I have been thinking about the imminent times when SPU closes above 2000 and then to 2018 unchanged on year. Many sold out bulls will come in. There's no emotion more urgent and forceful than sold out bull. You just have to get in and not let the big rally you missed go up there without you. So the public buys when it goes to highs above key levels and sell when it goes below key levels. Thus they sell low, and buy low. With intraday swings often hitting 3% on a day, this is very damaging.

But what is the reason that sold out bulls are so anxious to get back in and resent so much the marker rising without them. We'll have to ask Brett about it. But I have a theory. It's a sperm wars theory. The bulls are like the man who's going out with a hot girl and wants to have kids. The worst thing for him is to have another man get her pregnant. So his ejaculations have killer sperms in them that prevent other men's sperm from fertilizing the egg. The same emotion. It's bad enough to miss it yourself but to see someone else get the goods is worst of all.

Steve Ellison writes: 

The market played me like a fiddle in January, and I lost more money than I had a right to. I had a terrible fear of missing the rebound, but at the wrong time in retrospect. I had this fear as the market's (and my) losses mounted on the way down to the initial low of 1804 on January 20. At some point, my position size (which I have now concluded was too large) forced me to exit in order to ensure survival. After the S&P 500 touched 1804 on January 20, it closed 50 points higher the same day. From that point, I felt like I was missing the rebound, but I was more afraid of the downside risk of revisiting that 1804 point. And even on the way up, the S&P 500 would abruptly drop by 20 or 30 points with some regularity, just to reinforce the fear of the downside.

Brett Steenbarger comments: 

 Hi Vic,

I like the sperm war theory. One thing I've consistently noticed on trading floors is that the mood is downbeat but not despondent when the great majority of portfolio managers are losing. When many are losing, however, and a few are making significant money, there is absolute despair. Similarly, when losing money, traders are downbeat. If missing a move that keeps going without them, they are tearing their hair out. Many have said to me that they'd rather lose money on a trade than not participate in a market move. And when a trader gets stopped out of a long position after a pullback, he inevitably roots for the market to go much lower (and vindicate his decision).

The best traders distinguish between market movement and market opportunity. The worst traders treat all (random) movement as opportunity and excoriate themselves for missing "opportunity".

Victor Niederhoffer replies: 

Thanks for you sagacious observation. And of course there must be some regularities that issue from this phenomenon. 

Brett Steenbarger responds:

Indeed! I recently encouraged a PM to calculate his P&L if he had bought the markets at the points at which he had stopped out. Sure enough, the stops brought negative alpha; his profitability would have been meaningfully increased had he not sold at the lows. Similarly, I encouraged a PM to calculate the P&L only for the portions of his positions he had added once his initial position had become profitable. Those added positions also brought negative alpha. The market can be a cruel mistress indeed!





Speak your mind

3 Comments so far

  1. ED on March 8, 2016 3:22 pm

    Reminds me of my trading mantra which I discussed with Hernan over BBQ, “Find and fade pain points.” A strategy with with variation as infinite as there are ways for the mistress to frustrate.

  2. Andrew Goodwin on March 10, 2016 1:06 am

    I read about a money manager who had a winning trading system. He bought shares in a sperm bank and before he knew it, the stock doubled.

  3. Anonymous on March 11, 2016 11:54 am

    Where there’s gold there’s blood -Louis lamour


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