Are you Positioned?

What’s our biggest enemy in the markets?

This one’s invariably…

…our Self.

Cut to ’07.

Fancy hotel banquet room, snacks and drinks, chief investment officer of JP Morgan is talking…

…and we’re listening.

My friend and I…

…sitting on profits…

…feeling smug about ourselves…

…young guns…

…ready to conquer the world…

…nothing can stop us now.

Or can it?

“There will always be a correction…”. These words catch my ear.

I raise my hand.

“Yes? The gentleman with the lime-green tie has a question?”

I stand up, and before I know it, I ask the deadly question.

“Don’t you think there’s been a paradigm-shift with regard to India, and that India has decoupled from the rest of the world?”

“How old are you, Sir?”

“37”.

This was ’07, remember?

“I’m going to excuse your question, because you’re young, and have probably experienced the markets for…?”

“3 years”.

“Exactly. That’s why I’ll only answer your question with a smile.”

How controlled.

“You see, globalization is a reality, and decoupling is a myth”.

Myth, really?

“It’s fancy phrases like “paradigm-shift” that catch the inexperienced investor’s imagination, leading to huge market mistakes”.

In these few sentences, my entire comprehension of markets was blown up and thrown out the window.

And that would have been a good thing…

…had I listened.

Such is the arrogance of “youth”, that “youth” doesn’t listen.

Soon, the ’08 crash happened.

I lost big time.

Was humbled.

Took me a long time to get back and stabilize.

I remember my stomach churning and my unwillingness to meet people as markets crashed to lower and lower levels.

I almost couldn’t take it.

We are our worst enemies.

What’s it going to be this market high?

We’ve learnt, and are positioned.

However, there will be newbies (like we were) who are going to go through this chain of events.

What buzz-words or phrases will catch their imagination?

BitCoin?

Liquidity?

Vaccine?

Quantitative Easing?

FIIs?

Pending rally in small-caps?

There’s a new cocktail doing the rounds this time around.

This cocktail will ensnare.

Even the topmost analysts are beginning to feel that a correction could take some time coming.

Some weeks ago, most felt that a correction could happen anytime now.

Player psychology is set for the cocktail to do its work.

Then one needs a pinprick.

In ’08 this was perhaps Lehman on the world scale and the Reliance Power IPO in India.

What’s it going to be this time?

It doesn’t matter.

Remember? There will always be a correction.

Are you positioned?

Decoupling One o Two

Trade on.

Market forces.

You.

Connection.

Attenuation.

Life normal.

This is the real decoupling.

What was the other decoupling?

The myth one?

Myth?

I mean, Switzerland is kinda financially decoupled. The CHF just keeps its own despite anything.

Israel is also sort of decoupled. Despite everything. Functions on its own tangent. Matter of opinion.

These are exceptions. They prove the norm.

There are remote chances these exceptions won’t exist tomorrow. Having said that, let’s hope nothing like that ever happens.

However, permanent decoupling is mostly a myth. We’ll be better off not incorporating it into our investment or trading strategy.

Decoupling one o two is a different matter.

It is very welcome.

It gives longevity and harmony to a trader’s market- and normal-life.

Happy trading!

🙂

Constant Activity doesn’t necessarily mean Progress

Beware…

…of the urge to…

…constantly remain active.

The times preach it.

Maybe it was valid for different times.

Today, sitting still is an asset.

Many things happen while one sits still.

Systems cleanse.

Systems rest.

Space is created.

Recuperation is paramount.

Strength is built up, to come out firing on all cylinders another day.

Lack of activity thus becomes a secret weapon.

Weapons are double-edged.

If you’re not careful, they cut your skin from their other side.

We guard…

…against unnecessary food…

… and drink…

…laziness, sloth, mental over-zealousness, gossip and / or any kind of evil…

… while we’re inactive.

If we let such cracks seep in, it’ll have been all for a waste.

We’re not going to be inactive and be called a waste, because that’s a double-whammy.

We’re going to be pinpointedly inactive, and still be more productive than the 24×7 active ones.

We’re going to lead a good, full life with activity amidst productive periods of inactivity.

Yeah.

