The jump from trend to bubble is faster than ever

What’s the rush?

What's the rush?
I love this quote from George Soros because it is more true every day. He said it in his book on the crash of 2008 but he might be talking about fake meat, marijuana or electric cars today.
We can all see trends towards environmentalism, renewables, e-commerce, the internet, eating out and TV streaming along with a dozen other things. The reaction function of the market is to identify a trend and throw money at it in a virtual gold rush, hoping that one day the claims will pay.
Last year we saw it in WeWork. Co-working was undoubtedly a trend and WeWork was the biggest and best-known name in the space. SoftBank and others drove the company valuation into the stratosphere but it all came crashing down when the collective conscience of the world realized the business model could easily be replicated.
The big macro trend of the generation is low and falling inflation. We’re at the point now where every bond investor — voluntarily or not — is betting on low inflation. The perception (or perhaps misconception) is that inflation will stay low forever. If the market is wrong, it would be the mother of all financial busts. The bond market is worth more than $100 trillion with a myriad of derivatives layered on combined with endless knock-on effects, like mortgage rates.

Continue reading »

The bigger fool theory

Cartoon inspired by this article written by Peter Tasker in the Financial Times
“The inconvenient truth is that gold is not really an investment at all. Since it generates no return and thus has no fundamental value, the same arguments can be used to justify any price – $500 an ounce or $5,000. Gold buyers are simply trusting in the bigger fool theory – that someone else will take it off their hands at a higher price. They are speculating, not investing, and like all speculators what they are speculating on is the speculations of other speculators. Packaging it in an exchange-traded fund makes no difference.

Technically Speaking

A great reminder from technical analyst John Murphy:

“The statement ‘market action discounts everything’ forms what is probably the cornerstone of technical analysis. […] The technician believes that anything that can possibly affect the price–fundamentally, politically, psychologically, or otherwise–is actually reflected in the price of that market.”

Alfred Cowles adds:

“This evidence of structure in stock prices suggests alluring possibilities in the way of forecasting. In fact, many professional speculators, including in particular exponents of the so-called Dow Theory widely publicized by popular financial journals, have adopted systems based in the main on the principle that it is advantageous to swim with the tide.”

William Dunnigan adds:

“We think that forecasting should be thought of in the light of measuring the direction of todays trend and then turning to the Law of Inertia (momentum) for assurance that probabilities favor the continuation of that trend for an unknown period of time into the future. This is trend following, and it does not require us to don the garment of the mystic and look into the crystal balls of the future.”

Richard Donchian adds:

“When I first got into commodities, no one was interested in a diversified approach. There were cocoa men, cotton men, grain men they were worlds apart. I was almost the first one who decided to look at all commodities together. Nobody before had looked at the whole picture and had taken a diversified position with the idea of cutting losses short and going with a trend.” Continue reading »

U.S. Treasury to China – Revalue Remnimbi or We Will

There’s a lot of talk around the markets and in Washington about China’s currency policy. What many want to know is whether the US Treasury will name China as a currency manipulator. Perhaps a more important question is, should China be named as a currency manipulator? And if it were named as such, what actions could the US take? In recent days the Chinese and the US administration have taken shots in the press at each other. The US is hinting that China is manipulating its currency to boost its economy. The Chinese is firing back saying that the US “should not politicize the remnimbi exchange rate issue.”

First, some background on the problem. Basic economics says that if you keep the currency of your country at a weak (but not so weak as to cause a collapse in it) level you help boost exports. The currency becomes weaker making your goods cheaper for foreign consumption. In a freely floating exchange system, the market determines the equilibrium value. Speculators look at economic statistics like GDP growth, interest rates, inflation etc. to figure out what a currency should be worth and then place bets accordingly. If speculators think that an economy can grow strongly while keeping inflation at a benign rate, they will bid up the currency of that economy. As that happens, the country whose currency is getting stronger could see a decrease in exports. This is caused by the larger amount of currency the importer uses to make the same purchase as previously made. Continue reading »

Are You A Successful Speculator ?

