The Frog That Lived in the Well

Once upon a time, there was a frog.

It lived in a well.

Its cousin, however, lived in the ocean, and this particular cousin came to visit.

Cousin froggy was stunned. How could one thrive in such a small space? Our original froggy, however, did not believe that one’s world could get any better. It loved the well, and only after much coaxing did it agree to see what the ocean was like.

Upon seeing the magnitude of an ocean, our original froggy’s head exploded. This story’s from Paramhans Yogananda. 

I’m sure you’ve heard this story from someone. Something similar probably happened to you too, of course on a much smaller scale of magnitude, with no head explosions and all that.

I used to walk around pretty smugly with my Blackberry, thinking that I was like there, connected. Experienced kind of a head explosion upon moving to an Android smartphone.

What is it about us humans?

Why are we so limiting?

Why do we create barriers around our life-experience, around our possibilities?

Market conditions keep changing. Just as we get tied up into a rut and define a market as range-bound and going nowhere, it breaks out. Are you able to cope?

Be honest.

Can you adapt to such changes in conditions?

Are you quick on your feet? Or are you lethargic, and full of inertia?

What’s that song by The Black Eyed Peas?

“don’t…don’t…don’t … … don’t-stop-the-party!”

I know you’ve been humming this song during your continuing debt market party, but there is more to the scene than just the debt market. The debt market is not where things start and end in the world of investing. There’s more.

The world of investing is like an ocean.

The next buzzing market will make itself known. It’s only a matter of time. Be ready for it. Don’t remain clogged up within the claustrophobic walls of one market only, out of sheer laziness and a false sense of security.

Get out there.

Experience the ocean, without your head needing to explode.

Coin-Flipping in the Marketplace

Are you good at darts?

Actually, I’m not.

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

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

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

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

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

Take a dart. Shoot.

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

Now take a coin. Flip it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still want more?

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

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

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.

Making the Grade

It’s your convocation. From now on, you’ll be a degree-holder.

Yippeeee!

Just pause for a second.

All your life, you’ll be introducing yourself as a master’s in this or a bachelor’s in that, or perhaps even as a Ph.D. in xyz.

Have you even once considered, that your respective field will continue to evolve, long after you stop studying it?

For example, one fine day, in a Chemistry lecture to class XII, I noticed that the stuff I’d learnt for my master’s degree exams was the very stuff I was now teaching these 17-18 year-olds. That was a big realization for me. It then dawned upon me, that I had to either keep moving with the developments in the subject, or I needed to change my profession. I moved on from Chemistry in 2004.

So, for heaven’s sake, a paper degree is not your ticket to your subject for life. Things, people, seasons, subject-matter, issues at hand – everything changes. Every decade or so, there’s a complete overhaul. To stay on top, and still feel like a degree-holder of your subject, you need to be with things as they move, through the whole decade.

Does your marriage give you a licence to stay married to that same person for life without working on the relationship day in, day out? No, right?

Your degree doesn’t make you a king-pin in your subject for life either, without the appropriate ground-work everyday. Let’s please digest this truth.

The worst-case scenario of whatever I’ve said above happens in the markets. It is a worst-case scenario, because you enter the markets with some finance degree, thinking that the degree has taught you to play the markets successfully. Nothing is further from the truth. Here, you have a piece of paper that gives you false confidence, and you see your balloon bursting after your first few live shots at Mrs. Market.

Financial education in colleges and universities lacks two basic factors. The thing is, these two factors are game-changers. Get them wrong, or don’t know much about them, and your game becomes a losing one.

What are these two factors?

Everything and everyone around us teaches us not to be losers. We are taught to shove our losses under the carpet.

Cut to reality: winning market-play is about losing. Losing, losing, losing, but losing small. To be successful in the markets, we need to learn how to lose small, day in day out. It’s not easy, because our entire system is geared up to win, every time.

Then, everything and everyone around us teaches us to seal that win and post it instantly on our resume, on facebook, on twitter. Modern society is about showing off as many wins as possible. Losers don’t get too many breaks.

Cut to reality: winning market-play is about winning big, very big, every now and then, amidst lots of small losses. That can’t happen if we immediately book a winner. We need to learn to nurture a winner, and to allow it to win big. Again, that’s not easy, because as soon as a winner appears, our natural instinct tells us to book it and post it. So bury your “win it-cut it-post it” attitude. Instead, win, let the winner win more, and more, and when you feel it’s enough, without getting greedy, cut it, and then keep quiet, bring your emotions back to ground zero, and move on to the next winning play.

The reason, that most teachers of finance in colleges and universities don’t know about these two factors, is that their own money is almost never on the line. They have almost never felt the forces of live markets through this “line”, day in, day out. The line one puts on is one’s connection to market forces. Only a regular connection to these forces teaches one about realistic, winning market-play.

One could argue that the case-studies examined in finance school are very real. Well, they are very real for those protagonists who actually went through the ups and downs of the case-study in real-life. They got the actual learning by being exposed to live market forces. You are merely studying the statistics and drawing (dead) inferences, devoid of first-hand emotions and market forces. Whatever learning you are being imparted, is, well, theoretical.

