any means, the only two possibilities, and in my experience traipsing about the world of Bulletin Board, Pink Sheet and letter/Restricted stock trading, I'd actually deem those the least likely outcomes. Adding to those:

Possibility #3: "The Yawn of Death". Company trades sideways for years - literally years - within a one or two cent range from the current price. (#3A: This, but periodically mgmt issues a few million/hundred million shares, expanding the float and ensuring little or no movement in the price other than possibly slipping agonizingly down towards 'bid wanted'.)

Possibility #4: "The Roach Motel". Company rises from, say, 4 cent per share present price to trading @ 10, even 15 cents per share (or drops to, say, 2 cents per share) - then volume drops to nothing and the bid/offered spread explodes; in former scenario, to 3 bid/20 offered or in latter 1 bid/5 offered, with only a scant bit trading daily.

Possibility #5: "The Long Goodbye". Company rises to, say, 15 cents per share (or $4 per share, for that matter), is suddenly and unexpectedly halted by a regulatory body, and either (#5A) never reopens for trading, leaving you with your sole 'return' reading regulatory proceedings concerning your dead money, or (#5B) reopens to trade 0.0001 bid, offered at 0.0003 for years.

Possibility #6: "The Shapeshifter". Company, with nary a hint of warning, issues a Press Release one day saying it is changing its business from stem cell research to researching and eventually opening the world's first chain of cold-fusion powered laundromats.

The world of corporate finance fairly bristles with avenues and options for locating and funding good ideas and talented entrepreneurs. Scant few - none, that I can recall - have ever come through the drillbit equity markets.

Jeff Watson writes:

Speaking of penny stocks…..are there any good studies out there comparing the vig in penny stocks vs regular exchange listed and NASDAQ stocks? Although beyond the scope of my limited intelligence, I would suspect the vig in penny stocks to be the highest of them all, as high or higher than a game of keno.

Kim Zussman adds:

It is hard enough to find something to buy which will one day go up. But after you buy at 0.05, what will you do when:

1. It doubles? (On the way to 10X or 0?)

2. Stays at 0.04-0.06 for 5 years– giving you plenty of time to get discouraged and sell– only you check back at year 7 and it is now trading over $1?3. You have enough guts to hold until 10X, and realizing this was a miracle, sell. Only to find it was the next MSFT

All hugely successful long-term investments will, along the way, ask what you are made of. For most of us this information is carefully concealed and thus the path is non-navigable.
 

Vince Fulco comments:

Moreover I would argue the energy required to follow the situation will exhaust the h-ll out of you and absorb the precious time you can use to find vastly more profitable situations. In the mid-2000s, way past the Net burst, a colleague who should know better bot converts and common in a new age company (prefer not to mention the industry to protect the innocent), participating with a top tier Greenwich HF in financing rounds. For the HF, the position was de minimis but whose participation was a great selling point to other investors. The technology underlying the company was patented but time was wasting on it and it faced much bigger competitors. It took only a few days of fact checking and looking through the SEC filings by me to realize something wasn't right. While the company surrounded itself with all the buzzwords of the day and had a great marketing effort, its cash burn was always way too high relative to its size and it was obvious existing shareholders would be diluted ad nauseum if the company were ever to gather sufficient resources to really grow. Deals booked were always tiny relative to the market potential and industry installed base. Bottom line: the red flags were all over the place but you had to be willing to listen and not drink the kool-aid. The majority of penny stocks are simply fool's gold surrounded by a sub-culture whose sole purpose is to tout by any means necessary. Suffice it to say, my Pal is still nursing this POS (piece of %^&*) as we call it in the industry. 

George Parkanyi writes:

Back in 1980-82 I was a stockbroker. One of the guys in the office, Paul C, connected with some guys out in Vancouver who were promoting/pumping a junior coal company. Paul had his clients buying the stock, and some of the guys in the office, including myself bought a little as well. I had about 5 or 6 people in it– some friends and relatives, and for a few weeks it rose nicely and I averaged up the positions.From what I heard of Paul's end of the conversations, you could tell these Vancouver guys had a certain amount of money they were using to work the stock, and the rise was carefully choreographed with orders placed just so and press release this and press release that timed just so. I wasn't paying a lot of attention, but Paul was constantly on the line with the promoters and with his clients. At some point, I forget the reason, my mother wanted to sell her position, so thinking nothing of it, I sold her out at the market at a good profit somewhere in the $5 or $6 range. Not 30 seconds later, some guy is on the phone chewing out Paul about "market orders coming in from his office". Paul looked really uncomfortable and came over to talk to me about it. I remember saying to him, "Are you *^&%$# serious? My mother's rinky-dink order is "messing up their market"? I'm outta here, and you should be too." So as quickly as I could call everyone in the stock, I blew out all the positions– at the market. Within days the whole thing collapsed. I personally got out already on the way down, only because I had to get all my clients out first. Paul and his clients never got out. I can still picture him sitting leaning back in his chair, staring out the window with that blown-up look, absentmindedly swinging his telephone around in circles beside his chair. He took it like a man though, and never held any of it against me.

As a general rule, unless you REALLY know something, never get into these things on the buy side. You need to assume that they are all pump-and-dump operations, no matter what the story. In fact, I remember doing a study at the time and concluded that a great strategy would be take a pool of money and short every Vancouver stock that popped its head over $5. When these things go, they collapse like a house of cards. Sure, a couple would have burned you, but if you did them all you would have made a killing.

Oct

14

 With HFT machines pushing the pico second barrier and text reading pattern recognition engines parsing every press release and newswire, it takes a gaggle (like the imagery) of State Treasurers, with a pre-announced press conference, to freak out finance co. investors, at least in the CDS space but maybe coming to a stock near you. Meanwhile the talk of mortgage pushbacks and growing lawsuits has saturated the blogosphere. Will always be fascinated by what is or is not baked into valuations and the timing of concerns surfacing.