If you never trade, can you be a successful speculator?

If you  cost average, and are disciplined, are you a successful speculator?

If you compound at 50% per year for 10 years, and then lose everything in an afternoon, are you a successful speculator?

If you lose everything in an afternoon, and then learn from your mistake, and then compound at 50% for the next 10 years, are you a successful speculator?

If you compound at 6% per year for 10 years, and never have a meaningful drawdown, are you a successful speculator?

If the risk free rate is 6%, and you are making 12%, are you a more successful speculator then if the risk-free rate is 0% and you are making 6%?

If you think you are a successful speculator, can you really be a successful speculator?

If you think you are not a successful speculator, can you be a successful speculator?

Who are the most successful speculators of the past 100 years? Who are the least successful speculators of the past 100 years? 

Presenting The 10 Most Spectacular Financial Speculations Of The Past 300 Years

Sometimes it seems like the investment community operates on the assumption that the world started in 1929 – or at least that the financial booms, busts and speculators preceding the 1920s are irrelevant to the modern investor. We think this is misguided. Just consider that this common worldview ignores an age where speculators lived in sprawling mansions on Fifth Avenue (as opposed to apartments in the same place measuring about 1/100th the size)! We imagine that there’s a lot to learn from looking at the past 300 years as opposed to the past 80. With this in mind; here we present what we believe to be the best trades of all time.

Speculation drives human progress

Speculation, in all its forms, is what drives human progress. This is the core message behind Michael Bigger’s recent post, “The Desire to Speculate”.
An excerpt from Michael’s essay: 
“It is said that the desire to speculate is very strong in the American people. That is why our country has made greater progress than any other country in the world, because progress is the result of speculation. We are not referring merely to stock speculations, but to the word in its broadest sense. Every new undertaking is a speculation.

An inventor speculates on what he is going to invent. Often such speculations result in losses, because many inventors, or would-be-inventors, never accomplish very much. They spend their money, time, and efforts, and probably live years in poverty, and then if the invention is not profitable, they are heavy losers.

It is the same thing with every new business. It is purely a speculation…”  Continue reading »

Becoming a Successful Speculator

The capacity for rigorous thought; the flexibility and resilience to adapt to changing circumstances; the love of disciplined risk-taking; the hungry intellect: perhaps successful speculators already display those qualities in other life domains and then learn to apply them to markets.

EU sues Goldman over volcanic ash

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced late Sunday that the European Union has filed suit against investment banking giant Goldman Sachs for the fallout of ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.  The volcanic ash, which has blanketed the skies over most of Europe for the last four days, has grounded almost all European air traffic, stranding travelers and disrupting economic activity throughout the European Union.

In a statement delivered in Romansh, the official EU language of the month, Barroso said, “We have uncovered evidence that this so-called ‘natural disaster’, which is costing the EU hundreds of millions of Euros, is in fact an Act of Goldman, and we intend to hold the Zionist-American cabal in charge of the firm accountable.”  “First the profligate Americans drag the world into a near-depression and now they crap all this ash on us.  Who the hell do they think they are?” added Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou from Athens, where he was chairing a conference on Greek sovereign debt entitled, “How American Speculators Forced Us to Cook the Books, Lie to Our European Partners, and Pretend We Don’t Need A Massive Bailout”.

The EU complaint alleges that Goldman operated a proprietary wind-blowing strategy to direct the volcano’s ash into Europe’s stratosphere.  Goldman is accused of profiting from the fallout by buying complex Flight Cancellation Swaps that are netting Goldman millions of dollars every time another European flight is cancelled.  The complaint cites a smoking gun email from Francois Tubbey, a 16-year old Goldman vice president, to an unidentified woman at “i@&$*” stating, “That’s right, baby, Fat Franky’s in charge of the weather.”