Theory doesn’t cut it in the markets. Theory doesn’t make the grade.

So, what makes the grade?

I consider a seven year stint at managing your own folio a basic entry requirement into bigger market-play. What happens during this time?

Each body cell gets attuned to real market forces, live. You get to know yourself. You build up an idea about your basic risk-profile. Your market-strategy takes shape. It is fine-tuned to YOU.

During this stint, money needs to be on the line, again and again, but the amounts in play need to be small, because you are going to make many, many mistakes.

And please, make whatever mistakes you need to make in this very period. Get them all out of your system. Make each mistake once, and never repeat it, for life. Point is, that after this stint, money levels in play are going to shoot up. Mistakes from this point onwards are going to prove costly, even devastating. The kinds, where one can’t stand up again. You don’t want to be in that situation.

Once you are comfortable managing your funds, and don’t get rattled by Mrs. Market’s constant action, her turnarounds, crashes etc. etc., your market decisions are such, that you start applying your knowledge of money-management successfully. You have now become a practitioner of applied finance.

Applied finance is advanced level market-play. To win at applied finance, your money-management basics need to be fully in place and rock-solid. You can define applied finance as Money Management 2.0.

Winning at applied finance is self-taught. You don’t need a degree for it. In my eyes, a degree here is in fact detrimental, because you then spend a long time unlearning a lot of university stuff during real market-play. You actually see for yourself, that most of what you learnt applies only in theory. The stuff that makes winners, where is that? Why wasn’t it taught? Well, you’ve got to go out there and learn it for yourself.

Let theory be where it belongs. Respect it, but leave it in its appropriate world. The world needs its theoreticians to make it go round, but you need to go beyond theory, to win big.

Put on your practical shoes when you put your good and real money on the line, and be ready for anything.

Let your mistakes teach you.

Keep making the grade, day in day out.

Long after society tells you that you’ve made it.

Don’t Cry for Chris Atkinson

Chris Atkinson is terminal.

You couldn’t tell that by looking at him.

He’s happy. Most of his physical pain gets subdued by medicine. The remaining portion gets subdued by the harmonious environment he’s created around himself all his life.

Whatever’s left of his life is still a pleasure. He looks forward to it.

He won’t be sorry to go, though, for he carries with him a huge sense of accomplishment.

For starters, he’s had a flawless marriage. Neither of them have felt the need to fight.

He has been faithful to her and has given her everything he possibly could.

She has supported him selflessly in every venture of his. She has never abused the financial freedom he’s given her. Also, she’s never been jealous of his intelligence.

She has not nagged. That’s a huge one, and he knows the value of his good fortune.

Furthermore, she has overlooked the “too-much proximity” clause, and has allowed him to work from home in peace. She has even added to the harmony of his work-sphere at home.

He’s not told her he’s terminal. In fact, no one else knows, except him and his doctor.

He has always wanted to work till his last day. Also, she should see his smiling side till the end.

What about after that?

Will she be safe?

After all, before her marriage, Jane Atkinson was probably the most tech-unsavvy woman alive.

Forty something years with him have completely turned that around.

She is financially independent today. More importantly, she’s able to access and manage her personal funds and investments independently. She doesn’t need to contact any fund-managers, brokers, bankers or the like. All her accounts are online, and their logins and passwords are sorted, stored, and accessible only to her. She is able to move her personal funds worldwide with a few button-clicks.

He has taught her fantastically.

She has learnt very well.

Initially, it was a slow going.

The most important thing was, there was no ego from her side while learning. She knew he was teaching her something really important. Though she was not the least bit interested in it, she respected his seriousness and intensity, and decided to learn as diligently as she could, without insulting his earnest attitude.

Slowly, she’s gotten the hang of it. Slowly, her interest in money matters has awakened.

It’s also worked because he has been very patient with her. He’s never blown up.

His monthly “lectures” on saving have converted her from a champion spendthrift to a slightly serious saver. She still spends a lot, but has been managing to save a bit every month. Since his monthly allowance to her has been huge since the beginning, the bit she saves equates to a lot of money in her personal account at the end of every month, money that’s waiting to be invested.

And now comes the kicker. She knows how to handle idle funds. Her knowledge on investing comes purely from watching him in action. She has watched in bits and pieces over forty plus years. She has shared his professional tensions, allowing him to speak freely about what has bothered him. Her mind has soaked in all this information. Because of the long time-span involved, she has digested the information and transformed it subconsciously into a usable form. Today, she is not only financially independent, but also financially capable.

So, no, he’s not worried about her on the financial front.

What’s eating him a bit is the emotional side of life. How will she take it?

He knows she’s strong. She’ll be shattered, though. They share a bond that most people don’t have. They don’t need to speak in each other’s presence. There’s so much mutual love, that life is telepathic. Her mental strength will pull her through, he tells himself. Their happy memories will sooth her feelings.

If you ask him, he’ll want her to move on. As in, he’ll want her to find a new and suitable relationship. She won’t, though. They have something a new relationship will not be able to replace.

He knows she’ll plunge further into her charity work, and will keep busy.

She’ll remember and miss him every day. That very thought takes away any of his pain that remains, physical or mental. He feels wanted, and will do so till his last day and beyond. Feeling wanted is a tremendously satisfying state of mind.

