Good Quote

October 13, 2020 | Leave a Comment

Victor Niederhoffer  writes: 

From wsj article on profits  "Night and day there are businessmen out there thinking of ways to feed us, to entertain us, to keep us healthy, to help us communicate — all out of a desire for profit.  The profit motive is the producer’s motive.  It is the desire to prosper by creating and offering for sale the values we need to live and enjoy life — and to spearhead the invention of new values that raise our standard of living.   The profit motive is the foundation of human happiness and human progress." — from the book "Equal is Unfair" by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

Richard Owen  writes: 

Hi Vic - a noble story. It does feel though that if you tried to launch any benchmark business in recent years (presumably with a tech enabled angle) with the intention of collecting real profits, you were done for. QE took away the discount rate and corrupted the need for profits and perhaps underwrote much of the current chaos. With a 3% real fed, housing would be affordable and Jeff Bezos a lot poorer, allegedly two roots for mass discontent. And maybe the aim of competing improvements in products and services drove capitalism some time ago. Because there was a large productivity gap between what people were capable of and what they achieved. But now people seem to be operating closer to the asymptote. Where I am currently living there are three identical copies of Uber, and the only way to differentiate their product is who is willing to accept the biggest deficit of profits until the competition goes bankrupt. Capitalism's main end is no longer who is attracted by profits but who can most convincingly promise unrealistic distant future profits. Imagine there's no antitrust, it's easy if you try, no competition below us, above us, only sky.

Hernan Avella writes: 

Nevermind the rents extracted by businesses that nobody needs and are the product of cronyism and regulatory capture. Think 401k plan administrators and health care insurance middle men. H



Jordan Neuman writes: 

Ralph referenced the liquidity situation on 10/20/87. You can research and see that the S&P Futures settled at a 10% discount to the cash on 10/19. But it was wholly untradeable.   For one thing, you couldn't get a broker to answer your call. In a real stress situation liquidity is an illusion.  That's one thing the man from Lebanon has right.

Hernan Avella writes: 

He only things these analogues of ‘87 are predictive of, is the age cohort of the person that brings them up and his/her relative underperformance to the mkt.

Ralph Vince  writes: 

Nonsense. Try to overcome your animosities towards others and me and act like a man here. 

If you weren't around over a period of a critical couple of days in October, 1987 you don't know, firsthand, what a lack of liquidity in equities and credit instruments is like. If you think that cannot happen again, that the past is not germane to the current environment, or that you are wise enough to see it when it eventually comes, good luck — God' knows you;re going to need it.

Those of us who were around and deeply involved in it back then know full-well that it not only can happen again, but that things are far more precarious now, structurally, than then, for several reasons, each of which independently conspires to make things now far more dangerous.  

Michael Cook writes:

Notwithstanding the fisticuffs here, I wasn't around in '87 but I was in the middle of 97/98 when, for instance HKMA went openly and highly aggressively bid only into its currency and equity markets. The message telegraphed was 'we will buy every damn share you sell up to the size of the entire market'. Soros and a bunch of others were having a crack at Hong Kong after doing so well with all the other Asian/paper tigers, esp Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

That was 98, way before GFC, QE and the other myriad of dysfunctional acronyms. If we do face a melt down in the US a la '87. I just dont see why the Fed wouldnt straightforward buy the equity market directly to support it.

What would be stopping the Fed, the feeling that that would be illogical, ultra vires, anti-capitalist? Look at what they have done already?! They are already buying corporate debt (bailed GM and AIG in GFC etc etc etc), it is quite a small jump now to just directly buying Apple common stock etc if needed.

I hate it, and I think it all ends in tears, but that looks the name of the game to me until the system literally breaks and we need do a new Bretton Woods / debt jubilee whatever, where the rules are all reset




August 18, 2020 | Leave a Comment

 Ralph Vince writes: 

I went to look at past recessions beginning with the one that officially started in Aug '1929. I looked that the number of months, the recession officially lasted for what the highest teh unemployment rate got up to was, what the lowest GDP dropped during  it, and the drop in the DJIA. there were 14 official recessions in this period (Iam not counting the current recession we are in).Interestingly, the correlation between the depth of the unemployment  rate and the number of months the recessions lasted for was .8438. I  other words, the deeper the unemployment rate, the longer the recession lasted for to a very high correlation.

The depth ofGDP drop too was highly correlated to the months the recessoin lasted to a correlation of .75.Every recession saw  market drop-off of varrying degrees with the least being -5.727% from fb to october 1945, the worst -89.19% from  Aug 1929–Mar 1933 Of the 14 recessions, 10 saw market drops >20%, and 4 of those saw drops >45 %.

So I would expect this recession to last a long tim based on unemployment and GDP so-far. However, even though all recessions saw a market drop, th severity of the market drop and the length of months the recession lasted was only +.03. The other factors that correlated to market drop during recessions was depth of unemployment rate correlating positively by .12 to depth of market  correction, and depth of GDP drop correlating positively to market drop by .35. 

Peter Ringel writes: 

Damn Ralph!  Incredible call today.

Ralph Vince  writes: 

No but I thought it would be on much havier volume., 111/2 tims what we saw today.

Hernan Avella writes: 

maybe with more volume we get to 2150 by labor day, as you vehemently forecasted



Hernan Avella writes: 

An interesting article with relevance for markets and recurrent political/social events. H

Out-of-Sync ‘Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms

Studies of collective behavior usually focus on how crowds of organisms coordinate their actions. But what if the individuals that don’t participate have just as much to tell us?

Ralph Vince writes: 

It's interesting, although it falls more into the category of agent-based modelling. My fear with such an approach to market prognostications is that it ends up a dead-end much as the notion of neural nets being a panacea a few decads ago.

That my simply be my own failings with finding agent-based approaches to yield fruit, perhaps there are some out there who are?



