The market is the calculator

If you are attempting to reach 10 via the calculator, there are many and various ways of getting there:  5+5, 2+8, 15-5, 25 –15, or even  2 + 2 –1 –1 –2 –2 +3 +3 +3 + 3.  When it comes to making money in the market our calculator may want to make it to 10 much quicker than the market does and we may want to add 5 + 5 to get there but be prepared for the market to take its own sweet time adding things up.  If all that matters is getting to 10, then make sure the road you take is paved with minuses along with pluses along the way or all your money will be going to the 5508 (punch this number into your calculator and turn it upside down to see what it spells), which will make the employee a very unhappy and broke individual.

Stock trading is easy as long as we understand how to do the math.

Walker, Wave Theory for Alternative Investments

Metaphors are tricky little beasts. Used well, they can make prose vivid; used poorly, they can sometimes become intrusive clichés. In the case of Stephen Todd Walker’s Wave Theory for Alternative Investments: Riding the Wave with Hedge Funds, Commodities, and Venture Capital (McGraw-Hill, 2011) the reader often yearns to move inland and be done with waves, surfers, and forced quotations. (Among the most egregious offenders in the quotation department is [on p. 309] the following: “In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the author explained that ‘[t]he sea was as a crucible of molten gold, that bubblingly leaps with light and heat.’ One can plainly see waves with the commodity gold.” Poor Melville and his “explanation.”)

Although the author pays lip service to Elliott wave theory, his waves are more generic. As he writes, “Wave theory is simply the belief that all securities move in waves (patterns, cycles, or trends).” (p. 3) Few people today would dispute this belief, so we can quickly dispense with any further talk about waves and move directly to the substance of the book—investing in venture capital, commodities, and hedge funds.

The most informative part of the book focuses on venture capital, with which the author was involved in the 1990s when he worked at Alex. Brown. He traces the history of venture capital, highlights some of the principal players, assesses the performance of venture capital, and discusses advantages and disadvantages for investors. One of the disadvantages is the phenomenon of capital calls. A client commits a certain amount of money, say $1 million. But “few funds take all the money up front today. As the venture fund identifies new opportunities, they will call on their investors to put more money into the fund…. Because these calls are random and over long periods (years), it can be burdensome to an investor. Should the investor (for whatever reason) decide not to invest, there are normally severe penalties.” (p. 172) (more…)

Loss Aversion

Changing behavior is one of the hardest things one can do, but as most successful marketers will tell you, it can be done in almost any circumstance. There are apps for the iPhone (I can’t speak for Android) which have succeeded in getting people to exercise or lose weight. Perhaps you might adapt one of them to suit your need.

Yes. If loss aversion is pervasive, then it should show up in regularities relating to price moves. The situation is complicated in futures where one person’s long profit when price goes up is the short’s loss. The endowment effect which is caused by loss aversion or the tendency to connect with what you own, could lead to holding something too long. The reference point effect, which is that people base their decisions on where they are, a variant of holding onto the status quo is also a factor. When there is a profit, a different type of endowment effect plays then when there is a loss. Especially when there has been a big loss and it turns into a profit, the loss aversion effect is greatest I believe. (more…)

Stock Market Learning

1. Read the works of Soros, Jesse Livermore, William O’Neill, Warren Buffett and Nick Darvis.
2. Choose one and copy exactly what they do.
3. See each stage they go through to reach their conclusions and the actions they take and the inferrences they derive from the outcomes.
4. Pick stocks and plan out the course of action and all the permutations of what will happen in all price scenarios and put them into practice.
5. Memorise the details of the great coups and all the rules the masters have made in trading.
6. Keep all your trading a secret and don’t let others’ views interfere with your own. Keep your mind totally on the facts at hand and the details of what you see.
7. Before going to sleep look at the coups of other traders and of your own. Talk with the masters you are studying and meet them in your mind for interviews.
8. When the markets are not open or the market isn’t acting right for you then study past trades and memorise the actions you took and piece together the trade again looking for the lesson.
9. Be a better trader than your teachers and ask yourself how you can do better.
10. When you have practiced and ‘perfected’ position entry, move to exits, patterns, money management, probability theory, etc..
11. Look at situations and look at them as you would a trade. What would you do? Are there any interesting things to learn here that can be used in the markets?
12. See what’s happening rather than guess.
13. Play games like the one played in Liar’s Poker, where you invent scenarios and ask each other what you would do in that situation. E.g. nuclear explosion in Tokyo…
14. Be aware of views you are taking on a trade. Look at it always as if it’s the first time you have seen it and review an open trade every day as if you have just placed it.

