quotations and euphemisms from : Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

  • It takes a man a long time to learn all the lessons of his mistakes. They say there are two sides to everything. But there is only one side to the stock market; and it is not the bull side or the bear side, but the right side.
  • I think it was a long step forward in my trading education when I realized at last that when old Mr. Partridge kept on telling the other customers, Well, you know this is a bull market! he really meant to tell them that the big money was not in the individual fluctuations but in the main movements that is, not in reading the tape, but in sizing up the entire market and its trend.
  • The reason is that a man may see straight and clearly and yet become impatient or doubtful when the market takes its time about doing as he figured it must do. That is why so many men in Wall Street, who are not at all in the sucker class, not even in the third grade, nevertheless lose money. The market does not beat them. They beat themselves, because though they have brains they cannot sit tight. Old Turkey was dead right in doing and saying what he did. He had not only the courage of his convictions but the intelligent patience to sit tight.
  • The average man doesn’t wish to be told that it is a bull or bear market. What he desires is to be told specifically which particular stock to buy or sell. He wants to get something for nothing. He does not wish to work. He doesn’t even wish to have to think. It is too much bother to have to count the money that he picks up from the ground. We love volatility and days like the one in which the stock market took a big plunge, for being on the right side of moving markets is what makes us money. A stagnant market in any commodity, such as grain has experienced recently, means there’s no opportunity for us to make money.
  • A man will risk half his fortune in the stock market with less reflection than he devotes to the selection of a medium-priced automobile.

Justin Fox’s The Myth of the Rational Market:Book Review

Justin Fox’s The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street(Harriman House, 2009) isn’t exactly hot off the press, but I discovered it only recently. It’s a fast-paced history, replete with interesting (sometimes chatty/catty) details, of theories about the financial markets from Irving Fisher to Robert Shiller.
The cast of characters is huge. I list them here to give a sense of the scope of the just shy of 400-page book: Kenneth Arrow, Roger Babson, Louis Bachelier, Fischer Black, John Bogle, Warren Buffett, Alfred Cowles III, Eugene Fama, Irving Fisher, Milton Friedman, William Peter Hamilton, Friedrich Hayek, Benjamin Graham, Alan Greenspan, Michael Jensen, Daniel Kahneman, John Maynard Keynes, Hayne Leland, Robert Lucas, Frederick Macaulay, Burton Malkiel, Benoit Mandelbrot, Harry Markowitz, Jacob Marschak, Robert Merton, Merton Miller, Wesley Mitchell, Franco Modigliani, Oskar Morgenstern, M.F.M. Osborne, Harry Roberts, Richard Roll, Barr Rosenberg, Stephen Ross, Mark Rubinstein, Paul Samuelson, Leonard “Jimmy” Savage, Myron Scholes, William F. Sharpe, Robert Shiller, Andrei Shleifer, Herbert Simon, Joseph Stiglitz, Lawrence Summers, Richard Thaler, Edward Thorp, Jack Treynor, Amos Tversky, John von Neumann, and Holbrook Working. (more…)

8 Key cognitive biases to be aware of…

  1. Loss Aversion… A preference for avoiding losses over acquiring gains
  2. Sunk Cost Effect… Treating money already spent as more valuable than money that may be spent in the future
  3.  Disposition Effect… A tendency to lock in gains and ride losses
  4.  Outcome Bias… A tendency to judge a decision by its outcome rather than the quality of the decision at the time it was made
  5.  Recency Bias… A tendency to weigh recent data or experience more than earlier data or experience
  6.  Anchoring… A tendency to rely too heavily or anchor on readily available information
  7.  Bandwagon effect… A tendency to believe things because other people believe them
  8.  Belief in Law of Small numbers… The tendency to draw unjustified conclusions from too little information