He has always been aware that she is emotionally dependent on him, and has never abused this knowledge. Over the last four decades, he has made her aware of her emotional dependence, asking her to work on it.

Today, he feels she’s capable of handling his permanent physical absence. It’ll hurt her, but she’ll handle it. She’ll cry, but joyful memories will pull her through.

Don’t cry for Chris Atkinson.

When he goes, he’ll go on a happy and fulfilled note. He’s had a great life.

Many couples wish they would live their lives like Chris and Jane Atkinson have done.

Only the Lonely

You are unique.

Are we still debating this?

No, right?

If we are, then sit yourself down.

Alone.

Reflect.

Please see how you are… unique, and that you are… unique.

Moving on, what does that mean for you?

Specifically, what does it mean for your market strategy?

A newbie starts off with very generalized market strategies.

What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander types.

Ones that treat donkeys and horses alike, to literally translate from Hindi.

Slowly but surely, you realize that you don’t want donkey treatment anymore. Mrs. Market has kicked you around and converted you from a donkey into an intelligent market player.

An intelligent market player requires a fine-tuned, risk-profile specific strategy.

That’s where you either step in or you don’t.

Choice is, as they say, now yours.

Do you want to continue with generalized, text-book level donkey strategies, or do you want to spiral up to the level of exclusive strategy tailoring and fine-tuning.

People who approach the market as a secondary or tertiary activity don’t generally spiral up. Most of them are unhappy with their returns, but since they already have primary (and probably successful) professions going for themselves, they choose to remain where they are as far as the markets are concerned, and they don’t aspire to rise any higher.

You see, they don’t have the time to take this spiral plunge.

Now it’s decision time for you, buddy.

Do you wish to remain at the average donkey level all your life as far as the markets are concerned? If not, read on.

You need to spend some alone-time, as long as it takes.

Go over all your market activity till date.

Develop a feel for your risk-taking ability.

What bothers you? What do you like? What kind of a “line” are you capable of stomaching? For how long? How do you react to a loss? To a profit? Are you emotionally stable? Can you remain stable for long? How long? What gets you on tilt? Once you make a rule for yourself, are you able to follow it? Or, do you keep second-guessing yourself? What kind on income are you looking for from the markets? Have you learnt to sit on cash? Can you stay invested for long periods? Can you let your profits run? Do you respect your stop? Do you know what a stop is? Do you know how to manage a trade? Have you fully understood basic money-management? After what level of income do you start functioning smoothly?

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Ask yourself these and many more such questions.

Let the answers come from within.

Listen to those answers.

Understand who you are.

Then, devise a unique and fine-tuned market strategy for yourself.

Keep working on this strategy, fine-tuning it till it is in tandem with your unique self.

At that point, it will become a successful strategy, and will yield above-average results.

Being above-average in the markets is a winning scenario.

Betting Your Monsters and Checking Ace-High

Blah, blah, blah, I know, poker terminology yet again…

Can’t help it, people, it’s just so valid…

When you’re holding a monster hand, you bet out on the next street to build up the pot. Similarly, when a trade starts to run, you’re looking to load up some more on the scrip at the appropriate point.

When you’re holding air, or a mere bluff-catching hand like ace-high, you check it down through the river. Likewise, if the scrip you’ve just bought into stagnates, or moves a bit down, you do not double up on your trade. Instead, you just wait for your stop to be hit, or if before that your time-stop has run out, you square-off the trade.

An aggressive-passive style?

Who cares?

Recipe for winning in the long run?

Yes.

Right, then we’re taking it.

Two out of ten trades may start to run big. It’s taken you time, money and effort to identify those two. You are in the trade. You can feel the adrenaline pumping. Now’s not the time to sit passively. Spade-work’s all done. Right, put some more money on the winning scrip. Point is, when?

Additional points of entry are tricky.

I prefer a little margin of safety here. I like to double up at a point where there’s been some correction, and possibly when a Fibonacci level has been hit. After that, I want to see the scrip going up back through the level, and I’d like to see volume go up simultaneously. That’s my point of second entry.

You can be more aggressive, no one’s stopping you.

You can even choose to enter the second time above some kind of a previous high or above the breaking of a resistance with volume.

Risky?

Yes.

You do, however, stand a good chance of catching a big move in a very short time.

You see, at this particular point, where you’re choosing to enter, the scrip is pretty hot. People are plunging in. There is no resistance from above. Upward movement is smooth.

Downside is, that those who’ve been sitting on notional profits might start to book these anytime. When that happens, the scrip might plunge well below your high entry and hit your stop. That’s a risk you have to take, since you have decided to enter above a high.

No risk, no gain.

At my more conservative second entry point, the scrip is not as hot. It is meeting with overhead resistance from recent entrants who entered high to then find the scrip correcting, and who are now happy to exit at their entry points as the scrip retraces its upward move. So, I will have to wait longer for a possible second run of the scrip to develop, and this might or might not develop. That’s a chance I have to take. That’s the price of being conservative during second entry. I’m comfortable.