Oct

11

 Every weekend I read through some classic papers from another era. With inflation expectations percolating, this weekend's reading were the many papers which pondered the failure of stocks to perform according to common sense during the inflation of the last secular cycle. (One suspects that the bear market of 2000- ? will give rise to a crop of similar articles that will provide amusement comparable to reading a Sears Roebuck catalog from the 1930s ….)

The Alpine Knock-About Fedora Hat for $0.69 and the silk ladies Clever Collar for $.29 reminds one of: R. Geske & R. Roll (J. Finance, March 1983) "The Fiscal and Monetary Linkager between Stock Returns and Inflation"

Abstract:

Contrary to economic theory and common sense, stock returns are negatively related to both expected and unexpected inflation. We argue that this puzzling empirical phenomenon does not indicate causality. Instead, stock returns are negatively related to contemporaneous changes in expected inflation because they signal a chain of events which results in a higher rate of monetary expansion. Exogenous shocks in real output, signaled by the stock market, induce changes in tax revenue, in the deficit, in Treasury borrowing and in Federal Reserve "monetization" of the increased debt. Rational bond and stock market investors realize this will happen. They adjust prices (and interest rates) accordingly and without delay.

Although expected inflation seems to have a negative effect on subsequent stock returns, this could be an empirical illusion, since a spurious causality is induced by a combination of (a) reversed adaptive inflation expectations model and (b) a reversed money growth/stock returns model. If the real interest rate is not a constant, using nominal interest proxies for expected inflation is dangerous, since small changes in real rates can cause large and opposite percentage changes in stock prices.

Finally, one notes that the real interest rate is currently -0.81% for cash, and 1.40% for the ten-year. Both are at 2-sigma lows. Where can they go but up? And is this bullish or bearish for stocks and bonds? Hmmm.

Vince Fulco writes: 

One notes the newspaper boy hat has been creeping into Minneapolis clothing trends for the last 6 months. Some guys even wearing them in the height of summer. I guess what comes next is "a chicken in every pot" meme…

Kim Zussman writes:

Checked this using BLS monthly CPI data and SP500 returns. Here is regression of stock returns vs contemporaneous CPI change:

Regression Analysis: mo ret versus chg cpi

The regression equation is mo ret = 0.00935 - 0.00906 chg cpi

Predictor Coef SE Coef T P
Constant 0.009345 0.002033 4.60 0.000
chg cpi -0.009058 0.004278 -2.12 0.035

S = 0.0419261 R-Sq = 0.6% R-Sq(adj) = 0.5%

As they say, the correlation is significant and negative (though RSQ is small and thus CPI explains little of monthly stock return).

Checked also whether this month's change in CPI predicts next month in stocks (with the usual answer, no):

Regression Analysis: M ret versus M-1 cpi chg

The regression equation is M ret = 0.00811 - 0.00503 M-1 cpi chg

Predictor Coef SE Coef T P
Constant 0.008108 0.002040 3.97 0.000
M-1 cpi chg -0.005026 0.004291 -1.17 0.242

S = 0.0420445 R-Sq = 0.2% R-Sq(adj) = 0.1%

To see how this has evolved over time, checked correlation between chg cpi and SP500 ret for non-overlapping 60-month periods:

Year corr 60 avg cpi
2010 0.12 0.18
2005 -0.17 0.22
2000 -0.04 0.20
1995 -0.25 0.24
1990 -0.15 0.33
1985 -0.22 0.44
1980 -0.12 0.71
1975 -0.32 0.55
1970 -0.18 0.35
1965 -0.07 0.10
1960 0.25 0.17
1955 0.02 0.17

As shown on the attached graph of data above, most of the negative correlation between cpi and stocks occurred in the good old days of high-cpi (70's-80's), when certain parties where whipping inflation now.

What will they whip next?

Oct

5

 Certain (unmentionable) positions in my portfolio are starting to act like a runaway freight train. It therefore seems an opportune moment to consult my copy of The Worst Case Scenario for the correct methodology for "how to jump off a runaway train." (One notes the instructions do not mention the purchase of puts and put spreads.)

1. Move to the end of the last car.
2. If you have time, wait for the train to slow as it rounds a bend in the tracks.
3. Stuff blankets, clothing or seat cusions underneath your clothes.
4. Pick your landing spot before you jump. Avoid trees, bushes and of course rocks.
5. Get as low to the floor as possible, bending the knees, so you can leap away from the train.
6. Jump perpendicular, leaping as far away as you can.
7. Cover and protect your head with your hands and arms, and roll like a log when you land. Don't try to land on your feet, or you'll likely break your ankles and legs. Do NOT roll head over heels.

Vince Fulco jokes:

Come on Rocky. The ice floating in the punch bowl has just settled after getting a "perceived" refill which may, just may, overflow the bowl. This is when the Bernanke dance party really starts to pick up with the fast music. Earning ZIRP and saving is for the wallflowers. 

Scott Brooks comments:  

Rocky's mention of some stocks acting like a runaway train makes me think that it's time to review my very simple fool proof methodology for stock investing.

Take two pieces of paper, one green one red.

On the green sheet, put all stocks that are going to go up. On the red list put all the stocks that are going to go down.

Then, go long all the stocks on the green list, and short all the stocks on the red list.

Sell any green list stocks once they go on the red list and cover your red list shorts once any stock goes onto the green list.

Repeat this process early and often.

Enjoy your profits!

John Lamberg writes:

And I thought the secret to the stock market was to buy low and sell high. Similarly, in the casino the secret is to bet big when you are going to win. Unfortunately, I seem to buy high and sell low, and every time I bet big it seems the dealer gets blackjack, although occasionally I get blackjack too, but being a fool I take even money when that happens. 