Two Types of Traders

In general, I find there are two kinds of traders. The first kind trades visually, from patterns that are evident on visual inspection. Those include chart patterns, oscillator patterns, Elliott waves, and the like. Their trading decisions are discretionary, in that they elect to buy, hold, and sell based upon their perception of patterns and their judgment as to their meaning.
The second kind of trader distrusts visual inspection. Such traders are more likely to buy into the behavioral finance notion that unaided human perception and judgment are subject to a variety of biases. Accordingly, these traders use some form of historical/statistical analysis and/or system development to test ideas and trade only those that test out in a promising way.
Now here’s the interesting part: The first group of traders almost universally asks me to help them tame their emotions. They have problems with impulsive trading, failing to honor risk limits, failing to take valid signals due to anxiety, etc. The second group of traders, having researched successful strategies, almost universally asks me to help them take maximum advantage of their edge. They want help taking *more* risk and trading larger positions. (more…)

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics-Book Review

MISBEHAVING-ASRBehavioral economics is now mainstream, at least outside of the stodgiest of economics departments. In fact, as the author writes, “This maturation of the field is so advanced that when this book is published in 2015, barring impeachment, I will be in the midst of a year serving as the president of the American Economic Association, and Robert Shiller will be my successor. The lunatics are running the asylum!” (p. 335) How behavioral economics got to this point from its humble, academically risky beginnings in the 1970s is the subject of Richard H. Thaler’s Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics (W. W. Norton, 2015).

Traditional economics studies rational agents, whom Thaler calls Econs; behavioral economics studies Humans. Econs are a construct designed to fit a theory; Humans are real people whose often irrational activities provide data (supposedly irrelevant factors) for study and hypothesis formation.

Thaler’s book, a personal history of the struggles and triumphs of behavioral economics, is also a wonderful introduction to the field. It recounts study after study that show just how predictably error-prone people are. And it explains how businesses can use these findings to keep customers happy and how governments can use them for the public good.

Looking back, Thaler suggests that the area where behavioral economics has had its greatest impact is in finance. “No one would have predicted that in 1980. In fact, it was unthinkable, because economists knew that financial markets were the most efficient of all markets, the places where arbitrage was easiest, and thus the domain in which misbehaving was least likely to appear.“ And yet these markets exhibited tell-tale anomalies, for instance the storied case of Palm and 3Com. Moreover, he notes, “It also didn’t hurt that financial markets offer the best opportunities to make money if markets are misbehaving, so a lot of intellectual resources have gone into investigating possible profitable investment strategies.” (p. 346)

The area where it has had the least impact so far is macroeconomics. In part, at least, this is due to the fact that the field “lacks the two key ingredients that contributed to the success of behavioral finance: the theories do not make easily falsifiable predictions, and the data are relatively scarce.” (p. 337)

Misbehaving is a thoroughly enjoyable read, not quite right for the beach but perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

5 Wisdom Thoughts For Traders

  1. Learn to think in probabilities. In some types of analysis, it’s easy to forget that any conclusion is only valid within the range of statistical probability. For instance, if we do valuation work, we might think that is the value, and just wait for price to converge. Technical tools make us face the reality in the market, and that is that markets are not very predictable, and are only predictable within a range of probabilities.
  2. Learn to cut your losses. It’s impossible to say what is the “most important” thing in trading or investing, but this certainly is a candidate. Many methodologies do not have any way of telling you when you’re wrong. For instance, if price is under your valuation and it goes down, the logical course of action is to buy more. At some point, declining prices carry a message, and technical tools can force us to respect that message.
  3. Understand how a market has been trending. This can be as easy as squinting at a price chart and see if it “goes up, down, or is pretty flat”. You don’t need moving averages or indicators to do this–simple visual inspection is enough. However (and this is a huge “however”), do not assume that a market that has been trending in the past will continue to trend in the future. That requires a few more steps.
  4. Understand when the rubber band might be stretched a bit too far. Markets tend to move in waves: directional movements will alternate with pullbacks or flat periods. Sometimes, a market goes a bit too far, too fast and can be set to snap back. Buying a market (or shorting) when it is overextended is chasing, and can open the trader up to some stunning losses. There are simple technical tools that will highlight when markets are perhaps a bit overextended, and can tell us to wait for more favorable conditions.
  5. Enforce discipline. Markets are random, but you cannot be random. The only way to get consistent results out of difficult and competitive markets is to always act with consistency and discipline. Technical methodologies encourage us to face market conditions and to immediately evaluate the results of our actions. There is no better way to drive toward consistent behavior.

Do Stocks Fall Faster than They Rise?