Staying in your comfort-zone at all times adds a lot of value to the rest of your life, even after you shut down your computer. One does carry over one’s emotions, and it’s best if these are under control when you reach home. By trading in your comfort-zone at all times, you make sure that you come home in an emotionally balanced state.

If you can take the second entry above a high or above a resistance while still remaining in your comfort-zone, by all means, please do so. It’s an exciting play, capable of yielding large and quick rewards. I’ve tried it at times, but cannot get a grip on the excitement levels. Thus, I normally choose the more conservative play mentioned above. It’s just a personal choice.

Similarly, I’m very comfortable checking my ace-high trades down through the river. If I’m in a trade and it’s not running, I don’t jump about trying to pull stuff out of a hat in an effort to make the trade run.

If it’s not running, it’s not running. Feed in a trigger stop and shut the computer.

Once you are alerted that the stop’s been hit, look for a new trade.

Keep it simple. That’s another recipe for winning.

The Concept of Satmya

This one’s from the world of Ayurveda, folks.

We’re not geeks.

We move around amongst all segments of life, grab whatever is useful, and then try and apply its usefulness into our world of applied finance.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do with the concept of Satmya.

Imagine in your minds a first-time smoker. The first puff breaks him or her out into a coughing flurry. A new stimulus is choking the respiratory system. The body rejects it.

That’s roughly the story for any first-time stimulus which is disturbing.

Upon repeated exposure to the stimulus, the body slowly gets habituated. Ultimately, rejection recedes. One’s tissues are now not only bathing in the stimulus, they are enjoying it. In fact, they want more.

Habituation is where we want to keep it at, no further. That’s the point of Satmya. At the point of Satmya, you enjoy the stimulus without falling sick, since your body-chemistry can now deal with the stimulus without getting imbalanced.

When we put on a live trade in any market, we expose ourselves to market-forces. A gamut of emotions comes alive inside of us. The level of reaction in our system is proportional to the size of the trade. First exposure makes us erratic. Therefore, it is very important to keep this first exposure small.

Markets swing. Joy wells inside of us with notional profit. Sorrow consumes us upon notional loss. Body-chemistry now needs to adapt.

If losses are kept small owing to the usage of stops, one’s system gets used to small losses. Meaning to say, small losses don’t shake you anymore. Market exposure results in small losses all the time, provided you’re using stops. Once these don’t shake you, and your entire world is still balanced despite them, you’re not afraid to put on the next trade, even after a string of losses. This very next trade could well turn out to be a multi-bagger, so you need to put it on. If you’re afraid to put on the next trade, you take yourself out of circulation, and fail to catch a big market move.

A habituated system makes one put on the next trade.

When the market swings in your favour, your notional profit causes you to become emotionally imbalanced. The first time this happens, you effervescently go about promising everyone the world, and get into situations you can’t deliver upon later. You might even make the other mistake of booking your profit early, not allowing the underlying to yield even more profit. Why, why, why?

Get used to sitting on a profit. Let it happen many, many times. Don’t go jumping about when it happens. Take it in your stride. Let the trade develop into a multi-bagger so that it can make up for your many small losses and yield even more beyond your overall break-even point. Such a state of mind is only earned once your system is habituated with regard to profit-yielding situations.

Another big mistake we make after a profitable trade is to put on a disproportionately large position-size in the next trade. Habituate your system to not increase position-size disproportionately. Calm it down after a profitable trade. Then coolly calculate your new position-size, taking total equity and steady maximum-loss percentage into account. Only increase position-size as per the mathematics of your trading strategy, not according to how good you are feeling after a profitable trade.

Habituation will also fine-tune you while lessening position-size after a string of losses. On the one level your math proposes a new lower size to trade in such a situation. On the second level, your body-chemistry will signal to you from inside whether you are comfortable with this size in a new position. Listen to your body and mind. If they are not able to take more than a certain quantum of market-forces at a given time, they will tell you. If you are able to listen to them and then can adjust your position-size further down to a level that body and mind are comfortable with, you are then taking the concept of position-sizing to a metaphysical level.

So, see what the concept of Satmya or habituation has done to your trading. It has made trading holistic for you. With the incorporation of this concept, you are trading in a manner that is comfortable for your mind and body.

The net result is that you don’t fall sick because of trading, and because you stay in the game, you are able to catch the big winners when they come.

Happy Trading! 🙂

Moving on to a Higher Table

You’ve started to rake in regular profits on your poker table, or, if you will, on your regular trade-size.

Common-sense now tells you, that you need to scale it up a bit. After all, you’d still be risking the same percentage of your stack-size per trade. Simultaneously, if your win-ratio remains constant, you’d be allowing your stack to grow at a faster pace.

You move on to a higher table.

Welcome to the concept of position-sizing.

Those who position-size can evolve into huge winners in minimum time. Even though the idea of position-sizing is so central to trading, it is still one of the most under-discussed of topics. We need to thank Dr. Van Tharp for teaching this concept properly.

Think about it. When you win, your principal increases. On the next trade, you then put the same principal percentage at risk like you’ve always done. Because your new principal was more, it allowed you to buy more. Thus, you put yourself on the line to win more.

