Market-maker

Manipulation. 

Recognition. 

Alignment. 

Trade. 

Spike. 

Out. 

How does one recognize manipulation? 

On the charts. 

After eyeballing many many charts, one gets a feel for it. 

Manipulated strike-points become pivot points. 

It’s a push from a fund-heavy conglomerate. Push becomes a cascade as traders join in. 

After the spike, the market-maker pulls out funds so cleverly that rates don’t fall. 

Funds are now ready for the next push. The same funds. 

Repeat. Same loop. 

Till strategy fails. 

Then, maker starts manipulating in opposite direction. 

Life’s busy for the maker. 

There’s trouble with the authorities. Ends on a compromise. Maker will step in when authorities need to prop the market. 

No maker – no market. 

Why do you think there’s always a quote to your underlying? 

Because of the maker. 

After a market has crossed critical mass, makers sit on their spikes. They roll-over on expiries, and enjoy the ride. 

Ride is not always smooth. 

Makers often get greedy and break their own rules. Functioning with no safeties, many makers get wiped out. To add to their woes, a large percentage functions on borrowed money. 

Makers have an electronic life, which loops from cellphone to terminal and back. It’s a life that’s punctuated by headaches, physical and mental. 

Don’t envy a maker. 

He or she is just doing his or her job. That’s all. 

Trade the maker. 

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Sheer Moat Investing is not Antifragile 

There we go again. 

That word. 

It’s not going to leave us. 

Nicholas Nassim Taleb has coined together what is possibly the market-word of the century. 

Antifragile. 

We’re equity-people. 

We want to remain so. 

We don’t wish to desert equity just because it is a fragile asset-class by itself. 

No. 

We wish to make our equity-foray as antifragile as possible. 

First-up, we need to understand, that when panic sets in, everything falls. 

The fearful weak hand doesn’t differentiate between a gem and a donkey-stock. He or she just sells and sells alike. 

Second-up, we need to comprehend that this is the age of shocks. There will be shocks. Shock after shock after shock. Such are the times. Please acknowledge this, and digest it. 

To make our equity-play antifragile, we’ll need to incorporate solid strategies to account for above two facts. 

We love moats, right? 

No problem. 

We’ll keep our moats. 

Just wait for moat-stocks to show value. Then, we’ll pick them up. 

We go in during the aftermath of a shock. Otherwise, we don’t. 

We go in with small quanta. Time after time after time. 

Voila. 

We’re  already sufficiently antifragile. 

No magic. 

Just sheer common sense. 

We’re still buying quality stocks. 

We’re buying them when they’re not fragile, or lesser fragile. 

We’re going in each time with minute quanta such that the absence of these quanta (after they’ve gone in) doesn’t alter our financial lives. We’re saving the rest of our pickled corpus for the next shock, after which the gem-stock will be yet lesser fragile. 

Yes, we’re averaging down, only because we’re dealing with gems. We’ll never average down with donkey-stocks. We might trade these, averaging up. We won’t be investing in them. 

Thus, we asymptotically approach antifragility in a gem-stock. 

Over time, after many cycles, the antifragile bottom-level of the gem-stock should be moving significantly upwards. 

Gem-stock upon gem-stock upon gem-stock. 

We’re done already. 

Making the Skew – work for you

Anomalies.

Anomalies?

Opportunities.

Yeah.

It’s all about perspective.

Just align your perspective.

Get into the skin of the anomaly.

Why?

You were in this to make money, right?

So chop chop.

Anomalies are like waves.

They swell… and recede.

If you’ve missed one, wait for its one-offset to start swelling.

Oh yeah, forgot to reiterate, you’re out before it recedes.

That would be a great trade.

Getting in well before the swell and staying in would be an investment entry-strategy.

Getting out after a swell would be an investment exit-strategy.

Use your imagination.

Wishing you a lucrative market-footprint!

🙂

Speed of Rise vs Speed of Fall

Specifically, equity markets have this one repetitive characteristic.