Oct

4

What is the use of this statement which shows up in every fed speech:

"As always, the views I express are my own and do not represent those of the FOMC or the Federal Reserve System."

Especially when delivered by the most senior people in the org. Is it a

1) legal requirement

2) a 'wink, wink, nod, nod' or a

3) explicit back door out should policy not create its intended reaction in capital markets? it would be a wonderful thing if specs were given a few 'mulligans' every month…

Oct

4

It would be interesting to know which broker and clearing house accepted an order to sell 75,000 emini sp in apparently some sort of staged (GMTFO) market order that lead to the 5/6 event. 10% slippage I guess was acceptable, and had it been in just one stock no one would have noticed, but to move a whole market is different. The order only represented 3% of the daily volume. I wonder had it been placed closer to the more liquid open would it have had the same affect. Or did someone come back from lunch, see the market down 1% or so on a $10b fund, and have a change or heart. I don't think the HFT boys made on this, many smaller players margined out at the lows, brokers made their commission, customer filled his order, but hard to find much of a conspiracy other than a sloppy trade and a sloppy execution.

Vince Fulco writes:

The official line was it was a staged order supposed to make prints along with ~9% of the volume. Either we have extremely sophisticated HFT sniffers in our midst in ES or someone has a fat mouth. Once WR's actions were known, it was just a matter of other parties getting ahead thereby turning it into a 1987 portfolio insurance like scenario, the lower it goes the faster WR needed to sell. 

Sep

27

 Wondering if the more politically savvy specs could venture some opinions as to the relative flood of departures in the last few months and timing? I've read all sorts of reasons from the left/right and in between varying suggesting the pragmatic to the audacious. Normally I don't pay too much attention but given pols enhanced effects on the markets these days…as Buffalo Springfield sang, "…there's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear…"

I have my own thoughts on this but they border on the less probable and would only exacerbate the tensions in the country.

Rocky Humbert writes:

This doesn't address Vince's question, but one of the more obscure points of the conflict of interest laws waives capital gains taxes on required divestitures for individuals who accept government positions. This provision incentivized certain people (particularly in the Clinton and GW Bush administrations) to leave the private sector and sell large blocks of appreciated stock tax free. The tax savings in some cases were worth millions of dollars. If the capital gains tax rate goes up in January, it would be sensible to expect more people with this tax situation to join the administration and address the noted lack of industry executives.

Scott Brooks comments:

I was unaware of this. Thanks for sharing, Rocky.

But I gotta think that unless you're really really rich, this tax savings will not be as much as the lifetime of earnings one will receive from having held a high level position in the government.

On the other hand, there is that whole analogy of rats and a sinking ship. Of course, if the ship was really sinking, I never understood where the rats were going to go as there isn't a $25,000/speech speaking tour available to members of the non-political rodent community.

On the other hand, I think a lot of these political rodents realize that after after 8 years of pushing towards "statism lite" and nearly 2 years of a full on push towards "statism", they see water level rising below decks coupled with a huge lack of support for their policies on deck, that has metastasized into near outright rebellion……well, with all this going on they are scrambling for the life rafts as fast as they can.

Gary Rogan writes:

Summers is leaving in time for the election because he is very unpopular with the base and while he can still count on a couple of years of consulting engagements, and because of the failure of the stimulus. Romer, the architect of the stimulus and the effect it was supposed to have on unemployment , left to keep whatever little is left her credibility, to be the one to actually take the blame for the failure of the stimulus, and to make room for Goolsbee in time for the election because he is supposed to be much better at explaining away any problems. Orszag lost the debate on the deficit, he argued for taking some steps to bring it down.

Sep

17

The average correlation between SPY and its main sector etf's (xle, xlf, xlk, xlp, xly, xli, xlb, xlv) has been very high recently. I wanted to see how volatility tracks with correlation (correlations go to 1 in a panic). I regressed the 60-day volatility of SPY on the average 60-day correlation between SPY and the sector etf's from Sep 2005.

sectorCor = .77 + .04*spyStd
spyStd t-stat 19

Then I updated the regression for 2010 and found
sectorCor = .78 + .10*spyStd
spyStd t-stat 38

Any thoughts on the rising correlations or the relationship to volatility levels?

Vince Fulco comments:

Ex. the most recent vol decline, which we'll see how long it lasts, it is my contention that as spreads have come down, for quite some time, the Street have been manufacturers of vol & opacity in new fangled products and facilitators of fake 'information' for its own sake. What kind of system allows for the trading of 300MM shares of C with a penny spread and the rebate boys still go home big winners? Leveraged and branded ETFs provide more vig for dealers to trade within and sucks in the naive who can't or won't trade the futs space and don't understand the derivatives underlying the products. As we've seen time and again, liquidity which everyone seems to expect and demand esp. when it disappears, would seem to be the defining issue as increasing correlations demolish old theories of portfolio creation. Lack of diversity would seem to badly endanger the system as it does in nature. Perhaps I will be wrong if the tail sellers in this phase overwhelm the vol creators…Or maybe both sides win with enough switches. 

George Zachar agrees:

I agree with what you said about how lack of diversity would seem to badly endanger the system as it does in nature. The investing monoculture gives the illusion of stability and reason, while in fact offering a brittle alogical ecosystem.Street research now is heavily biased toward encouraging carry whoring, which is of course vol selling. 

Gary Rogan comments:

This is also an indication that those who attempt to trade on the fundamentals have exited the building. It's not clear exactly why, but my guess is it's a combination of the lack of trust in any published accounting data related to the out-in-the-open distortions in the financials' balance sheets, the uncertainty about the future and what the fundamentals imply about the future, and the self-reinforcing relative rise in the volumes due to algorithmic trading. When the robots trade based on the algorithms that evolved in the presence of fundamental investors after they are no longer there, sooner or later the results will resemble what would happen to the surface of the earth if gravity were to suddenly disappear. 

