Happy Second Birthday, Magic Bull !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers ūüôā

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Cool & the Bean-Counters

Cheer up, people, it’s another Mr. Cool story, yayyyy!!

We need to catch up on his life, especially because that’s Mr. Cool there, pulling in to the parking in his spanking new X5!

And oh, that hot, blonde babe seated next to him must be his new girl-friend.

Who are those suited blokes in the back?

Well, they are his bean-counters. You’ve met one before, his broker, Mr. Ever So Clever. The other two are his accountant and his banker, respectively.

Why are they called bean-counters?

Well, they count the beans he spends on them, through them and with them.

Why weren’t they there before?

Because he didn’t have any beans? In fact, he owed beans to his very bean-counters.

So what happened?

You see that hot blonde over there?

Yup, can’t miss her.

Well, she’s not only hot, she’s got brains too.

Really?

Yeah, she’s an analyst with Sax.

Wow! I thought she was his girl-friend.

Ya, that too, but only after he hit the bean-fountain.

So how did he do that?

The story revolves around Miss Sax. She gets around. She is privy to a lot of inside info, but is intelligent enough to not get caught, yet.

How does she get the inside info?

You’ll need to use your imagination. What’s she got that a holder of inside info might want?

I see. And then?

Well, she sells the info to the highest bidder. For the last one month, that’s been our friend Mr. Cool.

How did he manage to assemble funds in the first place? I mean, the last time we saw him, he was in the dumps, out of money, heavily in debt, and contemplating suicide for all we know.

Which is when he was approached by the bean-counters. They had easy access to funds for hours at a stretch without anyone noticing, provided they’d put the funds back before someone would look. They needed an external face to deal with Miss Sax and to place their trades.

Ingenious. This way, they’d never be in trouble if something went wrong.

Correct. The only risk they took was for the first few hours that they embezzled funds. It was very necessary for that principal to be put back in time.

So that must have obviously gone off well, huh?

Yeah, their first trade based on Miss Sax’s inside info clocked two million in an hour. They cashed out, put the principal back into banks, trading accounts and other private accounts where it was embezzled from, and from there onwards, they pulled all their future trades on the back of their profits.

And it’s all been going good, is it?

Well, Miss Sax is dishing out million dollar tips week after week.

What if they get caught?

Hmmm, actually, I’m only worried about Mr. Cool.

Why?

She’ll get out of any jam. She’s too smooth to get caught. Even if she’s implicated, she’s capable enough to get herself off the hook. Then, the bean-counters don’t even have a trail leading to them. All the dealing is in Mr. Cool’s name. The four of them needed a front-runner who will take the hit if their scheme is busted.

And that’s our dear friend Mr. Cool, right?

Yeah, and he’s dumb enough not to realize it.

How does he pay them their share?

In cash. There’s no paper or electronic trail. They spend it in an inconspicuous manner. These are highly intelligent people with crooked minds.

Yeah, the only one flashing red flags is our friend Mr. Cool. The new X5, Armani suits, expensive holidays, plus the grapevine says he’s planning to buy a new penthouse.

Yup, he’s never heard of saving when times are good. Because of these red-flags, he’s eventually going to get caught. The authorities keep scanning for insider-trading, and the very people they scrutinize are the ones making quick and big expenditures, as our candidate is doing.

So are you saying that, very soon, we’ll be seeing Mr. Cool in the dumps again?

There’s a very high chance of that.

With no bean-counters and no Sax around?

Oh, they’ll be long gone, looking for their next front-runner.

Elephant in a China Shop

Mr. Cool just plugged his trading exam.

Big time, and for the umpteenth time.

It all started out like this. He partied late night. Had one too many, of course. Slept till late morning. Woke up with a headache.

Then he made his first mistake of the new day. He decided to trade.

Why was this a mistake, you ask? After all, trading is his profession.

Two mistakes here, I’d say. Firstly, there was no market preparation. Secondly, health was not up to the mark. Deciding to trade after this backdrop – hmmm – bad call.

The next set of mistakes came right after that. Coolers asked his broker Mr. Ever So Clever the wrong question, this being “What’s moving, mate?”

True to his form was Mr. Cool-i-o. Two mistakes here again. Firstly, you don’t ask your broker technical questions. You tell your broker what to do. You instruct him or her. Asking your broker to instruct you is like asking the second hand car dealer to start ripping you off.

