Market Mixtape, from Richard Owen

December 12, 2012 |

 My girl has escaped to the Galapagos for a pinch hitters holiday. Last minute, she substitutes for a broken off boyfriend on a mother-daughter romantic cruise. I am left to fend alone back home. This provides the opportunity for a swift beer with a friend to turn into an impromptu night out, clubbing in Shoreditch.

One needs a spright female on hand to perfect the nightclub experience. I love to dance, but my beau is far away and tonight I boogie alone. I content myself with being a wannabe insipid Susan Sontag for the evening and see what market lessons can be pried from a meta state of mind.

Shoreditch is now Chelsea mark II. We pile into one of the McNightclubs that have sprung up, impoverished attempts to replicate the Shoreditch of old. But only the immigrant toilet attendant has stayed the same, swallowing his multi-lingual, degree educated pride to beg pound coins from drunks passing through his urinaled office. The rest is all change.

In five years, all the themes of Global Capitalism have sprung through. Asians and Russians. New money. The true roughneck suburbanites have been pushed out to cheaper Dalston, preparing the cultural groundwork for its inevitable rich-bitch colonisation in ten years time. London spreads its tentacles outwards, a multicultural Tokyo in the making.

Everything must bubble up through the ecosystem. Out in Dalston, they're preparing the cool of tomorrow. That's where the real coke and E, life limiting Epicureans can be found. Venture a little further, be the artists and repertoire man for the market, and you might learn something. When Robert Johnson sized up his Asian shorts, he knew the outcome. That the cracking of the currency band would also break the backs of subsistence Thais. He knew the multi-order effects that would ripple through and was prepared. But most have such a vanity of their profession that they don't want to think through the other side of the trade.

The margins must inform the centre always. Innovation is never from the middle out. Here in Shoreditch, they deceive themselves that they have urban cool to themselves. But the beats of Dalston today cannot be offered up to Shoreditch's dance floors. Social permission must be given first. Schwarzman has whip hand. David Swensen tells you to pile into PE. You do so gladly.

 Doorman paid off and inside, I pull off my jumper and roll up my sleeves. I suddenly remember I dressed scruff for a quick beer. Hauling furniture for my father in law has stunk up my shirt. But here's a market lesson: sometimes you can blend into the beta and cover over your current flaws. In the funk of a club, nobody can spot my sub-hygiene; right now I don't need to do better than the crowd. And soon, my own deposit to the toilet attendant wins a spray of Calvin Klein from his collection.

For the youngsters seeking romance, the club is a floor market of old. Position and size is offered in full view of all players. Bargains are transacted; matched orders are paired and moved off to the side. Like the great traders, the great seducers know core principals, but the art can't be reduced to a set of rules.

Look to the DJ. He is a super skilled hauteur, playing all the Mixmag approved material for pop connoisseurs. But he is deeply mistaken. Watch the floor. He has forgotten this is pretend, bought hedonism for urban wealthy. Experian's Mosaic calls them Alpha-As. This crowd wants the cheap, easy beats. The Ibiza classics. They don't know how to dance to this complex, nuanced stuff.

Similarly, to shoot the lights for your clients, you need to pick the right ones. Play in the connoisseur nightclubs only. The right families know to endow the smart boy with his bar mitzvah gift and give him room. But if you're sourcing from the broad crowd, offer 200 over the index only. Play the same tune as everyone else, just execute a handful better.

Switch to later - back home and unwinding briefly in front of the TV as the ringing clears my ears. Bruno Mars shows how the DJ should have worked it. Bruno mixes doo wop and reggae traditions with a sweet voice. He's an ultra-straightforward mix of old time Motown, Jackson, with a hint of Blues Brothers. Nothing he is doing is rocket science; Bruno is just great at it. When suddenly his big band start to dance behind him in syncopation, the crowd goes wild. The moves are so simple, and that's why we instinctively love it. Our need to empathise with the protagonist overwhelms everything else. We could do that! Bruno's reward is scale: best-selling global artist of 2011. Get out of your own way.

The market is alike: it wants to trend to a simple tune and dispose of nuance. Into the election we get a consistent menu from the central bankers, Merkel and Obama. It vibes simply and pleasantly and the market moves accordingly.

 On the club dance floor the same can be seen. As soon as the DJ offers the basic beats, the crowd immediately ratchets up and energy spreads across the room. A range breakout has occurred. What's our leading indicator? Certain attendees got to see the DJ's playlist before hand and know when we are set to change tone. The cool-kids roughing with the bouncers and the bar girls. Watch for when they rush to the floor. Don't want to live that lifestyle ourself: hedonism takes its toll. But we can watch for their moves.

Same for the break-ins. When the DJ falls back to his instinctive complexity, uncertainty starts to spread and the floor slowly clears. But not quickly. By being alert, we can get out in front and hit the bar first.

I shift naturally to rhythm whatever it is. Girls look quizzically as to how, and compliment me on my moves as the rest of the floor jars. Similarly, the good trader sticks to his system, but adapts to the nuance of the current tune. I would readily exchange all rhythmic skill for even an ounce of the same in the market.

A Chelsea girl grabs my ass as she shuffles past on the dance floor. When you want to raise capital you can't and when you've got your fill, everyone's interested to add more. I ignore it and self-indoctrinate, thinking to my girl in the Galapagos. Don't be tempted into the cheap, impulsive trades. Don't go on tilt. Remind yourself of your principals and stick to your proven system. Work your long term plan and you'll profit more.

The light must be catching me favourably or my perennial uniform of old chinos and worn out dress shirt must have accidentally intersected with the current whim of Shoreditch fashion. But any false flag cool on the dance floor belies my cardigan wearing, shoe staring tendencies. Do your diligence in the light of the day, not the setting the vendors or advisors have picked. Don't bid the banker's book for an asset. It's the pork not the rouge that matters on the lipstick wearing pig.

 A drunk in our party rabbits into my ear. I can't make head nor tale of what they're saying, but I'm sure it makes perfect sense to them. They are intoxicated by the market of the moment and convinced of its internal logic. Tomorrow, a hangover.

Back home. After only a few hours sleep, I pay the penalty, rising too early to return a borrowed car on-time to a friend. I peer brain-dead over the steering wheel onto the icy road and hope for the best. Selling out hard-touch front month options on myself, I get to my destination safe and in favour. We all do it, let's hope the vol isn't mispriced.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

Mr. Owen's fine soliloquy is wonderfully poignant and is as good as the soliloquy from Carousel and should be made into a ballet or set piece of a musical.


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