Rocky Humbert writes:

Gary: I would be interested in your basis for making this case. One could argue that it was in the late 1990's when those who invest on fundamentals were forced to leave the building. Unlike Elvis, we've now re-entered.

Intel at 11x earnings (now) makes more sense than at 70x earnings. (then). Pfizer at 10x earnings (now) makes more sense than at 55x earning (then). Coke at 14x (now) versus 50x (then) … Internet stocks etc etc …

Gary Rogan responds: 

Rocky, first of all we are talking about slightly different time frames. Certainly the late '90s were a unique period when even the most stubborn fundamentalists had their believes tested I'm talking more of what transpire say between 2003 and 2007, after the "buy on the dips" fully died down and before the full force of the credit crunch was appreciated vs. today. While I don't have a scientific basis for this, what I wrote was based on reading literally hundreds if not thousands of comments on financial blogs, some serious, where the writers expressed disgust at the market reaction to (a) some piece of negative macro news (b) another "stress test" (c) another major bank's quarterly release claiming a great rise in profits immediately deconstructed on that same blog to be (supposedly) completely fake. So many claimed to have given up looking at the fundamentals and expressed so much suspicion, I thought that perhaps there IS something to what they are writing and it's not all a conspiracy to confuse someone. I have also read several articles about the relative rise of machine-generated volume vs. retail investors, as well as the reasons for the market rise in the presence of mutual fund outflows.

I'm not sure that P/E compression by itself signifies trading on the fundamentals. Certainly SOMEBODY does when that happens, like our good friend the sage in the early/mid '70s doing his "oversexed guy in a harem" impersonation. But overall I think it's more indicative of the lack of confidence. I guess what I was referring to is some "typical" market where momentum traders are driving various stock and sectors in all kinds of directions (but not as far as the in the '90s) and some Gabelli-like or Lynch-like character gleefully commenting on the kind of opportunities those idiots gave them in the value space. I'm not sure some space cowboys riding C and BAC like wild mustangs on unbelievable volumes quite gets you there.

Here is more on asset correlations and intraday patterns:

By now, after Zero Hedge has been demonstrating for about a year, even the kitchen sink is aware that cross-asset correlations between stocks, bonds, FX, and commodities is at or near all time highs, which in itself is a very deplorable situation simply because it eliminates virtually all long/short hedging opportunities, courtesy of the Synthetic CDO redux boom whereby most of the trading in stock is conducted via ETFs, as both high beta and low beta, or quality and crap assets all trade as one. But few if anyone was aware of peculiar intraday correlation patterns which may be an eye opener to some readers who believe that stocks are uniformly broken during the day. That is not true: in fact, stocks are only untradeable for the rational investor during the times when the market is most active, around open and close. In fact, in a paper by Michael Bommarito II, "Intraday Correlation Patterns Between the S&P 500 and Sector Indices", we discover that average return correlations have a very distinct U-shape, whereby correlations are near their highs (0.75) just after the open, and before close, while dropping to a statistically significant 0.6 at 1 pm, when volume is the lowest. This merely confirms that increasingly more market participants, read - electronic traders and algos, trade exactly the same strategies at the time when volume is at its peak, indicating that most strategies have nothing to do with actual fundamental investing and all to do with gaming market structure, and hoping to capture some idiot who thinks they can beat the machine. And as we demonstrated recently, many traders no longer trade during the hours between 10am and 3pm. Which means that this is actually a very interesting arb opportunity, for those who wish to take advantage of the machines' downtime, but shorting correlation at open and close, and bidding it up during the day. In fact the trade can be structured as a pair trade with almost no capital downside opportunity.

 

Sep

15

random warThe seemingly chaotic action around markets the last few months has had me dwelling on institutions' attempts to break up order flow into patternless activity. To some degree, often hard to know if the HFT guys are probing with random behavior as we've seen from Nanex blog posts or the real money boys are trying to execute while covering their tracks. This comment popped up in a new interview with one of GS's senior elec. trading guys (I added asterisks):

Tusar: It's about the routing strategy, and the order placement strategy. The best techniques and the best mitigants to prevent what you just described from happening are pretty simple blocking and tackling kinds of things. In other words, ***randomize your order size and ***placement of orders, using 'Minimum Execution Quantity,' because I don't want people pinging me for odd lots and then finding out I'm there and stepping in front of my order, etc.

If a concerted ongoing attempt is being made to randomize order size, price & time, making activity less bursty (for lack of a better word), what big stat theories need to be applied besides our existing individual bag of tricks?

Sep

9

 The remote sensing of gunshot noise in high crime areas becoming more widespread. Here is an article about it.

Vince Fulco writes:

I happened to see similar technology in use in Iraq/Afghanistan about a year ago which pinpoints sniper shots in less than a second. Each Humvee is equipped with a pod bristling with omni-directional microphones. Upon registering a shot, it instantly calculates direction and distance often not allowing a second one to be delivered before a counter response. As I recall it was an offshoot of MIT research. 

Jeff Watson adds:

Nassau County uses "Shot Spotter," which is the same technology. Yesterday, the police used that technology to determine where a bunch of shots were fired. Unfortunately, the person who fired the shots defending his family and property went to jail for excessive force or something like that. I'll save the editorial for later.

Sep

4

Verona and Stan DruckenmillerHere is an article about the lessons from Stan Druckenmiller's career. The author identifies four lessons: "Size matters," "Outperformance is possible," "Excellence takes hard work," "The money doesn't matter."

I note that these platitudes are not unique to money management– and could be straight out of a Tom Peter's Motivational Speech. The sad truth is that no matter how much I love, study and practice basketball and purchase AirJordan shoes, I still won't play like Michael Jordan. But it's a nice dream to think otherwise.