Next, if you are asking Mr. Ever So Clever anything at all, it can be about your funds in transit, or your equity in transit or basically something mechanical. You are not in this business to give Mr. Clever even an inch more of space by asking market questions like what’s moving or what’s going to move.

If you still do, as Mr. Coolovsky obviously proved, then of course Mr. Ever So Clever is going to tout to you what his other clients are squaring off. Specifically illiquid scrips. These need buyers, and if you’ve just announced yourself as a buyer and are asking what to buy, illiquid scrips that others are selling will definitely be touted to you for buying.

Also, a scrip doesn’t have to be illiquid to be touted. One can even be dealing with a very large order which a big player is looking to off-load at a relative peak. A whole set of brokers then does the rounds to get buyers interested.

The bottom-line is this – you are not giving your broker any kind of leeway with regards to what you are buying or selling. You need to do your own technicals, or fundamentals or whatever it is that you do, to gauge what is moving. You don’t ask what is moving.

On many occasions, rallies wind up soon after big players square off. This time was no different. Coolster had loaded himself with a scrip which had already peaked. With no buying pressure to push it up any further, its price started to sink.

Next set of mistakes.

He’d marked a vague stop-loss in his head because everyone had been ticking him off for not applying stops. Specifically our friend Mr. System Addict, remember him? He had been very vocal about it. Because the stop was vague, Mr. Cool wasn’t motivated enough to feed it into his trade as the price neared his stop.

Not feeding in a mental stop – mistake.

As the scrip’s price undershot his mental stop, Coolins did nothing except to hope it would climb back to his buy level, which is when he would exit.

Hoping in a trade – big mistake.

Not taking your loss once stop is undershot – even bigger mistake.

What happened after that can’t be called a mistake anymore (on humanitarian grounds), because Coolinsky had gone into freeze mode. The reason was the sinking scrip. Huge losses were piling up. Coolitzer answered two back to back margin calls in this frozen state of body and mind. He was frozen. Didn’t know what he was doing. Scrip didn’t turn back up before Mr. Cool was cleaned out.

This chronology of events is a kind of worst-case scenario. A grade F minus in an exam.

Every trade is an exam. One needs to tread carefully from step to step, from pre-trade preparation to actual trade to after-trade emotional wind-down.

Remember that, so you fare much, much … much, much better than our F minus candidate. And don’t worry about him, Mr. Cool-Dude will be back. He’s always able to get back, you’ve gotta give credit to Mr. Cool for that.

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.

Taking Compulsion Out of One’s Trading Equation

Mr. Cool’s next trading cameo starts a few months after his last blow-up. He keeps coming back, you’ve gotta give him that.

This time around, his girl-friend wants a fur coat. Cool is determined to buy a fur coat for her from his trading profits.

Thus, Mr. Cool has put himself in a position where he is compelled to trade. Compulsion adds pressure. A trader under pressure commits basic blunders. There’s no question of getting into the Zone while pressure mounts.

Sure enough, Cool overtrades. Apart from that, he fails to cut his position-size after the first run of losses. These are two basic mistakes. They are being caused by compulsion. Mrs. Market is ruthless with players who commit basic blunders. As usual, Cool blows up, yet again. The fur coat is not happening. In fact, there’s no girl-friend anymore.

Meanwhile, Mr. System Addict has been evolving. He’s achieved a large-sized fixed income by ploughing previous profits into safe fixed-income products. He’s under no compulsion to trade. His fixed income allows him to live well, even without trading. He has a lot of time to think. Often, he gets into the Zone, where he’s moving in tandem with the market, and is able to swing with the market’s turn. What makes him get into the Zone so often?

It’s the lack of pressure. He’s comfortable. A free mind performs uniquely. There’s no question of making basic mistakes, because full focus is there. Addict is a human being who is aware. He knows when he is in the Zone. That’s when he doubles up his position-size and logs his trade. His win : loss ratio is 70:30 by now. His trading income surpasses his fixed income for the year.

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.

Happy First Birthday, Magic Bull !

It’s been one year! Writing’s been fun. Didn’t do it for reward, but there’s been a nice reward. The flow of words through the system clears and solidifies concepts in one’s mind. Writing evolves the human being. As I’ve said earlier, this blog helps balance my equation with nature. It’s a “give-back”. One has access […]