What about Daddy Cool? 

Boney M sang this blockbuster hit in the ’70s.

I’m sure you’ve heard it, because it’s still the rage. 

he’s crazy like a fool – what about daddy cool? 

Who’s Daddy Cool? 

You tell me. 

Is it you, in a cool cucumber moment, slow to respond to stimulus, devoid of anger, master of your situation in a kinda non-bossy, non-micro-managing (cool) way? 

And what of Mr. Hyde’s Dr. Jekyll nature? 

We’re talking about your “like a fool” moment.

Just for your information, winning behaviour is often termed foolish by the crowd. 

Contrarian investing is one such example. 

Successful derivative trading is another. 

To cap it, let’s not even talk about private equity in real-estate. 

Did someone mention high-yield structured-debt? 

There are many examples of “foolish” behaviour. 

These same examples earn very well. 

So… 

… how do we do it? 

We maintain our cool. 

We keep all basics going, as they are. 

With a small portion of our surplus, we take calculated risks, in a controlled environment. 

Sure, these risks will appear foolish to someone on the outside. 

However, our controlled environment has installed riders for our safety. 

A balance-sheet might be stressed, but not stressed enough for bankruptcy. 

A lock-in might be ultra-short. 

A stop-loss might be in place. 

Collateral might be up to 4x.

There might be a highly reputed Trustee in between. 

What have you.

Have your Daddy Cool fool-moments. 

Take some calculated risks with small portions of your surplus. 

These should give your portfolios an extra-boost. 

Nath on Equity : have stuff – will talk

Behind Equity, there’s 41). human capital. 

It’s human capital that keeps 42). adjusting equity for inflation.

43). No other asset-class quotes on an inflation-adjusted basis. 

That’s good news for you, because 44). equity takes care of the number one wealth-eater (inflation) for you. 

All world equity ever quoted, whether currently existing or not, has 45). returned 6% per annum compounded, adjusted for inflation. 

46). All equity ever quoted that still exists has yielded 11% per annum compounded, adjusted for inflation.

Equity selected with good due diligence, common-sense and adherence to basic rules listed here and in previous articles is 47). well-capable of yielding 15%+ per annum compounded, adjusted for inflation. 

However, equity is 48). a battle of nerves, at times. 

This asset-class is 49). more about creating long-term wealth. 

It can be used, though, to 50). generate income through trading. 

51). Trading, however, is burdened with more taxation, commission-generation and sheer tension. 

Trading equity 52). eats up your day. 

Investing in equity 53). gives you enough room to pursue many other activities during your day. 

Trading strategies are 54). diametrically opposite to investing strategies. 

55). It takes market-players the longest time to digest and fully comprehend 54).

For long-term players, 56). up-side is unlimited. This is a vital fact. 

Also, 57). downside is limited to input. Factor in good DD, and that very probably won’t even go half-way. 

58). Thus, 56). and 57). make for a very lucrative reward : risk ratio. 

Equity needs courage, to 59). enter when there’s blood on the streets. 

It also needs detachment, to 60). either exit when required for monetary reasons, or when everyone else is getting ultra-greedy and bidding the underlying up no-end. 

Are There amy WMDs in the Markets?

What’s a weapon of mass destruction in the markets?

Well, practically anything that the masses don’t know much about, and are being handed on a platter in a repackaged form, to savour. 

Sure, I’m using one of Warren Buffett’s analogies here. Loosely requoted, Buffett once warned, that futures and options were weapons of mass destruction (in the hands of those masses, who didn’t know much about them, but still used them). 

Yeah, I will stand upon the shoulders of giants if required. 

As long as I quote them, I’m good. 

The view from their shoulders let’s one think from a height. That’s an ideal situation for fresh thinking. 

Supposing something new comes up. That would be a contribution from my side. And why would it have happened? Because I took the liberty to stand upon the shoulders of giants. 

Bottomline is, that everything can be classified as a WMD if one is handling it and doesn’t know much about it. 

Equity is a WMD for newbies. For someone who spends many hours a day for many years, delving into Equity, the scene can be quite different. 

Rome wan’t built in a day. 

You don’t become a PhD in a day. 

You can’t master Equity in a day. 

Or anything else, for that matter. 

Do your homework. 

Put in the hours and the years. 

Burn the oil. 

Take what you do seriously. Not casually. If you’re casual about any professional line, drop it now, or start pursuing it seriously. 

Why do you want to give something the power to become a weapon of destruction?

You don’t. Period. 

Take that –>@&%# Mr. Peer Pressure

Dear Mr. PP,

I don’t give in to you, never have, never will.

You’re not that important.

I don’t spend my time thinking about you.

I don’t respect any entity without a backbone, and you certainly don’t have one.

I’ve met you many times.

At first, I felt you, and was taken aback. You wanted me to do something I didn’t wish to do. You were strong.

I was stronger.

When you don’t know anything about the reputation of your opponent, frankly, you don’t give a d*m*. You fight. Till you fall or till the other fellow backs down.

I won my first head to head with you. Thank my stars.

After that I found out who you were. Yeah, who was it exactly that I didn’t succumb to?

After I’d grown up and all, and fully realized your devastation potential, I always leaned back on my first head to head. I mean, you were beatable. Period.

Yeah, I was lucky to have beaten you first up. It’s been a huge psychological advantage.

I’ve carried over this advantage into my market life.

Take a hike, Mr. PP.

[As far as market related activities go, I follow and advocate an unbiased, singular and customized path which doesn’t follow any crowd or any myths as such.

This path certainly does not let me invest under any kind of pressure.

Where there’s pressure, there are vested interests.

Please beware of investments which don’t suit your risk profile and are touted to quench vested interests].

Can I Really Really Really Do Without Fundamentals?

I like to trade without a bias. 

Lack of bias means freedom… 

… freedom to think independently…

… not falling prey to another person’s opinion…

… which then allows you to listen to your system…

… trade identification…

…setup demarcation…

…trigger-entry…

…trade triggered…

…trade management…

… trigger-exit…

… exited.

