Only the Lonely

You are unique.

Are we still debating this?

No, right?

If we are, then sit yourself down.

Alone.

Reflect.

Please see how you are… unique, and that you are… unique.

Moving on, what does that mean for you?

Specifically, what does it mean for your market strategy?

A newbie starts off with very generalized market strategies.

What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander types.

Ones that treat donkeys and horses alike, to literally translate from Hindi.

Slowly but surely, you realize that you don’t want donkey treatment anymore. Mrs. Market has kicked you around and converted you from a donkey into an intelligent market player.

An intelligent market player requires a fine-tuned, risk-profile specific strategy.

That’s where you either step in or you don’t.

Choice is, as they say, now yours.

Do you want to continue with generalized, text-book level donkey strategies, or do you want to spiral up to the level of exclusive strategy tailoring and fine-tuning.

People who approach the market as a secondary or tertiary activity don’t generally spiral up. Most of them are unhappy with their returns, but since they already have primary (and probably successful) professions going for themselves, they choose to remain where they are as far as the markets are concerned, and they don’t aspire to rise any higher.

You see, they don’t have the time to take this spiral plunge.

Now it’s decision time for you, buddy.

Do you wish to remain at the average donkey level all your life as far as the markets are concerned? If not, read on.

You need to spend some alone-time, as long as it takes.

Go over all your market activity till date.

Develop a feel for your risk-taking ability.

What bothers you? What do you like? What kind of a “line” are you capable of stomaching? For how long? How do you react to a loss? To a profit? Are you emotionally stable? Can you remain stable for long? How long? What gets you on tilt? Once you make a rule for yourself, are you able to follow it? Or, do you keep second-guessing yourself? What kind on income are you looking for from the markets? Have you learnt to sit on cash? Can you stay invested for long periods? Can you let your profits run? Do you respect your stop? Do you know what a stop is? Do you know how to manage a trade? Have you fully understood basic money-management? After what level of income do you start functioning smoothly?

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Ask yourself these and many more such questions.

Let the answers come from within.

Listen to those answers.

Understand who you are.

Then, devise a unique and fine-tuned market strategy for yourself.

Keep working on this strategy, fine-tuning it till it is in tandem with your unique self.

At that point, it will become a successful strategy, and will yield above-average results.

Being above-average in the markets is a winning scenario.

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Cool & the Bean-Counters

Cheer up, people, it’s another Mr. Cool story, yayyyy!!

We need to catch up on his life, especially because that’s Mr. Cool there, pulling in to the parking in his spanking new X5!

And oh, that hot, blonde babe seated next to him must be his new girl-friend.

Who are those suited blokes in the back?

Well, they are his bean-counters. You’ve met one before, his broker, Mr. Ever So Clever. The other two are his accountant and his banker, respectively.

Why are they called bean-counters?

Well, they count the beans he spends on them, through them and with them.

Why weren’t they there before?

Because he didn’t have any beans? In fact, he owed beans to his very bean-counters.

So what happened?

You see that hot blonde over there?

Yup, can’t miss her.

Well, she’s not only hot, she’s got brains too.

Really?

Yeah, she’s an analyst with Sax.

Wow! I thought she was his girl-friend.

Ya, that too, but only after he hit the bean-fountain.

So how did he do that?

The story revolves around Miss Sax. She gets around. She is privy to a lot of inside info, but is intelligent enough to not get caught, yet.

How does she get the inside info?

You’ll need to use your imagination. What’s she got that a holder of inside info might want?

I see. And then?

Well, she sells the info to the highest bidder. For the last one month, that’s been our friend Mr. Cool.

How did he manage to assemble funds in the first place? I mean, the last time we saw him, he was in the dumps, out of money, heavily in debt, and contemplating suicide for all we know.

Which is when he was approached by the bean-counters. They had easy access to funds for hours at a stretch without anyone noticing, provided they’d put the funds back before someone would look. They needed an external face to deal with Miss Sax and to place their trades.

Ingenious. This way, they’d never be in trouble if something went wrong.

Correct. The only risk they took was for the first few hours that they embezzled funds. It was very necessary for that principal to be put back in time.

So that must have obviously gone off well, huh?