Pitt T. Maner III writes:

With practice there are many (even Rocky) who could give MJ a challenge at the free throw line or from the 3-pt line or playing "HORSE". Specialists in narrow aspects of the game. Trick shot artists. The niche players. So by practicing the unpracticed skills one might eke out a small advantage against the pros in the arcane areas where there is not actual physical contact.

It seems though there is a certain lack of diversity these days in basketball compared to era of Earl the Pearl, "Lucas layups", Pete Maravich, underhand freethrows by Rick Barry, Dr. J, Bird, Magic, et al.—more athleticism and muscle now (aka Shaq-types) with more plain vanilla in most cases and less skill/finesse. More of a business and more money on the line and more risk adverse to unusual styles. Defense and team play emphasized where every knows his "role". Even Lebron will have to adjust to team play at Miami and pass more and do other things.

On another note, interesting also that Mr. G is rolling out new mutual funds and a sequel to his "magic formula" book that apparently has many followers and "still beats the market" for now.

Victor Niederhoffer adds:

Knowing of the humility and inabilities of some of the people mentioned here, including myself, and there is certainly no absence of down years and sub par performance in the ones that I know about very well, including the 50% down year, in the year before I met him of one of them, and 7 years of 0 performance after that, I am still amazed that the records can be so good. I attribute most of it to the remaining winner of the coin toss problem. But something else is going on. The one thing that seemed right in the four lessons. They all go to the same schools. They lived next door to each other in the summer and often had dinners together or talked to each other every day. They all were agrarian reformers. And they all hated free markets. Thus with the idea that had the world in its grips. But mainly, they were always on same page with their positions, especially until the end of the year. Not an artifice I believe.
 

Vince Fulco adds: 

And I think it was mentioned (maybe here, too much reading material this week) that Biggs is his father-in-law? Guessing the Pequot-MS cabal loomed large in the mix.

Russ Sears writes:

After 08-09 it should be clear that much of the MBS and other structured securities markets were a Lemon Market. With the manufactures putting all the faulty parts into the same car, One side knew exactly which cars were clunkers.

Further, while perhaps they were totally naive to get so close to the edge, once near, there was plenty of muscle willing to give company after company the final shove over the edge by marked to market in a lemon market. So much so that even those securities with seasoned cash flows and stockpiled protective subordinates tranches became suspect.

Of course if size is a disadvantage and does not matter, why would you buy so much insurance on these securities that you knew the counterparty would never have enough collateral to pay you. Unless of course that was the whole idea.
 

Sep

3

 Just scanning the headlines on any given day it is easy to see the biases built and if you had to put the pundits in one camp or the other with regard to view on the stock market, the academics are universally bearish, business CEOs bullish, government officials try to appear bullish but in their actions are bearish, financial journalist are bearish, mutual fund managers are bullish, hedgefund managers bearish, bond fund managers bearish on everything and real estate developers are always bullish down their last penny. So in reading them maybe those times when they go against their natural biases is when to really pay attention.

Vince Fulco adds:

To support what you say, the latest results of CFO mag/Duke survey (July/August) of 1,102 CFOs indicates the top three concerns about macro are 1) consumer demand, 2) fed govt policies, 3) price pressures.

Within their own co's: 1) ability to maintain margins, 2) ability to forecast results, 3) maintaining morale. Geographic breakdown was 535-US, 139-EU, 219-Asia ex. China, 209-China.

When asked how one would characterize company's market position, 47% said cautiously pursuing growth and 26% aggressively.

Rocky Humbert comments:

Mr. Coker makes an excellent observation. Trying to refine this a bit more, I note that the "pundits" seem to be represented by a recurring small group of quotees.

Academics: I've previously demonstrated a reverse correlation between stock prices and google hits on "Nouriel Roubini." Should Wharton's Siegel ever turn bearish, it will be an all-in buy signal for stocks, and the day when Roubini turns bullish, the opposite will be true.

CEO's: There's a corpus of studies which show that one can be well-served by watching insider buying. "Watch what they do, not what they say."

Financial Journalists: "Man bites dog" sells newspapers and "The consensus is always wrong," sells newspapers. The latter ignores the fact that "the sun will rise tomorrow" is a consensus opinion that has been (so far) correct, and no one should pay much heed to a guy who bites his cocker spaniel anyway. Notably, long-term bear and high-IQ Jim Grant turned publically bullish on US stocks and bearish on US bonds in March, 2010 and has been bullish on Japanese stocks for the last decade. In fairness, he's been bullish on gold since 1981.

Mutual Fund Managers: They are always bullish. But it's not a good idea to ask one's barber if one needs a haircut. Most importantly, there are NO mutual fund managers who have outperformed their benchmark over an entire career. Two came close, but Peter Lynch retired too early, and Bill Miller retired too late.

Hedge Fund Managers: Byron Biggs (who is Druckenmiller's Father-in-law) has been consistently bullish for the past three years, except for an afternoon on June 30th (which was an excellent buy signal.) The consistently profitable hedge fund managers rarely talk to the press (on the record) for obvious reasons.

Bond Fund Managers: One wonders how Bill Gross can spend so much time in front of the camera and still run his portfolio. Yet he uttered seriously bearish bond comments in March 2010, and the rally which followed was breathtaking. This is an brilliant example of Duncan's point.

Real Estate Developers: Donald Trump's casino properties have filed for bankruptcy three times. A hat-trick of this magnitude rivals Wayne Gretzky. If one includes mutual fund investors, Trump may have lost money for more investors than any other real estate promoter. Truly the "great one."

Government Officials: I question whether anyone listens to them at all.

Here are three more observations:
1) University Endowment managers believe that they are all above average investors, and "you can be too."
2) "Value investors" believe that anytime a price moves up a lot, it's a bubble.
3) At any cocktail party, there is always one guy who owned a stock that rose 1000% during the previous month.
4) Baby boomers who rode the Nasdaq/S&P bubble in the late 1990's are almost always bearish about the economic prospects for the USA.