That’s it, move on to the next trade. 

News gives me a bias. 

No news. 

You know what else gives me a bias?

Fundamentals. 

I don’t wish to look at fundamentals. 

If my eyes are seeing a setup in the EuroDollar, I would like to take it without the nagging thought of “what will happen if Scotland says NO or YES”.

I don’t want to care about inflation numbers, or job figures, or industrial output or what have you. 

I mean…can I just …do it?

Meaning, can I just do away with fundamentals, and focus on technicals only, which is my area of specialization?

Sometimes, I get a little unsure. 

I start looking around. 

How are others doing it? The experts, that is. 

My uncertainty gets fanned a little more, when I see experts not really ignoring fundamentals, even though they might be specialized in technicals. Hmmmm. I’m still not happy looking into fundamentals. I mean, why should I take time-out from my strong suit, and devote it to my very weak suit?

No, I decide. I’m really not going to look at fundamentals. 

What’s the worst that could happen?

Let me just see if the worst that could happen is bearable.

Ok…I ID a trade…demarcate a setup…and the trade goes against me because of the announcement of some number in the afternoon. People looking at fundamentals would have waited for the announcement of the number and then traded. Fine. 

In the world of trading, it is always good to have the worst-case scenario unwrapped and right before your eyes to see what it really means. 

You know, I can take this. 

Would you like to know why?

Firstly, I would like you to understand that we are looking at large sample-sizes here. Any sensible reasoning would only apply to large sample-sizes. 

Over the long run, and over many, many trades, Mrs.Market will go either way after an announcement of a fundamental number with a chance of roughly 50:50. 

If this is true, it is very good news for me, good enough to just kick fundamentals out of the equation. 

At times, the market reacts as per the crowd’s anticipation. 

At other times, it reacts in the opposite fashion. 

I assume that the ratio of the above two directions taken by Mrs. Market over a very large sample-size would be 50:50.

I think my assumption is correct. I don’t want to go through the labour of proving it mathematically. 

Ok, let’s assume that my assumption is correct. I then kick fundamentals, and go about my work while relying on my strong-suit, i.e. technicals. This trajectory will very probably have a happy ending. 

Now let’s assume that my assumption is wrong. 

What saves my day?

Technicals. 

Technicals very often give setups that factor in crowd behaviour and crowd anticipation of market direction. 

Technical setups get one into the build-up to an announcement. 

More often than not, one is already in the trade, in the correct direction, enjoying the build-up to an announcement without even knowing that the announcement is coming, if one is not following fundamentals. 

Technicals can actually do this for you. I’ve seen them do it. I mean, the GBPUSD has been giving short setups during the entire 1000 pip run-down recently. To have availed such a setup, people haven’t needed to know that a referendum is coming. All they’ve needed to do is to take the trade once they see the setup. 

Actually, that’s it. I don’t need more.  

I don’t need to reason anymore with myself. Everything is here. 

I think I can let go of fundamentals safely.

Even this trajectory should have a happy ending.

Taking the Pan out of Panic

Panic – Pan = ic = i see = I SEE.

Times are unprecedented.

We’re breaking new lows of evil everyday.

Ours looks to be a hopeless nation.
Is it over for us?

Shall we pack up our bags and migrate?

Just take a deep breath. Bear with me for a moment. Try and cast your panic aside. Try and think clearly.

I’ll share with you an observation. Take any Indian. Doesn’t have to be an outperformer. Take an under-averagely performing Indian, for all I care. Weed him or her out of our pathetic system, and place him or her in a nation with good governance.

Lo and behold, our candidate will start performing. Not only that, soon, he or she will be outperforming. After a decade or so, he or she will probably have mastered the system and punctuated it with innovative short-cuts.

Get my point?

We are a resilient race. We might look fickle, frail and harmless superficially, but we can struggle, bear, survive, and finally break out. Just give us good governance.
Don’t panic. We’re not going down that easily.

What’s happening currently is a purge. Yeah, it’s a catharsis with a big C. While it continues, asset classes across the board will probably get hammered.

What does that mean for you?

Only one thing.

Stay in cash. Accumulate it. Learn to sit on cash. Sit on it as long as the purge lasts. Let its value depreciate, doesn’t matter. Park it safely with a conservative private bank. Fixed deposits would be the instruments of choice. Yeah, you don’t want to leave unattached cash lying around. Potentially, unattached cash could be susceptible to online fraud. Attach your cash, safely, and keep it before your eyes. Put some watch-dogs in place, as in sms and email alerts. Password-change attempt? You are immediately alerted. New payee added? You are immediately alerted. Watch-dogs bark.

As per my instinct, though we probably won’t go bankrupt as a nation, we might just go a long way down before the purge is over. After the purge, there will be tremendous bargains on offer, across the board, in all asset-classes. Cash will be king. Save your cash and sit on it – for that day.

Meanwhile, your wealth-manager will try to push you into panic purchases with your cash. As in, buying gold at 32k, and the USD at 65. Don’t listen. These are crazy levels. One doesn’t invest at crazy levels. These are not even normal trading levels. Yes, they are institutional trading levels. One does not invest at institutional trading levels.

It’s time to use your common-sense and maintain a cool head.

You can only do that by refusing to panic.

A Chronology of Exuberance

The biggest learning that the marketplace imparts is about human emotions.

Yeah, Mrs. Market brings you face to face with fear, greed, exuberance, courage, strength, arrogance … you name it.

You can actually see an emotion developing, real-time.

Today, I’d like to talk about the chronology of exuberance.

In the marketplace, I’ve come face to face with exuberance, and I’ve seen it developing from scratch.

When markets go up, eventually, fear turns into exuberance, which, in turn, drives the markets even higher.

What is the root of this emotion?

The ball game of exuberance starts to roll when analysts come out with a straight face and recommend stocks where the valuations have already crossed conservative long-term entry levels. As far as the analysts are concerned, they are just doing their job. They are paid to recommend stocks, round the year. When overall valuations are high, they still have to churn out stock recommendations. Thus, analysts start recommending stocks that are over-valued.