Hernan Avella writes: 

A Fearful Asymmetry: Covid-19 and America’s Information Deficit with China

David Moser

July 11, 2020

Volume 18 | Issue 14 | Number 5

Article ID 5422

Abstract: There is a longstanding and fundamental asymmetry in level of mutual understanding between the US and China. Chinese citizens are avid consumers of American media and cultural products, whereas most Americans are woefully unfamiliar with even the basics of Chinese history and culture. This asymmetry has resulted in a situation where the US is in danger of misinterpreting or misunderstanding Chinese motivations in bilateral relations, particularly in times of crisis. This paper recounts how the Covid-19 epidemic of 2020 exacerbated existing tensions between the US and China, and how these escalations in state-to-state conflict were ilarge part due to America’s information deficit with the PRC.



Jeffery Rollert writes: 

The article reminded me of old Cold War articles. Clear local perspective, and cold lanuguage discussing hot topics.  I found the premise to be thoughtful and well explained, but it seemed clouded by reaching to far from it.

K. K. Law writes: 

The author completely missed a very major point and that is likely the result of him also only having very superficial understanding of China and CCP. The author fails to account for the key role of CCP's propaganda machine which controls what the Chinese can read and see and also controls what kind of information and mid-information is allowed to be sent to the West.  The CCP has perfected its machine to control the minds and behaviors of Chinese inside the country since 1945.

Stefan Jovanovich replies: 

1948 would be a better date.  Until the KMT outlawed ownership of gold and imposed price controls - which ruined all remaining exchange value for the currency, the Maoist insurgency had no guarantee of winning.  As usual, the "conservatives" in American politics picked the wrong villain.  The communists in the State Department had little effect on the outcome; the sensible bipartisan financial experts are the people who "lost" China.



Zubin Al Genubi  writes: 

The martial artist who trains to kill and maim full time ought to beat special forces guy who has to diversify his training with guns, navigation, comm, explosives etc.   To generalize, the one who trains most to maim, disable and kill should win. A good reference is Musashi Miyamoto's Ringo No Sho, The Book of Five Rings.  Fighting is not always about head to head combat, but deception, surprise, unfair tactics, doing the unexpected.

Hernan Avella replies: 

A few notes on fighting:

1. Unconstrained fighting (using objects, eye gouging, groin shots, finger manipulation) is too chaotic, and for obvious reasons has never been studied systematically.  In an event of this nature, size, endurance and relevant experience with the setting are the most important variables. 

2.  In the hypothetical case where a person is limited to learn only one "martial art".  It's been more than proven that said martial art should be Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. For a high level excellent discussion on BJJ as a system, check the JRE podcast with the brilliant coach John Danaher.

3. The sport of fighting (MMA) is relatively new, it's as close as it can be to a real fight, a few constraints added to avoid catastrophic injuries and deaths, (and some nonsensical rules thrown in there to cater to the bureaucrats of the fighting commissions).  In it's short history you have seen the  quick evolution of the ruleset and the techniques.  Just like in markets, every little rule or artificial limit, causes an inefficiency to be exploited.

4. To be proficient at fighting you need to be able to understand all the intricacies of a fight in different planes:  Standing, on the ground, clinching. Each of these 3 planes have different details depending on the range of proximity to your opponent.  Additionally, fighting is not carried out in discrete steps along the different plains, so you have to develop a sophisticated game for the "transitions".  The number of scenarios quickly explode and a fighter needs to train so much to make a lot of this second nature. It really makes all the other athletic endeavors look easy.

5. Like in markets, the ever changing cycles are very important.  The key variable here is the different superior skills that are disseminated non uniformly. The video tape as a research tool has been instrumental to accelerate adaptation.  Since the early 90's, the sport has seen several phases, each one builds on the previous one:

    a.) Jiu-Jitsu is king. 

    b.) Wrestling and ground and pound and weight-cutting

    c.) The rise of the well rounded fighter

    d.) Sophistication of the striking game

 6. A few things have stood the test of time despite the quick evolution of the sport: 

      a.) Leg kicks, super debilitating they impede mobility and damage accumulates quickly.

      b.) Defensive Jiu-Jitsu (avoid getting blood flow to the brain from being stopped or your limbs twisted), it's easier to defend than to attack.

      c.) Takedowns and clinch game: He who can control the plain in which the fight takes place has an advantage

      d.) Genetic differences and/or performance enhancing drugs are always key.

Finally, practical advice.  If you are about to enter a physical confrontation and your future opponent has cauliflower ears. Don't walk, run!, your life is in danger

larry replies: 

Prison fighting is a separate art unlike any other as it must end instantly before guards come—perhaps the deadliest of all



Hernan Avella writes: 

That cluttered this list for weeks with nonsense charts and mumbo, were they banned?, are they solvent?

Interestingly enough, long term bonds are 11 big points higher than they were last time Spu was up here in early June and Jeffersonian stocks 5% lower.  July VX arabesque-ing higher.

NQ has done it's job, perhaps value stocks can take the baton for the next 200 pts.

Ralph Vince writes: 

Yes,and we have not had so much as two consecutive down days (Spx) within this period.

Oddly, the 6 week coefficient of variance (6 week std dev/6 week ma) has not gone to below 

.01, which usually means a large (usually down) move is imminent, despite the tightness of the past 22 days. In other words, it feels as though we've been in a right range for the past 4 1/2 weeks but there's been a lot of movement within this range.



It's becoming a good tradition to buy spoos Sunday night after a bad Friday. i.e the heuristic that has saved many speculators from going bust is now hindering profits, as it should be. VX was ahead of this bounce, since Friday.



In essence, China now has a better fiscal position, a more conservative central bank, higher interest rates, and a relatively improved net international investment position."

This has some thought provoking charts and ideas.



From 1951 to 2019, there were 15 6-month periods ending on April 30 in which the S&P 500 index declined. The average net change over the next 6 months was -3.8%, a statistically significant underperformance compared to the 4.2% average 6-month gain during the entire 69-year period.

