Gauging the Crowd

What was it about winning?

Someone did observe, that 12% of market players win in Equity markets.

In Forex, the number is much lower, something like 5%, I believe. 

If these numbers are to be believed, what’s the obvious takeaway for us?

Behaving like the crowd will not make us…

…win.

Or, in other words, to win, we need to behave in a manner which is not exhibited by the crowd. 

This makes us gauge crowd behaviour…

…almost all the time. 

For example, what does everyone want to do just now?

What did everyone want to do in March?

Did we do the opposite?

If so, we are winning now.

It’s not that one can switch one’s buttons just like that.

It takes experience, solid research, conviction and will-power to go against normal market behaviour.

It doesn’t just come. 

One works towards it, and the only learning comes from mistakes made with one’s money on the line.

That’s the price of tuition in the markets. Unfortunately, books probably won’t teach you this one.

Those who don’t pay this tution-price early, when their ticket-size is still small, well, they can eventually end up doing so later, at a much larger ticket-size.

Just make your mistakes, as many as you can, as early as possible. 

Don’t repeat a mistake.

Great. You’re done already!

How does one gauge the crowd?

Let’s listen in. What are people saying? How many tips are circulating? What’s the quality of these tips? What’s the level of enthusiasm? Is the doorman talking stocks? Folks going all-in at the top?

Or, does no one want to have to do anything with the market? Are you getting calls asking whether one should stop one’s SIP? Is your close relative aghast that you have your money in stocks? Is he or she alerting you to the possibility of an absurd-looking bottom?

The human being is an emotional entity. Blessed be us Indians, we take the cake in being emotional. Not for nothing are our markets correspondingly volatile. And that’s great news for Equity players.

Why?

You’ll see wild swings in the playing fields.

Our indices roller-coast hugely, perhaps the most in the investable world.

We get fantastic bottoms to enter…

…and amazing tops to exit.

Question is, do we leave ourselves in a position to take advantage of this?

Are we continuously gauging the crowd?

Are we continuously behaving like the crowd?

Or, have we made it a habit…

…to win?

Frozen

Frozen? 

It’s ok. 

Breathe. 

You need to acknowledge that you’re frozen. 

Without that, the next step won’t come. 

It’s normal to freeze sometimes. Just acknowledge it. Then learn. 

For example, I acknowledge that I’m currently frozen wrt to the USDINR short trade. Missed entry. Next opportunity to enter never developed for me, and the underlying is currently in free fall. Don’t have the guts to short it at this level. Yeah, I’m frozen all right.

However, the fact that I’m acknowledging it opens up the learning window. 

Why did I miss entry?

I know why I froze. Fear. What I need to understand is why I allowed a situation to develop that would lead to fear. 

Ok. 

Was running super busy. 

Neglected the underlying. 

Kept postponing entry… 

… till free-fall started. 

It’s good to be busy. 

Hmmm, so this can happen again. 

How do I stop this from happening again? 

If I ID a setup, I need to take it. 

No second-guessing. 

What about strategy? 

Meaning, am I going with a short strategy for USDINR? Or am I keeping the window open for a long strategy?

See, that’s it.

Keeping short and long windows open makes me second-guess all the time. 

So can I go in one-direction wrt USDINR all the time? 

What speaks for it? 

Underlying is falling from a height. Good. 

Short only means no second-guessing. You just go short, period. 

Stoploss will save ruin. 

Not nipping profits in the bud will amass fortunes. 

Can the underlying keep falling over the next few years? 

Why not? Modi’s looking set for 2019. 

Hmmm, so a short only strategy has a lot going for itself. 

There’s more. Future month contracts are quoted at a premium. The premium evaporates over the current month. This move is in your favour if you’re short. 

Ok, enough. 

Yeah, there’s enough on the table to warrant a short only strategy for USDINR. 

SEE? 

Learning process. 

Why did it happen?

Because I acknowledged that I had frozen. 

Now, my strategy is more fine-tuned and I’m probably less prone to second-guessing. 

You need to pull off such stuff when you freeze. 

Use the freeze to evolve. 

When Push Comes to Shove 

Genetically… 

… we’re savers. 

Indians. 

Save. 

That’s a good thing. 

Since the ’00s though, our banks have started pushing loans as if there’s no tomorrow.

The motto seems to be : we don’t care who you are, just borrow. If we know who you are, here, borrow some more

That is dangerous policy. 