Now comes the warp.

At some stage, the non-discerning public starts to treat these recommendations as unfailing cash-generating  opportunities. Greed makes the public forget about safety. People want a piece of the pie. With such thoughts, the public jumps into the market, driving it higher.

For a while, things go good. People make money. Anil, who hadn’t even heard of stocks before, is suddenly raking in a quick 50Gs on a stock recommendation made by his tobacco-seller. Veena raked in a cool 1L by buying the hottest stock being discussed in her kitty party. Things are rolling. Nothing can go wrong, just yet.

Thousands of Anils and Veenas make another 5 to 6 rocking buys and sells each. With every subsequent buy, their capacity increases more and more. Finally, they make a big and exuberant leap of faith.

There is almost always a catalyst in the markets at such a time, when thousands make a big and exuberant leap of faith into the markets, like a really hot IPO or something (remember the Reliance Power IPO?).

Yeah, people go in big. The general consensus at such a time is that equity is an evergreen cash-cow. A long bull run can do this to one’s thinking. One’s thinking can become warped, and one ceases to see one’s limits. One starts to feel that the party will always go on.

Now comes the balloon-deflating pin-prick in the form of some bad news. It can be a scandal, or a series of bad results, or some political swing, or what have you. A deflating market can collapse very fast, so fast, that 99%+ players don’t have time to react. These players then rely on (hopeful) exuberance, which reassures them that nothing can go wrong, and that things will soon be back to normal, and that their earnings spree has just taken a breather. Everything deserves a breather, they argue, and stay invested, instead of cutting their currently small losses, which are soon going to become big losses, very, very big losses.

The markets don’t come back, for a long, long time.

Slowly, exuberance starts dying, and is replaced by fear.

Fear is at its height at the bottom of the markets, where maximum number of participants cash out, taking very large hits.

Exuberance is now officially dead, for a very long time, till, one day, there’s a brand new set of market participants who’ve never seen the whole cycle before, supported by existing participants who’ve not learnt their lessons from a past market-cycle. With this calibre of participation, markets become ripe for the re-entry of exuberance.

Wiser participants, however, are alert, and are able to recognize old wine packaged in a new bottle. They start reacting as per their designated strategies for exactly this kind of scenario. The best strategy is to trade the markets up, as far as they go. Then, you can always trade them down. Who’s stopping you? Shorting them without any signals of weakness is wrong, though. Just an opinion; you decide what’s wrong or right for you. The thing with exuberance is, that it can exercise itself for a while, a very long while – longer than you can stay solvent, if you have decided to short the markets in a big way without seeing signs of weakness.

At market peaks, i.e at over-exuberant levels, long-term portfolios can be reviewed, and junk can be discarded. What is junk? That, which at prevailing market price is totally, totally overvalued – that is junk.

Formulate your own strategy to deal with exuberance.

First learn to recognize it.

Then learn to deal with it.

For success as a trader, and also as an investor, you will not be able to circumvent dealing with exuberance.

Best of luck!

Can We Please Get This One Basic Thing Right? (Part III)

Yeah, we’re digging deeper.

How does an investor arrive at an investment decision?

It’s pretty obvious to us by now that traders and investors have their own rationales for entry and exit, and that these rationales are pretty much diametrically opposite to each other.

So, what’s the exact story here?

The seasoned investor will look at FUNDAMENTALS, and will exhibit PATIENCE before entering into an investment.

The versatile trader will look at TECHNICALS, and will NOT BE AFRAID of entry or exit, any time, any place. He or she will be in a hurry to cut a loss, and will allow a profit to blossom with patience.

What are fundamentals?

Well, fundamentals are vital pieces of information about a company. When one checks them out, one gets a fair idea about the valuation and the functioning of the company, and whether it would be a good idea to be part of the story or not.

A good portion of a company’s fundamental information is propagated in terms of key ratios, like the Price to Earnings Ratio, or the Debt to Equity Ratio, the Price to Book Value ratio, the Enterprise Value to EBITDA Ratio, the Price to Cash-flow Ratio, the Price to Sales ratio, etc. etc. etc.

What a ratio does for you is that in one shot, it delivers vital info to you about the company’s performance over the past one year. If it’s not a trailing ratio, but a projected one, then the info being given to you is a projection into the future.

What kind of a promotership / management does a company have? Are these people share-holder friendly, or are they crooks? Do they create value for their investors? Do they give decent dividend payouts? Do they like to borrow big, and not pay back on time? Do they juggle their finances, and tweak them around, to make them look good? Do they use company funds for their personal purposes? Researching the management is a paramount fundamental exercise.

Then, the company’s product profile needs to be looked into. The multibagger-seeking investor looks to avoid a cyclical product, like steel, or automobiles. For a long-term investment to pan out into a multibagger, the product of a company needs to have non-cyclical scalability.

After that, one needs to see if one is able to pick up stock of the particular company at a decent discount to its actual value. If not, then the investor earmarks the company as a prospective investment candidate, and waits for circumstances to allow him or her to pick up the stock at a discount.

There are number-crunching investors too, who use cash-flow, cash allocation and other balance-sheet details to gauge whether a coveted company with an expensive earnings multiple can still be picked up. For example, such growth-based investors would not have problems picking up a company like Tata Global Beverages at an earnings multiple of 28, because for them, Tata Global’s balance-sheet projects future earnings that will soon lessen the current multiple to below sector average, for example.

Value-based investors like to buy really cheap. Growth-based investors don’t mind spending an extra buck where they see growth. Value-based investors buy upon the prospect of growth. Growth-based investors buy upon actual growth.

The trader doesn’t bother with fundamentals. He or she wants a management to be flashy, with lots of media hype. That’s how the trader will get volatility. The scrips that the trader tracks will rise and fall big, and that’s sugar and honey for the trader, because he or she will trade them both ways, up and down. Most of the scrips that the trader tracks have lousy fundamentals. They’ve caught the public’s attention, and the masses have sprung upon them, causing them to generate large spikes and crashes. That’s exactly what the trader needs.

