Coin-Flipping in the Marketplace

Are you good at darts?

Actually, I’m not.

I’ve even removed all darts from our home. Hazard. Children might hurt themselves. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m paranoid. Tell me something new.

Well, just in case you fancy playing darts, here’s a market exercise for your consideration.

Take a newspaper section, and pin it on the wall.

I know, I know, you’d love to take pot shots at your favourite corrupt politician’s picture. Please feel free to do so, let out all your venom. When you’re done, we can resume with the market exercise.

Now substitute whatever picture you’re shooting darts at with the equity portion of your newspaper’s market segment.

Take a dart. Shoot.

You hit some stock or the other. Let’s say you hit XLME Systems.

Now take a coin. Flip it.

Go long XLME Systems if you flip heads. Short it if you flip tails.

You have a 50:50 chance of choosing the correct trade direction here.

This is still a winning system, if you manage your trades with common-sense.

Cut your losers short, quite short, yeah, nip them in the bud. Let your winners ride for as long as you’re comfortable.

These two sentences will turn your little darts cum coin exercise into a winning market system.

Try out a 100 such trades, coupled with proper, common-sensical trade management. You’ll see that you are in the money.

Now, whoever turns towards me and starts to talk about trading systems, well, that person needs to be very crystal clear about one thing.

He or she needn’t bother discussing any trading system with worse results than the above-described trading system.

I mean, come on, people, here’s nature, already presenting something to us which doesn’t require any formal education, just an average ability to aim, fire, flip, trade, and manage with common-sense. This small and natural system is enough to keep us in the money.

So, if we want to spend any time discussing trading systems with an edge, we need to be sure that these systems are functioning at beyond 50:50. At par or below is a waste of time.

Good trading systems with a market-edge function at 60:40.

In the Zone, you maneuver your evolving edge to function at 70:30 and beyond.

Frankly, you don’t need more. You don’t need to function at 80:20 or 90:10. Life at 70:30 is good enough to yield you a fortune.

Getting to 70:30 is not as difficult as it sounds. First, get to a 60:40 trading system. Out of every 100 trades, get the trade direction of 60 right. Comes, takes a bit, but comes eventually.

Now you’ve got your good trading system with a decent edge, it’s working at 60:40, what next? How do you extract that extra edge.

Well, tweak. Adapt. Fine-tune. Till your edge becomes that something extra.

Still want more?

If yes, the game becomes a story about you. How disciplined are you? Are you with the markets regularly, as a matter of routine? Are you with the flow? Can you sense the next move? Are you slipping into the Zone? Can you stay in the Zone for long periods? Once you slip out, can you get back into the Zone soon?

The answers to these questions lead you to 70:30 and beyond.

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Wisdom of the Lull

It’s awfully quiet.

Are you enjoying the silence?

Or are you fretting and fuming, that there’s no action?

There’s a buzz to silence. It’s charged.

And you can harness that charge.

What for?

For the storm of course. Which is to follow. Don’t you want to be ready for it?

Cycles, people. Finance moves in cycles.

In the ’00s, I used to move from market to market. Action here, action there, action everywhere. Result was, well, I became a “Jack of all trades”, and a master of none.

Well, that’s changed now. With time, I’ve zeroed in on the markets I wish to master. I stay with these markets. No abandoning.

Tell you a secret – every market has idiosyncrasies. These four words take long to find out. Lots of hits. And then one learns these magic words.

Nuances, markets have nuances. Market A will have nuance Z, and market B will have nuance Y.

To master a market , you need to stay with it. Don’t abandon it when it is quiet. You do want to master it, right? So stay. Watch. Don’t do anything if you don’t wish to, but watch. Recognize the idiosyncrasies and their patterns.

Welcome to the wisdom of the lull.

A lull gives you time to consolidate and get your action-plan ready. It allows your nervous system to recharge. You can catch up with stuff you’ve missed out on. Financially, you’re not worried, even if you’re not trading.

Why?