Less is More

Fill your plate.

Work.

Go all out.

Nobody’s asking you to work less.

Research.

Hit it with your best shot.

Do quality work.

Work with the best tools.

Enjoy your work…

…so much so, that time ceases to exist.

Yeah, that means you’ve found your calling.

However, connect less to live Mrs. Market.

Here, less is more.

Keep her away as much as possible when she’s live.

Only connect live when you really, really have to.

What are you achieving?

Minimal bogging down live market forces.

You’re away from the pandemonium, the confusion.

You’ve set your self up brilliantly, to think clearly.

Now, gather your thoughts, gather your research.

You get into the Zone.

You have a purpose.

It can be anything. A market instruction. An instrument alteration. A structural change. A query. A test. A probe. A check. Something small. Something big.

With your purpose right before your eyes, connect live.

Solve your purpose.

Disconnect.

Relax.

Let remnant market forces leave you, yeah, let them dissipate.

Do some other stuff for a while.

Then, when you’re ready, get back to your research.

If you’re not ready after a while, call it a day.

Go for a swim. Or something.

Charting Charting Charting

Why don’t you just…

… trade what you see?

Trade the chart, dammit.

Not the level.

Not the expectancy of a turnaround.

And, although I still do this because it gives me a kick, why do we even trade corrections?

Why can’t we just trade the sheer chart?

Every chart is either going up, down or nowhere.

So it’s pretty obvio, that the first step would be to…

… to what?

… to decide where the chart is going.

Again, it should be pretty obvio, that if a chart is going nowhere, then you are doing… what?

Are you trading such a chart?

NO!

Wait for such a chart to break out in one particular direction.

Wait for the LTT to turn in this direction.

Then trade this chart. Not before.

Yeah, LTT stands for long-term trend.

Yeah, we’ve befriended the LTT so much, that we have an abbreviation going for it…

Once you’ve sorted out the direction, look for an entry setup.

Be patient.

If the entry setup hasn’t formed yet, wait for it. If you can’t stop your twiddling fingers from doing something, feed in a trigger entry in case of a hypothetical setup formation within the next few hours / days, if your trading station allows this.

There’s no up or down anymore, to be honest. You are going where the chart is going, period.

You are also not asking the stooopidest question of them all…

… you guessed it… “Did the sensory index go up, or down?”

Just forget about the sensory index, ok?

I mean, we’re so done with sensory indices in this space.

Why?

DLF could tank 20 bucks on a day the Sensex goes up. Dow Jones could be down 50 points, but Pfizer could just spring into a stellar upwards move. Why should we have lost the short-side opportunity that DLF hypothetically gave, or the long-side opportunity that Pfizer could present, for example? We will do exactly that, i.e. lose the opportunity, if our focus is on the sensory index.

Focus on the underlying.

To be more precise, focus on the chart of the underlying.

Happy trading.

🙂

Danza Kuduro x Gangnam Style = Indian Political Circus

Can you ignore the circus around you?

Sooner or later, you’ll need to learn how to.

Why?

Because growth is where we are.

And, growth is dying in many parts of the world.

So, why do you need to ignore the circus?

To focus. The circus won’t let you focus properly.

And why do you need to focus?

To take advantage of the growth around you.

Growth is a coveted commodity, remember that.

One could say that you are lucky to be born in an area showing growth. You are in demand. People from other parts of the world want to participate in any available growth story. These are competent people, selling highly developed technology and expertise. They deserve to participate in growth stories, why not? The question here is about you.

Are you able to make the most of your times, and that too – ethically?

Then forget about the circus.

The circus won’t let you function ethically.

You need to learn to function despite the circus.

Welcome to the world of minimal exposure. At times, you will need the circus, since it controls the machinery of your system. That’s about it, that’s your minimal exposure. No more exposure than what is absolutely required – these are golden words summing up your policy of minimal exposure.

And you are totally going to succeed despite minimal exposure – many have done so already, so why should you be an exception?

The quality of success that emerges, after having followed a policy of minimal exposure, is sweet. It’s a no-strings-attached kind of success. It is lasting, and brings peace and exhilaration. Definitely worth striving for. So, circus shmirkus, don’t even bother, just go for it, and make the most of the growth happening around you. Because of your ethical angle, I wish even more, that you succeed.