What’s essential here is also to down-size your position when you are losing. Taken a few bad beats in a row? Move down to a lower table for a bit, man. Allow your stack to recuperate at this lower level and then some before moving back higher. With that, when you’re losing, you start to risk less. Crucial point.

Of the different methods available to you to position-size, here, we speak about increasing trade-size when a new trade starts.

The advantage you enjoy when you’re doing pure equity is that on each new trade, your position-size can pinpointedly be adjusted according to your stack-size. Scale-up, scale down, trade upon trade, as the situation demands. Beautiful.

Why does this work out so beautifully for you?

You see, your system gives you an edge. You are opening your positions on high-percentage winners only. Period. Simultaneously, you are cutting your losses at your pre-defined maximum. You are also allowing your winners to win more. And, you are taking your stops. Even if your system then gives you a 55:45 edge over Mrs. Market, you’re doing great. Over a large sample-size (many, many trades, or for that matter many, many poker hands), your stack will increase with a high level of probability. As it goes on increasing, you keep turning on the heat by increasing your position-size further and further.

What happens then? What do you see?

Something beautiful happens.

Your trading principal (what we’ve been calling stack-size all the time) starts to increase exponentially. Have you seen the progress of an exponential function as one travels from zero to the right on the x-axis (the x-axis here would stand for sample-size or the number of trades taken)? If not, check it out on the net.

A good system should give you a 60:40 market-edge. In the Zone, you’d probably trade at 70:30 or beyond. That’s 70 winning trades out of every 100 taken, and 30 losing ones. Imagine what that does to your trading principal over 1000 trades, if you adhere to position-sizing, let your winners ride and take your stop-losses.

The numbers will boggle your mind.

Go for it.

Going All-in Against Mrs. Market

Yeah, yeah, I’ve been there.

And it backfired.

Luckily, my stack-size in those days was small. That’s the good part. The shocking bit was, that back then, I had defined my stack-size as my networth. Biggest mistake I’ve made till date in my market-career, and I was very lucky to escape relatively unhurt.

Wait a minute, why is all this poker terminology being used here, to describe action in the world of applied finance?

Well, poker and market action have so much in common. Specifically, No-Limit Hold-’em is deeply related to Mrs. Market. We’re talking about the cash-game, not tournament poker. It’s as if Hold-’em is telling Mrs. Market (with due respect to Madonna):

i’ve got the moves baby
u got the motion
if we got together
we’d be causing a commotion

A no-limit hold-’em hand is like one trade. Playing 20-50 hands a day is excellent market practice. You’ve got thousands of games available to you online, round the clock, and most of these are with play money. Even though the “line” is missing here because of no money on the line, this is a no-cost avenue for trade practice, and it’s entertaining to boot.

Back to stack-size? What is stack-size, exactly?

Well, your stack size is the sum of all your chips on the table. You play the game with your stack, and on the basis of your stack-size. The first thing you need to do before there’s any market action is to define your stack-size.

A healthy stack-size is one that allows you to play your game in a tension-free manner. My definition, you ask? Well, I’d start the game with a stack-size that’s no more than 5% of my networth. Segregate this amount in an account which is separate from the rest of your networth, and trade from this segregated account. That’s the wiser version of me speaking. Don’t be like the stupid version of yours truly by defining your entire networth as your stack-size.

In this 5% scenario, you have 20 opportunities to reload. It’s not going to come to that, because even if a couple of your all-in bets go bust, you will eventually catch some big market moves if your technical research is sound and if you move all-in when chances of winning are high.

Wait patiently for a good hand. Then move. One doesn’t just move all-in upon seeing one’s hole-cards. If these are strong, like pocket aces, or picture pocket pairs, one bets out a decent amount to build up the pot. Similarly, if a promising trade appears, and the underlying scrip breaks past a crucial resistance, pick up a decent portion of the scrip. Next, wait for the flop (further market action) to give you more information. Have you made a set on the flop? Right, then bet more, another decent amount, but not enough to commit you fully to the pot. Then comes the turn. The scrip continues to move in your direction. You’ve made quads, and you’re holding the nuts. Now you can commit yourself fully to the pot and move all-in. Or, you can do so on the river, checking on the turn to disguise your hand and to allow others to catch up with your nuts somewhat, so that they are able to fire some more bets into the pot on the river. Your quads win you a big pot. You fired all-in when the scrip had shown its true colours, when winning percentages were high. You exhibited patience before pot-commitment. You allowed others to fire up the pot (scrip) further, and you deservedly caught a big market move. Just get the exit right, i.e. somewhere around the peak, and you’re looking at an ideal trade strategy already, from entry to trade management to exit.

Fold your weak hands. If something’s not working out, give it up cheaply. Ten small losses against a mega-win is enough to cover you and then some.

Often, a promising trade just doesn’t take off after you enter. The underlying might even start to move below your entry price after having been up substantially. You had great hole cards, but didn’t catch a piece of the flop, and now there are two over-cards staring at you from the flop. Give up your trade. Muck your hand.

At other times, you move all-in and the underlying scrip tanks big against you in a matter of hours. Before you can let your trade go, you’re already down big. You’ve suffered a bad beat, where the percentages to win were in your favour, but the turn-out of events still caused the trade to go against you. Happens. That’s poker.