Yeah, their first trade based on Miss Sax’s inside info clocked two million in an hour. They cashed out, put the principal back into banks, trading accounts and other private accounts where it was embezzled from, and from there onwards, they pulled all their future trades on the back of their profits.

And it’s all been going good, is it?

Well, Miss Sax is dishing out million dollar tips week after week.

What if they get caught?

Hmmm, actually, I’m only worried about Mr. Cool.

Why?

She’ll get out of any jam. She’s too smooth to get caught. Even if she’s implicated, she’s capable enough to get herself off the hook. Then, the bean-counters don’t even have a trail leading to them. All the dealing is in Mr. Cool’s name. The four of them needed a front-runner who will take the hit if their scheme is busted.

And that’s our dear friend Mr. Cool, right?

Yeah, and he’s dumb enough not to realize it.

How does he pay them their share?

In cash. There’s no paper or electronic trail. They spend it in an inconspicuous manner. These are highly intelligent people with crooked minds.

Yeah, the only one flashing red flags is our friend Mr. Cool. The new X5, Armani suits, expensive holidays, plus the grapevine says he’s planning to buy a new penthouse.

Yup, he’s never heard of saving when times are good. Because of these red-flags, he’s eventually going to get caught. The authorities keep scanning for insider-trading, and the very people they scrutinize are the ones making quick and big expenditures, as our candidate is doing.

So are you saying that, very soon, we’ll be seeing Mr. Cool in the dumps again?

There’s a very high chance of that.

With no bean-counters and no Sax around?

Oh, they’ll be long gone, looking for their next front-runner.

Dealing With a Bully

I know a way of dealing with a bully – sock the bully a real tight one in the solar plexus. Inside, there’s only air, and that one tight punch is going to burst the balloon and reduce the bully to his real self, i.e. a meek failure.

What if this bully is the government itself?

Let’s just caste a very quick glance at the track-records of the governments of independent India till date.

Education has been a total failure. Whatever meaningful education is being imparted in India is being done so mostly by private institutions, at least till high school level, if not even after that.

Healthcare – another very big failure. The government’s hospitals, just like its schools, are a disgrace.

Left to the government, infrastructure would have been a massive failure too, which it was, till the private sector stepped in.

Let’s not even start speaking about the governmental airline carrier, Air India. Words fail me here.

You want to avoid the police lest they stick you one at a time when you have other problems.

You want to settle any disputes out of court, because the semi-dysfunctional judicial system will, in all probability, stretch the issue over decades, with much ensuing harassment.

I mean, I could go on and on. Point of the matter is, governance in independent India has been an overall and disastrous failure.

We are not a democracy – we are a joke.

Over the last few years, these and more blunders are coming to light. They are being flashed over the papers and on television, nationally and internationally. People are getting to see and know the quality of people that has been governing the country. Citizens are disgusted.

Instead of charting a course of rectification, what does the bully do?

It tries to hide its own failures by passing on the responsibility to private institutions. Governments and governments have robbed common citizens of their basic rights to education, healthcare etc. over decades. Now, when the deprivation has become too glaring, they want private institutions to accomodate the deprived, and that too quasi-free of cost. I’m talking about the current developments in the education sector. Rest assured, other sectors will be affected too, if one goes by the governmental mind-set.

The government is bullying private schools into reserving 25% (number could vary for different states) of their capacities for kids from backward classes. The government says it’s going to pay for this partly, but knowing the value of its words, this money is never going to come. Basically, it wants want private schools to lift this burden and pay for it too. Unbelievable.

The government’s massive failure in the field of education has caused downtrodden classes to finally start asking, “What have you done for us?” and “Where is our education?” and “Why is the quality of the schools built for us by you so pathetic?” and “Where does the education cess go, which you charge along with every monetary transaction in the country?” and again, “Where is our education?”

Now the government gets really cute, and says, “You see those private educational institutions over there, look at them, they are doing so well, they will make your kids rise, we will steam-roll them into admitting your kids, there is your education!”

Laws in India are basically stacked up against private institutions and in favour of the government. One false move here or there, and you could be breaking a law as a private player. Hence, as a private player, you are always in the government’s grip. To function smoothly and not show a loss, you could end up slightly bending a rule or two. The government agrees to look the other way, and lets you function, but then you have to mutually agree to get bullied by it every now and then. Sometimes, the bullying takes on ridiculous levels, like it has for the education sector. My remedy to deal with a bully (given at the top) like the government is not going to work, because I just wouldn’t know how to implement it. I wouldn’t even know what to implement.