It sets the stage for a push comes to shove scenario. Savings are being lent further, and they might not come back. 

What counts when push comes to shove? 

Deposits in the bank? No. Gone. 

Real Estate? No. No buyers. No renters. Illiquid stuff just won’t move. 

Equities? No. Dumps. Good entry levels though. No resale value for a while. 

Bonds? Perhaps. Short duration ones, provided underlying doesn’t go under. 

Gold? Yes. Big. 

Trading? Yes. Options, forex, commodities, what have you. 

Cash? Yes. Provided there’s no hyperinflation. Use it for day to day life. Use surplus to acquire great bargains. 

Farmland? Yes. You’re then sorted as far as food and water are concerned. 

Use your imagination. 

Prepare for a push and shove scenario. 

It probably won’t happen. 

However, you’re prepared, just in case. 

How I Wish to Trade

Tension?

No.

Hassle-free?

Yes.

Profit?

Yes.

Fun?

Too. 

I want it to make me want to come back. 

In the background?

Yes.

Part of my normal life?

No. 

Disturbing me in the night?

No?

Terminal on – ideally once a day. Max twice. That’s it. 

Protection?

Yes. Stops for forex. Hedges for options. No naked options. 

Exits?

Make me exit. Yeah, Mrs. Market needs to make me exit. I don’t wish to exit on my own. She needs to throw me out of a trade. 

Fear?

None.

Why?

Bread and butter secured through other-than-trading instruments.

Trading with surplus.

Surplus can potentially become zero. Will I still take the next trade?

Yes. After scanning strategy for errors.

Loss?

Will take small ones, again and again and again. That’s the only way to find the large profit moves. 

Once profit sets in, what then?

Nothing then. 

Normal. 

Behaving as if nothing has happened. 

Giving the trade room. 

It needs to make even more profit. 

It is a potential multi-x trade. Why should I nip it in the bud? As I said, make me exit. Throw me out. 

Family life?

Balanced.

Remnant anger from trading?

None. 

When yes, stop trading. Trading should never be allowed to disturb family life. 

Evolutionary?

Forever. Learning, learning, learning. 

Bias? 

None. 

News?

No. 

Tips?

None. 

Peers?

Maybe to start a strategy with. After strategy is made to fit – no peers any more. 

Discussion?

None. Hopefully. 

Don’t like to discuss trades after terminal shuts. 

Losses piling up?

Review strategy. Discard, renew, implement, trade again. 

Profits piling up?

Great. Do nothing. 

Are you getting the gist?

Similarly, you need to figure out how you might want to trade.

Many things I might be doing will not suit you automatically. 

You need to make things fit. 

If something doesn’t fit, discard it. 

Look for something new that might fit. 

Make a trading strategy that’s lucrative and gels with you and your lifestyle and environment. 

Such a strategy will blossom. For you. 

Focused Diversification : Mantra for all Times

I’m more into focus.

One can focus on one thing at a time.

Agreed.

What if after that one thing starts running, it doesn’t require any more focus?

Wow.

Then I focus on another thing.

Get it running.

Then another.

Till my focus window is full.

Let me tell you about my focus window.

I focus on cash, debt, equity, forex, gold, real-estate, arbitrage, and options.

With that, my professional focus in finance is full full full.

I get something running.

That’s it.

Then I don’t need to be with it. Mostly.

Let me run you through.

1). Cash – Bind it in a worry-free and accessible manner. Done.

2). Debt – Study the underlying very thoroughly. Reject 10 underlyings. Take up the 11th which passes all criteria. Be happy with a slightly better than FD-return. Done.

3). Equity – Invest for life. Study till you drop the stock or take it up. Only invest in what meets all criteria and offers margin of safety at time of investing. On top of that – SIP (systematic investment plan). Done.

4). Forex – Get a software robot to trade it for you. Or some human-capital. All available online. Requires a bit of fine-tuning. Keep tuning till you start making a return. Done.

5). Gold – Buy physical gold. Research your source. Needs to be impeccable. Bullion. Coins. SIP. Accessible. No jewellery. Done.

6). Real-estate – Make your real-estate yield you an income. Regular income? Done.

7). Arbitrage – Understand what this is, and why it gives you a tax benefit. Get an online MF account going with Kotak MF or DWS. Divert some funds into their arbitrage MF, either or. I prefer Kotak. Monthly dividend payout option. Done.