So, how does a trader track these scrips? Well, he or she uses charts. Specifically, price versus time charts. The trader doesn’t need to do much here. There’s no manual plotting involved. I mean, this is 2012, almost 2013, and we stand upon the shoulders of giants, if I’m allowed to borrow that quote. Market data is downloaded from the data-provider, via the internet and onto one’s computer, and one’s charting software uses the data to spit out charts. These charts can be modified to the nth degree, and transformed into that particular form which one finds convenient for viewing. Modern charting software is very versatile. What exactly is the trader looking for in these charts?

Technicals – the nitty-gritty that emerges upon close chart scrutiny.

How does price behave with regard to time?

What is the slope of a fall, or the gradient of a rise? What’s the momentum like?

What patterns are emerging?

How many people are latching on? What’s the volume like?

There are hundreds of chart-studies that can be performed on a chart. Some are named after their creators, like Bollinger bands. Others have a mathematical name, like stochastics. Names get sophisticated too, like Williams %R, Parabolic SAR and Andrew’s Pitchfork. There’s no end to chart  studies. One can look for and at Elliott Waves. Or, one can gauge a fall, using Fibonacci Retracement. One can use momentum to set targets. One can see where the public supports a stock, or where it supplies the stock, causing resistance. One can join points on a chart to form a trendline. The chart’s bars / candle-sticks will give an idea about existing volatility. Trading strategy can be formulated after studying these and many more factors.

Where do stops need to be set? Where does one enter? Exit? All these questions and more are answered after going through the technicals that a chart is exhibiting.

One needs to adhere to a couple of logical studies, and then move on. One shouldn’t get too caught up in the world of studies, since the scrip will still manage to behave in a peculiar fashion, despite all the studies in the world. If the markets were predictable, we’d all be millionaires.

How does the trader decide upon which scrips to trade? I mean, today’s exchanges have five to ten thousand scrips that quote.

Simple. Scans.

The trader has a set of scan criteria. He or she feeds these into the charting software, and starts the scan. Within five minutes, the software spits out fifty odd tradable scrips as per the scan criteria. The trader quickly goes through all fifty charts, and selects five to six scrips that he or she finds best to trade on a particular day. Within all of fifteen minutes, the trader has singled out his or her trading scrips.

Do you now see how different both games are?

I’m glad you do!

🙂

Going Legit in the Times of Robber Vodka

A good, clean, healthy and tension-free life – don’t you want that for your children and families?

Right, people, go legit.

It is possible, despite the Robber Vodkas, the Call Muddies and the Rama Lundgren Rajus of our times.

The first step is going white.

Go white, people. Declare your assets, pay your taxes, just sheer refuse to deal in black money as much as you can, and for heaven’s sake, start cutting out unwanted people dealing in black from your lives.

Second step – avoid people wearing whites. 98%+ of male folk dressed in whites in this country are either inactively or actively politically connected. In the process, you might pass up on the 2% genuinely good ones in whites, but you’ll have avoided all the ones you want to avoid. Political connect in India will not allow you to go legit. People hook up with politicians for favours, and / or because they feel that in their hour of need, their political clout will save them. Did you know, that for the one favour, your political connection will make you do ten illegit things in reciprocation, stuff you’d never dream of doing normally. Ask yourself. Is the trade-off really worth it? No, right?

Then, avoid dealing with people who use body-guards. I mean, use your common-sense. There’s no reason to shun a benevolent, well-known corporate honcho with or without body-guards, like Anand Mahindra for example. You’ll learn to recognize shady honchos. There’s that feel about them, that mafioso vicious vibe. If you can sense that vibe in a honcho, don’t deal with that person. Forget about the profit you’re losing out on, and look at the level of tension and complication you’re avoiding.

Don’t deal with people promising stupendous returns. Nip the Ponzis in the bud. Dealing with a Ponzi will eventually land you in court, to get your money out . Believe me, you don’t want our super-efficient judicial system messing up your life, if you can help it.

Be firm while dealing with any government officer. The government officer will only start to misbehave if there is any weakness from your side. Remember, a government officer is supposed to serve the nation. His or her salary is paid from the taxes you dish out. If your dealing is clean, the official could harass you for refusing to bribe, but that’s about it. Take the harassment, but keep coming back till your work is done. We need to stop bribing. Then, and only then will government officers eventually stop expecting us to bribe.

Right, we’ve pretty much cut ourselves off from a lot of people and things, so where does this leave us?

Don’t worry, we are not alone.

There are like-minded people around, and we need to make these like-minded people a part of our lives. Yeah, and we can lead good, healthy lives with such people surrounding us.

Also, don’t for a moment think we can’t do anything for our country, just because we’ve nixed the political linkage. Private opportunities come along everyday, to help people and society. If you want to still make a difference, grab these opportunities. Poor people come to you for medical aid. Help them. You can contribute privately to social-welfare. Many private citizens are running clean NGOs. As the name suggests, these NGOs have no government involvement, and are less likely to be corrupt. Funds donated to clean NGOs will very likely reach disaster areas on time and in full.

You can make a difference, all by yourself. You don’t need a corrupt government to make a 20-odd% difference for you per unit of currency you trust them with, as tax or whatever. Yeah, only about that %age gets converted into welfare; the rest is nibbled up along the way.

Make a difference – all by yourself.

What are you waiting for?

Clean up your act, go legit.

It’s not going to cut you off from any good, clean and healthy action.

Trust me on this.

Do You Believe in You(rself) ?

Still not hit the success button?

Suffering from an inferiority complex?

Market got you down?

Is it over for you?

Which brings us to the more important question : Do you believe in YOU?

Wrong English, I know, I know. Sometimes I misuse the language for effect. The effect is more important to me than how silly I look because of bad grammar.

Ok, so you want to succeed, make it big in the markets, blah blah blah.

Who doesn’t?