Several European banks who are counterparties to the FCS’s are alleged to be suffering billions in losses with no end in sight, apparently because they continue to sell the FCS’s to Goldman.  Reached for comment, the Chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the counterparty banks, said, “Yes, we know almost all European flights are cancelled, but our advisor is Goldman Sachs, and they keep urging us to sell these FCS’s to them, so we do.  We intend to hold them fully responsible.”

Goldman issued a statement saying that it intends to “vigorously defend itself,” adding that the EU’s charges are “unfounded in meteorology and probably also in fact.”

In a related development, the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change said today it is considering investigating Goldman’s role in climate change.  “We’re going to get the documents, proceed cautiously, and determine precisely when Goldman started melting the Polar icecaps.” [via email]

21 Trading Quotes

1. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” ~ Mark Twain
2. “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.” ~ John Maynard Keynes.
3. “I never buy at the bottom and I always sell too soon.” ~ Baron Rothschild
4. “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” ~ John Maynard Keynes
5. “Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it.” ~ Warren Buffett
6. “It is not our duty as speculators to be on the bull side or the bear side but upon the winning side.” ~ Jessie Livermore in Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
7. “The  principles of successful speculation are based on the supposition that people will continue in the future to make the mistakes that they made in the past.” ~ Thomas F. Woodlock
8. “It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It was always my sitting tight. Got that?” ~ Mr. Partridge in Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
9. “They say you never grow poor taking profits. No, you don’t.  But neither do you grow rich taking a four-point profit in a bull market.” ~ Jessie Livermore in Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
10. “Remember that prices are never too high for you to begin buying or too low to begin selling.  But after the initial transaction, don’t make a second unless the first shows you a profit.” ~ Jessie Livermore in Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
11. “A loss never bothers me after I take it. I forget it overnight. But being wrong – not taking the loss – that is what does the damage to the pocketbook and the soul.” ~ Jessie Livermore in Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
12. “If a man didn’t make mistakes, he’d own the world in a month.  But if he didn’t profit by his mistakes, he wouldn’t own a blessed thing.” ~ Jessie Livermore in Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
13. “The man who is right always has two forces working in his favor – basic conditions and the men who are wrong.  In a bull market bear factors are ignored.” ~ Jessie Livermore in Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
14. [What advice would you give the novice trader?] – “First, I would say that risk management is the most important thing to be well understood.  Undertrade, undertrade, undertrade is my second piece of advice.  Whatever you think your position ought to be, cut it at least in half.” ~ Bruce Kovner in Jack Schwager’s Market Wizards
15. “There is probably no class of trades with a higher failure rate than impulsive trades.” Jack Schwager in Market Wizards
16. [What is the most important advice you could give the novice trader?] – “Trade small because that’s when you are as bad as you are ever going to be.  Learn from your mistakes.” ~ Richard Dennis in Jack Schwager’s Market Wizards
17. “The elements of good trading are: (1) cutting losses, (2) cutting losses, and (3) cutting losses.  If you can follow these three rules, you may have a chance.”  ~ Ed Seykota in Jack Schwager’s Market Wizards
18. “Charting is a little like surfing.  You don’t have to know a lot about the phsyics of tides, resonance, and fluid dynamics in order to catch a good wave.  You just have to be able to sense when its’s happening and then have the drive to act at the right time.” ~ Ed Seykota in Jack Schwager’s Market Wizards
19. “I have two basic rules about winning in trading as well as in life: (1) If you don’t bet, you can’t win.  (2) If you lose all your chips, you can’t bet.” ~ Larry Hite in Jack Schwager’s Market Wizards
20. “Perhaps the most important rule is to hold on to your winners and cut your losers.  Both are equally important.  If you don’t stay with your winners, you are not going to be able to pay for the losers.” ~ Michael Marcus in Jack Schwager’s Market Wizards
21. “Lose your opinion – not your money” ~ Unknown