8). Options – Get the option-strategy going. You don’t require a desktop. Mobile is sufficient. All you now need to do is take care of square-off. On mobile. This means a slightly higher level of engagement than the above avenues. Only slightly. Are you ok with that? Fine. Done.

In a flow, it’s all doable.

And, you remain focused.

Why all this?

Times demand it. You never know what might come in handy, and when.

Yeah, times are tough.

However, you are tougher.

To use Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s terminology, you are antifragile.

The Art of Addressing

Address your goals.

Daily.

Make that part of your basics.

It’s easy to sit back, when a few fundamentals are sorted.

There could be bread and butter on the table.

Family could be in their groove.

Are you quite there yet?

No.

Don’t rest on the laurels of the few fundamentals you might have achieved.

An RJ might light a cigar and open a bottle of single in the evening, but only after his goals have been addressed for the day.

A WB might invite his poker buddies and kick off a game after a round of hamburgers… after his goals for the day have been addressed.

When does BG nip into his chocolates? At bedtime. After you know what. After addressing his goals for the day.

Yeah.

Now it’s your turn.

Have a few simple goals.

What?

Don’t have such goals?

Well, make them.

Then address them.

Break down your goals to their prime number form. For example :

– Research a stock

– Trade some forex.

– Write a piece.

– Learn something new.

See. As simple as possible.

It’s convenient to address simplicity.

Laziness and complacency are enemies, though.

Fight them.

🙂

Action Oblique Inaction Upon Field-Proof

You.

Field.

In.

No theorizing.

Just get into the field.

Act upon field-proof.

Or, don’t act…

… upon field-proof.

That’s just about it.

There’s a time for theory.

It’s to tune your mind.

Learn the ropes.

Baby-steps.

Away from the field.

So you’re yet safe.

Fine.

That stage gets over.

The onus is on you.

Real world is different.

It’s not like theory.

If it were, everyone following theory would be a billionaire.

Today’s professors don’t even put their own money on the line.

If you don’t get a feel for the LINE, your paper-knowledge has no value whatsoever.

On the field, LINE is big. Very big. You have to handle the line well. Otherwise, your money’s gone.

So, gauge the field.

What proof are you observing?

Is it compelling you to act?

Yes?

Act. Forgot about everything else.

Is it compelling you to sit still?

Yes?

Don’t act. Sit still. Forget about everything else.

Carve your own dazzling destiny.

🙂

The Market Aha Moment

What is an Aha moment?

Any ideas?

Simple. It’s when you go “Aha, so that’s what it’s like!”

Or “Aha, so that’s what it’s supposed to be!”

You’ve understood something big. Finally. You see light. That’s an Aha moment. 

The human being likes to be happy. 

Professional happiness adds to our well-being. 

To be professionally happy, you need to be doing something during which you forget about time. 

What is this something for you?

Wait for your Aha moment. 

Let’s assume you’ve decided upon a profession in the markets. The next question is… which market?

Which market draws you out fully? Which market consumes you? In which market do you perform the best? In which market are you happy?

Why isn’t your Aha moment coming here too?

Well, Aha moments aren’t for free. You have to struggle for them. 

Start trying out different markets. 

See what gives you a kick.

See where you have a natural flair.

See what lingers.

Discard what you can’t stand.

Hit and try.

Try everything if you must.

Eventually, something will speak to you.

You’ll want to be in one particular market, perhaps two.  

It’ll be your calling. 

Aha. 

I’ll tell you how it went with me. 

I started with Equity. 

Fluked a few. Made some money. Bet bigger. Thought I was good. Won some more. Bet really big. Lost huge. Thought to myself – no more Equity. 

Then came Gold and Silver. Did ok. Found it boring. No more Gold and silver. 

Tried Private equity. Did ok. Boring. 

Arbitrage. Boring. But, an avenue for parking.  

Real estate. Corrupt.

Commodities…didn’t get a kick. The delivery option always loomed over my head. What if I forgot to square off?

Stock futures. Got hammered. No more. 

Foreign stocks. Time difference killed my evenings. Out. 

Foreign mutual funds. Expense ratios were sky-high. Slugged it out for a while, but then finished it off. Lost. 

Structures – broke even, then won a bit. Got bored. 

Debentures. Only do short term ones, to park funds. No kicks. Debt is boring by default.

Mutual funds. Yeah, well, did my fair bit of them. Did excite me, since they were connected to Equity. As of now, there’s just light MF activity. 