You obviously can’t last out if you don’t believe in yourself. Markets are draining, and tend to suck the living blood out of one’s body, so one needs to last. Market forces exhaust the system. It’s something about them, something electronic. This something consumes your stamina. So, no two ways, you need to last out. 20, 30, 40 years maybe…

I’m not saying it’s going to take you that long to succeed. For all I know you’re the next Jesse Livermore in a few years. Getting there is one thing, but staying there is another. Consistency. Maintaining success for many years in a row. That’s big. Something like that can be, and probably is, a trader’s lifetime goal.

It all starts with belief.

Baby steps.

First, weave a safety net around you. This involves the creation of a regular source of income to sustain your family’s basic needs. Such income needs to be independent of the market, any market. Your trading is not really begging you to earn your basic income. It can well do without that extra pressure. A comfortable slot for your trading to be in is when it can generate additional and bonus income for you. That’s the sweet-spot, and you want to be in it, with a comfortable safety net around you, free to trade the markets with no extra pressure.

Then, create a reliable system to trade the markets.

This can even take many years. I mean, some of us take seven odd years to recognize their basic risk-profile. Good, at least we are recognizing our risk-profile, because everything else is going to be built up on top of that.

As your system starts to perform, your belief in yourself gets stronger. Good going, stranger, now do humanity a favour and support others who are struggling to find themselves. In any way you can. It’s good Karma, and will help you further on your own path.

Then, you hit it big-time, your system catches some huge market swings, and you are there.

Now, other things start happening. Success brings with it its own entourage.

Remain on the ground, please. That’s how you are going to last out. Keep trading. Hitting the magic spot is not enough, you need to milk it as long as possible. Your new status of “successful” will bring many to your doorstep. The crowd wants to acquire the magic formula from you. People want your time. Deal with it, buddy. In a manner that still keeps you performing in the Zone, trade after trade. Also, in a manner that keeps you from hurting anybody’s feelings. I know, thin line, difficult to do, but you don’t additionally want the remnant emotional baggage of hurting people to affect your trading.

Apart from fame, there are other members in the entourage of success, and I’m just classifying them ad-hoc under the header “extra-curricular activities”. Yup, these will come your way. That’s part of being successful and famous. Well, do what you want, you’re a grown-up, nobody’s going to tell you where to draw the line. All one can say is, that if any extra-curricular baggage starts seeping into your trading, you’re going down Sir. Period.

Oh, where did it all start? Belief, right. Look where it can get you.

So come on, get up from your drawdown. Drawdowns happen. They are part of the learning process. The earlier they happen, the better it is for you. Now, you probably won’t let them happen when the stakes are big. When a future drawdown looms, you are prepared, and nip it in the bud. You don’t let it grow into an ulcer. That’s what your earlier drawdowns have taught you.

So get up and give it another shot.

All it takes is a bit of belief.

The Cat that Survives Curiosity

So, what are the Joneses upto?

Or the Smiths?

Naths?

You know something, who cares?

You’re trading, right?

Fine, then just mind your own business, and focus on your return.

I mean, people, let’s just go beyond poking our noses into others’ businesses.

Don’t we have our own businesses to take care of?

Isn’t that enough for us?

If not, and if we start poking around, seeing what kind of return XYZ has made, or for that matter how many winning trades ABC has pulled off, well, we are doing ourselves a great disservice.

For starters, we don’t seem to have much confidence in our own trading system, if we’re poking around like that.

You should be pulling off the winning trades, you.

And XYZ’s or ABC’s performances should have no meaning for you.

They are trading according to their system. Let them be. What’s good for them is not necessarily good for you.

You are trading according to your system. Period.

Not minding your own business can seriously affect even a successful system which has temporarily hit a string of losing trades.

Random losses in a row happen. A winning system can well yield ten losses in a row, for example. Improbable, but not impossible.

Ask a coin, which functons at 50:50. On average, you’re flipping heads and tails equally. Nevertheless, you could land heads (or tails) ten times in a row over many, many coin-flips. Part of the game. Accept it.

Since you have a system, you’re functioning well beyond 50:50, right?

Thus, chances of a large number of losses in a row are even lesser for you.

Tweak at your system if you feel it’s lost its market-edge.

To remind you, an edge starts occurring when one functions beyond 50:50.

After a while, one gets bored, and tells oneself, that from now on, one wants to function at 55:45 and beyond (for example), come what may.

One then tweaks at one’s system, and raises the bar.

Tweak at your system if you feel the urgent need to raise the bar.

Keep raising the bar to your comfort level.

Leave other people alone. Don’t bother with their systems. Focus on your own trading.

Be the cat that survives curiosity.

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.

This is Getting Murky

Have you actually seen China’s account books?

Has anyone, for that matter?

How does the US pay for its imports from China?

With treasury-note IOUs?

Are Chinese GDP numbers doctored?

If yes, for how many years have the Chinese cooked their books?

How many more bailouts is Greece going to require?

Isn’t the amount of financial maneuvering increasing from bailout to bailout?

It feels as if real debt is being made to “go away” synthetically.

Things are getting murky in the financial world.

When that happens, the stage is set for tricky synthetic products to be offered.

It’s time to go on high alert.

You see, for the longest time, banks in the “developed” world have not been clocking actual business growth. However, their balance sheets are growing on the basis of trading profits. In almost all cases, the “float” is not increasing significantly from clients’ savings, or from new business. Instead it is increasing from good trading.

However, trading can go wrong for a bank. All that is required is one rogue trader. Blow-ups keep happening. For banks, good trading is at best a bonus. It is not something solid and everlasting to fall back on for eternity.

Well, that’s what most or all “developed” international banks are doing. They are relying on their international trading operations to see them through these times. (((Compare this to an emerging market like India, where an HDFC Bank generates 30%+ QoQ growth, for the last 8 quarters and counting, on the basis of actual business profits from new accounts, savings and fresh real money that increases the float))).

While the scenario lasts, what kind of synthetic products can one expect from the plastic composers of financial products?

And we are going to get something plasticky soon, since “developed” international banks have gotten into the groove of trading, and since trading is their ultimate bread and butter now.