Date         Index close   net change last 6 months      net change next 6 months
    4/29/1960      54.37                  -5.5%                     -1.8%
    4/30/1962      65.24                  -4.9%                    -13.4%
    4/29/1966      91.06                  -1.5%                    -11.9%
    4/30/1970      81.52                 -16.1%                      2.1%
    4/30/1973     106.97                  -4.1%                      1.2%
    4/30/1974      90.31                 -16.6%                    -18.2%
    4/29/1977      98.44                  -4.3%                     -6.2%
    4/30/1982     116.44                  -4.5%                     14.8%
    4/30/1984     160.05                  -2.1%                      3.8%
    4/30/1990      330.8                  -2.8%                     -8.1%
    4/29/1994     450.91                  -3.6%                      4.8%
    4/30/2001    1249.46                 -12.6%                    -15.2%
    4/30/2008    1385.14                 -10.6%                    -30.1%
    4/30/2009     872.81                  -9.9%                     18.7%
    4/29/2016     2065.3                  -0.7%                      2.9%

                        Average                                     -3.8%
                        Standard deviation                          12.8%
                        N                                              15
                        t                                           -2.42
                        Average of all 6 month periods               4.2%

Hernan Avella writes: 

Thanks Steve. Some notes:

- If you include the monthly data from 1928 (free yahoo finance), you effect disappears the average next 6 month goes from -3.80% to -0.12%
- Since you have such a small sample perhaps better to look at the trimmed mean or the median……the median of your sample is -1.8%
- Another (arguably better) way to check for significance is calculate your own p value with the bootstrap and the empirical distribution of 6 month returns, using the trimmed mean and winsorized variance.
- Related to above, Victor recommended a fine book a while back.
- Whether one can make more money adding this layer of complexity is still to be determined.



"Mapping The World's Trade Domination: USA & China's Clout Since 1980":

"Our visualization compares the dollars traded between China and the chosen country to that same country’s trade with the U.S. For example, if country ABC did $100m in trade with China and did $200M with the U.S., the ratio would show 50% in favor of the U.S."
Top 5 U.S. Top Trade Partners in 2018 (Total Merchandise Trade, $M)
1. Canada: $617,382
2. Mexico: $611,528
3. Japan: $217,563
4. Germany: $183,558
5. Republic of Korea: $130,635

Top 5 China Top Trade Partners in 2018 (Total Merchandise Trade, $M)
1. Japan: $328,043
2. Republic of Korea: $312,520
3. Hong Kong: $312,258
4. Taiwan: $225,780
5. Germany: $184,368



A lovely grind for 100 NQ points starting at Europe's close, from round to round. It culminates with ecstasy just in time with the MOC's and proceeds to reverse 3/4's of the move in 15 min. What a script. The only persistent regularity of equity index futures is that they never go too far in a straight line, manage your inventory accordingly.



A few of us were around during 1960-82. These were bad years in the US. There were riots in the cities, the Viet Nam war, presidents were assassinated, impeached, there was a serious threat of nuclear annihilation. The stock market ranged up and down 40% for close to 20 years. The 70's were especially bad.

Hernan Avella writes: 

Everybody anchors to the familiar, to the period of time that fits their model of the world or their desires. Ray Dalio thinks we are in the 1930-1945, Stefan thinks we are in the 1920's, Ralph Vince thinks this is 1987… I don't feel very confident in any narrow set of outcomes outside minutes or hours.



It's been interesting to observe the performance of different "hedges" during the current drawdown. Up until Ronin demise Vol was your best friend. At that point long term bonds were 45 full points below max, and a rotation seemed sensible. A naive RPM type of approach would suggest that, with bonds 30 points above min and the potential effects of the stimulus start to sink in the minds of the collective…. perhaps gold will be a better partner for risk in the next sequence.



Some years ago during one of the golden years of the Speclist we had a discussion about data visualization. Edward Tufte's books about data visualization are among my favorites. Tufte described John Snow's map of the 1854 Broadstreet Cholera epidemic. Snow mapped each case and the location which ended up centering around the handle to the water pump everyone used. They removed the handle and the spread slowed.

I wish we had this data now which might lead to certain areas of disease spread that could help reduce infection transmission. More of a scalpel approach not a nuclear bomb.

Hernan Avella writes: 

Yes, this is the Taiwan and to some extent SGP approach. It's hard to predict if this is even an option in the west because allegedly #1 we can't get much more basic stuff done, and #2 it triggers the liberty/individuality ethos. At the same time, Mr. Snowden revelations show that #1 we can run a sophisticated surveillance system. #2 Most people don't care, not even the libertarians.



 Apropos of SPU coming back to some normalcy, there's a provocative twitter thread by Mr. Bodek, a well known participant turned whistle blower. Most of these factoids are self-evident to practitioners:

"I can confirm futures are more f*cked than equities including a semi-secret CME dealing desk, undisclosed and unnecessary liquidity incentive programs, abuse of malformed messages to test latency, stop loss signatures in the matching engine event loop, some priority race/condition scheme exploited between implied and spread order book, ridiculous levels of easily detectable spoofing that clearly triggers large opposing reserve orders in years of tick data, 1 lot pinging tied to 1000 lot posting, self trade check creating a pile-on between coordinated trading desks, and an extremely large spoofer who splices orders together at same price to avoid surveillance"

I still think equities are more f*cked than futures, at least the games are not being played in 10 different exchanges.



If there's one fact about the current trading environment that is unassailable, it's that one can't read anything into the daily swings. One can assume that the rallies are underpinned by mechanical hedge flows, and not a renewed optimism about future prospects for economic growth.Theses moves are often violent, especially into the close; but are always sold into, and short-lived.

The problem with trying to resurrect the market is that it was extremely overpriced in the first place. The drift ain't no +30%. CEO's were more concerned about managing (bonus linked) share price than managing their company's business. Now, they are paying the price. Also, years of suppressed vol allowed money managers to lever up ever more, leaving a market built on a foundation of greed, debt, and leverage.