Think about it1) Markets fall faster than they rise — and options traders know this. Otherwise, arbitraging this difference would be a meal for a lifetime.

2) Market participants perhaps anticipate that the realized volatility during a bear market is greater than a bull market. However, the problem with this analysis is one might expect to see an upward sloping volatility yield curve in out-of-the-money puts (during bull markets), and yet that does not usually occur based on my tests. Conversely, right now have a downward sloping yield curve in out of the money calls — which confirms the hypothesis that market participants anticipate slower price rises in the future. [Note to quants: I am not confusing delta, gamma and vega. I’m using options to predict terminal price at expiration.]

3) For most humans, fear of loss is a stronger emotion/motivator than the pleasure of gain (greed). This is well documented in the psychology and behavioral finance literature. Hence, ceterus paribus, capital market participants (who have a net long position) will, as a group, pull their rip cord faster — to flee from risk — than they will embrace the possibility of profit.

Herd Behavior in Financial Markets

HERD-ASROver the last twenty-five years, there has been a lot of interest in herd behavior in financial markets—that is, a trader’s decision to disregard her private information to follow the behavior of the crowd. A large theoretical literature has identified abstract mechanisms through which herding can arise, even in a world where people are fully rational. Until now, however, the empirical work on herding has been completely disconnected from this theoretical analysis; it simply looked for statistical evidence of trade clustering and, when that evidence was present, interpreted the clustering as herd behavior. However, since decision clustering may be the result of something other than herding—such as the common reaction to public announcements—the existing empirical literature cannot distinguish “spurious” herding from “true” herd behavior.

     In this post, we describe a novel approach to measuring herding in financial markets, which we employed in a recently published paper. We develop a theoretical model of herd behavior that, in contrast to the existing theoretical literature, can be brought to the data, and we show how to estimate it using financial markets transaction data. The estimation strategy allows us to distinguish “real” herding from “spurious herding,” or the simple clustering of trading behavior. Our approach allows researchers to gauge the importance of herding in a financial market and to assess the inefficiency in the process of price discovery that herding causes.

The Model
Let’s give an overview of the model that we brought to the data and try to explain why herding would arise. In the model, an asset is traded over many days; at the beginning of each day, an event may occur that changes the fundamental value of the asset. If an event occurs, some traders (informed traders) receive (private) information on the new asset value; although this information may be imprecise, these traders do know that something occurred in the market to alter the value of the asset. The other traders in the market trade for reasons not related to information, such as liquidity or hedging motives. If no event occurs, all traders only trade for non-informational reasons. (more…)

Hank Pruden on "Behavioral Finance" and Technical Analysis

Hank Pruden’s theory of “Behavioral Finance” proposes that human flaws are consistent, measurable and predictable, and being aware of and utilizing this phenomenon can benefit a trader.

“For the better part of 30 years, the discipline of finance has been under the thrall of the random walk\cum efficient market hypothesis. Yet enough anomalies piled up in recent years to crack the dominance of the random walk. As a consequence, the popular press has been reporting the market behavior,” said Pruden. One of these new methods discussed is “behavioral finance.”

Pruden is a professor in the School of Business at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He was a featured speaker at the 20th annual Telerate Seminars Technical Analysis Group Conference (TAG 20). (more…)

Bruce Lee on Stock Trading

If Bruce Lee was a trader I believe this would be his advice:

If you let the market show you the way you will win.

Do not trade your opinions about what the market will do next,  instead always ask the questions:

What is the chart saying? Where is support and resistance?

Is the market trending or range bound? At what price level will I know that it has changed?

Where is all the capital flowing? What keeps going up day after day?

If I enter a trade at what price level will I know I was wrong?

Can I quickly admit I am wrong about a trade and move on to the next one?

Water is so versatile it can be ice in the winter and steam in extreme heat. Traders do well to be a bull in a bull market and a bear in a bear market.

Water can wear through a rock if it is a strong river.  You can win in the markets if you keep trading the right method over and over again.

Water takes the form of whatever you put water into. Traders should trade for the market conditions that they find themselves in.

Water can only be reduced to its core elements hydrogen and oxygen but it can not be truly destroyed. If you only risk 1% per trade your account can experience a draw down in capital but it to can not be destroyed.

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