Sep

1

Zeus and his scaleThe market is infinitely fascinating and various. Except for my leaves of absence I have traded every day for 32 years about 8000 days in a row straight. But I can't imagine what happened at 3:59pm EST when the market went up 1/2% in a second to NYSE close. The close the last day of the month is always a heroic one. Apparently all the pessimists, usually the useful idiot who thinks that because the politician in charge isn't doing things their way, the market will go down. So they sell and sell and sell and market their positions up. But today it was counterbalanced by the behavioral finance biases with the terrible close of August 30 staring in the face. Zeus took time off from romance to weight the two forces on his balance scale before making his terrible decision as to Hector or Achillles bull or bear but how?

Rocky Humbert writes:

I recall a similarly bizarre closing spike on the day of the exact March 2009 low. The memory is ingrained because I left some MOC buy orders in the stock market (as I was en route to meet The Chair for dinner,) and my mild irritation by those "bad fills" is, in hindsight, laughable.

The primary similarities between then and now is the sub-20% AAII bullish sentiment reading, and the widespread acceptance that the USA is in a state of permanent non-prosperity. The primary difference between then and now is that corporate bond yields are several hundred basis points lower, and the President's approval rating is rock-bottom– with mid-term elections just around the corner. 

Kim Zussman writes:

Quote: The primary difference between then and now is that corporate bond yields are several hundred basis points lower, and the President's approval rating is rock-bottom — with mid-term elections just around the corner. EndQuote

Another possible difference is SPX 1-year change:

3/08-3/09 -33%
9/09-9/10 +8%

Rocky Humbert replies:

Kim's entirely correct comment may be an illustration of the cognitive bias known as "Investment Anchoring." See entry on behavioral finance.

Is there any reason to argue that stocks are a better investment only because they've declined 33% over a ONE-year period — versus arguing that they're a better investment because they've decline 31% over a THREE-year period (which they have)?

It's this sort of price anchoring that got people bullish on Intel at 40 (down from 70) in 2000, but bearish on Intel at 18 (up from 12) in 2010. Both statements ignore the intrinsic value of the business — of which a share represents, and eventually reflects.

Ralph Vince comments:

C'mon Rocky!

You know all-too-well it (equities) reflects a big bag of smoke! Just like Real Estate in a Post-Kelo America, there IS no intrinsic value to what pirates control.(Har har har!)

It's the big bags of smoke…..but there are a very small and finite bags of different colored smoke we can put our monopoly play money on (real estate, stocks, fixed income, etc), and that means that most of the bags will always have some of this ocean of monopoly money on them.

Rocky Humbert retorts:

I believe you just gave a working definition of speculation. Which is a distinctly different activity from investment. Both activities provide opportunities for profit (and loss).

If you are (un)willing to sell me the perpetual royalty stream from your books at either 2x or 25x last years' cash flow, I believe that I will have proven my point.

Kim Zussman writes:

This is the technical vs fundamental analysis debate: Are future returns predicted (better or at all) by past price movements, or metrics of the business and economy?

Ex post they are often predictive, but it is hard to show which is worse, ex ante.

Can it be shown that fundamentals best predict a company's earnings stream into perpetuity, and that this prediction is also accurate in long-term stock price forecasting?

Ken Drees writes:

Years ago in econ freshman college my professor used too talk about hot dogs and hot dog buns as complimentary goods. He also noted that hot dogs came in packs of ten and that the smart bun people bagged buns in packs of 8 so you would need two packs of buns–and that the other unused buns would eventually go stale and be tossed, beefing up overall bun sales. If we now have 7 pack hotdogs HN brand (I did notice this recently, due to a common food tactic of smaller quantity at same price (tuna 5oz instead of 6oz) and 99 cent chip bags containing only 2 ounces of chips–years ago a 99cent bag could be shared)–could bun people be far behind with a 6 count bun bag? 

Vince Fulco writes:

In many ways, the public investor class has been marginalized. Their companies are:

1) run by a professional mgmt team which often has little incentive structure to pursue known shareholder friendly strategies. Enhancements to pay packages for the C-suite and employees, in the form of options or restricted stock awards, can just be reset in times of company, industry or economic troubles lowering the bar until it can be stepped over. When managers fail, they still walk away with compensation that would make a pro baseball player blush.

2) Represented by a board of directors who are protected mightily by directors and officers insurance, beholden to the mgmt team through cross-board relationships and whose compensation has no bearing on their duties or outcomes.

3) manipulated by savvy specs who can construct structured products to destabilize the nature of the more senior securities in the capitalization structure. Unimpeded by common sense regulations, the (previous) ability to buy many times more CDS than a company had debt outstanding and then attempt to wreck it for the sake of an improved position in bankruptcy court is reprehensible.

Where are the owners' yachts?

Aug

30

fox at the henhouse
The upside down manager getting a high brow beat down…:

Earth to Bill Gross: We Chickens Know You Are The Fox Minding the Hen house

via naked capitalism by Yves Smith on 8/25/10

Boy, when you think you've seen the worst in utterly shameless, self serving tripe, someone manages to outdo it. Admittedly, it's awfully hard to beat Steve Schwarzmann's recent one-two punch of utter canard wrapped in tasteless hyperbole, that of Obama proposals that private equity kingpins pay taxes on what is really the fruits of their labor like other working stiffs was a " a "war… like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939."

But no, Pimco's Bill Gross bests Schwarzmann in making it clear to the great unwashed his unabashed belief that what is good for him is good, period. Schwarzmann is a tad less horrid by at least limiting his grandiose claims to his own industry. Gross is marginally less offensive to good taste (although a discussion of his body odor in an investment piece is certainly a novel wrinkle), but makes it up by insulting his audience's intelligence, namely, by presenting himself as a staunch ally of the little guy.