So what’s it gonna be?

The conceivers of plastic in the ’80s still had a conscience. For example, Michael Milken’s “Junk Bonds” still had actual underlying companies to the investment. That the companies were ailing, and could probably go bust, was a different issue. In lieu of that, junk bonds were giving returns that beat the cr#p out of inflation twice over, and then some. Though investors knew that these underlying companies were ailing, greed closed their eyes, as crowds lapped up the product. We know how the story ended.

In the ’90s, anything with the flavour of IT ran like an Usain Bolt. The conceivers of plastic products here were tech enterpreneurs, coupled with bankers that pushed through their IPOs. One had a lot of shady dotcoms with zero or minus balance-sheets clocking huge IPOs, apart from being driven up to dizzy heights by greedy public, from where their fall began.

By the ’00s, whatever 2 pennies of conscience that remained were now out the window. Products like CDOs did the rounds. These had no actual underlying entity, like a bond or a debenture. They were totally synthetic, mathematical products, assembled by bundling together toxic debt. The investment bankers that conceived these products knew that the debt was toxic, and were cleverly holding the other end of the line, i.e. they sold these products to their clients as AAA, and then shorted these very products, knowing that they were bound to go down in value because of their toxic contents.

We are well into the ’10s.

What’s it gonna be?

I think it’s probably going to be a “Structure”.

There is going to be an underlying. The world is wary about “no underlyings”.

The catch is going to come from the quality of the underlying, as in when it’s ailing badly and the world thinks otherwise (in the ’80s, the junk value of the underlying was no secret. Here, it probably will be).

Where is the product going to be unleashed?

Emerging markets. That’s where money has moved to. Also, investors there are not as savvy, since they’ve not been properly hit.

Why is the time ripe?

Interest rates are kinda peaking. Investors have gotten used to sitting back and raking in 10%+ returns, doing nothing. When interest rates start to move down, that would be the stage for the unleashing of the product in question.

Lazy, spoilt investors would probably lap up such products offering something like 13%+ returns, with “certified” AAA underlying entities to the investment.

So watch out. Don’t be lazy or greedy. As and when interest rates start to move down, move your money into appropriate products that are not shady and that have safe underlyings. From knowledge, not from hearsay.

Be very selective about who you let in to give investment advice. Even someone you trust could be pushed by his or her employer institution to aggressively sell you something synthetic with a shady underlying.

Be very, very careful. Do your due diligence.

Don’t get into the wrong product, specifically one with a lock-in.

Watch Out for Bottomless Pits

A shareholder-friendly management?

Forget about it.

Very difficult to find, nowadays.

Gone are the days where you’d see an Azim Premji driving his 800, or a Narayana Murthy travelling economy class.

These legends believed in increasing the shareholder’s pie. And this they did, big time. Ask any Wipro or Infosys shareholder. These legends were very clear about one thing: there was no question of pumping in useless expenditure into their public limited company at the cost of the shareholder.

The norm, btw, is totally opposite. Public limited company managements live it up at the cost of the shareholder. Very few promoters are actually bothered about their shareholders. It is the norm to put medical bills, day to day living / wining / dining / entertainment costs, personal property purchases etc. into the company. Why should the promoter bear such costs when there is the public limited company to put these and such costs into? Logical?

Don’t expect too much from your average promoter. He’s not in the game for you.

Where does all this leave you, by the way?

Firstly, you need to look out for, and avoid bottomless pits. These are companies that bear huge amounts of expenditure emanating from the whims and fancies of the promoter. For example, the total sports sponsorship bill for Kingfisher Airlines is staggering. Then there’s this huge red flag in their balance sheet – the company is in under a mountain of debt. On top of that, this company just reported almost a 100 million USD Q2 loss. Math doesn’t add up for you to be investing in such bottomless pits, does it?

In your search for idealistic and shareholder-friendly managements, you might come up with a handful of names. Next you’ll find that it’s no secret. If there’s an idealistic and shareholder-friendly promoter around, people can see this in his or her deeds and of course in the balance sheet of his or her company. Savvy early investors make a beeline for such companies, with the result that by the time you get there, the concerned share-price is already quite inflated. You’ve identified a good investment, but you are not going to enter at an expensive price. If you do, you’ll not be able to sit on your investment for the long-term. Even slight volatility will shake you out of it.

Instead, you choose to wait for the right price to arrive, and then you enter. Well played.

The deal is, that more than 90% – 95% of managements don’t play it like an Azim Premji, or a Narayana Murthy, or an Anu Aga for that matter. However, shareholder-unfriendly promoters sometimes own companies that are lucrative investments. This can be due to niche, cycles, technology, crowd mentality, whatever. When do you buy into such companies?

As a long-term investor, you wanna be buying such companies at a deep discount to real value. My thumb-rule is a single-digit price to earnings ratio. You can have your own thumb-rule. You might have to wait a long time to get this kind of a price, but that’s what long-term investing is about.

As a trader, you buy into such a company with the momentum. You can buy after a resistance is broken. Or after a high is taken out. Or upon a substantial dip after the first burst of momentum. As a trader, what is far more important for you is to know when to let such a company go. Know the level by heart below which or at which you will exit such a company. In trading, exits are far more important than entries.

The mistake you don’t want to be making is to invest in a bottomless-pit, no matter how cheap the share price is.

As Ponzi as it Gets

Charles Ponzi didn’t dream that he’d become one of the most copied villains in the History of mankind.

Ponzi was a financial villain. His ideology was so simple, that it was brilliant.

Lure the first set of investors with promises of huge returns. Transfer the first few return payouts. Lure more and more investors as the news spreads about the scheme with great returns. Transfer few more return payouts to old investors from the investment principal of new investors. Lure a peak level of investors ultimately. Then vanish with all the collections.

As Ponzi as it gets.

I hardly read the financial newspapers. Technical trading finds news to be more of a burden. Earlier, I used to gauge sentiment from the news. Now, my Twitter-feed is an excellent gauge for sentiment. Also, with time, one starts to gauge sentiment in the technicals. Candlesticks are a great help here.