Economic shock is still expanding in both scope and scale; and nothing is getting fixed. Until they address credit, corporate cash flows, and lending disruptions( per Mr. Rollert), sustainable buying will not re-emerge. Additionally, heightened levels of vol reduces the pool of potential buyers, leaving only fundamental/discretionary and VaR insensitive investors left to re-allocate.

Hernan Avella writes: 

It's tough out there when even the true experts are feeling it:

"Williams declined to say which trading firms are involved in conversations pressing the banks to increase available capital. When market-makers stop buying and selling, markets can sometimes seize up and undercut investor confidence in financial markets"

anonymous adds: 

This is the same refrain as ever. The Citadels of the world push for pay for flow dark pool friendly regulation in normal markets, and then shut down their APIs once there's some vol so that flow adversely selects whatever is on the lit markets.

These articles are all lobbying. One simple way to increase the liquidity of the market would be to give time/price preference to lit Market Makers all the time! Let's see that get regulatory traction.



What does it say about the future of stocks returns when the big ones are advertising "riding the rally"?:

"Tepper, Druckenmiller Say They are riding the rally"

Ralph Vince writes: 

Once again, I must quote Camus, "If that's what they're really thinking, I suspect they will be in for a bad surprise."

The top will be in when sentiment says so, but I cannot rule out the early Jan 18 sentiment readings as having perhaps not already indicating this, we've overshot it in price but not by a whole lot as of yet.

The invested curve of late last Aug, my prop employment indicators now showing deterioration, and earnings flat for ten months indicate an imminent recession sometime this year.

With stocks trading at the same multiples as bonds, the former is generally preferred here because the risk is perceived as being in the bonds…the asset that will mature to par at some point.



 Back in September 2015, GS introduced their first active beta ETF to much fanfare, including the fact that the management fee significantly undercut competing products.  Time enough for a reality check. Total Return Since Inception:

GSLC: 25.93%

SPY: 30.02%

Annualized equivalents:

GSLC: 14.82%

SPY 17.04%

[Note: results from 9/30/2015 to 05/31/2017]

Hernan Avella writes: 

It looks like the same can't be said abut Blair Hull ETF (HTUS). It seems to be accomplishing it's goal, beating SPY since inception and with less volatility. I haven't looked under the hood of fees, distributions, taxes. But superficially looks good.

Rishi Singh writes: 

The return/sharpe are meaningless for a sample size of a year, espeically as the fund (according to prospectus) is balanced quarterly. I would want to see tracking error of live results vs their backtest. Also - I don't think people would buy this ETF expecting a return > than SPY every year, but for the correlation benefit. Again, what's the backtested corr, vs live and tracking error?

Russ Sears writes: 

I would respectfully disagree that "return/Sharpe are meaningless for a sample size of a year" because if they have had 4 quarters, it should give someone watching an idea of how stable each part is compared to S&P, and idea of its volatility. The returns/Sharpe may not tell one much but the individual data points of 4 quarter returns and volatility/correlation the picture has become clearer. While I would agree that it may not be enough to make a statistically significant conclusion, I would not even use a fund for diversification/correlation if the volatility/correlations to standard benchmarks are not somewhat stable. And the poor start does not bode well for the fund's strategy's alpha's consistentcy.

Further, if you had invested say $100 million of some institutions funds in the fund with a benchmark of S&P arguing a $2.6 million under-performance would not be something I would want to defend too rigorously or try to initiate the fund.



 One thing that is almost entirely gone from baseball is seeing coaches arguing with the umpire.

Where are the Billy Martins and Earl Weavers of these last few generations?

Basketball seems to still have coaches in college and pros that work the refs. Coach K comes to mind. You don't seem to see many coaches purposefully getting T'd up anymore to motivate the team and sway a ref?

Where are the McEnroe's in tennis?

All sports have seemed to have lightened up a bit. Quite possibly it is because of "video replays" and "challenges" that have take the great theatrical performances away from the game of sports.

Could it have gone away from the markets too over the years? Can't blame or swear at an electronic fill? In the past you had the "lady in the wire cage" to blame, market maker in the jacket, and countless others.

Baseball theatrical tiffs are what I miss the most.

Steve Ellison writes: 

One of the great memories of my childhood was attending a Red Sox vs. Yankees game at Fenway Park in 1977 as the two teams were in a close race. At some point, a Boston player lined a base hit to right field in the general direction of Reggie Jackson. Jackson didn't get to the ball for some time, even though it was in front of him. Meanwhile, the hustling batter got to second base. Immediately, Billy Martin pulled Jackson out of the game. When Jackson reached the dugout, he and Martin got in a fight, to the great delight of the crowd. Despite the ongoing feuding between Martin and Jackson, the Yankees went on to win the World Series that year, and Jackson earned the nickname "Mr. October".

Hernan Avella writes: 

That observation–that a fight is an event very few people can turn their attention away from– has been used by Mixed Martial Arts promoters for a long time. The UFC (ultimate fighting championship) has to be the fastest growing sports franchise since 2000. The Fertitta brothers bought it for 2 million in 2003 and recently there was talk of selling in the range of 4-6 billion. 2015 revenues around 600 mill.

anonymous writes: 

How soon before we have Gladiator games? What's preventing it? If we have the so-called right to choose how we die, and legalized suicide then why not allow voluntary death by public spectacle? Million dollar prize money for the winner, and an annuity for a victim's family should he not survive the bout should make it worth it for folks without economic hope, or a fear of eternal Justice. Combine it with in-the-ring porn star rewards for the victor, and you've got a bread and circuses diversion superior to that of the Roman Empire. A new sport for a new blood-lusty God-less New Age.