In case any of missed it, one of the major screwups of the crisis just past was the failure to make shareholders and bondholders of dud financial firms (or ought to be dud, the power that be have gone to great lengths to present the fiction that many insolvent players were merely having a wee liquidity crisis) take losses. These investors signed up to be risk capital, and even if bailouts might have been inevitable, they would have been much smaller and more palatable if the people who had failed to do their job in monitoring their holdings suffered too. And who was the chief lobbyist for the "you better not make bondholders take any pain" camp? None other than Bill Gross.

Here is the rest of the excellent post.

Aug

21

Chalmers JohnsonI was speaking a few months ago with a financial strategist/blogger about the US repeating decline of Roman Empire. Noticed this week UC-Berkeley Professor Chalmers Johnson releasing a new book on the same. His argument is we need to cease military operations, stop being the world's policemen and re-route all efforts to better infrastructure, energy, education, etc. Whether you agree with him or not, he's a great researcher/writer and his work on Japan was the basis for my undergraduate honors thesis. Always something to learn from him.

Stefan Jovanovich opines: 

Vince, I think your characterization of Chalmers Johnson is off base. He is anything but "a great researcher/writer". He does the kind of scholarly study that is best described as "Jane Fonda homework"– a quick visit to the point of controversy, interview the local celebrity dissidents and back on the plane. In the "Sorrows of Empire" he recounts his inspection of Camp Hansen, the Marine base on Okinawa, and concludes by saying that it is "lush". Camp Hansen*&*%*^!!! There is no way to take the words of such a man seriously. Johnson's use the Roman Empire metaphor should be a pure tell. Which decline and military defeat is he talking about? Cannae? Arausio? Carrhae? Teutoburg Forest? Johnson never does specify.

Edward Gibbon thought the Roman Empire declined because our own Gibbons' Christians took over, not because the military collapsed. Even so, "The Fall" took another 1000 years. If money is an appropriate measure, the United States has long since stopped being the world's policeman. In 1968, during our last major police action before the present one, the budget of the Department of Defense budget was 46% of total Federal expenditures. Forty years later it was 21%. During that same period those dread entitlements - Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security - went from 17% to 41%. It is part of Professor Johnson's wilful blindness that he refuses to see how many swords have already been beaten into plowshares. What he should be examining instead is how many of the "investments" (sic) already made in education and infrastructure (aka more school buildings) have produced the same kind of literate but completely unskilled mob of patronage seekers that the author of the Decline and Fall saw as the greatest threat to his own country and its future empire. All the best. Stefan

P.S. Not everyone on the Berkeley campus these days is a faux scholar and historian. The trouble is that for every 10 Chalmers Johnsons, there is only one Andy Stewart.
 

Aug

16

Dracula's castle in TransylvaniaI know we don't trade off feel around here… but this is creepy. if I close the blinds it feels like a dark cold, full moon night with the backdrop of Frankenstein's castle in Transylvania. I'd feel a lot more comfortable giving it the old full swing for fences in stocks here if the freaking bonds were not up more than a full point over open prices.

I see the Dow 30 yields more than 10 year. So I see the DOW techies INTC under 20 and CSCO post earnings lows rally the best, but their cohorts are being dragged along at a pace that feels like a retreat slow and steady vs. a hasty defense.

It feels like Kobar towers in '91 when a 500 pounder went off in my AO and we saw the shock wave, dawned our gas masks, and you could hear a pin drop. Total silence.Yet we all know full well the war will be won, and if bonds drop big we will be trading 1100 before I can say cease fire… but I dunno if this is just the start of the air war and the G day or ground war will be in 6 weeks with a full armored assault that lasts 100 hours bonds at month lows and stocks at highs.

Seemingly the same propaganda on defensive positions in markets– a well dug in enemy, tank traps, rings of fire, the mother of all battles weeks later an an entire army destroyed in 100 hours… "if mountains and oceans can be over come anything built by man can be over come… defensive positions are monuments of the stupidity of mankind" –Patton movie

Vince Fulco comments:

Right on, brother… but what fake action will the bots necessarily create before a meaningful base is found…The subtitle to Blade Runner resonates here, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" 

Aug

5

 I agree with the spirit of what Mr. Vince said about the sponsors. Everything they do, everything they say, is self referential, and designed to talk their book or their current product. The assistant sponsor presided over the almost demise of Harvard endowment with pride and pleasure. And they have been one of the Dow 5000 boys forever as long as they were pushing bonds over stocks since 1990 as they have been.

Vince Fulco adds:

Moreover, I often find the sponsors writeups in the FT too be so rudimentary and common sensical as to be beneath the paper and readership. They could often be written by a 1st year macro-econ student. One wonders why he is accorded such praise and I don't think it is a matter of Einstein's "make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler".

Masses certainly have a love affair…At a cocktail party a few weeks back, two Allianz insurance wholesalers were singing the group's praises and they thought the sponors' insights were worth every bit of his $50MM base salary. The idea of him talking his book and taking the other side of public pronouncements never entered their minds.

Jul

29

 Recently I have posited that the market to an inordinate degree shows the main attributes in its daily moves of the most vivid sports game that has not been used. I would add to this that during each hour the market is likely to move to the rhythms and dynamics of the most likely classical music being played on a classical music station in home town, for example the former WQXR in New York, in full knowledge that these programs are often selected 2 months in advance, and noting that I was a subscriber to same when I was 12 years old.

I am adding to my list of mystical encampments and predictions that the fortunes of Apple and Lady Gaga will follow a similar arc in the future, and as soon as the Lady loses her luster, or a substantial base of her gay support, Apple will be ready to nose dive.

Do you feel that because of these ideas that I should resign my post as chair of Daily Spec which is designed to deflate bally hoo, or is this just a symptom of that predilection that old men such as the sage and the fake doc have to maintain their romantic aura?