All the best! 🙂

Happy Second Birthday, Magic Bull !!

Seasons change. So do people, moods, feelings, relationships and market scenarios.

A stream of words is a very powerful tool to understand and tackle such change.

Birthdays will go by, and, hopefully, words will keep flowing. When something flows naturally, stopping it leads to disease. Trapped words turn septic inside the container holding them.

Well, we covered lots of ground, didn’t we? This year saw us transform from being a money-management blog to becoming a commentary on applied finance. The gloom and doom of Eurozone didn’t beat us down. Helicopter Ben and the Fed were left alone to their idiosyncrasies. The focus turned to gold. Was it just a hedge, and nothing but a hedge? Could it replace the dollar as a universal currency? Recently, its glitter started to actually disturb us, and we spoke about exit strategies. We also became wary of the long party in the debt market, and how it was making us lazy enough to miss the next equity move. Equity, with its human capital behind it, still remained the number one long-term wealth preserver cum generator for us. After all, this asset class fought inflation on auto-pilot, through its human capital.

Concepts were big with us. There was the concept of Sprachgefühl, with which one could learn a new subject based on sheer feeling and instinct. The two central concepts that stood out this year were leverage and compounding. We saw the former’s ugly side. The latter was practically demonstrated using the curious case of Switzerland. There was the Ayurvedic concept of Satmya, which helps a trader get accustomed to loss. And yeah, we meet the line, our electrolytic connection to Mrs. Market. We bet our monsters, checked Ace-high, gauged when to go all-in against Mrs. Market, and when to move on to a higher table. Yeah, for us, poker concepts were sooo valid in the world of trading.

We didn’t like the Goldman attitude, and weren’t afraid to speak out. Nor did we mince any words about the paralytic political scenario in India, and about the things that made us go Uffff! We spoke to India Inc., making them aware, that the first step was theirs. We also recognized and reacted to A-grade tomfoolery in the cases of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines. Elsewhere, we tried to make the 99% see reason. Listening to the wisdom of the lull was fun, and also vital. What would it take for a nation to decouple? For a while, things became as Ponzi as it gets, causing us to build a very strong case against investing a single penny in the government sector, owing to its apathy, corruption and inefficiency. We were quite outspoken this year.

The Atkinsons were an uplifting family that we met. He was the ultimate market player. She was the ultimate home-maker. Her philanthropy stamped his legacy in caps. Our ubiquitous megalomaniac, Mr. Cool, kept sinking lower this year, whereas his broker, Mr. Ever-so-Clever, raked it in . Earlier, Mr. Cool’s friend and alter-ego, Mr. System Addict, had retired on his 7-figure winnings from the market. Talking of brokers, remember Miss Sax, the wheeling-dealing market criminal, who did Mr. Cool in? She’s still in prison for fraud. Our friend the frog that lived in a well taught us about the need for adaptability and perspective, but not before its head exploded upon seeing the magnitude of an ocean.

Our endeavors to understand Mrs. Market’s psychology and Mr. Risk’s point of view were constant and unfailing, during which we didn’t forget our common-sense at home. Also, we were very big on strategy. We learnt to be away from our desk, when Mrs. M was going nowhere. We then learnt to draw at Mrs. M, when she actually decided to go somewhere. Compulsion was taken out of our trading, and we dealt with distraction. Furthermore, we started to look out for game-changers. Scenarios were envisioned, regarding how we would avoid blowing up big, to live another day, for when cash would be king. Descriptions of our personal war in Cyberia outlined the safety standards we needed to meet. Because we believed in ourselves and understood that we were going to enhance our value to the planet, we continued our struggle on the road to greatness, despite any pain.

Yeah, writing was fun. Thanks for reading, and for interacting. Here’s wishing you lots of market success. May your investing and trading efforts be totally enjoyable and very, very lucrative! Looking forward to an exciting year ahead!

Cheers 🙂

What Does it Take to Decouple?

Is Decoupling a myth?

Why hasn’t any country been able to decouple from collective world economics for longish periods?