Stock options. Lost a bit, but didn’t actually get hammered. Gave me a bit of a kick. Well, it was Equity related, so no wonder. Started interfering with my second Equity stint. I let options go. 

Second Equity stint. Did ok…ok…ok…lost a bit, won a bit, was enjoying it, when suddenly…came Forex. 

Forex…whoaahh…I loved it. Swept me away. Technology, charting, skill-set, I wanted to be here. Aha. Huge leverage, though. Risk. This had to be my second game, not my first. Yeah, safety first, always. Alright, what would be my first game? Yeah, what would be my bulk game? 

Equity of course. I understood it and enjoyed it. I’d done ok. Had leant lessons. Knew how to handle it. Infrastructure was in place. Aha. Nailed it in the third attempt.

So and thus, I found my games upon my Aha moments. That’s where I am. Don’t plan to do anything else.

When’s your Aha moment coming?

Work towards it. 

The Line of Least Resistance

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

I’m not guilty about using their work and ideas.

Firstly, obviously, I’m going to quote them. Then, I plan to achieve something new, whilst standing on their shoulders. Those will be my two pennies, and feel free, people, to use my two pennies copiously.

The phrase “line of least resistance” was first coined by none other than Mr. Jesse Livermore. He lost a fortune finding it, then won a fortune following it, and again lost a lot of money at times when he ignored his own discovery.

Pioneers have it tough.

Carving out a new path is perilous, to say the least.

So, what is the line of least resistance?

Imagine yourself to be poking and shoving around, looking for a clear path in the dark. Something gives. You push further, and discover that you can easily traverse the path that emerges, without stumbling. For a while.

Let’s just remain there.

You are travelling along seamlessly on this path you’ve discovered after poking and shoving around.

Freeze.

Now imagine the price of an underlying. Any underlying, that tends to trend. GBP vs USD would be a great example.

Price pokes and shoves (at resistance), as it tries to break out.

Once it has broken out, you need to understand why it has broken out.

It is not encountering enough resistance to make it stop.

It’ll keep moving along this line of least resistance, till there develops sufficient new resistance that is enough to make price stop, or even reverse.

That’s a price move. You want to be part of it. Thus, you look for it. The pokes and the shoves are your entry tries. One of your entries will chance upon the line of least resistance. You’ll experience a clear move, which you’re a part of. The move will continue till resistance builds up again.

The idea, obviously, is to stay with the move to make up for failed entries and then some.

You stay in the trade till there is enough resistance to make the underlying reverse more than your threshold.

That would be your trigger stop.

When a concept is broken down to its absolute basics, it becomes easy to understand.

Dealing with “Situation Change”

When does a situation change?

For example, one could move on to a new field in finance.

Or, a particular goal could have been achieved. Now, one’s approach is supposed to incorporate predefined changes for financial strategy post goal-accomplishment.

Family dynamics could be responsible for situation changes too.

Sure, health. Never underestimate the power of health. It can make you, and it can break you.

Emotion. Fell in love? Going crazy? Outbursts? Hot flashes? Preggers?

Logistics? Moving? New girl-friend in New York?

Night duty?

Looking after your parents in their old age?

Wife wants to party all the time? Lack of sleep?

Promotion? Demotion? Fired? Jobless? Suddenly self-employed?

Gone single? Date-circuit? Got married? Had a kid?

Situation changes come to all. Not once, but many times in life.

Why are we talking about them?

They have an effect on our financial strategy. That’s suffices.

I’ll tell you how I deal with situation change. You can then BODMAS your way to your own approach, using my approach as a broad outline.

My first approach is to put on auto-pilot as many of my financial activity as possible. Going paper-less helps. Trusted auto-bill-pay channels are assets. Fixed-income generators with auto annual-alerts give financial security with zero involvement. SIPs and dividend pay-ins are further examples of having gone auto.

Then I look at what is left. What has not yet gone on auto-pilot? Can it? Ever? If there’s a chance, I go for it. For example, I’m currently developing a software robot to automate my forex trading.

Lastly, I size up what is not pushable into auto-mode. Do I want to keep it? Can I do without it? Weigh, weigh, weigh, scrap A, scrap B, C is something I just have to do, manually, period, so keep C. Eventually, C, G, P, X and Z are five manual financial activities I keep, having scrapped the others (that refused to go on auto) out of my life, since I didn’t consider them burningly essential. C, G, P, X and Z are the ones that’ll weigh me down when my situation changes. I’ve kept them on doable levels. Some are on semi-auto but do require manual intervention. The others are fully manual.