Their average speed of rising is lesser than their average speed of falling. Much lesser, I would say. 

Why?

Falling has to do with selling pressure being more than buying pressure. Selling pressure is connected to fear. Add caution to fear, and one has already sold out. 

Rise has to do with buying pressure being more than selling pressure. Buying pressure is connected to optimism. As markets keep nudging higher, slowly, optimism turns into euphoria, with a hint of caution. This caution slows the speed of rising, till greed takes over in the last stage of the rise, and one fails to see any caution anymore. At this time, the speed of rising is the highest, but is still lesser than the speed of falling at the nadir. Why?

What is the prevalent situation at a nadir? There’s blood. People are running for their lives. They take action before asking questions, and before looking here or there. 

Many times, you come across someone holding a stock which he or she has inherited from a parent. This someone comes to you with the ubiquitous query – what to do, sell it now? You look at the chart. Whoahhhh! You see the buy price, one and a half decades ago. You look at the current level. You calculate the profit. Along the time axis of the chart, you also see that the stock fell back to its buy price or below in a market crash, all within a month and a half. After this, the stock has recouped its losses of the crash, and is showing a healthy profit again, six years after the crash. During the crash, how long did it take the stock to fall below the buy price of one and a half decades ago? A month and a half. Holy moly!

That’s the equity playground for you. 

It’s directly connected to human emotions. 

Anything can happen on this playground, so keep your eyes and ears open, and…

… be prepared. 

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!

🙂

Anatomy of a Multibagger

Wouldn’t we all like to rake it in?

A multibagger does just that for you. Over a longish period, its growth defies normalcy.

In the stock markets, a 1000-bagger over 10 years – happens. Don’t be surprised if you currently find more than 20 such stocks in your own native markets.

Furthermore, our goal is to be a part of the story as it unfolds.

Before we can invest in a multibagger, we need to identify it before it breaks loose.

What are we looking for?

Primarily, a dynamic management with integrity. We are looking for signs of honesty while researching a company. Honest people don’t like to impose on others. Look for a manageable debt-equity ratio. Transparency in accounting and disclosure counts big. You don’t want to see any wheelin’-dealin’ or Ponzi behavior. If I’d been in the markets in the early ’80s and I’d heard that Mr. Azim Premji drove a Fiat or an 800, and flew economy class, I’d have picked up a large stake in Wipro. 10k in Wipro in ’79 multiplied to 3 billion by ’04. That can only happen when the management is shareholder-friendly and keeps on creating value for those invested. Wipro coupled physical value-creation with market value-creation. It kept announcing bonus after bonus after bonus. God bless Mr. Premji, he made many common people millionaires, or perhaps even billionaires.

A good management will have a clean balance-sheet. That’s the number two item.

The company you’ re looking at will need to have a scalable business model.

It will need to produce something that has the ability to catch the imagination of the world for a decade or more.

The company you’re looking at will need to come from the micro-cap or the small-cap segment. A market-cap of 1B is not as likely to appreciate to 1000B as a market-cap of 25M is to 25B.

Then, one needs to get in at a price that is low enough to give oneself half a chance of getting such an appreciation multiple.

Needless to say, the low price must invariably be coupled to huge inherent value which the market is not seeing yet, but which you are able to correctly see.

After that, one needs the courage and conviction to act upon what one is seeing and has recognized.

One needs to have learnt how to sit, otherwise one will nip the multibagger in the bud. Two articles on this blog have already been dedicated to “sitting”. Patience is paramount.

The money that goes in needs to be a small amount. It’s magnitude shouldn’t affect your normal functioning.

Once a story has started unfolding, please remember one thing. If a stock has caught the imagination of the public, it can continue to quote at extended valuation multiples for a long time. As long as there is buying pressure, don’t exit. One needs to recognize buying pressure. That’s why, one needs to learn charting basics.

Phew, am I forgetting something here? Please feel welcome to comment and add factors to the above list.

Here’s wishing that you are able to latch on to many multibaggers in your investing career.

🙂