What does it take to decouple?

For starters, good governance. Over long periods.

Resources. One needs to have independent resources, as in energy resources. For example, India does not have ample independent oil resources. Going nuclear could make it a stronger candidate for decoupling, but does the country have responsible governance to handle nuclear energy safely? As of now, no.

A conducive business environment is the order of the day. Business needs to thrive. It can only do so, if laws are approved, that are favourable for business. The private sector needs to be allowed to grow wherever possible. Red-tapism and babudom are enemies of decoupling.

To thrive, business needs proper infrastructure. Bottlenecks arise when those responsible for getting this infrastructure in place simutaneously siphon away funds, thereby decreasing the quality of the infrastructure proportionately. Bottlenecks are enemies of decoupling.

Internal demand drives a decoupled economy. The demographic social structure of such an economy allows demand for manufactured goods to blossom.

What kind of a population dynamics caters to this sort of demand creation? One with a healthy demographic pyramid, with the broad pyramid base boasting a large, young consumer base.

This young consumer base is also supposed to be the decoupled economy’s demographic dividend.

Demographic dividends don’t just start existing just like that. They need to be reaped after sowing the proper seeds. An economy needs to first provide proper education and healthcare infrastructure, so that its citizens enjoy a beneficial environment to grow up in, which is when they can go on to become productive citizens.

Savings of productive citizens provide cushion to the decoupled economy. No savings, no cushion. The first Tsunami then destroys the decoupling.

Domestic payment cycles need to be healthy, and not chokingly long.

Imports are a necessary element of trade. Importers should thrive too, but not to the extent of recoupling a decoupled economy.

Then there are moral values. These keep a decoupled economy on track, after everything else is in the correct trajectory. Productive citizens need to do the right thing. Long-term, holistic thinking. No corner-cutting.

Sounds utopic, right?

Well, at least one is allowed to dream!

Did Europe Forget the Exit Clause?

It’s the early to mid ’90s. Reunification is getting set in Germany. Europe is slowly moving towards the Euro. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia disintegrates into smaller states.

My friend Jerome prepares his tuna salad to take to work. This pround Frenchman from Lyon then passes a remark that causes me to reflect. He says something to the tune of “Look at them, falling apart like this, while the rest of Europe comes closer.”

Europe, on the whole, is excited about the upcoming Euro. It adds to their identity on the world stage. The economic implications of the Euro look promising on paper. Europe goes ahead with the Euro soon after the turn of the millenium.

The “All for one, one for all” idea is an ideal. It’s utopic. Unfortunately, we live in the real world. The real human being is a selfish animal. In this real world, ideals have a tough time existing.

In its excitement, Europe probably forgets to add an exit clause. If there is an exit clause, we are not hearing about, and now would be the time to hear about it.

A decision taken while one is excited causes one to overlook the flip-side. This flip-side is emerging now. Certain nationals are more industrious and believe in paying their taxes. Others are lazy, corrupt and believe in cutting corners. Certain Euro nations are more economically astute and clued in. Others are perhaps not so intelligent or don’t want to be, and have made disastrous economic and financial choices.

The lack of an exit clause allows parasite nations (the truth is harsh) to stooge off the diligent ones till infinity, or till time does them apart.

Though it’s very late to say these words, one doesn’t see enough people saying them already. Not treating the financial disease at its root is causing it to spread. Unfortunately, everyone’s affected, at least for now. Whenever decoupling sets in, decoupled nations won’t be affected, but decoupling doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.

Would you like it if someone took your hard-earned cheese away? No, right? Well, nor do the Germans, or the French. Why would one expect them to like it, or pretend to keep lilking it?

Thus, why would one expect the Euro to remain intact till infinity?

One More Lollipop

And another lollipop emerges from the stables of Bernanke et al.

Though this particular lollipop is stimulus-flavoured too, it is packaged a bit differently, in a “low interest rate regime till mid 2013” manner. This old-wine-new-bottle packaging is making it taste good to the public. A psychological distortion of reality? Yes.

The last lure, i.e. the actual stimulus lollipop, had stopped having its usual effect of doing away with panic. If you have the same lollipop ten times in a row, it starts tasting stale.