My situation changes.

My auto-pilot activities continue their smooth run. They are my assets, my stars.

P, X and Z are on semi-auto. I barely gather the energy to look into their manual aspects, just about managing to keep them going with reasonable results.

C and G are bogging me down. Can’t keep up. No energy. No motivation. Situation change has drained me. Relentlessly, I try. C has turned a loser. Beginning to feel sick. I shut down C. Losses.

G is sucking me out. Emotionally. It’s a winner, though. Can’t keep up. Can I turn it into semi-auto? It required constant monitoring till it started winning big. I’ll still need to feed in my stop daily. That’s the manual part. I stop looking at G. Problem with equity orders is that your stop has little technical value overnight. A new day requires renewed stop-considerations. Ok, five minutes daily for G. Open terminal, set trigger-stop 9.99% below opening price, close terminal, don’t look left or right, done.

Phew.

Save health. Don’t fall sick.

If sick, rest.

Recuperate.

Regain health.

Get used to new situation.

Normalize.

Gear up for next situation change, whatever it is, whenever it comes.

Gear up now.

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.

And What’s so Special about Forex?

Imagine in your mind …

… the freedom to trade exactly like you want to.

Is there any market in the world which allows you complete freedom?

Equity? Naehhh. Lots of issues. Liquidity. Closes late-afternoon, leaving you hanging till the next open, unless you’re day-trading. Who wants to watch the terminal all day? Next open is without your stop. Then there’s rigging. Syndicates. Inside info. Tips. Equity comes with lot of baggage. I still like it, and am in it. It doesn’t give me complete freedom, though. I live with what I get, because equity does give me is a kick.

Debt market? A little boring, perhaps. Lock-ins.

Commodities? You wanna take delivery? What if you forget to square-off a contract? Will you be buying the kilo of Gold? Ha, ha, ha…

Arbitrage? Glued to screen all day. No like. Same goes for any other form of day-trading.

Mutual Funds. Issues. Fees. Sometimes, lock-ins. MFs can’t hold on to investments if investors want to cash out. Similarly, MFs can’t exit properly if investors want to hang on. And, you know how the public is. It wants to enter at the peak and cash out at the bottom. 

Private Equity? Do you like black boxes? You drive your car? Do you know how it functions? You still drive it, right? So why can’t you play PE? Some can. Those who are uncomfortable with black boxes can’t. 

CDOs? @#$!*()_&&%##@.

Real Estate? Hassles. Slimy market. Sleaze. Black money. Government officials. Bribery. No like.

Venture Cap? Extreme due diligence required. Visits. Traveling. The need to dig very deep. Deep pockets. Extreme risk. No. 

Forex? 24 hr market. Order feed is good till cancelled. Stops don’t vanish over weekends. Stops can be pin-pointedly defined, and you can even get them to move up or down with the underlying, in tandem or in spurts. You can feed in profit-booking mechanisms too, and that too pin-pointedly. You watch about 10-11 currency pairs; you can watch more if you want to. 10-11 is good, though. You can watch 4, or even 2 or 1, up to you. Platforms are stupendous, versatile, malleable, and absolutely free of charge. You can trade off the chart. Liquidity? So much liquidity, that you’ll redefine the word. No rigging – market’s just too large. The large numbers make natural algorithms like Fibonacci work. Technicals? Man, paradise for technicals. Spreads? So wafer thin, that you barely lose anything on commissions. Oh, btw, spreads are treated as commissions in forex; there’s no other commission. Money management? As defined as you want it to be. Magnitude? As small or as large as you want to play? Comfort? You make your morning tea, sip it, open your platform, feed in orders with trigger-entry, stop and limit, and then forget about the forex market for the rest of the day, or till you want to see what’s happening. Yeah, comfort. Challenge? You’re playing with the biggest institutions in the world. What could be more challenging? I could go on. You’re getting the gist. 

Yeah.

Forex is a very special market. 

Also, the forex market is absolutely accessible to you, online. 

If you decide to enter it one day, play on a practice account till you feel you’re ready for a real account. 

If and when you do start with a real account, for heaven’s sake start with a micro account, where 1 pip is equal to 0.1 USD. 

🙂