 'Cyborg Chess' or 'Advanced Chess' is an area that might be of interest to specs in that humans are allowed to use computers during the decision making process. There is evidence that strong human players can add considerable value to pure computer play when the process is managed in the right way, for example Arno Nickel defeated Hydra in a correspondence chess match in which he used a regular PC against the the most powerful supercomputer in the World at that time. This event wasn't publicized as much as it might have been, but you can read more about Nickel and Cyborg Chess here:

Arno Nickel

Advanced Chess

I've experimented with 'Cyborg Chess' in correspondence tournaments in which computers are allowed. The results haven't been great, probably because I don't use deep calculation setting on the engine, but the experience has been educational. A major issue is in understanding where it is that I can add value as there's a temptation to either overrule what the engine recommends or be led by it indiscriminately. Probably a series of protocols would be a good idea but where does one start? Here's a provisional list:

1. Write down your list of candidate moves, in order, and then compare them with the top choices of the engine.

2.Consider whether this is the kind of position in which engines are likely to do better than you (ie highly calculative tactical ones).

3. Give greater weight to particular candidates based on point 2.

4. Check your top candidate(s) more carefully, perhaps using deeper engine settings, until a particular confidence level is arrived at.

It seems reasonable that different people might give a different weighting to their own choices versus those of the computer, but in either case it does seem that better decisions might be arrived at. In fact Nickel's achievement sort of proves that, and even if computers get so powerful that the more or less 'solve' chess the synthesis of man and machine should still have value in less finite fields.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

 "Cyborg Chess" by Nigel brings up the effectiveness of human versus
robot trading in markets. Certainly costs must be considered as well as
effectiveness the way it is in all the studies of robotic versus human
surgery. Apparently robotic beats laporofic.
There should be areas where the robots have to be turned off for the
evening where the humans could develop an advantage. It seems the robots
are forcing early capitulations in many markets which is presumably an
effect of their programs.

anonymous writes: 

To list just two of scores of regular robot shutdowns that one knows of:

1. On Sunday nights in the professional electronic FX markets (using HotSpot as an example), one only has access to prices from 5PM NYC time unless you get on the phone and call a counterparty direct in New Zealand or early Sydney.

This 'dead zone' is almost completely without 'silicon based entity' interference and often sees a reasonable range that goes unrecorded. A stint in that dead zone is a prized achievement for FX traders learning how markets 'really' trade. Much like time on the floor of an exchange, it is an experience that is dying off.

2. Each night at 5 PM NYC time the professional electronic FX market goes dark for a few minutes as the value date changes.

After reopening, the market making algorithms kick in first with relatively wide spreads that narrow quickly when the Carbon based life forms start to interact. The HFT 'order facilitation' ( Ha!) kicks in next.

What is of increasing concern is that the lunatics are running the asylum. Meaning that the firm's running the robots are deciding when and why markets open and close rather than some supervisory body. I guess this is more a question of nature versus nurture.

Arguably, there is some marginal information that is helpful, in an accretive sense, to the buy or sell decision–from the opening procedures of robot dominated markets.

The first order possibilities for testing might involve: number of transactions per unit time, rate of change of spread contraction, the epps effect et.al. All for relatively short periods as the robo-market opens.

At a practical level, and without investing what I know to be substantial funds to study this issue, I believe it still comes down to basic conditionality, expectations based on that conditionality and finally path dependency.

Additionally, the predictive nature or otherwise of the situations introduced into the price generation process by exchanges, that I have previously posted on - must be tested and incorporated.

Jim Sogi writes: 

 By their nature, cyborgs must look for fixed patterns. They have limited adaptability. Sudden bugs, unexpected changes, changes in cycles, and divergences will always surprise them. They can't anticipate. Their advantage is that they are as fast as their circuits, and comm allow. The unknown is how they perform in a complex system with other cyborgs and humans. As Nigel points out, a human can add value and beat a pure cyborg. Human foresight and understanding of human nature can add value.

Hernan Avella writes:

Machines keep improving, some moving away from brute force approaches…

"Deep Learning Machine Teaches Itself Chess in 72 Hours, Plays at International Master Level":

"Lai has created an artificial intelligence machine called Giraffe that has taught itself to play chess by evaluating positions much more like humans and in an entirely different way to conventional chess engines.

Straight out of the box, the new machine plays at the same level as the best conventional chess engines, many of which have been fine-tuned over many years. On a human level, it is equivalent to FIDE International Master status, placing it within the top 2.2 percent of tournament chess players"

Andrew Goodwin writes:

I still have my ticket stub from the match that Kasparov lost to Deep Blue in 1997 in NYC. Maurice Ashley was using the Fritz engine to evaluate the moves of the champion and the supercomputer in real time for the theater audience, as I recall.

Instead of making the next move optimization target the best calculable move, the supercomputer could make goal seeking calculations that lead the match to the most time consuming calculable end game for human competitors. It won that match with clock time to spare. That's the advantage.

The Chair's idea of a downtime for computer engines sounds sound for human comparisons.

Jim Sogi writes: 

I would challenge anyone to quantify what exactly is the difference between a cyborg traded market and a human traded market. Sure it feels different, but how exactly? How do the numbers trade. Are there less big blocks? Are there fewer round sizes? Are there fewer takers on breakouts, i.e stop buy orders? Where are the numbers on the table?

Hernan Avella writes: 

Difference? Generally speaking, most of the time, when bots are the market makers there is less friction, reduced bid-ask spread, more ability to get the trade done with less price disruption. Winners: longer term traders willing to pay the bid ask spread or less to get into or out of a position. Losers: human market makers who want to earn the bid-ask spread. They can no longer compete.



 All traders have a tendency to be happier with down 5% after their max loss was 60% than up 25% after their max profit was 50%. Most Asian markets are up substantially with Chinese 25 to 40% up, and yet everyone is talking about the depths of despair there.

Hernan Avella writes: 

It's ubiquitous. I sit here in the airport, after my flight was delayed 3 times and then cancelled at 11:30pm. They tried to settle for a flight tomorrow night. I fought my way into a 5 am flight. I have to spend the next 4 hours in the airport (perhaps finding regularities). It's a disaster outcome that feels like a victory compared with the alternative. Rumors in the airport were that the Obama trip to New York messed up with air traffic. How appropriate.