Welcome to the world of trading. Pick yourself up. Dig out another stack from your networth. Don’t allow the bad beat to affect your future trades. If you are thinking about your bad beat, leave the table till you are fresh and can focus on the current trade at hand.

And then, give the current trade at hand the best you’ve got.

The Line

In the world of applied finance, you will meet the “line”.

Though the line is an abstract phenomenon, it is very real.

Whenever you connect to Mrs. Market, you do so through the line, which comes into existence (you guessed it) when you put your money “on the line”.

Please be aware of the capabilities of the line. If you allow it to, it grabs hold of the emotional switches of your brain. When the price of the scrip you’re trading plunges, the line can turn on your depression switch. As the loss multiplies, the line makes you go into freeze mode. On the other hand, it can also make you go on a spending spree with your notional profits, if your scrip is doing well. If you allow it to, the line then controls how you interact with your family and for that matter with everyone else.

Why give it so much power? Let’s keep the line in its boots. When you’re flying a kite with strong winds prevailing, and the kite plunges downwards and out of control towards some electricity wires, what do you do? Obvious answer, let the string go. Well, not so obvious when you’re holding the string (substitute string for “line” if you wish). You could try and save your kite, or for that matter, your trade, at the cost of being electrocuted, or, in trading jargon, burnt.

When you’re holding the line, common-sense often goes out the window. You start thinking emotionally. Our society doesn’t teach us to embrace failure. We are taught to win. Thus, we want to turn every trade into a winning trade. Big mistake. We are not able to let the line go while any loss is still bearable.

Wins come. The fact remains, that in applied finance, many transactions will be failures. You’ve won if you can then let your line go at a digestible failure level.

When a win does come along, again one is completely misled by the teachings of modern society. “Book your success now, put it on your resume”. An even bigger mistake in applied finance.

A winning trade needs to be allowed room to win some more. After struggling with failures, you’ve finally identified a winning horse. Aren’t you going to let it win more (races)? Aren’t you going to continue holding the line to let a multibagger emerge, instead of letting the line go while you’re showing a small profit which doesn’t even cover your failed trades?

The line is an enigma concerning the discernment of befitting moments for attachment and detachment.

We need to let it go when it threatens to burn us. Also, we need to hold on to it, contrary to any public opinion, that “XYZ can’t possibly go any higher”.

There’s no way we’re playing the line according to public opinion or society rules.

Also, there are times when it doesn’t make sense to get a line going, because the kite just doesn’t take off. At other times, you need to put out one line after another into the sky, because your kites start to soar, one after another.

In the world of applied finance, you need to put your money on the line. There’s no other way to connect to Mrs. Market.

The “when” is up to you, when to get it going, when to let it go, when to hold on, when to scale it up.

And at that level, trading becomes an art.

Game-Changers

Change.

The one factor that keeps us evolving.

Adapt or get left behind. Seems to be the Mantra of the times.

The management of money has seen some big game-changers over the last few decades. We want to speak about them today.

In the ’90s, Bill Gates wrote about business at the speed of thought. We’re kinda there, you know. Let’s say you have an idea. From idea to framework, it’s mostly about a few button-clicks, with the web being full of idea-realizing resources. See, we’re already discussing the biggest game-changer, which is the flow of information. Today, we live in a sea of information. It’s yours to tap. Delivered to you on a platter. Such information flow changes everything, from lead-time to middle-men. Best part is, almost all of the information available is free!

Then there’s technology. Cutting-edge software, everywhere. Now, there’s even a software to smoothly organize your contract notes and calculate profit or loss, and taxes due. It’ll give you the appropriate print-out, whichever way you want it. You don’t need to hire an accountant to audit your market play. You just click the contract note and the software extracts all relevant information from it, organizing it beautifully. Actually, that’s nothing. Market-play software is what we should be speaking about. Cut to the movie “A Good Year”. Just picture Russell Crowe motivating his “lab-rats” to go for the kill and short an underlying, only to short-cover a few points below. The technical software follow-up of the underlying’s price on the wall-panels is the image embedded in my mind, as the price gets beaten down, and then starts to rise again.

Market software allows you to run scans too. A common exercise I do at the beginning of a trading day is to narrow down the 4,537 active stocks on the BSE and the NSE to about 10 tradable ones. I do this with 2 back to back scans. Each scan takes a minute. Then, I study the charts of the tradable stocks and select two or three to follow. That’s another 5 minutes. Putting on trigger buys or sells for these stocks takes 2 minutes. So, assuming that a trade gets triggered in the first minute, I have arrived from scratch to active trade in 10 bare minutes, with no prior market preparation. That’s what technology can do for you, and more. Software is expensive. It’s mostly a one-time cost with a life-time of benefit. Worth it. The management of money is a business, and each business needs initial investment.

Numbers have changed the game. Volumes have grown for many underlying entities that were illiquid earlier. When volumes are healthy, the bid-ask spread is very tradable. Thus, today, you can choose to trade in almost any avenue of your choice and you are almost certainly going to get a liquid trade.