Yesterday, in a loose moment, I picked up the Economic Times. Normally, it’s not delivered to our house. Yesterday, a supplement of the ET was included in our normal newspaper. Probably a sales gimmick. Anyways, I glanced through it. Was shocked to find that 25 recent Ponzi schemes had been unearthed in India alone.

What is it about us? Can we not understand what greed means?

The sad fact was that all the investors who were trapped were retail small timers.

Education, people, education. Are you financially literate? If not, please don’t enter the markets. No amount of regulation can save you from being duped if you are financially illiterate.

When you’re putting your money on the line for the long term, you’re looking for quality of management. A track record is something you want to see. Average returns are great returns if they promise safety of the principal.

Where there’s promise of huge rewards, there are also proportionate risks. If you really want the thrill of very high returns, all right, fine, go ahead and risk a miniscule percentage of your portfolio size in a risky, high yielding scheme. Tell yourself that the principal might or might not come back, and for heavens sake, don’t bet the farm here.

These financial times are as Ponzi as it gets, people, so TREAD CAREFULLY.

Making the 99% See Reason

Hey 99%,

Fine, fine, #OccupyWallStreet and all…

To be honest, this needs to be more about brains than brawn. The 1% are where they are because they’ve used their devious and canniving brains to become super-rich. Now you need to use yours to first extract yourself from your debt-trap situation and then to work towards financial freedom. Something like this can only work long-term. Using brawn, you’ll probably break the law and land up in jail, simultaneously exacerbating your predicament.

The first step is to SAVE. That’s what your forefathers did. They saved. They made your country a super-power because of their SAVINGS. If you’re not in a position to save, please get yourself into such a position. There’s no way out. To attain financial freedom, you have to start saving.

Tear your credit cards into two. Don’t consume. Don’t use and throw. Use, repair and reuse. Eat less if you have to, but extract yourself from the debt-cycle at any cost. There’s no other way.

Once you’ve started to save, you’ll need to learn how to manage your savings. Don’t ask the 1% to manage them for you. Instead, learn how to manage them on your own. With that, you’ll be putting yourself into the business of money- and asset-management, and then you can truly and totally boycott the 1%. That would be a message to the 1% that could make them scramble for survival. Believe me, to survive, they’ll be forced to change their ways. They don’t understand your brawn. It just aggravates them.

There’s enough material on the web available, that’ll get you going. The best thing is, most of it is free of cost. Go for it. Learn how to manage your savings on your own and make them grow. You can start by reading this very blog.

Continuous savings, over years and years, and the intelligent and independent management of these savings – these two acts will lead you towards financial freedom. Perhaps you will be too old to fully benefit at that time, but your children will benefit.

There’s no point beating about the bush – this is a long-term pursuit. No short-term effort or remedy is going to solve it.

Do it for your children.

When Cash is King

I don’t like crowds.

The last thing I ever want to do is to conform to crowd behaviour.

That’s one goal defined.

What does this mean?

Very clearly, for starters, it means singing one’s own tune, i.e. defining one’s own path.

It also means not listening to anyone. That requires mental strength, and the power to resist. Very tough.

In life, generally, one likes to be in tandem with the Joneses. And then, smart cookies that we are, we like to go one up on the Joneses, which would be the cue for the Joneses to catch up and then overtake us. Hypothetically, this is how the Joneses and the Naths could blow up all their cash.

It doesn’t stop there. To keep up, the average citizen doesn’t think twice before leaping into debt.

Bottomline is, when cash is king, hardly anybody has cash. In fact, most people owe money at that time.

This is the age of black swans. Crisis after crisis, then a bit of recovery, then another crisis, then some recovery, followed by a mega-crisis.

When a master-blaster crisis ensues, cash becomes king. Quality stuff on the Street starts to sell so cheap, that one needs to pinch oneself to believe the selling prices. Margins of safety are unprecedented. Now’s the time one can salt away a part of one’s cash in Equity, for the long-term.

That’s if one has cash to spare. This is report card time. How have you done in your REAL investment exam? Have you learnt to sit on cash? Have you learnt to buy with margin of safety? The Street doesn’t care for your college degree, in fact, it vomits on your college degree. Your college degree has no value on the Street, it’s just a piece of paper.

Learning on the Street happens everyday, with every move, every investment, every trade, every observation. Unless and until your own money is on the line, this learning is ineffective.

Get real, wake up, so that when cash is king, you feel like an emperor!

An Elliott-Wave Cross-Section through a Crowd Build-Up

At first, there’s smart money.

Behind this white-collared term are pioneering investors who believe in thorough research, and who are willing to take risks.

Smart money goes into an underlying, and the price of this underlying moves up. Wave 1.

At the sidelines, there are those who have been stuck in this underlying. As the price moves above their entry level, they begin to off-load. There’s a small correction. Wave 2.

By now, news of the smart money has perforated through the markets. Where is it moving? What did it pick up? Who is behind it? Thus, more investors following news or fundamentals (or both) enter. The price moves past the very recent short-term high of Wave 1, accompanied by a surge in volume.

This is picked up on the charts by those following technicals, who enter too. By now, there are analysts speaking in the media about the turn-around in company so and so, and a large chunk of people following the media do the honours by entering. Wave 3 is under way.

Technical trend-followers latch on, and soon, we are at the meat of Wave 3, i.e. the middle off the trend.

Analysts on the media then speak about buying on dips. All dips are cut short by a surge of entrants seeking to be part of the crowd.

The first feelings of missing the bus register. The pangs of these cause more people to enter.

Meanwhile, the short community has been getting active. Large short positions have been in place for a while, and they are bleeding. Eventually, the short community throws in the towel, and there’s massive short-covering, causing a further surge in price.

Short-covering is sensed by gauging buying pressure despite very high price levels. It is the ideal time for smart money to exit. That’s exactly what it does, without any dip in the price of the underlying whatsoever.