Thomas Miller writes: 

Do flexions work the same in all markets? When they want to buy at lower prices do they push fear and negativity through media outlets (increasingly social media like TWTR) so the weakest hands sell out at the bottom where they come in buying positioned for the next move up? Or am I being overly paranoid and conspiratorial?



 As I continue on my arduous journey for selecting and also constantly keeping traders at their A-game, I was wondering if Vic, Brett or others on the list have any experience with how Sports Psychology could be used with Traders.

A competing athlete goes through pretty much the same psychological challenges that a trader goes through…and I was wondering if any research had been done on this subject.

Mental training helps athletes perform more consistently, find the zone more often, keep a winning streak alive, and learn how to think well under pressure. Or, as one sports psychologist put it, mental toughness is "the ability to consistently perform toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances." As psychologists debate the roles of genetics, environment, and learned skills in determining mental toughness, they do agree (along with athletes and coaches) that high levels of mental toughness are associated with athletic prowess and success. In fact, mental toughness (or "grit") may be the defining factor between finishing at the front of the pack and not finishing at all.

Any thoughts from Specs would be welcome.

Victor Niederhoffer writes:

One would turn to Galton as one should on most areas involving human faculty. The key to athletics success is the sports gene. A key to trading success is intelligence. I would also look to the circle of friends, colleagues and influencers that a prospective employee has. Is he benevolent or a hoodoo. Beware of the hoodoo, and stay with the ones that create benefits for those associated with them.

John Netto writes: 

Sushant. I would read Market Mind Games by Denise Shull. It's excellent and will be a nice resource on your journey. Good luck.

anonymous writes: 

Ability to learn from and then put losses behind them. The inevitable mistakes being made are then analyzed, learned from, improvement sought, and then move on without negative baggage and lament about what could have happened.

Longevity. Injury, early retirement, or large losses do not afford one the ability to succeed.

Independent thought. A Zen like ability to follow one's own methodology and ideas in a non-conformist fashion, yet to balance with the ability to absorb appropriate outside information

Simple hard work. The will to stay out on the field longer than anybody else. Think Jerry Rice, Marcus O'Sullivan, Patrick Kane, Michael Jordan. 

Brett Steenbarger writes: 

Frankly I think the best writing on the topic is your account of your racquetball career. I agree that mental toughness is important, but all the toughness and repetition in the world won't be helpful if a person is working on the wrong things. I continue to find that good trading makes for good psychology just as often as the reverse.

Larry Williams writes: 

The mark of all greats is the ability to come back from behind.

Hernan Avella writes: 

From Handbook of Sport Psychology. Gershon et al.

"Personality traits like dispositional self consciousness, reinvestment and trait anxiety have been associated with predictors of performance failure. Research has also demonstrated that giving athletes practice at dealing with the types of attention demands that performance pressure induces can reduce sill failure when the stakes are high. Also, that preventing athletes from acquiring the type of explicit knowledge that pressure may exploit to begin with may also help to quell the negative effects of stress at high levels of performance."

Paul Marino adds: 

I had a long discussion today with my father regarding choosing the humble person over the boisterous kind of person in any of of life's dealings, from the dry cleaner or barber to your doctor or broker. I tend to get less agitated around the humble and have an easier time speaking my mind. If my physician was loud I might not tell him as much about my life and habits as I should. It's what works best for you that counts, like in any system, trading or otherwise. "Know thyself" may be the best known and least used maxim of all time. 



 1. I wonder if smell is perhaps related to the blind spots of perception of market movement.

"Smell is not subjective; rather, it is simply very hard to communicate objectively, that is, to talk about and achieve any sort of consensus. One possibility would be to unwind the "color wheel" model, and ask how many dimensions it would have to incorporate in order that all its observable contradictions disappear. Much like experimental versions of Mendeleev's original periodic table, there are interesting possibilities for new spatial models for representing scents. Perhaps future models of smell will have to address similar orders of complexity, and the solution just hasn't been drawn up yet. Alternatively, there may simply be no way to represent visually the variability presented by scents."

from Notes on Scents

2. I recently read "Seeing Circles, Sines, and Signals", which is a very nice introduction to signal processing. Its novelty is the dynamic graphics to get a better intuition of the concepts.



Perhaps it would not be remiss to express some thoughts I had over night.

1. Friday was perhaps the greatest loss in wealth ever.

2. Extraordinarily rare since the 90s for both stocks and bonds down 200. Actually only once since 1999. That in 2009.

3. Useful idiots attribute it to revision in expectations of fed increases.

4. But actually the rise had nothing to do with that but had to do with discounted value of returns on capital and lowering of inflation targets.

5. Amazing that good news can cause so much havoc.

6. But the market is the market. It will do what it wants.

7. But of course the stock market vigilantes, and now the bond market vigilantes will make it do the rite thing, especially before election.

8. Ephemeral things can cause great consternation.

9. The threat is worse than the execution.

10. They got me big yesterday. I actually make a nice little profit in SPU by getting out at 10 am.

11. However, I lost big in bonds, very big.

12. One will have to be more careful as the markets rise to new highs again. 

Jeff Rollert writes: 

It felt more like a systematic deleveraging. A balance sheet shrinkage, on both sides.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

I think there is an important element missing from all these statistics. A drop such as Friday's is felt big by an SP futures long, because the SP futures long is very leveraged, while his currency exposure (hedge) is straight cash, unleveraged.

On the other hand, the real one day depreciation is miniscule for a holder of US stocks - as USD gained so much on the day. Compare a holder of US stocks Friday with an EU or UK person who held no stocks but their cash in the bank - and that person lost plenty, without being Long of US stocks.