Because your trading corpus is giving you fixed income when its units are not being utilized for trading, silly. And, this fixed income is large enough to support you and your family and then some, remember? That was a basic tenet we had carved out for ourselves before we got into serious trading. Don’t forget the basics. Keep reminding yourself. Financially, a lull needs to give you enough income to support your family and then some, such that you are not required to pull a single trade. Trading 1.0.1. If that’s not the case, first muster up a large enough corpus that fulfills this condition, before you get into serious trading.

Why?

A lull should not have you jumping in your pants, eager to implement dozens of trades in an effort to get basic income going. When Mrs. Market goes nowhere, your trades will eventually keep getting stopped out, because of money stops or time-stops. That’s how you recognize a lull. Now you can shut shop, recharge, watch, and your corpus is still generating basic fixed income, allowing you to harness the full wisdom of the lull.

This is also a time to go over previous trading errors. Let me tell you a story. Remember Jesse Livermore? Well, Jesse was eccentric. Geniuses are eccentric. Jesse was a genius trader. Since there would be no trading action around the end of December and the beginning of January, Jesse used to lock himself up in a bank-vault during this period, stocked with ample food and drink supplies . He would then go over all his trades implemented in the previous year, trying to understand the mistakes he had made. He would come out of the vault when the previous year’s trading had been fully digested by his system. When he emerged from the vault, he was ready to take on the new year.

Why a bank-vault, you ask?

Jesse said he wanted to get a physical feel for money. He wanted to be with it for a while. Trading was too abstract, and one lost touch with reality. By living with real money in a closed space for a few days, Jesse’s system was acknowledging that trading has to do with real money, real losses, real profits.

Yeah, I’m sure the vault had a washroom. Jesse Livermore could pull any stunt with his bankers.

Jesse Livermore was the first trader to realize and harness the wisdom of the lull.

Thanks, Jesse.

The Thing with the Goldman Attitude

The Goldman attitude is making me puke.

My reaction to it is similar to that of Louis de Funes in this link.

Numbers make the world go round. The human being will do anything to bring home the right numbers.

Investment banks, normal banks, brokers…are lining up for your account. So that their company’s balance sheets look presentable, they have one thing in mind – brokerage generation. Your prospereity is no longer their foremost thought.

So, to be fair, it’s not exactly a “Goldman attitude” only, it’s fairly universal. Lately, it’s gotten publicity after an ex-Goldman employee spilled the beans.

The thing is, where does that leave you? You used to depend upon sound advice from your trusted broker, right?

Well, not happening anymore. You’re in this on your own. Sink, or swim.

The thing with successful business over the long-term is that it needs to be practised with a “win-win”
ideology. If one party loses, one time too many, it then rightly backs off from the business. Brokers and investment bankers worldwide are noticing this backlash.

Why should I be someone who grudges a broker his or her brokerage?

Nope, I’m not such a person. A broker can make all the brokerage he or she wants as long as business remains ethical. The line for me gets drawn when lousy, synthetic, losing investments start to get touted.

And now we come to the public. Frankly and ultimately, it’s the public’s fault. People want to invest their money, but many don’t know the first thing about investing. That’s when they start throwing their hard-earned money at Mrs. Market, and that’s when they make big mistakes.

How long does it take a brain-surgeon to master his or her art? A good 10 – 12 years, right? Similarly, playing the markets successfully over the long term also takes a long time to master. Markets are complicated too. The difference between brain-surgery and Mrs. Market is, that anyone can take a pot-shot at Mrs. Market without the least bit of preparation. This anyone still has a coin-flip (50:50) chance of success. Early, unqualified, lucky success lures this unfortunate person into huge and back-breaking losses later.

Why, people?

When we’ve decided to do something, why can’t we do it well? And, why can’t we take the time to do it ourselves?

Too busy, you say?

Well, there’s no excuse for lack of that minimum threshold involvement in an investment, even if it’s being handled for you by your bankers or brokers.

Let’s say someone really close to you is receiving critical medical treatment. Don’t you get involved? As in, surf the net, find the best doctor, hospital, clinic, keep yourself updated about the progress of the treatment etc. etc. Why do you not behave in the same manner when your own money goes out to earn?

What makes you hand it over to a third party blindly?

Enough said already.

The thing with the “Goldman attitude” is, that it is a wake-up call.

For all of us.

To get our act together.