Short-covering is over. Smart money starts boasting about its returns of X% in Y days, openly, at parties, in the media, everywhere. This causes pangs of jealousy and intense feelings of missing the bus in those still left out. Some enter, throwing caution to the wind.

The price has reached a level at which no one has the guts to enter. Demand dries up. With no buying pressure, the price dips automatically. Bargain hunters emerge, and so do shorters. The shorters sell to the bargain hunters right through a sizable dip. This dip happens so fast, that most of the crowd still remains trapped. Wave 3 has ended, and we are now looking at the correcting Wave 4 in progress.

At this stage, technical analysts start advising reentry upon Fibonacci correction levels. Position traders buying upon dips with margin of safety enter, and so does the second-last chunk of those feeling they’d missed the bus. The price edges up to the peak of Wave 3 and past it. That’s the trigger for technical traders to enter.

We now see a mini-repeat of Wave 3. This is called Wave 5. Once Wave 5 crosses its meat, the last chunk of those still feeling they’d missed the bus makes a grand entry with a sharp spike in the price. These are your Uncle Georges, Aunt Marthas and Mr. Cools who know nothing about the underlying. They cannot discern a price to earnings ratio from an orangutan. They desperately want to be a part of the action, since everyone is, at whatever the price. And these are the very people that traders sell to as they exit. With that, the crowd is at its peak, and so is the price. There are no more buyers.

What’s now required is a pin-prick to burst the bubble. It can be bad news in the media, the emergence of a scandal, a negative earnings report, anything.

The rest, they say, is History.

Crowds Eventually Start Behaving in a Deluded Manner

We’re human beings.

The majority of us likes forming a crowd.

Our crowd-behaviour eventually goes warped. History has shown this time and again.

In the market-place, I make it a point to identify crowds. The biggest money is to be made by capitalizing upon the folly of a crowd. That’s why.

So first let’s gauge very broadly, what the main aspects of market-study are, and then let’s see where crowd-behaviour fits in.

Market-study encompasses three broad areas. These are:

1). Fundamentals,
2). Technicals and
3). Sentiment.

You guessed it, crowd behaviour falls under “Sentiment”. Well, sentiment can knock the living daylights out of the best of “Fundamentals”. And, sentiment makes “Technicals”. Thus, for me, the most important factor while understanding market moves is sentiment.

A stock can exhibit the choiciest of fundamentals. Yet, if a crowd goes delusional, it can drive down the price of even such a stock for longer than we can remain solvent. Let’s write this across our foreheads: Delusional Crowds can Maraude Fundamentals.

Since we are now writing on our foreheads, let’s write another thing: Delusional Crowds can cause Over-Bought or Over-Sold conditions to Exist for longer than we can remain Solvent. There go the technicals.

A crowd thinks in a collective. All that’s required is a virus to infect the collective. A virus doesn’t have to be something physical. It can even be an idea. The space that we exist in is laden with disease-causing energies. Once a crowd latches on to a virus-like idea, its behaviour goes delusional.

Here are some examples of such behaviour. At the peak of the dot-com boom, in March 2000, a crowd of rich farmers from the surrounding villages walks into a friend’s office. They are carrying bags of cash. They tell my friend that they want to buy something called “shares”. They ask where these can be purchased, and if they are heavy (!). Since they are carrying their life-savings with them in cash, and plan to spend everything on this purchase of “shares”, they want to also effetively organize the transport of the “shares” to their homes in the villages. Thus they want to know if “shares” are heavy to transport!

In the aftermath of the dot-com bust, Pentasoft is down more than 90% from its peak. I think this legend is from 2001. A crowd of rich businessmen collects the equivalent of 20 million USD and buys the down-trodden shares with all of the money. The scrip goes down to zilch and today, one’s not even able to find a quote for it.

In the 17th century, people actually spend more than the price of a house for the purchase of one TULIP, for God’s sake.

You get the drift.

The current crowd is building around Gold. It’s behaviour as of now is still rational. In due course, it has high chances of going irrational.

Whenever that happens, we’ll definitely be able to see the signs, because both our eyes are OPEN.

And what was Mr. Fibonacci thinking?

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377… , … , …

What’s this?

A random set of numbers?

Nope.

It’s the Fibonacci series.

How is it derived?

Start with 0 and 1, and just keep adding a number to the one on its right to get the next number, and so on and so forth.

What’s so peculiar about this series?

As we keep moving from left to right, the result of dividing any number by the one on it’s immediate right starts converging towards 0.62.

Also, as we keep moving from left to right, the result of dividing any number by the second number on its right starts converging towards 0.38.

The series starts with a 0.

Another number to note is 0.5.

So, in a nutshell, these are the important figures to note, which this series generates: 0, 0.38, 0.5, 0.62. There are more, but these are the most important ones.

I’ve always wondered why the 0.5 is important. Actually, “half-way” is big with mankind.

What’s the significance of this series?

In any activity involving a large number of units, these Fibonacci ratios are said to be observed.

It is said that crowds behave as per these ratios.

It is said, that for example when many leaves fall from a tree over a long period of time, a Fibonacci pattern can be determined in their falling.

It is said that these ratios are ingrained in nature.

True or false?

Don’t know.

What I do know is that the trading fraternity has taken these numbers to heart, and looks for Fibonacci levels in anything and everything. Most commonly, entry into a sizzling stock is planned after the stock has corrected past a Fibonacci level and has once again started to rise.

In simpler terms, aggressive traders who buy on dips will look for a 38% correction of pivot to peak before entering.

Less aggressive traders will wait for a 50% correction and then enter upon the rise of the underlying.

Traders who like to value-buy will wait for a 62% correction, which might or might not come.

If the underlying goes on correcting past 62%, it is best left alone, because the correction can well continue beyond 0, the starting point of the prior rise.

A current example where you’ll most definitely see Fibonacci ratios in action is with Gold.

The million dollar question I have been hearing around me today is when to enter Gold now, especially because it is correcting heavily.

The immediate answer for me would be to enter at a Fibonacci level of correction.

Which level?

That depends upon your risk profile.