The Market Aha Moment

What is an Aha moment?

Any ideas?

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

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

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

The human being likes to be happy. 

Professional happiness adds to our well-being. 

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

What is this something for you?

Wait for your Aha moment. 

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

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

Why isn’t your Aha moment coming here too?

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

Start trying out different markets. 

See what gives you a kick.

See where you have a natural flair.

See what lingers.

Discard what you can’t stand.

Hit and try.

Try everything if you must.

Eventually, something will speak to you.

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

It’ll be your calling. 

Aha. 

I’ll tell you how it went with me. 

I started with Equity. 

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

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

Tried Private equity. Did ok. Boring. 

Arbitrage. Boring. But, an avenue for parking.  

Real estate. Corrupt.

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

Stock futures. Got hammered. No more. 

Foreign stocks. Time difference killed my evenings. Out. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When’s your Aha moment coming?

Work towards it. 

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So, When Does One Attack Here?

Ammunition.

Your game revolves around it.

We’re not talking war over here.

Or are we?

The marketplace is a war-zone, come to think of it.

Question is, how do you use you ammo?

Do you fire the bulk right away?

Who are you trying to scare?

This is the marketplace, people, overall, it’s not scared of your few rounds. There are just too many players, with varied interests and ideologies. Your few rounds might cause a mini-spike in the underlying concerned, but that’s about it. That mini-spike is not going to make it to tomorrow’s paper.

So, why bother? You don’t need to attack here. Straight away, that is. You can attack when the time is ripe, and when you are ripe too.

What does being ripe for an attack mean?

It means that your defences are fully in place and on auto-pilot. Your basic income is taken care of and suffices your family’s needs. Actually, let’s go a little further and say that your family is able to live comfortably on income generated by you which is independent from any of your speculative / risky activities. This is the first step. You need to work yourself into such a position, even if it takes you a long time. Without knowing that your family is safe, no matter how you fare in the marketplace, you will not be able to trade freely.

Then comes the second step in setting up your best defence. You need to have access to an emergency fund. Meaning, this kind of a fund needs to be salted away first. It then needs to be made accessible when required, and otherwise, it is to remain unused. Don’t let your emergency fund’s miniscule return bother you. In lieu of that, you are getting safety. Your emergency fund needs to remain safe, sound, and there, when you need it. This way, if and when something happens, and funds are required, a). you won’t have to tap into your family’s basic income, and b). you won’t have to tap into your trading corpus. You’ll access your emergency fund. Your family will remain financially undisturbed, and so will your trading, despite the emergency.

Now comes the final step, before you can get on with your trading, yes, even aggressively. In this step, the focus is on you. While setting up your family’s basic income and your emergency fund, you have struggled. Your health could have taken a knock. Your mind could be in a whirl. Normalize, my friend. Take time off. Stare at the wall. Get your body-chemistry back to equilibrium. Take a vacation. Take many vacations. Finally, when you are in shape, go for it.

Ok, so you’re in shape, and ripe for attack.

Now, the time needs to be ripe for attack too.

Mrs. Market has three basic modes of movement. She trends, moves in a range and then, she just plain goes nowhere, i.e. she’s flat.

Your aggression needs to be implemented only when she’s trending. Period.

That’s when it’ll yield mind-blowing returns.

Fire away when she’s flat or moving in a range, and you’ll keep getting stopped out.

How can you tell when she’s trending?

Through technical analysis.

So, study. Learn to differentiate between her three basic modes of movement.

Then, when she trends, and only then, use your ammo aggressively.

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.

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.

A Fall to Remember (Part 2)

Part 1 was when Silver fell almost 20 $ an ounce within a week. Like, 40%. Swoosh. Remember? Happened very recently.

And now, Gold does a Silver, and falls 20 % in a few days. These are the signs of the times. “Quick volatility” is the new “rangebound move”. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

The wrong question here is “What’s a good entry level in general?” Why is this question wrong?

When something new becomes the norm, there is too little precedence to adhere to. It becomes dangerous to use entry rules which were established using older conditions as a standard.

I believe there is one way to go here. The correct question for me, were I seeking entry into Gold or Silver, would be “Is this entry level good enough FOR ME?” or perhaps “What’s a good enough entry level FOR ME?”

Let’s define “good” for ourselves. Here, “good” is a level at which entry doesn’t bother YOU. It doesn’t bother you, because you are comfortable with the level and with the amount you are entering. You don’t need this sum for a while. It is a small percentage of what you’ve got pickled in debt, yielding very decent returns. If the underlying slides further after your entry, your “good” level of entry still remains “good” till it starts bothering you. You can widen the gap between “not-bothering” and “bothering” by going ahead with a small entry at your “good” level, and postponing further entry for an “even better” level which might or might not come.

If the”even better” level arrives, you go ahead as planned, and enter with a little more. If, however, your “good” level was the bottom, and prices zoom after that, you stick to your plan and do not enter after that. This would be an investment entry strategy, which sigularly looks for a margin of safety. Entry is all-important while investing, as opposed to when one is trading (while trading, trade-management and exit are more important than entry).

Trading entry strategies are totally different. Here, one looks to latch on after the bottom is made and the underlying is on the rise. Small entries can be made as each resistance is broken. It’s called pyramiding. Trading strategies are mostly the complete opposite of investing strategies. Please DO NOT mix the two.

Sort yourself out. What do you want to do? Do you want to invest in Gold and Silver, or do you want to trade in them? ANSWER this question for yourself. Once you have the answer, formulate your strategy accordingly. U – good level – how much here? U – even better level – how much there? U – no more entry – after which level?

Life is so much simpler when one has sorted oneself out and then treads the path.