And that’s the story, people. India Inc. is heavily burdened by its failure watchdogs. You need to incorporate this fact into any investment strategy that concerns India Inc. Right within its purchase price, any investment in India needs to discount for the governmental failure that will inevitably be patched onto the private institution that you are planning on buying into.

What does that mean for governmental institutions as investments? Frankly, looking at the mess, one can’t even think of buying into these, unless one wants to own companies with Ph.D.s in inefficiency and mismanagement.

Betting Your Monsters and Checking Ace-High

Blah, blah, blah, I know, poker terminology yet again…

Can’t help it, people, it’s just so valid…

When you’re holding a monster hand, you bet out on the next street to build up the pot. Similarly, when a trade starts to run, you’re looking to load up some more on the scrip at the appropriate point.

When you’re holding air, or a mere bluff-catching hand like ace-high, you check it down through the river. Likewise, if the scrip you’ve just bought into stagnates, or moves a bit down, you do not double up on your trade. Instead, you just wait for your stop to be hit, or if before that your time-stop has run out, you square-off the trade.

An aggressive-passive style?

Who cares?

Recipe for winning in the long run?

Yes.

Right, then we’re taking it.

Two out of ten trades may start to run big. It’s taken you time, money and effort to identify those two. You are in the trade. You can feel the adrenaline pumping. Now’s not the time to sit passively. Spade-work’s all done. Right, put some more money on the winning scrip. Point is, when?

Additional points of entry are tricky.

I prefer a little margin of safety here. I like to double up at a point where there’s been some correction, and possibly when a Fibonacci level has been hit. After that, I want to see the scrip going up back through the level, and I’d like to see volume go up simultaneously. That’s my point of second entry.

You can be more aggressive, no one’s stopping you.

You can even choose to enter the second time above some kind of a previous high or above the breaking of a resistance with volume.

Risky?

Yes.

You do, however, stand a good chance of catching a big move in a very short time.

You see, at this particular point, where you’re choosing to enter, the scrip is pretty hot. People are plunging in. There is no resistance from above. Upward movement is smooth.

Downside is, that those who’ve been sitting on notional profits might start to book these anytime. When that happens, the scrip might plunge well below your high entry and hit your stop. That’s a risk you have to take, since you have decided to enter above a high.

No risk, no gain.

At my more conservative second entry point, the scrip is not as hot. It is meeting with overhead resistance from recent entrants who entered high to then find the scrip correcting, and who are now happy to exit at their entry points as the scrip retraces its upward move. So, I will have to wait longer for a possible second run of the scrip to develop, and this might or might not develop. That’s a chance I have to take. That’s the price of being conservative during second entry. I’m comfortable.

Staying in your comfort-zone at all times adds a lot of value to the rest of your life, even after you shut down your computer. One does carry over one’s emotions, and it’s best if these are under control when you reach home. By trading in your comfort-zone at all times, you make sure that you come home in an emotionally balanced state.

If you can take the second entry above a high or above a resistance while still remaining in your comfort-zone, by all means, please do so. It’s an exciting play, capable of yielding large and quick rewards. I’ve tried it at times, but cannot get a grip on the excitement levels. Thus, I normally choose the more conservative play mentioned above. It’s just a personal choice.

Similarly, I’m very comfortable checking my ace-high trades down through the river. If I’m in a trade and it’s not running, I don’t jump about trying to pull stuff out of a hat in an effort to make the trade run.

If it’s not running, it’s not running. Feed in a trigger stop and shut the computer.

Once you are alerted that the stop’s been hit, look for a new trade.

Keep it simple. That’s another recipe for winning.

Recognizing and Reacting to A-Grade Tomfoolery

Air India and Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) … can you name two things these two have in common?

They’re both loss-making airlines.

Furthermore, there’s lack of will-power to make them profit-making, from the very top.

The problem with a government job is that you can’t kick the government servant out. The government servant thus enjoys complete job-safety and total lack of accountability. That’s been India’s recipe for ineffectivity and loss-making government institutions for decades. In Air India’s case, add to this massive subsidization by the government. Whenever the Maharaja can’t pay his bills, which is like every month, the government of India chips in with tax-payer money. There’s no real policy being pushed through to effectively earn something. Government servants travel free, big-time. If there’s a shortage of seats, honest, real-money paying citizens are off-loaded and left stranded to accommodate the highly evolved souls that rule our country.