Our attitudes and lifestyles have changed too. Today, we want more. No one is satisfied with mediocricity or being average. We have tasted the fruit that’s to be had, and are willing to get there at any cost, because we are hungry. Luxurious lifestyles lure us to rush into the game, which we play with everything we’ve got, because as I said, we’ve tasted the fruit, and we want more. Our approach has made the stakes go up. We need to adapt to the high stakes with proper risk-management.

It’s never been easier to access funds, even if you don’t have them. Leverage is the order of the day. Of course that changes the game, leading to higher volumes and increasing the frequency of trading. We need to keep debt-levels under control. It’s never been easier to go bust. Just takes a few button-clicks and a few missed stops. The leverage levels take care of the rest.

Game-changers will keep coming our way. As long as we keep adapting and evolving, our game will not only survive, but also blossom.

So, … What Made Peter Jump?

The buck generally stopped with Peter Roebuck in the world of Cricket journalism.

Professionally speaking, Peter was cutting edge.

Though he was described as a complex person outside of his professional sphere, the only blip that seemed to punctuate his 55 years was a 2001 common assault charge on some 19 year old cricketers he was coaching.

As per the media, Peter’s is a confirmed suicide; he jumped six floors to his death, from his hotel window. Just before he jumped, he was being questioned by the South African police on a sexual assault charge. A police officer was in the room when he jumped.

Was it extreme shame over something he’d done? Perhaps just one big blunder in an otherwise good, successful and recognized life? If that’s really the case, one needs to reflect on things.

Sometimes a good human being can make a huge blunder. Let’s cite excruciating circumstances that drive the person to such an act. For example, extreme loneliness can result in a moment of madness, in which one loses self-control and crosses the line between decent and indecent behaviour. Let’s please not behave as if this does not happen. Don’t know if this was the case with Peter. As of now I’m just looking at the general applicability and the consequences of such moments of madness in our normal arena of life. Also, I’m gonna try and apply this to market play.

Before I do that, let’s stay with Peter for a bit. If it turns out that Peter was pushed over the ledge, this whole discussion will need to be discarded and the investigation of match-fixing will come into play, since Peter had just finished reporting on arguably the most unusual Test match in the History of the game. As of now, murder is being ruled out, so let’s stay with our original discussion.

Who feels shame? A human being with a conscience does. Who feels so much shame, that he or she can’t face society, family, spouse, kids etc. anymore? A human being who has probably committed a grave folly and who has a conscience that is now powerfully confronting him or her.

The media has not reported any History of sexual assaults in Peter’s case, so we are probably looking at one grave act in a moment of madness that became the complete undoing of an acknowledged soul called Peter Roebuck.

How many of us are in the same boat, where one grave act can become our complete undoing? All of us are. Please be very clear about it. That’s how unpredictable life can be.

As of now, I’m going to focus on this one grave act unfolding during one’s career in the markets. All you have to do is to activate huge amounts of leverage (= few button-clicks), and then ignore a few stop-loss levels (= 0 button-clicks) while you answer the margin-calls, and you have already committed the grave act that is potentially life-threatening. If the resulting losses clean you out, that’s one thing, but if they put you deeply into debt, contemplation of suicide can well be on the cards if yours is even a slightly melancholy personality.

See, that’s a very short route to where someone like Peter Roebuck ends up, irrespective of one’s arena in life.

All I can say is (and I’m saying this to myself as well) that please let’s take that smug look off our faces, and let’s please reflect, because a moment of madness can trap and terminate the existence of any human being, no one excluded.

Moments of madness occur in everyone’s life. We need to train ourselves to not react to them. That’s easier said than done, but it’s better to say it out loud and activate one’s system to become aware of such moments of madness when they are happening.

Only if one is aware that such a moment is unfolding can one actively choose not to react.

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.

Options 1.0.3

Has your stop ever been jumped over?

Yes?

Did it make you angry?

Yes?

It might make you angrier to know that Mrs. Market couldn’t care less about you on a personal level. It’s you who has to adapt, not Mrs. Market.

So, next time you see Mrs. Market moving many points in one shot, you have a choice. Either you can choose to take the chance of having your stop jumped over in the hope of huge rewards, or you can use options as an instrument to trade.

In general, a stop getting jumped over is a non-issue with options, because you are pre-defining your maximum loss here. Your option-premium is the maximum loss you will incur on the trade. Once you’ve mentally aligned yourself with this potential maximum loss, you are actually then asking Mrs. Market to do all the jumping she wishes to do. It just doesn’t bother you anymore. You travel, do other stuff, and then take a sneak-peak at your position.

Once your position starts making money, you might decide to fine-tune your trade-management after achieving your target. If you then make sure that your trailing stop is wide-gapped, you can still relax and do other stuff. Maybe one time out of twenty, Mrs. Market will jump even your wide-gapped trailing stop. Even if she does, you are well in the money, and you do not forget to install a new stop. Also, a little while ago, you were mentally prepared to forgo your whole option-premium, so giving back a part of your profits seems a piece of cake to you.

Welcome to the world of options. We have plunged right in. I believe that the best way to learn something is to plunge right in. Gone are the days of bookish learning.