Ken Drees writes:

Lebron James' Cavs win over the bulls to end that series correlates to the spy top (04/27/10). That was the zenith of his career in Cleveland. They were then going into Boston on a full tank of expectations. The last game (as a cav) in that series marked a secondary top 08/13/10–then the melodrama begins. His great choice to go to Miami did not mark the low but was the midpoint of the latest rally—he is losing his market moving mojo–his ability to focus the market energy . So now he has lost his core fan support like lady gaga at some point will lose her core fan base. No, I don't think the Chair is that off-kilter.

Popular culture icons somehow bleed into market consciousness.

Vince Fulco writes:

I've long thought that the culture has moved into a greater phase of bally hoo, perhaps a derivative of the Romans' 'Bread & Circuses'. We are now just starting to realize or are being forced to understand that flat incomes, poorly funded retirements and insufficient skills in the aggregate set against historically outsized obligations are a recipe for disaster. Fighting falsehoods would seem to be a necessity of survival and good investing for the long haul. Moreover, one has great opportunities to choose from post deflation.

Jim Lackey shares: 

Actually no. AAPL has talent and is'nt just a fad or a show. Not sayin' that the Lady doesn't have talent, but if and when I see her write and produce tunes for others and sing Jazz, then she will be an AAPL. But no! No I did buy AAPl in 2003 when Mr. Eyerman stood right here on list and said buy it now. Jobs is back, and Itunes is brilliant. It's been a ten bagger since, which is what got me to tell the father in law naaa na na no this Xmas as he was on visit to Music City and toyed with his new Iphone all week. He's a MD and a tech freak and he said, "you know what, I don't need a PC or internet at home anymore with this"

It's not CSCO when it was on the way to a trillion dollar market cap in year 2,000. It's post crash now. Also it's no shorted up fad stock, but yes it's a fashion device an ipod in all 3 colors for different outfits. If I had to guess its a DELL circa late 90's. It never crashed and burned until much later in the tech wreck. It just stopped going up and in these markets AAPL must trade 299.75 but not 300. ha. 

Craig Mee writes:

Just like Seinfeld had the bravery to sell the high and knock back the 10Mil for a tenth season, (one of a tiny minority who do) maybe the gagas and apples should too. To keep up the product development and create new bizarreness no doubt gets harder and harder with everyone hot on your tail. Im sure income changes, say for Seinfeld, from shows to marketing, but he has been smart enough to cut and run, and keep the value. A lesson for us all. 

Marlowe Cassetti writes:

The chair has touched on a point of interest that has bothered me. I don’t know about Lady Gaga, but Apple’s climb towards the top of market valuation appears to be inline with the phenomenon of a bubble. Yes, I understand that we cannot declare a bubble until it bursts, but let’s look at the facts:

There are some 47 stock analysts that cover AAPL, all but two have either a buy or a strong buy recommendation. It is the darling of the market. Its market cap is approaching $ ¼ trillion and at the rate it is moving it is on its way to challenge Exxon Mobile Corp. XOM produces stuff that the world needs, AAPL doesn’t produce stuff that the world needs just what they like to have, until something else strikes their fancy.

It reminds me in the 1980's when people couldn't buy enough Wang stock. You hadn't arrived if your office didn't sport a Wang word processor. The bubble will burst when the last fool buys in at a nose bleed price.

Thomas Miller writes:

 Sometimes one's instincts or gut feelings can't be counted or explained but you feel its true. Probably based on years of different observations made subconsciously. A trader may feel strongly a market is about to break without being able to explain exactly why, because subconsciously they have seen patterns many times before. Considering the source, I wouldn't immediately dismiss this as ballyhoo. Instead of resigning, further testing is called for.

Steve Ellison comments: 

Mr. Aronson noted in his book that it is no fun being a skeptic and that the scientific method leaves deep human yearnings unfulfilled. Facts are often tedious and dull, but stories are captivating, which is why people who have bought into a narrative continue believing it even when presented with strong counterfactuals. "Story stocks" have always been prominent in bull markets.

 

Marion Dreyfus writes:

A new study reveals that people are at their angriest on Thursdays. Thus, perhaps deals might better be made on Friday, when people are delightfully anticipating the weekend, or Monday, when they are somnolently reviewing the events of their past free-time indulgences.

interesting … We have been doing product development on a tool to gather data, and do reduction for self-introspection to find and permit prediction of cyclic true 'more productive' highs, and 'down in the dumps' lows.

Jim Wildman comments:

I've been thinking a lot about rhythms. I've noticed on the treadmill at the Y that people tend to fall into step with each other. Being on treadmills, this is easier since you can be running at different speeds, but the same step count. It creates an interesting effect when the treadmills are on a suspended 2nd story as it was at the last gym. I've wondered how many people it would take to collapse the floor.

This study seems to indicate that there are (at least tendencies towards) rhythms in 'group' emotions. What other rhythms are there and how do they affect me? How do they affect the markets?

Vincent Andres adds:

Here is a good paper on this topic of frequency coupling

Some more infor:

Steven Strogatz

Steven Strogatz's publications

A good book

TED video (look at the part on fireflies, near the 10th minute on metronomes (1st historical notice by Huygens), near the 13th minute and the bridge (not Tacoma … but not very far !)… in fact the whole video examples are interesting). 

Easan Katir writes:

In a year when Paul the Octopus correctly picked 7 consecutive wins, well-documented to the world, when the underwater plume in the Gulf of Mexican Oil matched the plume of gritty ash from Eyjafjallajokull, and the rig explosion coincided with the April market top, who can say anymore what is mystical and what isn't. Lead on, Chair! Lead on!

Craig Mee writes:

Looks like Schumacher should of stayed off the track, as HIS value, now may be plummeting: "For all his greatness, he never knows when to give up. He is a shadow of his former self," added hugely experienced former driver David Coulthard" Ouch!

« go backkeep looking »

Archives

Resources & Links

Search