Seriously, why do you still travel Air India? Because it’s cheap? Don’t you see through the tomfoolery? Are you blind? They might wake up upon sensing a complete lack of interest amongst travellers. Until that happens, and until they start performing with no ad-hoc cancellations and off-loading, travellers need to give them that wake-up call by using other airlines and by not subscribing to any money-raising gimmicks or IPOs that the company might come out with.

Cut to KFA. What’s wrong with Mr. Mallya? Unpaid pilots, unpaid fuel bills, unpaid taxes, seriously!?!

Vijay Mallya’s story is not about lack of efficiency. It’s about flamboyance. At the cost of his shareholders? Perhaps.

His liquor business is performing well. A little hand-holding through initial turbulence would have seen KFA through. One pays one’s pilots. Period. You don’t just hire scores of great pilots and buy a huge fleet of aircraft, and then stop paying your pilots. Such flamboyance is going to result in a loss-making enterprise for a few years, isn’t that common-sense? In that period, the hand-holding comes into play from the promoter’s other profit-making enterprises, right? Does that seem to have happened here? Unlikely, looking at the current status of KFA’s balance-sheet. Quarterly losses of 100 million USD and growing coupled with a burgeoning debt, Jesus Christ…

The airline industry involves a very precarious vicious-cycle. If you can avoid falling into it from the start, you are through. Prime example is Indigo Airlines.

The first signs of letting up tighten the noose one more notch. Unpaid pilots result in strikes leading to delays and cancellations. A traveller who has been bitten once decides to travel with the competition. Numbers fall. Now, fuel bills can’t be met. More problems, more delays and cancellations. Finally, you can’t pay your taxes. That’s when the tax department steps in. Headlines go ballistic. Huge bad publicity. Twitter battles. What was that? You want the same mollycoddling as Air India? You want government subsidization? Which world do you live in? Not happening!

Money needs to flow into KFA, not loaned money, but clean money, out of the parent-group’s own coffers. Any usage of KFA revenues to fund the parent-group’s activities is a strict no-no. For example, if the Kingfisher Formula 1 team or the group’s IPL Cricket team were even partly funded by KFA revenues, that would be a huge, huge red flag, given the financial condition of KFA. As of now, shareholders need to see some will-power emanating from the top to control the bleeding. The Street can even short the KFA stock down to zero if the promoter’s attitude does not change. Perhaps such an image-beating would be a wake-up call for the promoter.

Learning to Draw

Life’s about reaching out.

There’s not a single bridge that’s been built without someone having to reach out first.

A child connects the dots of life to find that it’s looking at a roadmap. Walking on a known parameter is then easy. One knows where to tread.

Mrs. Market is a conceited lady.

She needs you to reach out to her.

Till you don’t, she doesn’t care about your existence either.

When you do, she starts concerning herself with you, but only after you make the first move towards her.

You have to take the first step. You have to build the bridge.

In the world of trading, you do that by putting on a trade.

Given that you don’t want to lose your pants to a tough cookie like Mrs. M, you need to first look at the stuff that’s working in your favour. Before reaching out, that is.

You are able to connect to her with hardware. As long as the hardware functions, there are no further issues there.

The approach with which you connect is your strategy. It has been developed upon observing the behaviour of Mrs. M, and as her behaviour has changed from time to time, so has your strategy reinvented itself in tandem. The software with which you programme your strategy has highly maneuverable algorithms that are able to alert you instantly upon any of Mrs. M’s behavioural changes. Once you’ve identified her pace and style of movement, you know what kind of a bridge you need, to connect with. You know what kind of a trade you need to put on.

Putting on the proper trade at the proper time is the name of the game. When Mrs. M is trending, your trade time-frame, trade-size and stop are all different from when she is moving in a range. When she is falling, the pace of your trade needs to be fast, real fast. Your instrument needs to be options, not pure equity, since the latter is tougher to move through. When she is flat, take a break, don’t build any more bridges for a while.