Trading Psychology – Motivational Quotes For Traders

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action!

If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. – Jim Rohn

You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win. – Zig Ziglar

All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination. – Earl Nightingale

If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us. – Jim Rohn

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan. – Tom Landry (more…)

Getting Back Up

Sometimes in trading you have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. It is the simple truth and anyone who has been involved in the game for longer than a cup of coffee will tell you the same. There will be times when you are caught with a blow up, caught in a squeeze or simply caught leaning in the wrong direction but over the years what I have learned is it is always about getting back into the ring for another round.

It’s important to have a routine for handling those times when not only your financial capital gets bitten but your emotional capital sinks as well.

1) Reposition:  Whether you are caught in a downturn or short squeeze, removing the position is often the best way to remain objective. So often when people start to see a position run against them they freeze up and start to rely on hope rather than remaining in control of the trade. When I see stocks breaking down or acting poorly, they are sold immediately and I am able to start fresh.

2) Check the Charts and your Bias:  I have written many times before that price action is never wrong. If you are caught on the wrong side of price action it is a must to re-evaluate the charts you are viewing and check any bias you may have. It is imperative to embrace the prevailing direction and avoid seeing what is not there. Having raised cash and avoiding any further significant draw, take a fresh look at the action and once again analyze your position accordingly.

3) Embrace the New Day:  Trading is unique in that each and every day presents a new opportunity. This must be embraced as it is one of the features that makes trading so great. Rather than dwelling on the past, embrace the future. Each and every day presents new opportunities but not unless you are looking for them.

4) Move Slow and Small:  Most people make the mistake in believing that restoring financial capital will improve emotional capital when I would argue it is actually the opposite. One can only trade at peak performance when his emotional tank is filled and confidence is high. Regardless of how long you have been trading there will be times when this tank takes a dip and before moving on to make any new financial progress, it is imperative to restore the emotional side first. The best way to do this is to move very slow and small. Rather than taking full positions, take quarters or even tenths. Paper trade if you need to and analyze results. As time goes on your emotional capital will be restored and you will soon have the confidence to re-enter the game at full speed.

If you trade, one thing is for sure, you will have good times and you will have bad times. The best way to handle the bad times is to know they will come and have a plan in place to follow so that you may bounce back quickly and put them in the past.

Book review: Backstage Wall Street by Josh Brown

They say that everyone has one book in them: this is Josh Brown’s book. Backstage Wall Street is part autobiography, part financial advice, part a sarcastic, sober assessment of “Wall Street” for individual investors, part history, part financial product details, part uncovering of marketing schemes, part catharsis. The trademarked snarky humor is recognizable throughout the piece: I laughed out several times. Unlike many textbook-ish and stuffy finance investment books, this book is conversational, humble and non-assuming. At the same time, it does not always flow very well from chapter to chapter, in part because of the switch between anecdotes and theory. People looking for a fool-proof “system”, a Suze Orman diet vanilla coke read, or a data-heavy CFA curriculum-type handbook will be disappointed. This book might well be the equivalent of Monkey Business, a classic that covers the lives of junior investment bankers with the added bonus of useful advice.

Josh- widely known via his blog The Reformed Broker- had started out in the traditional brokerage world, something virtually unknown to young people: people calling you on the phone to sell you stocks, Bud Fox-style. The high-pressure sales environment, the churn, the conflicts are all described in painful detail. He even lays out the “straightline”: a widely used pitch to overcoming objections by the person at the other end of the line. But you would not buy a car designed by the salesman with the gaudy tie, should you buy “advice” from a telemarketer? Probably not in this day and age, hence the industry is on its way out. Josh is now an independent RIA whose interests are much better aligned with those of the clients.

The problem- with or without brokers calling you- is that most people are bad individual investors, and make suboptimal choices. This is similar to the issues faced with the wider retirement system: the decline of the defined benefit plans has “empowered” individuals with 401(k)s, and, for the most part, the experiment has not been a success. Josh lays out in detail the pricey marketing machinations employed by mutual funds and the brokers that sell them, and how the mutuals are getting replaced by ETFs. Josh also discusses the often grotesque ascent of the discount online brokerages, and the double-edged sword they are for non-professionals. He also covers the “research” controversy from the dot-com boom to the big settlement, and the general disservice it has been providing.

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