Hernan Avella comments:

Anatoly, the reason why it was indeed very big is because you did not have the buffer of buying bonds, golds or oil. Furthermore, the 50-50 theoretical portfolio lost big on Friday on top of a bad streak of 5 down days out of the last 7, and now it's slightly down on the year.Now, when one accounts for stock market appreciation over the five year period as strictly "fundamental", "value of returns on capital", etc etc - one yet skips over a harder to quantify element of market truth: that Central Banks, with their long-standing zero interest policy, have left little alternatives for world wide investors but to pour cash into stocks the past five years. Some of that cash hasn't gone all in based on fundamental projections, it's just gone in. Like in "market will do what it wants". Enter one of the current day hot factors: EU is in dis-array. There is a lot of European capital that isn't investing based on long term returns on equity these days…They are paralyzed in fear of what next shoe will drop. So corrections such as Friday's are inevitable



 The best health related book I've read recently is The Long and the Short of It: The Science of Life Span and Aging by Johnathan Silvertown. It's relatively short but packed with good information and a good rhythm outlining the history of the field. The book is organized in short sections: Life Span, Aging, Heredity, Plants, Natural Selection, Suicide, Pace and Mechanisms.

The key evolutionary concept to understand is that at some point in the life span, because of the diminishing contribution that individuals make to future generations as they grow older, natural selection loses it's power altogether. Before that point, natural selection fixes the weakest of the big 4 links (immune system, the resistance to cancer, the resistance to oxidative stress and efficient insulin signaling), ensuring that cellular function is not vulnerable to failed maintenance.

There's also a nice chapter on plants and two major takeaways. First, there seems to be a correlation between slow growth and longevity. The book shows a nice experiment where they stress fast and slow growing plants and see how they fare afterwards. The other takeaway, particularly relevant to systems, is about the advantages (for longevity) of plants modular design.

More related to our field, It could be interesting to look at the concept of 'senescense' or deterioration of biological function as it pertains to the longevity of market moves. The book introduces Gompertz Law, which states that after certain age, the mortality rate doubles at a constant rate. Perhaps a line of research can include some counting of market moves older than X and see whether there are some patterns in the mortality rate (>50% reversal). Alternatively, instead of 'age' of the move, one could look at size, given the strong relationship between them both in nature and markets.



We can soon expect to hear the mumbo about how if January is down the market is likely to be down for the year et al. How many times does this have to fail before it loses its impact.

Rocky Humbert writes:

Feel free to call this "mumbo" — but there are hundreds of millions, if not billions, of US stock market positions that will exit if the market closes today below the 1960-2000 level. I am not predicting today's close and the probability of falling 40+ spu points is always very low (hence betting on this outcome has lousy odds).

However, I will predict with confidence that should these "stops" get triggered, you will be rubbing your eyes next week at the much lower prices you will see. 

Hernan Avella writes: 

What happened with the idea you championed back in December about the wisdom of the common man, that poured $36.5 billion into stock funds on Xmas week, marking the biggest inflows on record as U.S. stocks surged to record highs. Are those the positions that are looking to sell today? Enlighten us please.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

The "common man" will do just fine. It's the professionals who will be selling based on things such as this.

Anton Johnson writes: 

Wondering about the self-promoting Mebane Faber and his recently launched ETF buisness, I found this value nugget:

Cambria global value ETF (GVAL) return since inception (3-12-2014 till 1-28-2015) is ~ -19%.

'The Cambria Global Value ETF seeks investment results that closely correspond to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Cambria Global Value Index[…]The Index next separates the top 25% of these countries as measured by Cambria's proprietary long term valuation metrics. The Index then screens stocks with market capitalizations over $200 million. The Index is comprised of approximately 100 companies.'

anonymous writes:

Meb Faber likes to look at 12 month moving averages computed at the end of the month. For S&P we have:

Date              Close

1/30/2015       ??

12/31/2014     2058.9

11/28/2014     2067.56

10/31/2014     2018.05

9/30/2014       1972.29

8/29/2014       2003.37

7/31/2014       1930.67 

6/30/2014       1960.23

5/30/2014        1923.57

4/30/2014        1883.95

3/31/2014        1872.34

2/28/2014        1859.45

You can verify that he would be bearish if the end of January value is 1959.125 or below.

This I believe is the source of Rocky's numbers



Investors in U.S.-based funds poured $36.5 billion into stock funds in the latest weekly period, marking the biggest inflows on record as U.S. stocks surged to record highs, data from Thomson Reuters Lipper service showed on Friday"

They forgot to highlight the 18 billion outflows the week before. I don't have access to this Lipper data feed, but it would be interesting to search for a relationship between inflows/outflows (values, changes, streaks) and prospective returns. Copper the public at all times?

anonymous writes: 

Check out trim tabs… .



 The CME and the CFTC are doing a great job at destroying the market ecology by exterminating the 'spoofers' out of the futures markets. This clever species helps maintain the equilibrium of order flow by gaming liquidity asymmetries and thus keeping the population of naive momentum front-running strategies in check. It reminds me of the extinction and later reintroduction of the wolves in Yellowstone.

Ed Stewart writes: 

I can't see how spoofers are bad for anyone but the momentum front runners, as you suggest. There must be a "god given" right to jump in front of slower moving participants that we are not aware of. I'd love to know how the spoofing practice developed. My guess is it started as a counter-strategy to neutralize front-running before it became a source of profit?

anonymous writes: 

And "they" destroyed limit orders when they busted the trades during the flash crash. I guess front-running is the only virtuous and god-favoured strategy?



"Investors in U.S.-based funds poured $36.5 billion into stock funds in the latest weekly period, marking the biggest inflows on record as U.S. stocks surged to record highs, data from Thomson Reuters Lipper service showed on Friday"

They forgot to highlight the 18 billion outflows the week before …. I don't have access to this Lipper data feed, but it would be interesting to search for a relationship between inflows/outflows (values, changes, streaks) and prospective returns. Copper the public at all times?



 The CME and the CFTC are doing a great job at destroying the market ecology by exterminating the 'spoofers' out of the futures markets. This clever species helps maintain the equilibrium of order flow by gaming liquidity asymmetries and thus keeping the population of naive momentum front-running strategies in check. It reminds me of the extinction and later reintroduction of the wolves in Yellowstone.