Each bridge, that you are capable of building, should give you an edge over Mrs. M. If that’s not the case, then the bridge is faulty, for even a coin-flip is giving you an even-steven 50:50 shot at Mrs. M. Therefore, your bridges need to be in the 60:40 plus category. Bridges take time and effort to build. Thus, they must yield you ample profit once they have been built.

After a while, she gets bored with your approach, and changes her pattern. Your bridge is not able to connect well. You notice this when your trades start going awry. Your systems need to adapt, and new bridges need to be built to account for her new avatar.

And what is this whole exercise?

Just like the child who connects the dots, you are learning to draw at Mrs. M.

And you’re doing it well.

You’re drawing at her with systems that give you a good edge as long as they work. When they falter, you tweak them to adapt to her, so that they continue to allow you to draw at her with an edge.

You don’t draw at Mrs. M without an edge. Period.

If you can learn this one basic fact, you’ve learnt a lot.

The Concept of Satmya

This one’s from the world of Ayurveda, folks.

We’re not geeks.

We move around amongst all segments of life, grab whatever is useful, and then try and apply its usefulness into our world of applied finance.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do with the concept of Satmya.

Imagine in your minds a first-time smoker. The first puff breaks him or her out into a coughing flurry. A new stimulus is choking the respiratory system. The body rejects it.

That’s roughly the story for any first-time stimulus which is disturbing.

Upon repeated exposure to the stimulus, the body slowly gets habituated. Ultimately, rejection recedes. One’s tissues are now not only bathing in the stimulus, they are enjoying it. In fact, they want more.

Habituation is where we want to keep it at, no further. That’s the point of Satmya. At the point of Satmya, you enjoy the stimulus without falling sick, since your body-chemistry can now deal with the stimulus without getting imbalanced.

When we put on a live trade in any market, we expose ourselves to market-forces. A gamut of emotions comes alive inside of us. The level of reaction in our system is proportional to the size of the trade. First exposure makes us erratic. Therefore, it is very important to keep this first exposure small.

Markets swing. Joy wells inside of us with notional profit. Sorrow consumes us upon notional loss. Body-chemistry now needs to adapt.

If losses are kept small owing to the usage of stops, one’s system gets used to small losses. Meaning to say, small losses don’t shake you anymore. Market exposure results in small losses all the time, provided you’re using stops. Once these don’t shake you, and your entire world is still balanced despite them, you’re not afraid to put on the next trade, even after a string of losses. This very next trade could well turn out to be a multi-bagger, so you need to put it on. If you’re afraid to put on the next trade, you take yourself out of circulation, and fail to catch a big market move.

A habituated system makes one put on the next trade.

When the market swings in your favour, your notional profit causes you to become emotionally imbalanced. The first time this happens, you effervescently go about promising everyone the world, and get into situations you can’t deliver upon later. You might even make the other mistake of booking your profit early, not allowing the underlying to yield even more profit. Why, why, why?

Get used to sitting on a profit. Let it happen many, many times. Don’t go jumping about when it happens. Take it in your stride. Let the trade develop into a multi-bagger so that it can make up for your many small losses and yield even more beyond your overall break-even point. Such a state of mind is only earned once your system is habituated with regard to profit-yielding situations.

Another big mistake we make after a profitable trade is to put on a disproportionately large position-size in the next trade. Habituate your system to not increase position-size disproportionately. Calm it down after a profitable trade. Then coolly calculate your new position-size, taking total equity and steady maximum-loss percentage into account. Only increase position-size as per the mathematics of your trading strategy, not according to how good you are feeling after a profitable trade.

Habituation will also fine-tune you while lessening position-size after a string of losses. On the one level your math proposes a new lower size to trade in such a situation. On the second level, your body-chemistry will signal to you from inside whether you are comfortable with this size in a new position. Listen to your body and mind. If they are not able to take more than a certain quantum of market-forces at a given time, they will tell you. If you are able to listen to them and then can adjust your position-size further down to a level that body and mind are comfortable with, you are then taking the concept of position-sizing to a metaphysical level.

So, see what the concept of Satmya or habituation has done to your trading. It has made trading holistic for you. With the incorporation of this concept, you are trading in a manner that is comfortable for your mind and body.

The net result is that you don’t fall sick because of trading, and because you stay in the game, you are able to catch the big winners when they come.

Happy Trading! 🙂