How many lollipops can one possibly have up one’s sleeve? How is one able to fool the public for soooo long? Is the public totally low IQ?

What do ultra-low interest rates mean?

Well, they don’t encourage you to save. You’d rather put your money in more speculative ventures that promise to yield more. Low interest rates thus create liquidity in the market and suitable policies push this liquidity towards speculation and spending. This in turn fuels markets and consumerism. The US financial think-tank seems to think that this formula is going to get them out of the woods.

When markets are fueled well enough with liquidity, investment banks make eye-catching short-term trading profits. Their quarterly balance sheets look good, because the short-term trading profits hide the lack of fundamentals (savings) and the non-performing assets. The public is made to believe that their economy is doing well because their large banks have performed “well”.

Question is: Where are the fundamentals? Long-term growth without the cushion of savings??? No excess fat on one’s body to cushion one from shocks??? You know it, and I know it, and so does the black swan, whose population has reached a record high. This is the age of crises and shocks. If you’re not adequately cushioned, the next shock might get you. And the next quake will occur soon enough, because this era has defined itself as the age of shocks. That doesn’t need to be proven anymore.

Thing is, El Helicoptro Ben Bernanke isn’t bothered about savings presently. His primary concern is to revive a failed / dying economy. He’s willing to try anything to achieve this, however drastic the method might be. And he’s chosen to enhance consumerism. It’s a short-term remedy. Unfortunately, it makes the long-term picture even worse.

The flip side of consumer spending gone overboard dulls the mind into believing that one can spend as if there’s no tomorrow, even if one has to borrow after spending one’s own excess cash. This might fuel an economy over the short-term, but over the long-term, the burgeoning debt will make the system implode.

The US economy is not changing its course owing to fear that if it does, it might face the inevitable right away. It has chosen a path of postponing the inevitable. Over the course of time between now and looming debt-implosion, more and more of the world is getting entangled into this web, since globalization is in and decoupling is out. This is what pilots of the US economy are banking upon, that if the entire world might be devastated by a US debt implosion, the entire world might choose to live with the current financial hierarchy for the longest time rather than reject it right now.

If nothing else, what this one more lollipop does do, is that it buys a little more time to breathe. That’s it, nothing more.

US Treasury Bonds, Anyone?

Panic is something I felt during 2008.

It was actually good that I did, because now I know what it feels like.

Meaning that if a similar situation starts to arise again, now there are internal warning signals in my system.

Investors learn from mistakes. That’s the good thing about mistakes.

It will not take a Moody’s rating agency to tell even an average investor that US treasury bonds don’t deserve a AAA rating. Most investors I know have shunned any investment product with US treasury bond exposure since 2008.

Didn’t such ratings agencies give CDOs a AAA rating? Frankly, I don’t even feel like acknowledging the existence of ratings agencies. I’d much rather just use my common sense.

So, one’s learning curve freed one up from dangerous exposure after 2008. Are one’s investments still going to be unaffected from the ongoing and critical developments in the US?

Globalization is in. Decoupling seems to be out for the moment. If the US economy crumbles, investments worldwide are going to be affected for the worse. To lessen such shocks, God created hedges.

The best known hedge to mankind over the last 100 years has been Gold. After 2008, central banks worldwide started scrambling to find an alternative to the USD to hold their wealth in. Only Gold is standing their test. More and more central banks have started converting their USD holding to Gold.

Much as I don’t feel like acknowledging the existence of ratings agencies, unfortunately, I have to. If there’s a ratings downgrade in the US, Gold purchases by central banks are going to escalate. The astute investor will need to position him- or herself accordingly if he or she has not done so yet, starting right now.

As we bathe in the glory of Gold, let’s not forget that it is just a safe haven, a crisis-hedge. If economic stability returns to the world this or next decade (or whenever), Gold is going right back to where it came from.

Something else used to enjoy the safe-haven status till a few years ago. I think one calls them US treasury bonds.

Seasons change. If Gold is the flavour now, it’s possibly a temporary flavour.

Keep your eyes open, and keep using your common sense.

Wishing you safe investing.