 Here is an interesting article about hacking passwords: "How Crackers Make Minced Meat Out of Your Passwords". It has an obvious relationship with counting.

"It's all about analysis, gut feelings, and maybe a little magic," he said. "Identify a pattern, run a mask, put recovered passes in a new dict, run again with rules, identify a new pattern, etc. If you know the source of the hashes, you scrape the company website to make a list of words that pertain to that specific field of business and then manipulate it until you are happy with your results."



 Foxcatcher for me was highly thought provoking and educational on many levels.

1. It records the decadence of one man John Du Pont who was born to wealth, once his interests in ornithology, philately, and conchology receded.

2. It shows once again the violence that people without opposite sex partners are prone to. (apparently he killed Dave as a birthday present to a rival wrestler).

3. It shows the great composure, and consciousness, as Brett would call it, of Dave Schultze who never lost his cool during all his aggressive bouts winning the Olympic gold and world gold while maintaining a truly benevolent attitude towards his life and students.

4. It shows the athleticism and sports genes of a truly great athlete in Mark Schultze who was always in the brother's shadow even though amassing the same golds, and adding an ultimate world to his laurels.

5. Once again the seed of the problem was the the Wrestling association like all official bodies tends to impoverish it's customers while enriching themselves thereby leading to the poverty of Mark that made him bend to the will of a crazy man as the only way to make a living while training to compete with the state sponsored athletes.

6. It reminds me of what the USSRA was like when I was in a similar situation to Mark, the best with no money and the USSRA watching me like a hawk to see that no prize with the rise in the price of gold amounted to more than $150.

7. It shows what good actors can do under the stewardship of a good director, the actors being Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. They had to work out strenuously for 7 months to perform all the wrestling scenes in verisimilitude and live action.

8. It shows the subtlety of Bennett Miller who directed Moneyball and is obviously a fellow traveler in leaving the output of the movie to the viewer without knocking him on the head with hateful depictions of the rich, albeit to insure good reviews he had to make Du Pont look like an idiot for his patriotism.

9. It has real wrestlers and real footage to carry the story along.

10. the one thing left out to me was the strange case of why the security head who accompanied John on his fatal shooting didn't try to stop the shooting. Also, why Dave stayed with John for 7 years after the brother was ostracized. The humiliating spectacle of Mark staying on living rent free after being fired but being paid shows how money is so important in shaping a destiny. It's a highly recommended sports film.

Victor Niederhoffer adds: 

Here is some good skinny on the deranged man with money who was able to buy the wrestler's loyalty. There are many Jewish proverbs about this: a rich mans jokes are always funny; if you have money, men think you are wise, and handsome and sing like a bird.

Ed Stewart writes: 

The idea that the "amateur" restrictions on money making opens a window for freaks and weirdos to get leverage that they don't deserve is a good one. I have though that to some extent the same process occurs in political funding. The amount of leverage that, say, $25m can get is astonishingly out of proportion to what seems logical.

Another thought: can accommodating nutty behaviors or antics actually accelerate or provoke the insanity? I think so, I think I have seen it. And there is a clear line between expressions of individuality and self-destructive antics of a pending madman.

Some behaviors cry out so loudly to be corrected, it is almost as if the person in the downward spiral is dying for someone to set a limit for their antics. If there is no pain or reaction, (the real world) the aberrant behavior grows unchecked. In that sense humoring such a person might ultimately be a very cruel act. 

Hernan Avella writes: 

One aspect of the movie that is touched only tangentially is the decline of the sport of wrestling. These great athletes compete at the highest levels in their twenties and then it's all over and the best thing they can aspire is to be a coach in a reputable college wrestling program. The final scene shows Mark in a cage fight. He participated in the Ultimate Fighting Championship #6 and won his fight and $50K. Capitalism has open a window for wrestlers to transition into a profitable business or continue their careers through Mixed Martial Arts. It's a truly barbaric sport, but the consumer likes it. I have the utmost respect for cage fighters, who not only have to be highly proficient in wrestling, but also Brazilian jiu jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai, and many more arts. Thanks for the recommendation. Great movie.



 I took part in the Chicago Triathlon. One of the highlights was witnessing american enterprise at its best. It's a very efficient system working for a piece of the aspirational consumer disposable income. The evangelizers (using their own but also academic research in psychology) increase the popularity of the sport through the media outlets and the elite athletes. At the top level the message is about health and self-improvement. Quality of life is so high these days, that we crave for activities that simulate physical struggle. They also disseminate technical views and advice, which by definition are in favor of newer and more gear. Every part of the sport gets highly specialized, horizontally and vertically, following the professional circuit. It's a matrix of time (training, pre-competition, competition, post-competition) and technical component (nutrition, recovery, gear, literature, tourism). Every component gets subdivided more and more to create diversity of demand and add new lines of businesses. At the end of the day everybody is happy.



 We all know by now that one of the main purposes of the market is to create more flow so that the public can do the wrong thing. The market accomplishes this in a infinite variety of beautiful ways. One of the unobtrusive ways is through colors as in the Peacocks tail. The various quote machines flash red when down on the day and green when up on the day. Many markets, much too many for chance, flash from red to green incessantly until they attract your notice and lure you into an unprofitable for you trade. Right now Crude has flashed red to green to red about 1000 times in front of one's poor wherewithal.

Art Cooper writes: 

This is straight out of Las Vegas's playbook, where the slot machines ("One-armed bandits") are set up to maximize flashing lights, noise, etc. especially highlighting the (very rare) payouts.

Hernan Avella writes: 

Yet, it is remarkable that participants keep depending on the same limiting media tools which shape their understanding of the system. I watched this video from a leading computer programmer and it got me thinking about the possibilities if one steps out of the conventional offerings. I'm convinced that one has to design their own tools to watch the market, given our propensity to fall for deception and traps, specially of a visual kind.


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