The options market in India is just about coming into its own. At any given time, there will be at least 20 scrips on the National Stock Exchange showing very high options volume for long trades, and at least 10 scrips showing heavy volume for short trades. Bottomline: you can get into a liquid trade on either side, anytime you want. The number of scrips showing this kind of liquidity is picking up. We are still very, very far away from the mature options market in the US. What can be said is that the Indian options market will offer you liquid trades, anytime, both on the long and the short side. Frankly, that’s all one needs.

On the flip side, options on commodities have yet to come to India. Also, only the current month options are adequately liquid in India. Regarding options, the Indian market is getting there. Well, as long as you get a liquid trade anytime you want, who cares if we’re not as mature as the US options market? I don’t.

Over the last few months, options have been the instruments of choice, with unfathomable volatility abounding. I was dying to have a go, but have been caught up in so much other distracting stuff, that I’ve not traded for two months now. I like sticking to my trading rules. One of them is to not trade if I’m distracted. I really stick to this one.

Those who did trade the options market over this period would have done exceptionally well, because ideal conditions persisted. Big and quick moves, like a see-saw. The scenario would look like this: Long options give quick profits, short options simultaneously becoming very cheap, especially the out of the money ones. One sells the now expensive long options (which were picked up cheap), and stocks up on the now cheap out of the money short options. The market turns around and leaps to the downside, giving quick and large profits on the short options. One sells the short options and picks up now cheap out of the money long options, again. The repeat trades according to this pattern can continue till they stop working. When they stop working, what have you lost? Just your premium on some out of the money options.

Wish I’d had the frame of mind to trade options over the last two months. But then, one can’t have everything!

Jumping Jackstops

Recently, Mr. Cool and Mr. System Addict decide to get into a trade.

Yeah, surprise surprise, Mr. Cool is liquid again!

They’ve decided to trade Gold, and are pretty much in the money already. Their trades have come good first up. Both are leveraged 25:1, which is common with Gold derivatives. Mr. Addict has bet 5% of his networth on the trade, and Mr. Cool, true to his name, has matched Mr. Addict’s amount.

Gold prices jump, and Mr. Addict’s target is hit. He exits without thinking twice, and is pretty pleased upon doubling his trade amount within a week. He pickles 90% of the booty in fixed income schemes, and is planning a holiday for his girl-friend with the remaining amount. Instead of trading further, he decides to recuperate for a while.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cool rubs his hands in glee as the price of Gold shoots up further. His notional-profits now far exceed the actually booked profits of Mr. Addict. When’s he planning to exit? Not soon. He wants to make a killing, and once and for all prove to Mr. Addict and to the world, that he rules. He wants to bury Mr. Addict’s trade results below the mountain of his own king-sized profits. Gold soars further.

Mr Cool has trebled his money, and is still not booking any profits. He picks up his cell to call Mr. Addict. Wants to rub it in, you know.

Mr. Addict puts down his daiquiri by the poolside in his hotel in Ibiza. His girl-friend has at last started admiring him. They’ve been swimming all morning. “All right, all right, he’ll take this one call. Oh, it’s Mr. Cool, wonder what he’s up to?” Mr. Addict is one of the few people in the world who are able to switch off. He’s totally forgotten about Gold and his winning trade, and is really enjoying his holiday.

Mr. Cool tries to rub it in, but receives some unperturbed advice from the other end of the line. He’s being asked to be satisfied and to book profits right now. Of course he’s not going to do that. All right, fine, if he wants to play it by “let’s see how high this can go”, he needs to have a wide-gapped trailing stop in place, says Mr. Addict. Of course he’s got a wide-gapped trailing stop in place, says Mr. Cool. Mr. Addict wishes him luck, cuts the call, and forgets about the existence of Mr. Cool, dozing off into a well-deserved snooze.

As Gold moves higher, Cool starts to think about that wide-gapped trailing stop. Let alone having one in place, he doesn’t even know what it means. A quick call to the broker follows. The broker is ordered to install a trailing stop into Mr. Cool’s trade. Since Cool doesn’t know what “wide-gapped” means, he forgets to mention it. The broker doesn’t like Cool’s attitude and his proud tone. He installs a narrow-gapped trailing stop.

Circumstances change, and Gold starts to drop. It’s making big moves on the downside, falling a few percentage points in one shot. Cool’s narrow-gapped trailing stop gets fully jumped over; it doesn’t get a chance to become activated in the first place, because it is narrow-gapped and not wide-gapped. The price of the underlying just leaps over the narrow gap between trigger price and limit price. Happens. Cool does not install a new stop. Stupid.

Next morning, Cool’s jaw drops when he sees Gold down 15% overnight. On a 25:1 leverage, he’s just about to lose his margin. The phone rings. It’s the margin call. Cool panics. He answers the margin call. His next call is to Mr. Addict, asking what he should do. Mr. Addict is shocked to learn that Cool has answered the margin call. He asks him to cut the trade immediately.

Cool’s gone numb. Gold drops another 4%. Phone rings. Second margin call. Cool doesn’t have the money to answer it. In fact , he didn’t have the money to answer the first one. In the broker’s next statement, that amount will show up as a debit, growing at the rate of 18% per annum.

Mr. Cool’s not liquid anymore. Actually, he’s broke. No, worse that that. He’s in debt. Greed got him.